The 10 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises You Can Do Without a Bench – Fitness Volt

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If you believe everything you read about strength training, you would be forgiven for thinking that the only way to get an effective workout is by using lots of training equipment. According to more than a few experts, you need access to barbells, dumbbells, machines, suspension trainers, resistance bands, chains, and a whole bunch of other things to shock your muscles into getting bigger and stronger.

While such a holistic approach definitely works, effective training doesn’t have to be complicated. Not so many decades ago, workout enthusiasts got fitter and stronger using very little equipment; sometimes just a pair of dumbbells or a fixed-weight barbell.

When you bought your weights, you also got a workout program to follow. Weider strength training products were especially famous for this.

Contrary to popular opinion, productive workouts don’t have to involve lots of different training methods or equipment.

In this article, we reveal the ten best dumbbell chest exercises you can do without a bench and provide you with a workout to follow, too.

Table of Contents Show

  • The 10 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises You Can Do Without A Bench
    • 1. Dumbbell floor press
    • 2. Dumbbell stability ball press
    • 3. Dumbbell floor fly
    • 4. Dumbbell stability ball fly
    • 5. Dumbbell close grip floor press
    • 6. Dumbbell narrow grip stability ball press
    • 7. Dumbbell Svend press
    • 8. Dumbbell push-ups
    • 9. Dumbbell stability ball pullovers
    • 10. Dumbbell renegade row and push-up
  • No Bench Dumbbell-Only Chest Workout
  • Wrapping Up

The 10 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises You Can Do Without A Bench

The bench press (with a barbell or dumbbells) is one of the most popular and effective chest exercises you can do. That said, it’s not the only way to build your upper body. In fact, you can get a great workout using just a pair of dumbbells.

You can also use a stability ball instead of an exercise bench, which is why we’ve included some stability ball/dumbbell exercises in this list. However, if you do use a ball, make sure it’s strong enough to support your weight and is undamaged so it won’t burst during use.

1. Dumbbell floor press

Dumbbell Floor Press ExerciseDumbbell Floor Press ExerciseDumbbell Floor Press Exercise

Dumbbell-only chest exercises don’t get much better than floor presses. As the name implies, this exercise involves lying on the floor instead of an exercise bench. You can do dumbbell floor presses using both arms or one arm at a time as preferred.

Your range of motion will be shorter, but this may be advantageous and makes this exercise much more shoulder-friendly, so it’s a good move if regular bench presses cause shoulder pain.

Check out our in-depth guide to floor presses to learn how to do this exercise.

2. Dumbbell stability ball press

Dumbbell Stability Ball PressDumbbell Stability Ball PressDumbbell Stability Ball Press

A stability ball makes a great lightweight alternative to an exercise bench. In addition, the curved surface means your shoulders are free to move naturally, which may help take some stress off what is otherwise a much-abused joint. In addition, the unstable ball will increase shoulder stabilizer and core muscle activation, making your workout even more beneficial.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on your stability ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the dumbbells on your legs. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Keeping your arms bent, walk your feet forward and simultaneously lean back. Position the ball behind your upper back and head. Brace your legs and core to stabilize your lower body.
  3. Press the weights up to arms’ length over your chest, lower them, and repeat.
  4. At the end of your set, lower the weights back to your shoulders and walk your feet in toward the ball, sitting up as you do so.
  5. Turn this exercise into an incline press by lowering your hips. 

3. Dumbbell floor fly    

The Power Floor Flye For ChestThe Power Floor Flye For ChestDumbbell floor fly

Doing dumbbell flys on the floor will reduce your range of motion, but this helps eliminate momentum, which means you’ll have to work harder to lift the weights. This variation is also much more shoulder-friendly than regular dumbbell flys.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent, feet flat. Press and hold your dumbbells up, palms facing inward. Bend your elbows slightly, but then keep them rigid.
  2. Open your arms and lower the weights out and down until your upper arms touch the floor.
  3. Without bouncing, squeeze the dumbbells back up and together.
  4. You can also do this exercise with your legs straight if preferred.

 

4. Dumbbell stability ball fly

The dumbbell stability ball fly is a great chest isolation exercise. While your triceps ARE involved, their involvement is relatively small. Using a ball means that, compared to floor flys, your range of motion is slightly greater. This may increase muscle activation.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on your stability ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the dumbbells on your legs. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back. With your arms bent, walk your feet forward and simultaneously lean back. Position the ball behind your upper back and head. Brace your legs and core to stabilize your lower body.
  2. Press the weights up to arms’ length with your palms facing inward. Bend your elbows slightly, but then keep them rigid.
  3. Open your arms and lower the weights out and down until the weights are slightly below the level of your shoulders. Take care not to overextend your joints.
  4. Without bouncing, squeeze the dumbbells back up and together.
  5. Turn this exercise into incline flys by dropping your hips.

5. Dumbbell close grip floor press

The dumbbell close grip floor press is a great way to get an effective chest workout without a bench and while using relatively light weights. This exercise is designed to maximize pec activation. If you are looking for a simple way to pump up your chest, this is the exercise for you!

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent, feet flat. Press and hold your dumbbells up over your chest, palms facing inward. Squeeze the weights together, pushing as hard as you can.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower the weights toward your chest while maintaining inward pressure. Lightly touch your upper arms to the floor.
  3. Push the weights back up and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise with your legs straight if preferred.

