Your At-Home, Dumbbell Chest Workout (No Push-Ups!)

Fitness, Upper Body Workouts, Workouts by Type

By: // May 19, 2020


When it comes to chest exercises, push-ups often come to mind. But if you struggle with push-ups or really would rather just skip them for a bit, a dumbbell chest workout is a great option.

Dumbbell chest exercises are some of the most underrated moves in fitness. We turn to push-ups because… well, because they work. We use barbells for the same reason.

But the truth is that dumbbells give you an equally good and completely unique chest and upper body workout with a lot more variety and some amazing benefits.

Jump To Our Dumbbell Chest Workout

Benefits of Working Your Chest With Dumbbells

Your At-Home, Dumbbell Chest Workout (No Push-Ups!)

Working on your chest muscles with dumbbells is part of a well-balanced strength program. The pushing and pulling actions used in a dumbbell chest workout are part and parcel to things you do in everyday life like lifting things onto high shelves overhead, pushing a sofa or chair so you can clean around it, or even lifting a car seat with a child.

Additionally, a strong chest will help protect your shoulder joint from injury during all of these activities as well as improve the balance of your whole body for better posture.

So why should you use dumbbells to strengthen the chest? Let’s look at some reasons.

1. More Variety

A barbell chest press is a pretty limited exercise. You pull the bar to your chest and press it up. It’s a fixed activity. Similarly, aside from moving your hand positions, push-ups do a fairly fixed movement.

Dumbbell chest exercises, on the other hand, give you a variety of ways to focus on all of your chest muscles. You can begin with a basic chest press and then by simply turning your palms inward change the focus of the muscles used.

Just as quickly you can draw your arms close to your side and turn it into a tricep-focused chest press. Now switch to a dumbbell chest fly adding more dimension to the smaller chest muscles that might otherwise be ignored.

Dumbbells simply give more variety.

2. Easier On The Joints

Push-ups are THE go-to exercise for most people, and for good reason. They work! The problem is that many people are unable to do push-ups due to overuse and joint injuries, usually in the shoulder. When done improperly push-ups can lead to shoulder injuries very quickly.

On the other hand, pressing a barbell up and down has risks of its own. If one side of your body is weaker than the other (which is true for most people) your strong side will subtly but certainly kick-in as needed to bear the extra weight. This means you are at risk for problems with that side over time.

Having a dumbbell in each hand keeps both sides equally accountable. Plus, it means you have to work harder to stabilize the weights giving you not only a more balanced activity, but one that also strengthens your core and all the smaller muscles that surround that target chest area.

3. Bigger Range Of Motion

For those of you looking to strengthen the chest more quickly, dumbbells should be your choice. Using similar weight to a barbell bench press, the difference is that the barbell stops at the chest no matter what your flexibility is.

Dumbbells, however, allow you to go farther, especially if you have more shoulder flexibility. Just be careful to do them slowly and safely to protect yourself from over-stretching your muscles or injuring yourself.

Pro tip: Go slower on the way down. Lower the weights to a slow 4-count and then press them up.

What Kind of Dumbbells Should You Use?

Young woman laying on the floor with adjustable dumbbells lifted overhead

So maybe you are convinced to give a dumbbell chest workout a try. If so, you probably think that once you decide between 10-, 12- or 15-pound dumbbells you’re set to make a purchase.

What you might not know is that when you search online or show up at the store there are plenty of other things to consider including options that are above and beyond how heavy your weight will be.

The texture, the functionality, the circumference, the shape…. Buckle up and get ready to think through these choices and what might be best for you.

Adjustable vs. Fixed Dumbbells

First, you have to decide whether you want several different pair of dumbbells or just one pair that can be more versatile. There are traditional dumbbells that you are used to seeing in a gym or in a fitness video, then there are adjustable dumbbells that are made to change up the same set of weights as needed for use.

So what is best for you? Here are some things to consider:

Adjustable Weights are versatile and take up less space in your home because you are virtually using just one pair of dumbbells for everything. You simply click a lever or pull a pin and your dumbbell changes from 10 pounds to 15 just like that.

