There are three basic dumbbell chest exercises: the flat, incline, and decline bench press. Additionally, there are multiple variations of these three chest exercises with dumbbells.
In this article, I will explain a bit about basic chest anatomy, and help you understand why the best dumbbell chest exercises are effective for helping you build an awesome chest.
Keep reading below to learn more!
Basic Chest Anatomy
Our chest muscles are divided into three major sections. They are:
The Pectoralis Major is also known as the upper chest. This muscle group covers most of your chest muscle mass. The Pectoralis Major is the composition of a sternal head and a clavicular head, and a large fan-shaped piece of mass.
The Pectoralis Minor is also known as the middle chest. This muscle group situates after the pectoralis major. These muscles are responsible for pulling the shoulder forward and down.
The Serratus Anterior is the lower chest muscle, and it is found at the side of the chest wall. Generally, you need to lift weights overhead to notice the serratus anterior in action.
How to Activate Your Muscles Before Chest Workouts
For an effective chest workout, it is essential to activate each specific muscle group before beginning heavier exercises.
A proper warm-up increases mobility and activates the muscles that help you lift weights, and reduces the risk of injury. There are a variety of ways that you can warm-up your chest muscles before doing dumbbell chest exercises.
First, I recommend starting with shoulder windmills. This is a great exercise for improving your shoulder mobility and warming up your pecs:
Next, I recommend you perform prone I-Y-T-Ws. These are simple and effective exercise that will strengthen your rear deltoid muscles and help improve your shoulder health to reduce the risk of shoulder injury when doing heavy dumbbell chest exercises:
Lastly, I suggest you do at least one set of yoga pushups. Pushups are the best bodyweight exercise for your chest muscles and yoga pushups require slightly more mobility, which is why they are perfect before doing heavy dumbbell chest exercises:
These are also three great at home shoulder exercises you can do each day to improve the health of your shoulders and chest muscles.
The Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises
After you have properly warmed up your shoulders and chest, you can use these dumbbell exercises for your chest muscles!
Here are the best chest exercises with dumbbells:
1.) Decline Dumbell Bench Press
Targeted Muscle Group: Serratus Anterior or Lower Chest
- To begin the exercise, lie down on a declined bench by holding dumbells at the top of your chest.
- The elbows will remain slightly bent while the back remains flat on the bench.
- Now, move the dumbbell downwards by retracting your shoulders. Allow the weights to move in a natural motion.
- Hold for a second at the bottom of the movement, then push upwards and squeeze your chest at the top before.
- That is one rep.
2.) Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
Targeted Muscle Group: Pectoralis Minor or Mid Chest
- Unlike the decline bench press, lie down on a flat bench while holding the dumbbells on your thighs in a resting position. In this position, the palm of your hands will face each other.
- Lift the dumbbells up, pushing through your thighs. Lift one at once, and hold them in front of you according to max shoulder width.
- Now rotate your wrists into the forward direction to face your palms away from you. In the initial position, dumbbells will remain chest width apart, which makes a 90-degree angle using your upper and forearm.
- While breathing out, use your Pectoralis Minor to lift the dumbbells in an upward direction. Squeeze your chest and hold the position for a second or two at the point of the contraction. Now come back into the initial position at a gentle pace to complete a rep.
- Lowering the weight should take almost double time compared to lifting it.
- Reminder- do not drop the dumbbells beside you after finishing your set because it might cause a severe injury to your rotator cuffs.
3.) Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
Targeted Muscle Group: Pectoralis Major or Upper Chest
- To begin the exercise, lie on an incline bench while resting the dumbbells on the top of your thighs. In the initial position, your palms will be positioned towards each other.
- Lift the dumbbells over your chest similarly to the previously-mentioned exercises. It’ll keep the shoulder rotators safe from further injuries. Also, hold the dumbbells as wide as possible. Aside from the bench type, the initial position will be the same for all bench press exercises.
- Again, rotate wrists forward at the shoulder width, so the palms get faced away from the body.
- By keeping control of the motion, push the dumbbells upwards using the shoulder and upper chest while breathing out.
- Now reaching the point of contraction, hold the dumbbell for a second or two while squeezing your upper chest muscles. Note, the lowering of the dumbbells towards the chest will take twice as long as pushing. Always keep a gentle pace rather than inducing a shaky or jerky force.
- Don’t throw or drop the dumbbells after finishing a set. Either again use your thigh force to put down the dumbbells in a reverse movement as you lifted them at the beginning of the exercise.
4.) Dumbbell Floor Press
Targeted Muscle Group: Mid Chest, Triceps, Deltoids
The dumbbell floor press is essentially a variation of the flat dumbbell chest press, but I believe it deserves its own place on this list because it is certainly one of my favorite dumbbell chest exercises.
- The dumbbell floor press is performed lying on the floor and by using the same movement as the flat dumbbell chest press.
- By doing a chest press on the floor, you reduce the range of motion of the exercise to a safer distance.
- You should lay in a supine position on the floor, but you should bend your knees and plant your feet into the ground for better balance.
- There are more challenging versions of the dumbbell floor press, such as doing a glute bridge while performing the exercise or scissoring your legs, like this:
Are Dumbbell Chest Exercises Better than Barbell Chest Exercises?
Both dumbbell chest exercises and barbell chest exercises are valuable for getting strong and well-defined chest muscles, but there are a variety of reasons that dumbbell exercises for chest muscles are better.
For starters, compared to purchasing barbells, dumbbells are the more affordable option for doing chest exercises at home.
There are many options for purchasing the best dumbbells for a home gym online, and it is relatively easy to purchase a wide variety of dumbbells so you can train your chest muscles without even going to the gym.
There are other reasons you should do dumbbell chest exercises instead of barbell chest exercises as well.
Whether you are working out at home or a fitness center, dumbbells allow for a more natural movement during each exercise, which protects the rotator cuffs from injuries. While doing a set with dumbbells, you also activate more muscles because the movement is more natural.
Doing exercises with dumbbells requires more focus and control on each part of the body that balances strength on each side.
Overall, they are better for your body than barbell chest exercises.
Concluding Thoughts – The Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises
These four exercises are the best dumbbell chest exercises because they are simple, effective, and they hit all the muscle groups of your chest. If you want to build awesome pecs, you need to make sure you are including these dumbbell chest exercises in your workout program!
Read Next: Bench Press Programs