Dumbbell Chest Exercises

Dumbbell chest exercises are by far my favorite, and those that I do more often at the gym.

In fact, I use dumbbells mostly for chest, shoulder and bicep exercises. For leg, back, tricep and ab workouts I tend to prefer barbells, cables and machines.

In my opinion, dumbbell chest workout is the perfect solution to train pectorals..

Barbell bench press, chest press, cables and pec deck are ok, but I believe that dumbbell offer the best type of workout.

Dumbbell Exercises Bench Press StartFirst because you make sure that each side has to work equally, second because of the freedom of movement and the use of auxiliary muscles involved to balance properly.

There are three main types of dumbbell chest exercises:

  • Dumbbell Chest Press (flat, incline, decline)
  • Dumbbell Chest Flys (flat, incline, decline)
  • Pullover

and that's about all we need to fully train pectorals.

Chest Press Exercises

Let's take a look at the three types of dumbbell chest press.

Flat Dumbbell Chest Press

Flat dumbbell chest press works the whole pectoral muscle, plus front deltoids and triceps. After all, chest press is a compound exercise.

Lay down on a flat bench, grasp two dumbbells with palms facing forward, and place your feet flat on the ground. Sometimes I use to keep my feet on the edge of the bench to avoid arching my lower back too much.

Keep your back as flat as you can, ideally adherent to the bench, for your own safety.

The movement is the same of the barbell bench press.

Push up with both arms together, trying to move vertically till you extend your arms almost completely. Compress your pectorals and return to the initial position, lowering the weights till your upper arm and forearm form a 90 degree angle.

Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Flat Bench Press Start
Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Flat Bench Press Finish

Note: the picture above (left) shows the initial position where the weights are lower than where I stop lowering the dumbbells during the exercise. Stop before your touch your chest. Too much stretching can be dangerous and doesn't add efficiency to the exercise.

Also, I don't keep my palms exactly facing forward as you can see in the left picture. I always prefer to do more natural movements, and that's why I like dumbbells.

Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

Incline dumbbell chest press works the upper pectoral muscles (and front deltoids and triceps of course).

The movement is the same of the flat bench press. The difference is that your bench should be inclined 45 degrees.

Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Incline Bench Press Start
Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Incline Bench Press Finish

Decline Dumbbell Chest Press

By now, you already know what to expect from the decline dumbbell chest press.

It focuses the workout on the lower pectoral muscles and the movement is the same as the flat bench.

You will only notice that it is harder to balance, due to the angle. The bench should be declined 45 degrees.

Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Decline Bench Press Start
Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Decline Bench Press Finish

Chest Fly Exercises

Flys are a different category of dumbbell chest exercises, but they still work the pectoralis major muscles.

Flys consist of a movement where the elbow remain at a constant angle while the arm moves through an arch.

Like the dumbbell chest press, dumbbell fly can be done in three ways: flat, decline and incline.

Flat Dumbbell Chest Fly

Use a flat bench, even though a bed or the floor work too. In fact you shouldn't lower the weights too much to avoid unnecessary stretching and risk of pulling muscles.

Grab the dumbbells and open your arms, like if you were positioning in a T shape. Just slightly bend the elbows (for safety reasons). Your palms face up.

Shoulders, elbows and hands on the same line.

Then start closing your arms (bring your hands together above your chest) through an arch movement, keeping the elbows at constant angle.

Squeeze the pectorals and return to the initial position, slowly. As I said, don't lower the weights too much.

Always exhale during the active phase (muscle compression) and inhale during the negative phase (muscle stretch).

Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Flat Fly Start
Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Flat Fly Finish

Incline Dumbbell Chest Fly

Here you position your bench at 45 degree incline mode.

The movement is exactly the same, you just need more concentration on the movement to keep the balance.

Remember that the weights move always vertically. If a person is beside you, he/she should see the dumbbells move on a vertical line.

It's a good time to use mirrors to control the movement...

Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Incline Fly Start
Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Incline Fly Finish

Decline Dumbbell Chest Fly

Again, the decline version is the same, with the bench declined 45 degrees.

Also in this case, the balance is important. You will need a bit of practice to do it properly. At the beginning use a spotter. If you're not used it's easy to lose balance (due to the angle) and it may possibly result in sprains (shoulders and elbows in most cases).

Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Decline Fly Start
Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Decline Fly Finish

Other Dumbbell Chest Exercises

There is one more dumbbell chest exercise beyond chest press and fly, and I am talking about the pullover.

Known as an exercise to enlarge the chest cage, it's a good exercise for lower chest.


At the gym it's better to use the curved bench, but if you're home (and sometimes some gyms are not even equipped with that type of bench), you can use your flat bench.

Alternatively, you can lay down at the edge of your bed, if you figure out how to keep your feet fixed to an anchor.

In case you use a flat bench, position your shoulders at the edge of the bench, while your feet are flat on the floor.

Grab a dumbbell with both hands and extend your arms behind your head.

Now bring the dumbbell above your chest through an arch movement, keeping your elbows locked at the same angle (elbows slightly bent).

Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Pullover Start
Dumbbell Chest Exercises - Pullover Finish

That's it, these are all the dumbbell chest exercises avaliable.

Have fun and enjoy your pectorals grow!

Looking to Buy Dumbbells? Here Some Ideas

I realize that not everybody can have a set of N dumbbells at home, because the truth is...they take a lot of room. That's why, if you're looking to buy dumbbells to use at home, I strongly recommend the following types. My favourites are the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells, even though I have different types. In fact, they're not the only ones out there. For example I have a different type of adjustable dumbbells, those where you add the plates to obtain the desired weight. I prefer the Bowflex dumbbells because you can change the weight in one "click". I had a chance to use the last model I showed you when I trained in a hotel gym...here is the actual pair I used:


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