Think of a barbell and how you add plates on and off the end in order to adjust. This is the same concept only in smaller form! Cool, right? Of course, it will cost you.

When you go to purchase adjustable weights there are several manufacturers to choose from. Do some pre-shopping online to check them out. A couple of the main brands include Powerblock which ranges from $150-$350 per pair as well as Bowflex which offers basic weights, high tech “Bluetooth” weights and more ranging from $329-$529.

Both of these brands adjustable dumbbells range from 5 lb.’s all the up to 90 pounds. Yup! You heard it! One pair and you can pretty much do it all!

Fixed dumbbells, on the other hand, are the more traditional option and a staple in the trainer’s collection of goodies. If you don’t mind having several pair taking up space, these regular dumbbells are a cheaper option and allow you to purchase only what you need as you need it.

In addition, you can lay out several options at the beginning of a workout and more quickly switch between weight levels during your dumbbell chest workout than you are able to with adjustable dumbbells.

As you start your collection you may start out with a set of 5 lb. and 8 lb. weights and in a few months you purchase another 10 lb. pair. Most of the traditional dumbbells, including the most popular brand SPRI , cost anywhere from $9-15 per pair.

If you do go with the traditional dumbbell there are even more options for you to choose from. Do you want soft, coated weights or metal and rubber? Round-shaped ends or hexagon?

Rubber coated weights are nice for the grip, especially as your hands get sweaty. They are softer to the touch and your hands are less likely to slip when wet. In addition, the softness makes it better for things you do in a plank position such as renegade rows where the metal center can be irritating or even painful to your palms.

On the other hand, rubber-coated weighs usually have round ends making them move around more in a plank position.

Traditional hexagon metal and rubber weights may be easier for some to grip in the center because although they are a harder surface they are a small circumference making it easier for small hands to hold and better for those who might have arthritis.

It’s based purely on personal preference so try them both before you decide.

Dumbbell Chest Workout

This dumbbell chest workout consists of a short warm-up followed by three rounds of exercises. Each round includes one chest, one back and one core move for a balanced workout.

Depending on your fitness level and the time you have to spend, there are two ways to accomplish it:

10-Minute Beginner/Intermediate Workout

Start at the beginning and perform each round one time with 1 minute in between rounds to rest.

20-Minute Intermediate/Advanced Workout

Perform Round 1 and repeat. Rest 1 minute. Perform Round 2 and repeat. Rest 1 minute. Perform Round 3 and repeat. Rest 1 minute.

ADVANCED BONUS: Now go back to the top and perform rounds 1, 2, and 3 without stopping.!!!   Trust us, you’ll be sore and satisfied the next day!

*Keep in mind that if you have shoulder pain or injury your range of motion should stay smaller.

WARM-UP

Before the workout, take a few minutes to do these 3 warm-up exercises to prepare your upper body for what is to come. This gets blood flowing and helps prevent injury.

Arm Circles and Figure 8’s:

Young woman performing arm circles

Stand tall and make big, alternating circles forward with both arms 10 times like you are doing the front crawl standing up. Then 10 times backward like you are doing the backstroke. Then take one arm at a time and make a figure 8, 10 per arm. This prepares the upper body, especially the rotator cuff.

Inchworm

Chris Freytag performing inchworms

Stand tall and roll down until your hands reach the floor. Walk your hands forward until you’re one long line in a plank position. Take tiny steps walking your feet forward until they reach your hands. Walk hands out to plank again, and feet back to hands.  Continue repeating this several times.

Plank Shoulder Tap

Chris Freytag performing plank shoulder taps

Begin in a plank position with hands direction under shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Hold your center still, squeeze your abs and glutes, and lightly tap the opposite shoulder 16 times total.

Round 1

Chest Press

Perform the chest press 10 times as shown. Then alternate pressing arm right and left one at a time for 10 total reps.

Chris Freytag performing a chest press

How to do a chest press:

1) Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Elbows are bent and dumbbells start at shoulder height.

2) Extend arms fully pressing away from your chest. Slowly lower to start position.

