Looking to build a bigger, broader chest and stronger, more defined abs? Get started with this dumbbell chest and core workout…
You’ll be familiar with most of the exercises in this dumbbell chest and core workout – not least because some of the dumbbell moves are mentioned in our guide to the best dumbbell exercises – but tried and tested is no bad thing.
For the main body of the session, you’re going to hit your pecs from every angle, starting with the heavier stuff while you’re feeling fresh, then progressing to the lighter isolation work.
Once your chest is fully inflated and you’re feeling like prime Schwarzenegger, you’re then going to tag on a bit of functional core work.
Essential for every facet of fitness, a stable midsection also protects against injury, improves posture, and will keep your now-DD pecs from knocking you off balance.
Dumbbell chest and core workout
1. Dumbbell incline bench press (4 sets | 8-10 reps | Rest for 60-90 seconds)
2. Dumbbell flye (3-4 sets | 10-12 reps | Rest for 60-90 seconds)
3a. Dumbbell pull-over (8-10 reps | Move straight on to 3b)
3b. Weight plate pinch raise (3 sets | 10-12 reps | Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat 3a)
4. Spiderman press up (3 sets | Reps: to failure | Reps: 60 seconds)
5a. Side plank reach (15 reps | Move straight on to 5b)
5b. Dumbbell crunch reach (3 sets | 15 reps | Rest for 60-90 seconds, then repeat 5a)
6a. V sit-up (15 reps | Move straight on to 6b)
6b. Extended plank (3 sets | 15 reps | Rest for 60-90 seconds, then repeat 6a)
Keep reading for full instructions on how to perform the exercises in this dumbbell chest & core workout.
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1. Dumbbell incline bench press
Rest: 60-90 secs
How to do a dumbbell incline bench press:
- Firstly, set the bench to a 45-degree incline.
- Pick the dumbbells up off the floor and sit on the seat of the bench.
- Kick your knees up as you lean back onto the bench – using the momentum from your kick to bring the dumbbells to the sides of your chest.
- Now, tense your glutes and core, then powerfully press the weights toward the ceiling, stopping when the dumbbells are an inch or so away from each other.
- Lower with control – all the way down until the dumbbells are at chest height – then repeat.
2. Dumbbell flye
Rest: 60-90 secs
How to do a dumbbell flye:
- Lie back on the bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms straight and palms facing.
- Now, with your chest up and a slight bend in your elbows, lower the weights out to the sides until you feel a good stretch across your pecs.
- Then, reverse the movement, focusing on moving the weights with your pecs, until your arms are extended.
- Stop the weights just before they touch and squeeze your pecs for a count of one – you should really feel it in your inner chest.
3a. Dumbbell pull-over
Rest: Straight into 3b
How to do a dumbbell pull-over:
- Firstly, lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Then, holding a dumbbell over your chest, keep your arms long and begin to lower the weight over your head towards the floor.
- Pause when you feel a good stretch through your pecs and upper back, then squeeze your lats to bring the dumbbell back to the start.
Follow this dumbbell chest & core workout with these stretching exercises
3b. Weight plate pinch raise
Rest: 60 secs, then repeat 3a
How to do a weight plate pinch rise:
- Stand holding a pair of light weight plates (2.5kg should do) together at chest height.
- Not got plates? Hold a dumbbell end over end instead – pressing it hard between your hands.
- Now, keeping the plates pressed firmly together, slowly extend your arms straight out and slightly up until your elbows are completely locked out.
- The aim of the game here is to go slow and purposeful – you’re using light weights, so need to make the contraction count.
4. Spiderman press-up
Reps: To failure
Rest: 60 secs
How to do a spiderman press-up:
- From a press-up position with your feet shoulder-width apart, begin to lower yourself to the ground, while simultaneously bringing one knee up and out to the side.
- Keeping tension throughout, try to connect your knee with your elbow at the bottom of the press-up.
- Then, return that leg as you drive yourself back up to the start position.
- That’s one rep. Now go again with the other leg.
If you’re enjoying this chest and core workout, check out our other dumbbell workouts
5a. Side plank reach
Rest: Straight into 5b
How to do a side plank reach:
- Firstly, start in the side plank position with your core engaged.
- Now, raise your right hand, then twist your torso so your right hand and head are pointed to the ceiling.
- Twist back down and around so your hand goes under and across your chest.
- Then, return to the start.
5b. Dumbbell crunch reach
Rest: 60-90 secs, then repeat 5a
How to do a dumbbell crunch reach:
- Firstly, lie flat on the floor, with knees bent and a dumbbell held in your hands.
- Straighten your arms, holding the dumbbell overhead.
- Keep your lower back flush to the floor throughout.
- Then, engage your core and use your abs to crunch up, keeping the weight in a fixed position overhead.
- Reach as high in the air as you can, hold for one second at the highest point, then slowly lower back to the start.
6a. V sit-up
Rest: Straight into 6b
How to do a V sit-up:
- Lie flat on the ground.
- Now, raise your legs as high as you can, keeping them straight and together, and lift your torso up towards your thighs so you form a V-shape.
- Keep your back straight and try to keep your movements smooth and controlled – avoid jerking.
- You can keep your hands on the floor, or bring them up to meet your feet.
- Then, slowly lower back to the ground.
After finishing this chest and core workout, try this dumbbell abs workout
6b. Extended plank
Rest: 60-90 secs, then repeat 6a
How to do an extended plank:
- Firstly, assume a press-up/straight-arm plank position – your body should form one straight line from your head to your heels, with no lifting or sagging at the waist and no rounding through the back.
- Squeeze your entire core, your glutes and your quads, and tuck your backside under a little to keep your lower back in good alignment.
- Maintaining this position, and keeping torso movement to an absolute minimum, ‘step’ both hands further out.
- Hold for one second, then step back to the start. That’s 1 rep.
Photography: Eddie Macdonald | Model: Harry Sellers