dumbbell chest exercises without bench
Fitness

11 Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without Bench For Fuller Pecs

Dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can utilize in the gym.  Not only are you able to replicate any barbell movement but there are also a ton you can do that can only be done with dumbbells.  However, many trainees want to add dumbbells to their home workout routine but they don’t have a bench.  At first, this may seem like an issue as many rely on the bench for their chest exercises.  Don’t worry, there are still plenty of chest exercises you can do without the bench.

Muscles Worked With These Exercises

All of these exercises will work the same muscles to varying degrees.  The main three muscles trained are the:

Pectoral muscles 

The pectoral muscles are simply your chest muscles.  These are the large muscles located on the upper chest

Deltoids

The deltoids are another name for your shoulder muscles.  There are three heads; anterior, medial, and posterior

Triceps

The triceps muscle is the large muscle located on the back of your arm.  There are three heads that work to extend the arm

Using any of the below movements in your next dumbbell chest workout will give these muscles a significant workout.

1. Swiss Bar Floor Press

The floor press is a standard floor pressing movement in the strength world.  However, using a Swiss Bar can make this movement more comfortable with a wider range of trainees as it allows you to use a neutral grip.  As you can probably guess, a floor press is performed on the floor negating the need for a bench.  It’s essentially a bench press with less range of motion and the stretch-shortening cycle is taken away.  This will place a bit more stress on the triceps but should allow heavier loads as the range of motion is not as large 

Equipment Needed

  • Rack
  • Swiss Bar

How To Perform

  1. Set up a rack similar to a bench press but lower to the ground.
  2. Unrack the Swiss Bar and bring it over your chest.  This will be the starting position
  3. Let the Swiss Bar come down by bringing your elbows down until the triceps rest on the ground
  4. Your elbow joint should be at a 90-degree angle
  5. Push the Swiss Bar back up and over your chest
  6. Be sure to keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle with your body

2. Bridge Dumbbell Chest Press

A great dumbbell chest press variation. The bridge dumbbell chest press is very similar to the floor press but it’s performed while being in a bridge with your feet flat on the ground. This is going to make it a true total body exercise as the posterior chain muscle will get a great workout meaning your core, glutes, and hamstrings will also get a workout.  This could be great a movement to use if you suffer from low back pain as a means to strengthen your lower back AND chest.  Due to the body being elevated, the press will look more similar to a decline press.

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How To Perform

  1. Lay on the ground with a pair of dumbbells using an overhand grip with feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Get into a bridge position by performing a bridge by pushing your hips up into the air and shoulders into the ground
  3. Your body should be fully extended at the top.  Be sure to keep your feet flat and push into the ground
  4. Now perform the chest press in the same manner as the floor press

3. Dumbbell Pullover From The Floor

These are done just like regular pullovers except the range of motion won’t be as large due to the floor.  To combat this, keep your arms extended a bit more.

How To Perform

  1. Lay on the ground
  2. Pick up a dumbbell with both hands by cupping the head.  Your thumbs should be facing back towards your head
  3. Hold the dumbbell directly over your head
  4. In a controlled motion, allow the dumbbell to fall behind your head
  5. Your arms should be almost fully extended the whole way back
  6. Once the dumbbell hits the floor, pull the dumbbell back up

4. Side-To-Side Pushups

Another variant of the push-up to blast the chest are side-to-side pushups.  These have you use a slightly wider hand position than a normal push-up.  However, instead of going straight down, go down to one hand at a time.  This places a greater percentage of body weight onto one side meaning the muscles have a greater force.  These are the equivalent of performing a dumbbell press compared to a barbell chest press.  The best thing is you don’t need a bench!

Equipment Needed

  • Just your body  

How To Perform

  1. Get on the ground in a normal push-up position but with hands slightly wider apart
  2. Come down similar to a pushup but bring your chest all the way to one hand.  Your chest should come down on your hand
  3. Push up to the starting position
  4. Now do the same thing down to the other side  

5. TRX Pushups

Pushups are an awesome exercise for the chest and all you need is the body.  However, adding a suspension system like TRX adds an element of instability that creates higher activation of the chest muscles.  Still, you’re going to get an amazing core workout as well.

Equipment Needed

  • TRX
  • Support system of some sort

How To Perform

  1. Set the TRX so that the handles hover above the ground
  2. The lower the TRX tends to be more difficult and you’ll push a higher percentage of body weight
  3. Grab the handles and get on your knees first. 
  4. Transfer from your knees to extend leg one at a time as it is unstable at first
  5. Once you are steady with both legs extended, perform a pushup as regular
  6. Go slow at first as it will be very shaky (this is what causes greater activation to create stability)
  7. Once you are low enough, push yourself up.
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6. Dumbbell Chest Flies

You can still do flies without a bench, it’s just the range of motion will be decreased a bit.  You do this exactly the same way as basic chest flies on a bench but now you are on the floor.  These are chest isolation movements so they are great to use for chest growth.

