Our Go-To Home Chest Workout With Dumbbells – No Weights Bench Necessary
Build a bigger chest at home using dumbbells with this 10-move workout
Forget the bench press, pec deck or cable machine. To strengthen and train your chest muscles, all you need is a pair of dumbbells and this comprehensive home chest workout from Louis Marsden-Challis, head coach at Orangetheory (opens in new tab) Fulham.
It varies the tempo you use to perform each exercise: from slow and controlled, to increase the time the muscles are under tension, to fast and dynamic to develop athletic power.
The result will be a stronger, bigger and more functional upper body. If this workout becomes a staple of your week, just remember to balance out all these pressing exercises with a complementary routine, such as this home back workout.
This home chest workout with dumbbells can be completed in under 30 minutes. “It features four blocks, each with a focus on attacking your chest in a different way,” says Marsden-Challis.
“I guarantee you’ll feel this one tomorrow,” says Marsden-Challis. The first time you try it, keep the weights relatively light as you familiarise yourself with the moves and your muscles adapt to the high volume.
As you get stronger you can increase the weights. “If you only have one pair of light weights, try slowing the tempo of each rep to increase the time your muscles are under tension – a surefire way to get them growing,” Marsden-Challis suggests. Or buy another pair, or an adjustable set – you’ll find plenty of options in our selection of the best dumbbells.
Block 1: Warm-Up
Complete three rounds of the following three exercises with minimal rest.
“These dynamic movements will elevate your heart rate to get blood pumping around your body and activate the specific muscle groups you’ll be using during the workout,” says Marsden-Challis.
1A Walkout and hand release press-up
From standing, hinge forwards at your hips and place your hands on the floor. Walk your hands forwards until you’re in the top of a press-up position. Lower your chest to the floor. Quickly take your hands off the floor, then press them back into the floor to drive your body up to the top of a press-up. Walk your hands back to your feet and stand to complete one rep.
1B High plank shoulder tap
Start in the top of a press-up position with hands under shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Lift one hand off the floor to tap your opposite shoulder, then repeat on the other side. Engage your core and glutes to keep your torso as still as possible and your hips square to the floor.
1C Deep squat alternating T-spine rotation
Sink into a deep squat, keeping your knees wide apart and heels down. Grab your left toe with your right hand and rotate your upper back as you raise your left arm towards the sky. Look up at your left hand and feel the muscles in your upper back releasing as you twist. Alternate sides.
Block 2: Power
Perform the following exercises back to back for three rounds.
“The goal here is to complete two exercises back to back with minimal rest. We spice it up by adding in a ‘load and explode’ modifier – one weighted exercise followed by an explosive exercise using the same movement pattern,” says Marsden-Challis.
2A Dumbbell floor press
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and holding dumbbells above your body with your arms extended, palms facing forwards. Slowly lower the dumbbells, letting your upper arms move out to the sides until they touch the floor, then powerfully drive the weights away to meet above you. Take two seconds to complete the lowering phase, pause for one second, then press away for one second.
Marsden-Challis says: “Choose a heavy weight for the floor press. It should be heavy enough that you only have one or two reps left in reserve at the end of each set.”
2B Power press-up
Start in a traditional press-up position with your hands beneath your shoulders, and your core and glutes engaged to protect your lower back. Lower your chest towards the floor for a count of two seconds, pause with your chest just off the floor, then explode up with as much power as you can.
Marsden-Challis says: “Press the floor away with enough power that your hands leave the floor. If this is too much, perform the move on your knees and rest as long as you need to attack the set with maximum intensity.”
Block 3: Hypertrophy
Complete three rounds, resting for up to 60 seconds between sets.
“The focus of this block is to slow down the eccentric phase of each exercise to recruit maximum muscle fibres,” says Marsden-Challis. “Go as heavy as you can for each set. If your dumbbells aren’t heavy enough, slow the tempo further to increase the intensity.”
3A Bridge hold dumbbell close-grip chest press
Reps 10 Rest 60sec
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor and your hips raised so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold dumbbells above your body with straight arms, palms facing. Keeping the weights together, slowly lower them for a count of three seconds until they’re just above your chest, pause for one second, then press them away powerfully for one second.
Marsden-Challis says: “The bridge position allows you to hit your chest from a slightly different angle. Keep your elbows tucked in close to the side of your body and push the dumbbells together throughout the entire set to keep tension on your chest.”
3B Dumbbell pull-over
Reps 10 Rest 60sec
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold one dumbbell by the head in both hands, above your chest, so the other end of the weight is pointing towards your chest. Keeping your lower back pressed into the floor and your core engaged, lower the weight over your head until it taps the floor, then bring it back to the starting position. Lower for a count of three, pause, then drive up powerfully for one.
Marsden-Challis says: “Once you’ve lowered the weight to the floor, think about driving your elbows forwards rather than pushing with your hands. You’ll feel this in your lats as well as your chest.”
Block 4: Finisher
Complete three rounds, resting as little as possible.
“If you can, use lighter weights for this three-move finisher,” says Marsden-Challis. “Rest as and when you need it, but keep it to a minimum to challenge your muscular endurance.”
4A Bridge hold dumbbell flye
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor and your hips raised so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold dumbbells above your body with straight arms, palms facing. Slowly lower the weights to the sides for a count of two with arms only slightly bent. Lower until your arms tap the floor and you feel a gentle stretch in your chest, then bring the weights back together above your chest.
Marsden-Challis says: “Keep your hips off the floor, squeezing your bum to stabilise the position. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows throughout the movement.”
4B Hollow hold single-arm press
Reps 6 each side
Hold one dumbbell and sit on the floor with your legs extended. Engage your core and lower your torso until your lower back is on the floor but your shoulders are off it. At the same time, lift your feet just off the floor. In this position, press the dumbbell straight up with one arm. Lower the weight for two seconds, pause for one second, and then press for one second. Complete all the reps with one arm, rest, then repeat on the other side.
Marsden-Challis says: “This is tough but a great test of your core strength and control too. Believe me, your abs as much as your chest will be on fire.”
4C Isometric press-up
Reps To failure
Start in a classic press-up position with your shoulders above your hands and your feet close together. Take a deep breath in, then lower until your chest is just off the floor. Keep your core and glutes engaged and breathe normally as you dig in to hold this isometric position as long as you can. If necessary, perform the move on your knees.
Marsden-Challis says: “This is as much a test of your mental strength as your pectoral might. Cling on for as long as you can and remember to breathe.”
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.