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The Dumbbell Chest Workout Your Body Is Craving

by sarah kester - February 22, 2021

You use your chest muscles (pectorals) every day — when opening a door, washing your hair and getting up off the floor. Yet, it's one of the most overlooked muscles. This could be because it's difficult to target or because many forget to add it to their workout routine. Either way, working this muscle is key to keeping the body balanced. You may even get faster results if you add dumbbells into the mix.

"Dumbbells are an important part of strength and resistance training, which teaches your muscles to contract and grow stronger in response to outside forces," explains John Fawkes, NSCA CPT and Managing Editor of The Unwinder. 

Keep reading to learn more about a dumbbell chest workout, including how to incorporate it into your routine so you never overlook this important muscle again.

Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.

 dumbbell chest workouts

what are the best chest exercises with dumbbells?

If you thought push-ups were the only way to build chest muscles, think again. "You can build any muscle with resistance training as long as you make every rep count," fitness mogul, Emily Skye tells Lively.

Katelyn Barrons, a personal trainer and Founder of HelloStrength.com, recommends the dumbbell bench press and dumbbell chest fly: "The dumbbell bench press primarily engages the chest while also using the triceps and the dumbbell chest fly primarily engages the chest, while also using the anterior deltoid." If you wanted to make these exercises harder, simply change the angle.

"Changing the angle at which you perform either of these movements (incline or decline) will change the way you target and challenge your chest muscles," Barrons tells Lively.

How can I build my chest with dumbbells?

Building your chest with dumbbells requires putting in the work. Sergio Pedemonte, a certified personal trainer and the CEO of Your House Fitness, recommends hitting the gym (or your at-home workout) at least three times per week.

"In those three days, the user must focus on a minimum of 2-3 dumbbell chest exercises," he explains. "The intensity can be from 50% to 80% of the user's max pressing. A recommended range of sets would go from 3-5 sets and repetitions of 8-20."

Since diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, he says that making sure you're eating enough carbohydrates and protein, and staying hydrated is key. You'll also want to get a good night's sleep each night to help repair the muscle tissue.

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Are dumbbells better for the chest?

Not necessarily, says Skye. "Push-ups are also a great option too and there are so many variations," she shares with Lively. This includes the wall push-up, knee-push-ups, incline, push-up, standard push-up on toes, decline push-up and so on.

She recommends trying them on your knees first (especially for beginners) and then trying them on your feet for an extra challenge.

Dumbbells have the leg-up on chest exercises when compared to other weighted methods, such as a barbell. According to Tim Liu, an online fitness and nutrition coach, dumbbells are better since you're able to bring your arm across the body. There is less movement with a barbell since you're locked in with your shoulders and elbows.

Barrons agrees, adding that, "since you are holding the weight in each hand with dumbbells, the shoulder joint also has to work harder to stabilize than when using a barbell."

Better range of motion also comes into play. "Since weight is supported by one hand only, you can now perform perpendicular movements," explains Fawkes. "For instance, lying or standing reverse flies where each arm bends outwards in opposite directions."

Does lifting weights build your chest?

This question gets a resounding yes from the fitness experts. "Lifting weights does build your chest because our muscles need the extra resistance to grow,” Liu tells Lively.

Fawkes agrees: "You're essentially applying extra pressure onto those chest muscles and groups, breaking down their muscle fibers, but then regrowing each into a stronger and more toned version." But if lean muscle is your goal, Skye recommends a bench press or push-ups.

Still not seeing results? This could be because you’re not training the muscle enough. "The critical takeaway from this is that users tend to make the mistake of not adding enough chest exercises to the exercise program routine," says Pedemonte.

This is where having a chest workout already prepared makes all the difference. 

Katelyn Barrons's Dumbbell Chest Workout

Equipment required: dumbbells and bench

  • Dumbbell Bench Press (4 sets, 8 reps)
  • Dumbbell Chest Fly (3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Dumbbell Squeeze Press (3 sets, 10 reps)
  • Incline Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press (3 sets, 8 reps)
  • Dumbbell Arnold Press (3 sets, 10 reps)

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