Dumbbell workouts may not be as sexy as barbell exercise however for most people, it offers less risk of injury and is a better road to a stronger and bigger set of pecs.
And working your pecs or chest muscles does more than just improve your physique.
These key muscles are involved in the important functions your body needs throughout the day and serve as the foundation for many moves in a variety of exercises you do.
That’s why in today’s post, we’re about to show you some of the best dumbbell chest workouts without a bench to develop your chest, top to bottom.
But before that, let’s first know…
What Are the Benefits of Working Your Chest with Dumbbells?
Working your chest with dumbbells offers the following benefits:
Effective muscle activation
Dumbbell training works your chest muscles harder than barbell bench press or Smith machine bench press. This is according to a study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
Less stress on your joints
The human body only looks symmetrical. In reality, your wrists, joints, hips, and shoulders are slightly different such that when you force your body to move in symmetry (like lowering an evenly-weighted barbell directly to the middle of the chest), one side will take a little more stress than the other.
So, if you work out a lot, your joints on one side will start to complain. With dumbbells, however, the training allows both sides of the body to locate the optimal path when exercising.
Your shoulders and elbows move along the path that is most comfortable for them and your wrists are free to rotate. All these movements place the stress of the training where it belongs, not in your joints but your muscles.
Greater range of motion
When you do a bench press using a barbell, the bar hits your chest even before the pecs achieve full strength. While this is a good workout already if your goal is to press a heavyweight, this may not be as advantageous if you want to improve your athletic performance or gain size.
If those two are your goals, you are better off with a dumbbell chest workout. This is because it allows you to lower the weights even past your chest level, activating your pectoral muscles and muscle fibers more.
Improves your posture
Pectoralis (pecs) muscle is one of the largest muscles in the upper body and plays an important role in maintaining good posture. It helps stabilize the shoulder joint.
Balanced strength and development
You may think that your left and right arms push with an equal push when doing a barbell bench press. But, your body is compensating – meaning it adds a little more stress on the stronger side of your body and favors the weaker one.
With dumbbells, your left and right sides push in equal force such that when one side lags, you will feel it immediately. As a result, you don’t push a set farther than what your weaker side can handle.
And as you do your chest workout more using dumbbells, the strength on both sides evens out.
Freedom to manipulate the grip
A pair of dumbbells is more versatile than it looks and it gives you the freedom to manipulate your grip than a barbell. Know that without grip variation, imbalances follow, which not only increases your risk of workout injury but also hinders growth.
[You may also like: Best Grip Strengthener]
Now, ready to get sculpted? Let’s discuss the best dumbbell chest exercises without a workout bench.
Top 7 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without Bench
1. Standing Chest Press
Pecs, Erector Spinae, Arms (biceps and triceps), Transversus Abdominis, Shoulders (deltoids and rotator cuff)
Pros & Cons
- Pro: Better balance as it engages the stabilizer muscles
- Pro: Increases muscle power and builds strength and muscle tissue
- Con: Works fewer muscles in the chest compared to standard chest presses
- Con: Requires solid form (basic chest presses)
How To Do the Standing Chest Press
The standing chest press, as long as you know the solid form, is actually pretty simple.
- Pick up the dumbbell, hold it pulled in towards your center. This means that your elbows are bent.
- You can either hold the dumbbell horizontally with a hand on each end of the dumbbell or you can hold the equipment vertically by grabbing one end with both of your hands.
- As you stand with feet shoulder-width apart holding the equipment between your hands, keep the dumbbell centered.
2. Dumbbell Push-up
Chest (pectoral muscles), Upper back (latissimus dorsi), Shoulders (deltoids), Core (abdominals), Arms (triceps and serratus anterior)
Pros & Cons
- Pro: You can turn it into a full-body workout by keeping your legs straight and engaging your core
- Con: You have to use flat-sided dumbbells or hexagonal dumbbells to complete this workout
How To Do The Dumbbell Push-up
Take about five minutes to warm up before doing the Dumbbell Push-up. You may choose to do a renegade row push-up, dumbbell diamond push-up, standard dumbbell push-up, incline push-ups, or T push-up dumbbells.
Regardless of the dumbbell push-ups variation, the most common way to do this exercise is to grip the dumbbell in each hand while you assume a plank position. Keep your back flat.
You may either do the exercise on your knees or toes. Bend the elbows to lower your body close to the floor. Pause at the bottom of your push-up and extend your elbows. Then, push your body back to your starting position and you’ve already completed one rep.
3. Dumbbell Chest Press
Chests (pectoral muscles), Arms (triceps), Shoulders (deltoids)
Pros & Cons
- Pro: Builds more chest muscles than traditional overhead chest presses or incline presses
- Pro: Easy for beginners to try
- Con: Compared to dumbbell chest exercise or bench reverse dumbbell chest presses, you get a lesser range of motion doing a reverse dumbbell chest press. To avoid this, use a stability ball.
How To Do the Dumbbell Chest Press
- First, lay down flat on the floor (you can use a stability ball if you like) with your legs bent at the knee.
- Hold the dumbbell in each hand at chest height. Your triceps should be lying flat and your elbows bent.
