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The Most Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest

Optimise your upper body.

Check out the most effective dumbbell exercises for chest.

They have been chosen and explained by Jeff Cavaliere.

The Most Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest

“In today’s video we look at the best dumbbell exercises for chest. We’re going to focus on several areas of training: from strength, to power as well as hypertrophy and a few others you’d expect along with the best way to train adduction of the chest muscles.”

Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest – Strength

“First we cover strength.  The key here is that we actually have two non-dumbbell exercises that have their own benefits and those are the bench press and the weighted dip.  While both are fantastic moves for building bigger pecs (as well as shoulders and triceps) there is a unique advantage that the dip has when you convert it to a dumbbell only option that the bench press lacks, and that is maintained stability and better carryover of the load.”

Safely Lifting Heavier

“Since strength training should be focused on safely lifting heavier and adhering to progressive overload you do not want to not have to sacrifice shoulder stability if you can avoid it.  When moving to the dumbbell version of the bench press you will often find that your shoulder instability from holding separate dumbbells is going to undercut your overall strength to a much greater degree than what would happen with a dip.  Strap a dumbbell up to a dip belt and keep pushing the heavy loads that are already additive to the weight of your own body.”

Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest – Power

“Next, we focus on power.  The element of speed is critical to maximizing the effect of power training for our chest.  Here as well, you want to try and find a way that you can release the load during the repetition to realize true power development.  If you chose a dumbbell bench press and opted to accelerate the weight as fast as possible you would find that your body actually inherently slows the weight down as you approach full extension as a protective mechanism for the joints and to prepare for the next rep.”

“Performing an explosive plyo tap pushup allows you to fully express your power by accelerating through the rep, unhindered by the length of your arm as in the bench press.”

Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest – Hypertrophy

“For hypertrophy you want to explore eccentric muscle damage.  The best way to do this is with the floor fly.  Pick up a pair of dumbbells and press them to the top as you would with a normal bench press.  Then slowly lower them as in a fly, concentrating on the eccentric lowering of the weights to put the stress on the pecs.  Because you can cheat the rep to the top and don’t have to worry about the health of your shoulder because of the floor, you can actually use heavier than normal weight here to maximize the muscle growth effect even more.”

Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest – Correctives

“We always want to keep an eye on the correctives on this channel as well.  In the case of the chest you can use your dumbbells as a method of lightly overweighting a chest stretch.  Here we want to stretch the pec minor, which is a muscle that can get tight and pull your shoulders up and forward which ruins your posture and shoulder integrity when it does.  Lie on a foam roller and place your arms in the position shown with the dumbbells in your hand to get a nice stretch on the pec minor and prevent tightness from occurring.”

Additional Exercises

“Included are a few other exercises to emphasize adduction of the arm with dumbbells, which we know is a key function of the chest that doesn’t get hit with just bench press, pushups and dips.  Also, a total body option that reinforces the mechanics of the thoracic spine that has carryover to other areas of our training as well.”

Video – Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest

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Chest muscles

The pectoralis major is the muscle that gives your chest its shape, and it’s what you might think of first when someone says “chest muscles.” But there are other important muscles in the chest area that play key roles in your overall health. The serratus anterior is one such muscle.

You can find it deep inside the chest wall; between your ribs on either side of the sternum (breastbone). It’s relatively small compared to other muscles in this region and doesn’t play a large role in everyday activities—but it does have some important functions!

Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest – Pectoralis minor

  • Pectoralis Minor: Location
  • Pectoralis Major: Function
  • Anterior Deltoids: Function and Exercises

The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle that lies on the front of the chest. It originates at the inner surfaces of upper ribs 3 through 5 and inserts onto the coracoid process of your scapula (shoulder blade).

When it contracts, it pulls down your shoulder blades. This action gives your chest a higher peak in front and makes it look thicker than normal. It also helps to stabilize your shoulder blades during exercises involving arm movement, such as swimming or running.

Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest – Pectoralis major

The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle that covers most of the upper chest. The origin of the muscle is at the clavicle and sternum, with its insertion at the lesser tuberosity of your humerus. It’s responsible for flexing your shoulder joint as well as adducting your arm toward your body.

Effective Dumbbell Exercises for Chest – Serratus anterior

The serratus anterior is a muscle in the chest that originates from the upper eight ribs, and inserts into the medial border of the scapula. It raises the scapula, and is involved in protraction of the scapula (movement of pulling it forward).

Serratus anterior also functions to stabilize your shoulder joint as well as support your arm at your sides or overhead.


These are just a few of the muscles that contribute to your chest. An exercise routine that includes these five muscles will help you build the chest you’ve always wanted.

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