Straight Arm Press Backs

Perform these slowly; lower for 4 counts lift for 1. Do 12 repetitions.

Chris Freytag performing straight arm press backs

How to do straight arm press backs:

1) Start with feet hip-distance apart. Engage your abdominals and sit back into a slight squat. Dumbbells start at the sides of the knees.

2) Keeping the core engaged, press the dumbbells past your hips and return with control. Avoid swinging the arms or bending the elbows.

Plank Shoulder Taps

Perform 20 opposite shoulder taps.

Chris Freytag performing plank shoulder taps

How to perform plank shoulder taps:

1) Begin in a plank position with hands direction under shoulders and feet hip-width apart.

2) Hold your center still, squeeze your abs and glutes, and lightly tap the opposite shoulder.

Beginners: rest one minute, then go to round 2.

Advanced: repeat round 1.

Round 2

Chest Fly

Perform a chest fly 10 times as shown. Then alternate right arm, left arm, one at a time for 10 total reps.

Chris Freytag performing chest flys

How to do chest flys:

1) Lie on back with knees bent and feet on floor and hold dumbbells straight up over chest.

2) With a slight bend in the elbow, slowly open arms wide out to the side. Squeeze your chest as you bring    the weights back together at the top. Repeat for desired number of reps.

Straight Arm Press Backs

Perform 12 slow press backs, squeezing and pausing as you press.

Chris Freytag performing straight arm press backs

How to do straight arm press backs:

1) Start with feet hip-distance apart. Engage your abdominals and sit back into a slight squat. Dumbbells start at the sides of the knees.

2) Keeping the core engaged, press the dumbbells past your hips and return with control. Avoid swinging the arms or bending the elbows.

Sit-Up Press

Slowly curl up with the weights at your chest, then press using chest and arms at the top.

Chris Freytag performing a sit-up press

How to do a sit-up press:

1) Start on back with bent knees and feet on the mat. Elbows are bent and dumbbells are resting above the chest.

2) Bring the head, neck, and shoulders off the mat sitting up, and extend the arms out long pressing the dumbbell forward. Return back to the mat with control.

Beginners: rest one minute then go to round 3.

Advanced: repeat round 2.

Round 3

Chest Press/Chest Fly

Alternating: Do one chest press then one chest fly as one rep. Perform 10 reps alternating one of each.

Chris Freytag demonstrating how to perform chest flys and chest presses

How to do a chest press:

1) Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Elbows are bent and dumbbells start at shoulder height.

2) Extend arms fully pressing away from your chest. Slowly lower to start position.

How to do chest flys:

1) Lie on back with knees bent and feet on floor and hold dumbbells straight up over chest.

2) With a slight bend in the elbow, slowly open arms wide out to the side. Squeeze your chest as you bring    the weights back together at the top. Repeat for desired number of reps.

Reverse Grip Double Arm Row

Pull slowly and squeeze your back as you do so. Perform 12 reps.

Chris Freytag performing reverse grip double arm rows

How to do reverse grip double arm rows:

1) Start with legs together and sit back into a slight squat engaging abdominals. Arms are in front of the body holding dumbbells at hip height with palms facing the ceiling.

2) Draw elbows back past hips gently hugging the side body so you feel lats and triceps engage and return forward with control.

Mid-Back Extension

Using your upper back and abdominal muscles perform 12 mid-back extensions lifting up, briefly pausing, then slowly lowering for 4 counts.

Chris Freytag performing mid-back entensions

How to do mid-back extensions:

1) Start lying face down on mat. Lift abs away from mat to engage them and slide the shoulders down the back. The head is lifted in a low hover. Your body is one long line.

2) Using your back muscles and core, lift the chest away from the mat into extension as you exhale. Think of lengthening from the crown of the head.

3) Inhale and return back down to the mat slowly getting longer through the spine as you return.

Beginners: you are done!
Advanced: repeat round 3.

BONUS ROUND: after repeating round 3 go back to the beginning and move straight through the whole workout.

READ THIS NEXT: 10-Minute Bicep Workout For Women


Printed from GetHealthyU.com

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