- Next, extend your arms and push the dumbbells up into the air. As your arms are already fully extended, pause before you slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.
Truly, this is one of the best dumbbell chest exercises without a weight bench that we like because it is effective and yet works your chest muscles.
4. Standing Upward Chest Fly
Shoulders (deltoids), Chest (pecs), Arms (triceps & biceps)
Pros & Cons
- Pro: You can increase the difficulty of this workout by simply increasing the sets/reps or weight
- Pro: Only requires a set of dumbbells and enough room to exercise
- Con: If you have an existing arm, shoulder, or back injury, this workout can only be performed with medical guidance.
How To Do the Standing Upward Chest Fly
Chest flys can be performed with dumbbells, resistance bands, or cables and are among the best upper chest and lower chest workouts. The moment you perform this in a standing position, it becomes a lower chest workout.
To do this, simply grab a light to moderate weight dumbbells. For most people, it will typically be about 10 to 25 pounds. Then, start the movement with your feet flat and your arms to the side of your body.
Slowly control the weights upwards until your body forms a 90-degree angle. Be sure to control both the eccentric and concentric portions of the movement.
This sample dumbbell chest workout requires that you don’t push yourself too hard with the weights and just increase it once every other week or once a week to keep yourself challenged.
5. Dumbbell Floor Press
Chest, triceps, shoulders, core (abdominals)
Pros & Cons
- Pro: A simple workout that is good enough for beginners
- Pro: Less shoulder strain vs. traditional bench presses
- Con: Range of motion is a little limited compared to using a bench
How To Do The Dumbbell Floor Press
A dumbbell floor press is an excellent way to build your upper body strength, especially as you gradually work with heavier loads. To do this exercise, sit on the floor in an upright position with the dumbbell balanced on the floor vertically.
Next, pick up both the dumbbells in a tight grip and set them high up. Slowly lay back while keeping the dumbbells close to your chest. Bend your knees to about 45 degrees and then slightly move your feet up.
Contract your triceps and chest muscle to press the dumbbell to a maximum extension. Then, slowly lower the weights until your elbows touch the floor. Press your equipment back to its original position and you have already completed one repetition.
6. Svend Press
Pectoral muscles, Arms (Triceps), Shoulders (deltoids)
Pros & Cons
- Pro: Instead of the usual weight plates for Svend Press, using dumbbells allow you to work with heavier loads. Thus, it leads to more muscle growth
- Con: It can quickly fatigue your muscles. The solution is to incorporate this move at the end of your workout so you won’t get tired too early
How To Do the Svend Press
This dumbbell chest workout without a bench pumps your chest and enhances your mind-muscle connection to the pectoral muscle.
To do this, stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest out, and shoulders pulled back. Grip the dumbbells overhand with palms facing down. In your starting position, move the dumbbell so that it will be parallel to the floor and bend your arms at the elbow.
Extend your arms out as you push the weights out. Ensure that you engage your pectoral muscles and then pause to hold the weights out. To complete one repetition, return to the starting position.
7. Single-Arm Floor Chest Press
Core (abdominals), Chests (pecs), Arms (triceps), Shoulders (deltoids)
Pros & Cons
- Pro: Demands more engagement on your core muscles versus two-arm floor chest presses
- Pro: Promotes balance and stability in your chest and core
- Con: Compared to standing and bench press, there is a limited range of motion in this workout
How To Do the Single-Arm Floor Chest Press
You may use a dumbbell or a kettlebell for this workout. Hold the equipment in one hand. Extend your arm and press the dumbbell up toward the ceiling to complete one rep. Lower the dumbbell and repeat. You can switch arms and begin the workout again while lying flat with your knees bent on the floor.
Best Dumbbells for Your Home Gym
If you are building your home gym and are looking for the best dumbbells in the market, then check out these products.
Best Overall – Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbell
Reasons to buy: Practical; feels like a regular dumbbell. It comes with a 5lb. Increments so you can increase your strength gradually without buying a new dumbbell.
High-Quality Dumbbell; Ergonomic Handle – Sporzon! Rubber Encased Hex Dumbbell
Reasons to buy: Widely used in gyms; solid-cast dumbbell that is encased in rubber; textured handle provides a secure and tight grip
Great Value for Money – Amazon Basics Neoprene Coated Dumbbell Hand Weight Set
Reasons to buy: This Amazon Basics Neoprene Coated Dumbbell Hand Weight Set comes with a foldable steel stand in a tiered triangle shape. The set of six cast iron dumbbells is in three-weight categories and is durable with a non-slip grip.
A dumbbell chest workout provides explosive power even without using a weight bench. Regardless of the exercise you choose, it offers numerous advantages over a regular barbell chest workout.
Most importantly, we love that with these workouts, your neck is off the bench and prevents cervical spine injuries.
Choosing a mixture of these exercises to target your pecs from a variety of directions is a good idea too!
Just make sure your routine varies every four to six weeks to avoid plateaus, where you begin to feel unmotivated or bored with your workout.
You may also change any of these exercises, add repetitions, or increase weight for better chest development.
If you like this article, you might want to read our other reviews at ExpertFitness.org.