However, to attain the perfect summer body, one muscle group that is the favorite of all is the chest. Building a bigger chest provides a massive look and makes you look cool in your summer workout clothes.
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Whenever people think of building chest they only prefer to add barbell workouts in their arsenal. They love to work bench-press and try to lift every ounce of weight into the gym. Though, that doesn’t work for all.
So, if bench pressing hurts your shoulders or being an introvert, you train at home without any support, or you’ve found that only barbell training is not enough to give you a bigger chest, try workout using dumbbells.
Pectoral dumbbell training may not be as tempting as loading up the bar till it bends. But for most people, it is actually a roadway to build bigger, stronger, defined pecs and offers less risk of injury to boot.
Relevant Reading: Best Chest Workouts: The Best Exercises for a Massive Chest
Listed below are the best dumbbell chest exercises and workouts to develop your chest, top to bottom.
The Analogy of Chest Muscles
In comparison to other large muscles groups such as legs and back, the chest is relatively simple. When sharing words about the chest or pecs, we usually refer to a single muscle called the pectoralis major.
The muscle further splits into three bundles:
Underneath the bigger muscle group (pectoralis major) lays a smaller muscle group (pectoralis minor), which isn’t of higher concern to our muscle-building bunch, as there are no specific exercises to target this muscle group of the chest.
Inflammation of this muscle, however, is often mistaken with shoulder pain. Therefore, knowing where the actual problem lies helps save on something that is not a problem.
Below are a few important facts highlighted regarding pectoralis major:
- Firstly, it is a single muscle that needs to be dealt with accordingly. Implement a reasonable about of chest training volume and never exceed the number of sets of your back and leg training. As a rule of thumb, 15 working sets maximum each rep is enough volume to train your chest effectively.
- Secondly, the horizontal arrangement of the upper, middle, and lower bundles signifies the negligence of the middle chest. Anatomically, there is no middle chest, though the muscle fibers have a horizontal arrangement.
Finding out exercises to vertically train or contract the muscle, never going to be worked out. As a result, learning to strongly contract pecs during all pectoral movements is the only approach to fire up the middle chest.
- Lastly, the position of your arms in various exercises is the reason behind the muscle contraction and emphasis on the chest muscle fiber bundles. However, this can be achieved by altering the angle of the bench during flyes and presses:
Flat Bench Press – Emphasises Centre Chest
Incline Bench Press – Emphasises Upper Chest
Decline Bench Press – Emphasises Lower Chest
Relevant Reading: Best Dumbbell Chest Workout to Get Ripped
How to Safely Pick Up Dumbbells
Along with discussing the consequences of excessive workout injuries, it is 100% necessary to spot the issues of safety… especially when you are lifting heavy dumbbells on your own. When lifting heavy dumbbells for chest exercises, you should feel comfortable getting them into the starting position and putting them down on your own.
With proper technique, you’ll be able to lift heavy dumbbells efficiently for chest exercises without carrying any risk of injuries. So, how would you get these dumbbells up?
Grab a pair of selected weight dumbbells and sit down on a bench. Place the dumbbells on your thighs. Make sure that your grip is firm and that your hands a facing each other.
Lie back on the bench, lift the dumbbells up pushing with your thighs.
Position the dumbbells on your chest with your arms straight while placing your feet on the floor.
Make sure that your chest is pushed up (focused), your shoulders pulled back (retracted) and your upper back and buttocks touch the bench at all times.
Once you are done with your sets, simply reverse back the steps and place the dumbbells down.
The best dumbbell chest exercises and workouts for developing your chest are listed below, from top to bottom.
Top 5 Dumbbell Chest Exercises
1. Dumbbell Bench Press
The dumbbell bench press is arguably the most effective free-weight exercise for the development of defined pecs. This movement allows you for better muscle contraction as you can bring the dumbbells together at the top of the movement.
These also allow for a wider range of motion in comparison to barbell bench press, effectively for people with short arms and wide rib cages.
Starting Position: Lie down on a flat bench and bring the dumbbells above using the technique discussed before. Hold the dumbbells with a pronated grip; twist your wrist as your thumbs are facing each other.
Position your arms parallel to your shoulder with slightly bent elbows – slowly lower your arms and spread elbows as far as possible.
Hold for a second, then use your chest to raise your arms up and close together in a triangle-like action. At the top, avoid letting the dumbbells touch.
To get a greater muscle contraction, tilt your wrists outwards; so that your thumbs are pointing slightly up.
Squeeze your chest and hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds.
