Workouts like this dumbbell chest workout are a useful alternative to barbell sessions. They can be incredibly valuable for those who are training alone, short on time or recovering from injury…

Benching heavy, alone with a barbell, can at times be both impractical and dangerous.  This is where some of the best adjustable dumbbells are really useful.

Dumbbell chest workouts, on the other hand, can be performed at high volumes, place less stress on your joints, allow for a greater range of motion, and work the stabilising muscles a lot harder – giving you a more balanced development of strength.

So, if you’re looking to build bigger, stronger pecs and you have access to a decent selection of dumbbells, this dumbbell chest workout has got you covered.

Set/rep range 

If you’re looking to build your overall pec size aim for 10-12 reps with 3-4 sets of each exercise. If you’re looking to build strength, drop the reps to 5-8 and increase sets to 5. You shouldn’t be looking to max out on every set. Pick a weight that would leave around 2 reps in reserve.

For example, if you were aiming for 12 reps of a given exercise, it should feel like you could get an extra 2-3 reps out (if you had to) but no more. 


The goal of this session is to ensure adequate time under tension for each dumbbell exercise.

My suggestion is to perform the concentric part of the exercise (in this case the ‘push’ part) as powerfully as possible (circa 1 second per rep), while performing the eccentric part (the lowering of the weight) with more control (circa 2-3 seconds per rep).

Each exercise has a tempo guide, with three numbers indicating the three parts of each rep – the concentric, the transition/pause, and the eccentric. For example, a tempo of 1-1-3 for a bench press would mean a one-second press, a one-second pause at the top and a three-second lowering on the weight.  


Depending on your other training commitments, set aside time to complete a workout like this twice a week, alongside one to two decent lower-body sessions and a workout that includes at least two pulling compound exercises (think pull-ups, rows, etc).

The warm-up

I typically advise 2 or 3 light sets of the intended range of motion before loading.

For example, with the bench press, try performing the exercise with 25% of your intended weight for one set, then 50%, then 70% before beginning your first working set.

However, this is just personal preference, I have colleagues that spend 10-15 minutes before any loading at all mobilising their joints. Regardless of preferences, you should always aim to do at least one partially loaded set before starting each exercise.

Build stronger pecs with this dumbbell chest workout 

1. Slight Decline Bench Press

2. Incline Flye

3a. Floor Press
3b. Dumbbell Stabilising Press-Up  

Read on for detailed exercise instructions…

Man performining a slight decline bench - dumbbell chest workoutMan performing end of slight decline bench - dumbbell chest workout
1. Slight Decline Bench Press

  • Elevate the bottom end of a bench using one to three bumper plates.
  • Lie back on the bench with your head at the lower end, holding a dumbbell in each hand.  
  • With your palms facing your feet powerfully press the dumbbells toward the ceiling, straightening out your arms.  
  • Squeeze the pecs for one second before slowly lowering the dumbbells back down to your shoulders.
  • Repeat using a tempo of 1-1-3.

Man performing incline fly - dumbbell chest workoutMan performing end of incline fly - dumbbell chest workout
2. Incline Flye

  • Slightly elevate the top end of a bench around six inches.  
  • Sit back on the bench with your head at the elevated end with dumbbells at arms’ length. 
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to chest height, simultaneously squeezing together the shoulder blades.  
  • Without bouncing the weights off your chest, powerfully press the dumbbells back up, straightening out your arms. 
  • Repeat using a tempo of 1-0-3. 

Man performing start of floor press - dumbbell chest workoutMan performing floor press - dumbbell chest workout
3a. Floor Press

  • Lie flat on the floor holding two dumbbells at arms’ length.
  • Rotate the hands slightly as if you were holding a steering wheel. This is your starting position.
  • Slowly lower the weights until your upper arm is parallel with the floor.
  • Powerfully press back up into the starting position and squeeze the pecs at the top of each rep.
  • Repeat using a tempo of 1-1-3.

Man performing start of stabilising press-up - dumbbell chest workoutMan performing stabilising press-up - dumbbell chest workout
3b. Dumbbell Stabilising Press-Up 

  • Place two dumbbells shoulder-width apart on the floor in a 10-2 position (like the steering wheel grip we used earlier). 
  • Carefully hold both dumbbells in place and get into a straight-arm press-up position. 
  • Perform a normal press-up. 
  • Aim to keep the dumbbells as still as possible throughout the set. If you can’t perform it without them rolling away, simply revert to a normal press-up. 
  • Repeat using a tempo of 1-0-2.

Workout by Chris Wharton, celebrity trainer and performance coach, and co-founder of luxury wellness retreat Palm Rock Retreats

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