How To Perform

  1. Lay on the ground holding two dumbbells in a neutral position
  2. Place your arms out to your side and maintain a slight bend in the elbows
  3. While maintaining the same position in the arms, bring the dumbbells above your chest
  4. Allow the dumbbells to lower slow and controlled

7. Kettlebell Chest Press

The kettlebell is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment.  While often thought of as being used to swing, the kettlebell is a great choice to use for chest presses when you don’t have a bench.

Equipment Needed

  • Kettlebell

How To Perform

  1. Sit down on the ground with your legs out in front.  They can be straight or spread apart
  2. Grab the kettlebell with an overhand grip and bring them up over your shoulders
  3. Let your arm come down until your elbow hits the ground
  4. Press the kettlebell straight overhead while maintaining a straight back

8. Kneeling Shoulder Press

Another great dumbbell pressing exercise that goes together with chest exercises perfectly.  The kneeling shoulder press is going to primarily hit the deltoids and triceps.  While not hitting the chest as much as other movements, these are going to increase your pressing strength which will then help improve your chest pressing movements.

How To Perform

  • Kneel on the ground with your knees in a “normal” stance
  • Grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip and bring them up to your shoulders
  • Brace your core by contracting your core muscles to maintain a straight back
  • Press the dumbbells straight overhead while maintaining a straight back

9. Elevated Dumbbell Pushups

The push-up is the standard floor exercise for the chest.  Now, the elevated dumbbell push-up takes this incredible movement to the next level.  It’s a great alternative to your basic chest as it can increase the range of motion of a normal pushup which can effectively make the exercise more effective.

How To Perform

  1. Place the dumbbells on the ground so that you can hold them in a neutral position
  2. Place them a bit wider than shoulder-width apart
  3. Grab the dumbbells and brace yourself into a pushup position
  4. Let yourself down slow and controlled by allowing your elbows to come down at a 45-degree angle
  5. Allow yourself to come down a bit past the normal depth of a pushup
  6. Push yourself back up in a controlled manner

10. Dumbbell Squeeze Press

The dumbbell squeeze press uses a single dumbbell and is a very effective and simple chest exercise that primarily uses an isometric contraction with a horizontal adduction movement.  The basic idea is to use your hands to squeeze both sides of a dumbbell while standing.  You then continue to apply pressure inwards s you press the dumbbell outwards.

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How To Perform

  1. This will be performed in the standing position. Stand in a natural stance
  2. Grab a dumbbell and hold it in front of your chest.  Do this by pressing on both ends of the dumbbell with your hands
  3. While using your arms to squeeze the dumbbell, extend your elbows out in front of you
  4. Try to maintain the dumbbell at chest level with your arms and not allow them to drop
  5. Bring the dumbbell back into your chest

11. Renegade Pushups

Superman pushups are one of the best workouts to hit a ton of muscles in one move, including the chest.  It basically just combines pushups and one-arm rows with one caveat; the one-arm rows are done while maintaining a plank with the other arm.  This not only adds an intense isometric hold on the chest, but it’s also a killer core workout as it’s essentially an anti-rotation movement.  This entire exercise is tough when you begin to start with lighter weights.

How To Perform

  1. Take two dumbbells and place them on the ground similar to the elevated push-up
  2. Get into a push-up position
  3. First, perform a pushup and then remain at the top in a plank position
  4. At the top, perform a single-arm row with one arm while bracing yourself with your other arm.  Keep your core tight!
  5. Switch arms and repeat
  6. Perform another push-up.  Repeat this cycle

There’s No Reason You Need A Bench!

Your chest workouts don’t need a bench! As you can see, there are plenty of alternatives to training your chest when all you have are dumbbells.  In fact, there is more all that you need for optimal muscle growth! 

If you are working out at home without a bench OR just want to try something different, use the movements above in your next exercise routine to get your chest in shape!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I target my upper chest without a bench? 

Most people think that having an incline is the only way to hit the upper chest.  However, multiple studies have shown that using a narrow grip is just as, if not more effective.  Therefore, if you want to your upper chest, use a closer grip when benching.  Or, you can also bring your hands in when doing pushups.  Place them slightly closer than narrow shoulder-width apart.

What’s the difference between push-up and pull-up? 

There is no blanket answer for this and it’s quite silly for trainers to give one.  The reason being is that the number of push-ups a person can do is relative to their body weight and strength.  Doing 50 pushups maybe a warm-up for some trainees yet be impossible for others.  There is no definite answer but somewhere between 3-5 times, your max would probably be good. 

Garett Reid

Garett Reid is a sports and performance consultant. He has over 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry and has worked in virtually every field; strength & conditioning coach, gym owner, educator, and consultant. Garett also has extensive experience working in the international sector in China and Thailand. Garett currently has his Masters in Exercise Science and holds his NSCA CSCS and CISSN certification. He will begin work on his Ph.D. this year.

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