Sets: 3-5 sets
Repetitions: 12, 10, 8, 6 (Pyramid sets)
2. Twisting Dumbbell Bench Press
This is the most uncommon dumbbell chest exercise which, however, exploits the non-fixed grip advantage of dumbbells.
The 180-degree rotation of the dumbbell throughout the movement aims to stimulate all the muscle fiber bundles of the pectoralis major. Twisting the dumbbells hold you back and force you to use less weight than in regular presses. As a result, you shouldn't put too much emphasis on achieving personal bests in this movement. Instead, focus on perfect muscle isolation.
Starting Position: Lie down on a flat bench and bring the dumbbell above your chest using the technique discussed before. Twist your wrist by holding the dumbbells in a supinated grip, so that your pinkies face each other.
Position your arms to parallel to your shoulder and slightly bend your elbows. Contract your chest and press the dumbbells against each other, forcing an even more powerful contraction.
Slowly remove the dumbbells from each other, keeping your chest contracted – lower your arms, spreading your elbows apart like a typical dumbbell bench press.
Whilst lowering the dumbbells, slowly turn your wrists, so that your thumbs face each other (pronated grip) once reaching the bottom part of the movement.
IV. Hold the stretch for a second and then slowly twist your wrists to a supinated grasp at the peak of the action, using your chest to bring the arms back up – at this point squeeze your chest and press the dumbbells together and hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds.
Sets: 3 sets
Repetitions: 12 – 15 reps
3. Crush Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise is going to crush your chest as the name suggested. A crush grip dumbbell bench press will set your chest on fire.
The movement is simply pressing both dumbbells against each other throughout the entire motion. Your chest needs to deal with applying force both horizontally (“crush grip” dumbbells) and vertically (pressing dumbbells.) This allows for incredible muscle contraction and activation.
Starting Point: Lie down on a flat bench and bring the dumbbells above your chest. Keep your palms facing each other holding the neutral grip and bring the dumbbells together.
Position your arms in line with your shoulders and slightly bend your elbows.
Squeezing your chest, press the dumbbells against each other as hard as you can.
Lower the dumbbells approximately one inch from your chest while maintaining the "crush-grip."
Return the dumbbells to their starting positions and contract your chest for a second at the top.
Sets: 3 – 4 sets
Repetitions: 15 reps
4. Dumbbell Flyes
No chest training program should be completed without this exercise. Dumbbell flyes are the most effective exercises one could add to their chest workout routine for a good reason. Though, this movement allows for an intense loading stretch.
If performed correctly, dumbbell flye is an amazing finisher to a chest session. However, the bigger mistake which most trainees do is bringing the dumbbells too close together, which technically leads to losing the muscle contraction.
Starting Position: Place the dumbbells above your chest while lying down on a bench. Make sure your palms are pointing in the same direction.
Align your arms with your shoulders and bend your elbows slightly.
Lower your arms in a wide arc until you feel a stretch in your chest – minor discomfort is normal; pain is not. Your safe range of motion will grow as you get more flexible — forcing it will result in damage.
Hold the stretch for a second and then raise your arms in a wide arc with your chest - the bend in your elbow should be consistent and your arms should be rigid. (Only move shoulders)
The tops of the dumbbells should not contact, since this will result in a loss of chest contraction - Squeeze your chest tight for 1 second (imagine bringing your arms together with your pecs.)
Sets: 3 sets
Repetitions: 12 reps
5. Dumbbell Pull-Overs
Dumbbell pullovers are commonly thought of as a back exercise rather than a chest exercise, although they are both. The bend in your arms and range of motion are critical factors in determining whether it will stimulate the former or the latter; both are explained in detail in the step-by-step tutorial.
The exercise allows for an intense loaded stretch, similar to dumbbell flyes. However, it works in tandem with the flyes by targeting the pectoralis major from a different aspect.
Starting Position: Place a dumbbell upright holding with both hands, on top of a bench, just off the edge. Lie across the bench on your back, with only your shoulder blades touching the bench's surface.
Important Note: Your neck should be off the bench to prevent cervical spine injuries.
Place your feet firmly on the ground, lower your hips, and hold the dumbbell in both hands, pressing your palms against the weight plates' inner side: Tangle your thumbs around the handle and wrap your fingers over the dumbbell's edge to ensure a firm grasp.
Raise the dumbbell above your head, slightly bend your elbows (too much bending will engage your back more than your chest), and flex your chest for a second.
Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until your arms are in line with your torso, hold the stretch for a second, and then lift the dumbbell back to above your eyes.
Squeeze your chest and hold the contraction for a second by raising the dumbbell to just over your brow. This will put additional stress on your back.
Sets: 3 sets
Repetitions: 12 reps
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