How To Build Your Chest With Dumbbells [Guide]

The most common move people use to grow their chest is a bench press using a barbell. The bar will be stacked with as much weight as possible for an intense workout.

However, this method can cause uneven growth and fails to work crucial parts of your chest muscle. Thankfully, dumbbell training can be used for a more even and effective workout for muscle growth.

How To Build Your Chest With Dumbbells [Guide]

What Are The Benefits Of A Dumbbell Chest Workout?

Putting a pair of dumbbells in your hands makes it harder to stabilize your upper body than with a barbell. This is a great way to strengthen and train the smaller muscles in your shoulders as they stabilize your chest.

Your larger chest muscles will also have to work harder to control the weight of the dumbbells and prevent them from wobbling.

Range Of Motion

Performing a chest training routine with dumbbells allows a greater range of motion for your chest muscles. With a barbell, the bar hits your chest before your pecs have achieved a full stretch.

It is the stretching that helps to build size and performance. You can draw the weights back further to achieve a full stretch during your exercise.

Equal Growth

Using dumbbell exercises to get a bigger chest places significantly less stress on your joints than barbells. Humans are imperfect by nature, and as such, our bodies are rarely symmetrical.

Therefore, forcing yourself to move symmetrically can cause injury. With dumbbells, the joints on either side of your body, such as your elbows and shoulders, can move independently during your chest workout.

As humans, we are great at compensating for a naturally weaker side. This is easy to do with a barbell workout but almost impossible to do with dumbbell chest exercises.

A dumbbell chest workout is a great way to ensure that your development and growth are equal on both sides. Using a single-arm exercise can be a great way to achieve this.

Increased Progress

Finally, dumbbells force your pecs to work harder. Performing a dumbbell bench press will cause your chest muscles to contract as the dumbbells come together during reps. This is something that doesn’t happen with a barbell bench press.

Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises

There are a few things that you need to do to build your chest with dumbbells. Employing training variables and progressive overload techniques can prevent the chest exercise from becoming stale and ineffective.

Completing 10 reps of different movements allows you to cycle through a variety of movements in a short 30-minute weight workout.

Eating and sleeping right are essential for promoting muscle gain and adequate recovery. This applies to all chest exercises to achieve progress faster.

Finally, remember to stay consistent with your dumbbell chest exercises. This will help to ensure that you see steady progress towards balanced, well-developed growth in your chest.

Below are some dumbbell chest exercises that will help build your chest muscles.

Targeting Your Upper Chest

How To Build Your Chest With Dumbbells

The upper chest, or clavicular head, is an area that is activated by an upward movement of the arms. Exercises such as an incline dumbbell press or standard chest press are perfect for this.

Fly exercises are also great for targeting this part of your chest. An incline bench can help with these exercises; alternatively, you can perform standing or seated flys.

If you are prone to injury, performing a dumbbell floor press can be a great alternative. Keep the dumbbells shoulder-width apart to protect your shoulders.

Focusing heavily on exercise movements such as an incline dumbbell bench press will allow you to see progress more quickly.

If you want to focus on form, you can do one arm flys to check that you aren’t doing any lasting damage to your muscles and joints. After this, you can push yourself further.

Targeting Your Lower Pecs

The lower chest, or the sternocostal head, is activated by pushing your arms straight forward or at a slight downward angle.

The lower chest makes up almost 80% of your pectoralis major which is a huge part of your chest.

In order to focus some of your chest exercises on this part of your chest, you will need to perform a range of presses.

Flat presses can target the middle and upper part of your lower chest, while decline presses will target the lower section of this area. To create a harder workout, bend your elbows outward during your decline presses.

Again, a floor press can help to avoid injury.

Targeting Your Middle/Inner Pecs

The middle or inner chest is an important area to work out as it focuses on the central part of your pecs, which includes the upper and lower areas of the chest.

Working out the inner chest involves contracting your pecs. Any exercises that bring the dumbbells together and then lower the dumbbells will help to build this muscle.

Flys and close grip presses are super effective for this area of your pecs. To get the most out of these exercises, it is best to utilize as full a range of motion in your arms as possible.

This means bringing the dumbbells lower than chest level on your reps to feel a stretch before you press the weights upwards again. Remember to bend your elbows properly to protect your spine and upper back.

Targeting Your Pec Minor

This muscle is activated during most chest exercises and even some back exercises. However, if you want to increase the stimulation that your pecs get, you can lean forward while you perform your best dumbbell chest exercises.

This can help to increase stability. Pulling your shoulder blades down will also help. Decline presses are particularly helpful for your pecs, as are standing flys.

Woman doing decline dumbbell press.

Targeting Your Serratus Anterior

The serratus anterior is the part of the chest that draws the shoulder blades forward and upward during movement.

Because of this, incline presses are perfect for strengthening this muscle. Incorporating one-arm dumbbell presses and dumbbell pushups will help you to achieve a fuller range of motion for your shoulder blades.

Dumbbell Bench Press Top Tips

Focus On Form

Form is incredibly important when performing dumbbell exercises. Slight changes in how you grip dumbbell presses, or the positioning of a push can alter how the exercise affects your muscles.

A neutral grip involves having your palms facing each other when they are brought together. This grip can provide a higher level of growth in the same amount of reps as other grips.

A close-grip dumbbell press can also provide one of the best dumbbell chest exercises.

You should also pay attention to your starting position when you first begin working out with dumbbells. Your body must be body is stabilized, and your arms are strong before you begin a chest exercise.

The starting position of your dumbbells should be at chest level. Your feet should be flat on the ground, your elbows bent, and your shoulders and arms should be in a neutral position.

During your reps, you should ensure that you slowly lower the dumbbells rather than let them fall out of control.

If you are unable to control the weights, you may have to switch to less heavy dumbbells. This is also true if you cannot complete around 10 reps of an exercise in a controlled manner.

Different Dumbbell Options

If you are new to dumbbells or working out in general, adjustable dumbbells are a great choice. These can allow you to control the weight you work with and to push an appropriate dumbbell.

You should be able to maintain form in a static fly position with the correct weight.

Final Thoughts

Using two dumbbells can be a great way to increase the strength of your chest muscles. Remember to keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground throughout these exercises.

TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer
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