6. Dumbbell narrow grip stability ball press

Doing close grip dumbbell presses on a stability ball means you can use a slightly bigger range of motion compared to lying on the floor. Also, as the ball moves, you’ll need to work a little harder to maintain your position, increasing stabilizer muscle activation in the process.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on your stability ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the dumbbells on your legs. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Keeping your arms bent, walk your feet forward and simultaneously lean back. Position the ball behind your upper back and head. Brace your legs and core to stabilize your lower body. Squeeze the weights together, pushing as hard as you can.
  3. Starting with the weights on your chest, push them up to arms’ length, and then lower them again. Keep pushing the weights in and together.
  4. At the end of your set, lower the weights back to your shoulders and walk your feet in toward the ball, sitting up as you do so.
  5. Turn this exercise into an incline close-grip press by lowering your hips. 

7. Dumbbell Svend press

The dumbbell Svend press is a lot like narrow grip dumbbell presses. However, this exercise is done standing rather than lying on the floor or on a stability ball. Also, for this move, you only need a single dumbbell. Despite this, it’s still an effective chest exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back. Hold a dumbbell between the palms of your hands in front of your chest. Press your hands inward.
  2. Maintaining inward pressure, push the dumbbell out to arms’ length. Keep your arms up and parallel to the floor.
  3. Bring the weight back to your chest and repeat.

 

8. Dumbbell push-ups

Dumbbell Push-upsDumbbell Push-upsDumbbell Push-ups

You don’t have to lift your dumbbells to get a good chest workout. In fact, they make perfect push-up handles so you can pump up your pecs while using your body weight for resistance. Using dumbbells means you can lower your chest between your hands, increasing your range of motion and the difficulty of this classic exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, squat down and place the weights on the floor, about shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be facing inward.
  2. Walk your feet out and back, so your body is straight. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  3. Bend your arms and lower your chest between your hands and toward the floor. Take care not to hyperextend your shoulders.
  4. Push yourself back up and repeat.
  5. Make this exercise easier by bending your legs and resting on your knees. Make it more challenging by raising your feet.

 

9. Dumbbell stability ball pullovers

Pullovers are often thought of as a lat exercise, but they’re also an effective chest builder. You don’t need a bench to do pullovers; you can also do them using a stability ball. Take care if you are using heavy weights. You may need to anchor your feet to avoid accidentally doing a backflip over the ball!

How to do it:

  1. Sit on your stability ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the dumbbells on your legs. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Keeping your arms bent, walk your feet forward and simultaneously lean back. Position the ball behind your upper back and head. Brace your legs and core to stabilize your lower body. Press the weights up and over your chest. Press them together. Bend your elbows slightly but then keep them rigid.
  3. Lower the weights back and over your head until your biceps are next to your ears.
  4. Pull the weights back up and over until your arms are vertical.
  5. You can also do this exercise using one dumbbell.

10. Dumbbell renegade row and push-up

Renegade RowsRenegade RowsRenegade Rows and Pushup

This exercise adds a row to dumbbell push-ups (exercise #8). This not only means they work your upper back, but they also increase pec activation because your muscles will be under tension for longer, and you also need to stabilize your upper body using just one arm. This is also a very effective core exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, squat down and place the weights on the floor, about shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be facing inward.
  2. Walk your feet out and back, so your body is straight. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  3. Keeping your body straight and your hips and shoulders level, bend one arm and pull the dumbbell up and into your ribs. Place it back on the floor, and then do the same thing on the other side.
  4. Next, bend your arms and lower your chest down between your hands.
  5. Push yourself back up and repeat the row/row/push-up sequence for as many reps as required.

No Bench Dumbbell-Only Chest Workout

DumbbellsDumbbellsDumbbells

While there is nothing wrong with just picking 3-4 of the exercises from this article and calling it a workout, you’ll get better results if you follow a more structured plan. Build your chest using nothing but dumbbells with our tried-and-tested workout. We’ve made the assumption that you DO NOT have a stability ball to make this work out as accessible as possible.

Before you start, take a moment to prepare your muscles and joints for what you are about to do. Start your warm-up with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio, followed by a few dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises, focusing on your upper body and especially your shoulders. Finish your warm-up with a couple of light sets of the first 1-2 exercise.

Do the following workout 1-2 times per week as part of a split routine. If you do it twice, make sure you have a few days between to allow for adequate rest and recovery, e.g., Tuesday and Friday.

1.   Dumbbell floor fly
2.   Dumbbell floor press
3.   Dumbbell push-ups
4.   Dumbbell close grip floor press
5.   Dumbbell Svend press

Regarding sets and reps, 2-4 sets of each exercise should be plenty. If you feel you can do more than four sets, you probably need to work a little harder, maybe by taking shorter rests. Ideally, your rep count per set should match your training goals, i.e.:

  • Strength – 3-5 reps per set
  • Hypertrophy – 6-12 reps per set
  • Endurance – 13-20 reps

However, if this is not possible – perhaps because you only have light dumbbells to train with – just rep out until you are close to failure. That way, your workout will still be productive even if you can’t train in the correct repetition range.

Read also: Dumbbell Chest Workout Routine For More Size In 4 Weeks

Wrapping Up

Training with nothing but dumbbells is not ideal and means your workouts will be pretty limited and restrictive. That said, while it is something of a disadvantage, you can make it work.

Combine your dumbbells with some well-chosen bodyweight exercises like push-ups and dips, and you’ve got yourself a more rounded, effective program.

Do not think for a moment that lack of equipment means you cannot work out; you can! Ultimately, your body struggles to differentiate between doing chest presses on a state-of-the-art machine and push-ups in your dingy basement. So long as you train hard and consistently, your body will adapt, and you will get results. Anyone who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something!

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