Chest workouts are, by far, what my clients ask most about when it comes to having a sesh.

We plan it like it’s our first holiday without our folks; we dream of it over the weekend and can’t wait to unleash the beast when it comes to pumping iron.

So today’s class is chest 101.

For this workout, we’re going to focus on hypertrophy. Muscle building.

To make it a little more interesting we’re only going to use dumbbells. All these exercises can be done in the gym, at home and just about anywhere, to be honest.

We all want that wide, chiselled chest after all…

So, let’s go!

Chest Pullover

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: 12
  • Rest: 60 seconds
  • Equipment: weight bench, single dumbbell.

I do like a good pullover. The pullover benefits are astronomical because you can work out many muscle groups at once.

It engages the chest, lats, delts and triceps for a really tasty upper-body workout.

So it is definitely a good all-rounder.

  • Grab a flat bench and a light dumbbell.
  • Take the dumbbell in both hands and keep both arms straight.
  • Extend your arms toward the ceiling.
  • Keep the dumbbell over your chest to start.
  • Inhale and then extend the dumbbell back over your head and then return to the start position.
  • Take 4 seconds to complete the range of movement

Why is the pullover so good?

  1. Uses lots of muscle groups. Big tick!
  2. Improves shoulder mobility.
  3. Helps build a big chest.
  4. Mind and muscle connection. You really need to focus to engage the muscles.

Check out the form video below from Damien Patrick to help you perfect this move.

Incline Dumbbell bench press

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: 12 (75% 1 RM)
  • Rest: 60 seconds
  • Equipment: Bench, dumbbells

I use the incline chest press so often on chest workouts. I can’t leave it out. It’s like the kid you pick first at school for football.

It literally does it all. It’s always on the list.

It hits the upper chest and you can get great depth into the pecs. This means it really helps with thickness.

  • Set up the bench at 20 – 45 degrees (the steeper the incline, the more upper chest and shoulders you’ll hit).
  • Grab a set of suitable dumbbells.
  • Start with your arms straight and the dumbbells over the centre of the chest.
  • Lower them down to a slow 3-second tempo until your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
  • Explode the dumbbell up and squeeze it right at the top to engage the chest.
  • Repeat repeat repeat.

Why the Incline press is always on the list

  1. Using incline keeps the body guessing so I move away from the flat bench.
  2. Unlike using the barbell, single dumbbells help with stimulating each pec muscle and with stabilization.
  3. Independent training works on imbalance.
  4. Powers chest growth like a steam train.

Yet again, we’ve included a form video to help you perfect the incline dumbbell bench press.

Flat Dumbbell Fly

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: 12 (75% 1RM)
  • Rest: 60seconds
  • Equipment: Flat bench, dumbbells

I want big pecs like Arnie! So I have to include the fly. A mainstream bodybuilding tradition since the 70s.

Its sole purpose is to isolate the major and minor pec muscles. It’s common sense to do this in a chest workout. Remember class 101. Everyone knows this one.

  • Lie on your back on the flat bench.
  • Hold the dumbbell directly over your chest.
  • With a slight bend in your elbow, slowly open your arms wide and to the side, parallel to the chest.
  • Squeeze your chest as you bring the weights back together at the top.

Why is the chest fly so good?

  1. It helps open up the chest muscles and reduce upper back pain.
  2. Assists in developing chest width.
  3. Will contribute to that V-taper.
  4. Isolates pec muscles.
  5. Teaches scapular retraction.

Not sure how to do the dumbbell chest fly? Check out the form video below for some tips!

Decline Bench Press

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: 12 (75% 1RM)
  • Rest: 60 seconds
  • Equipment: Bench, dumbbells

The decline bench press is on the list. It helps recruit more muscle fibres that connect to the sternum. This, in turn, takes the lower chest. Many chest workouts can be top-heavy. We have to give all the chest area a once over in this workout.

  • If you don’t have a decline weight bench, elevate one end of a flat bench. Use 2/3 heavy weight plates for this.
  • Lie on your back, with your head at the lower end.
  • In the usual manner of performing a chest press, complete the reps in the same fashion.
  • Pause at the bottom of each rep and press dumbbells back to the start position.

Why the Decline bench press is so good?

  1. Adds variety to your Chest Workout.
  2. Targets the lower chest
  3. Safer than a flat press. So you can load up safely with a spotter.
  4. Little to no back stress. As you cannot arch your back whilst lifting.

Check your form – use the video below to help if you’re not sure how to do this exercise

Hyght Dumbbell Fly

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: 20 (60% 1RM)
  • Rest: 90 seconds
  • Equipment: Incline bench, dumbbells

The hyght fly is a beautiful exercise to have in the arsenal. I love the burn and the feel of the engagement.

Great for hypertrophy and will improve motor control of muscles when performed effectively. It’s similar to a standing lower cable fly.

So I like to add more reps to fail my muscles.

  • Put your bench at a 45-degree angle.
  • Hold the dumbbells by your side in an underhand grip. In about a 45 degree angle from the body.
  • Slight bend in your arms and with slow tempo and control. Raise and control the dumbbells up past your chest until they touch each other.
  • Return slowly to start position. Keep the dumbbells 45 degrees away from you.

Why the hyght dumbbell fly?

  1. Smashing the chest from all angles
  2. Improves motor control skills
  3. Replicates low cable fly
  4. Can reach high volume reps

Check out the video below to help with your form

Dumbbell Svend Press

  • Sets: 4
  • Reps: 12 (75% 1RM)
  • Rest: 60 seconds
  • Equipment: Dumbbell

The what press? If you’ve ever been a gym member, you’ve probably seen this done with a weight plate. It’s where you hold the dumbbell straightforward with your hands level with the chest in a prayer-like position.

It’s simple but efficient and that’s why it’s my last exercise. It’s a nice way to get a real full-on pump – Arnie style.

  • Select a dumbbell. Class 101.
  • Hold the dumbbell in both hands level with the chest.
  • Slowly press the dumbbell forward arms extended
  • Slowly Bring back into the chest.
  • Like I said easy, but a beauty.

Check the video below to help perfect your form on the Dumbbell Svend Press

The Total Dumbbell Chest Workout

Here’s a recap of the entire workout.

Six varied exercises to use in the gym or at home. Using only dumbbells and a bench. Massively cost-effective.

  • Chest pullover: 4 sets 12 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell bench press: 4 sets 12 reps
  • Flat dumbbell fly: 4 sets 12 reps
  • Decline bench press: 4 sets 12 reps
  • Hyght dumbbell fly: 4 sets 20 reps
  • Svend press: 4 sets 12 reps

Final Words

Working out doesn’t need to be expensive or involve loads of equipment. A set of dumbbells will do just nicely.

You can do this workout at home, at the gym or even at the park with a set of adjustable dumbbells. Follow all the tips in this dumbbell chest workout guide and keep to a slow tempo to help improve motor skills.

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Matthew Varney

Matthew Varney

Matthew Varney is a qualified personal trainer with over 9 years' fitness industry experience. With a wide range of clients who he trains either one to one or in groups, Matthew is a passionate professional who gets results. If he's not in the gym or out running, he's keeping himself busy writing about health and fitness.

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