You don’t necessarily need a bench to build your chest with dumbbells if you know what you’re doing.
Dumbbell workouts are a great way to build your chest. But what if you don’t have a bench? If you do have a bench, how do you bring your chest workout with you on the road? In either case, you need dumbbell chest exercises without bench support. We’ll learn 10 of them here. There’s even some chest exercises without a bench that you can do with only one dumbbell.
Our Top 10 Most Effective Dumbbell Chest Workouts Without A Bench
1 – Floor Press
- Works your whole chest and shoulders
- Can break through bench press plateau
- No need for a spotter
- Can be done with a barbell as well
This isn’t just an alternative for when you don’t have a bench. This is a great way to break through the plateau that you encounter with bench presses. All you need is a set of dumbbells, and it’s really simple.
Just lie with your back on the floor and a dumbbell in each hand. Your hands will be in the same position as they would be holding a bar for a bench press. A rep begins with your triceps resting on the floor. Lift until your arms are fully extended, then lower down to the starting position. Remember to keep your grip in barbell bench position.
Do 15 reps per set, with a 30-second rest between, and four sets per workout. If you’re working with one dumbbell, just do one arm at a time. This hack works with most dumbbell chest workouts.
2 – Reverse Floor Press
- Works whole chest, with more emphasis on pecs and triceps
- Easy to incorporate with regular dumbbell floor presses
- Can also be done with a barbell
It’s amazing how facing your palms in a different direction can help you target different muscle groups with the same basic form. You’ll get basically the same whole-chest workout with this reverse press as you would with the standard floor press, but you’ll feel the burn more in your pecs and triceps than you will in your shoulders.. Both presses should be part of your benchless dumbbell chest workout.
Get in form for the standard floor press, but hold your dumbbells in reverse position, with your palms pointed toward your head. Start with your triceps on the floor, lift until your arms are fully extended and lower until your triceps are resting on the floor again.
Do four sets of 15 reps with 30 seconds of rest between sets.
3 – Single Arm Floor Press
- Only one dumbbell needed
- Isolates left or right chest muscles
- Can be done to prevent fatigue in one arm or the other
- Good if you have an injury to one of your arms
- Engages the core more than regular presses
There are some benefits to working your chest one arm at a time. It extends the length of your workout, which can hep you get more calorie burn from each set. But perhaps the biggest benefit is the core engagement. There is no such thing as total isolation. And why not get your abs and back into the workout if you can?
Start in standard floor press form with your legs straight. Grip a dumbbell in your right hand with your triceps on the floor and your elbow bent about 90 degrees. Extend your arm perpendicularly to the floor until it’s straight, then lower until you’re back in starting position. You can do this with the standard of reverse grip. Mix them up if you want to. If you feel like your back is overdoing it, bend your knees.
Do 15 reps per set with 30 seconds of rest between sets. Do a total of four sets, alternating with your right and left arms.
4 – Standing Press
- Works whole chest, with emphasis on pecs, shoulders and triceps
- Can be done with one dumbbell
- Can be done with both arms or one at a time
- Easy to incorporate into any workout
- Improves posture and balance
This one has the added benefit of improving your posture if it becomes a regular part of your routine.
Start by standing straight and tall. Keep your head level and pointing forward. Bring your dumbbells up to shoulder height with your palms facing in toward your head.
To do a rep, slowly raise your bells until your arms are fully extended. Keep your back straight and head level. Slowly lower the dumbbells until they are back at shoulder height.
Start with 10 reps per set and four sets at a time with 30 seconds of rest between sets. It’s not hard to overdo this exercise, so start small and progress.
5 – Dumbbell Pushups
- Works your whole chest
- Easier on the wrists than traditional pushups
- Good way to burn calories
This take on traditional pushups is lower impact. It engages your chest and arms more than regular pushups, too. There are a couple variations that can be worked in to your workout easily.
Lay your dumbbells on the floor at about chest width. They should be parallel to your body. Grip the bells’ handles and push yourself up off the floor until your arms are fully extended. Lower yourself slowly. That’s one rep.
You can do a single-arm variation with one dumbbell. It’s easy. Just do the pushups with one arm, and the hand of your other arm behind your back.
Beginners should start with 10 reps per set, intermediate folks 15 and 20 for those in great shape. At any rate, do four sets with the standard 30-second rest between. This goes for the single-arm variation as well.
6 – Dumbbell T-Pushups
- Variation of dumbbell pushups that keep you from getting bored
- There is a single-arm variation that requires only one dumbbell
- Works chest, core and shoulders
- Enhances stamina
This workout will really push you and help you build your stamina.
Begin by getting into the dumbbell pushup position. Extend your arms fully to get into the upper pushup position. Then twist your core to one side and raise one dumbbell as far toward the ceiling as you can. Return to upper pushup position and lower to complete the rep. Repeat with another pushup twisting in the other direction.
If you only have one dumbbell, hold it in the hand that’s going to be reaching for the ceiling. Have your other hand flat on the floor, like you would with a standard pushup.
Do ten reps per set with a 30-second rest between. Progress to 15 reps per set, and shoot for four sets per workout.
7 – Svend Press
- Defines the inner portion of the pecs
- Can be done with one or two dumbbells
- Can use lighter dumbbells
Don’t use too much weight here. The idea is to use your pecs, not your shoulders.
Use the same form as you would for a deltoid workout. Stand straight and hold a dumbbell in both hands close to your chest at mid-chest level. Tighten your chest muscles and slowly move the bell out to full arm extension. Bring it back in slowly.
You have to find your own optimum number of reps per set. Do as many as you can without your shoulders automatically jumping in to help your chest. That’s the number of reps per set for you. Do three sets per workout with a 30-second rest between sets. Progression is the keyword here.
8 – Chest Flyes
- Works entire chest
- Very effective for adding mass and building strength
- Can show quick results
You may have done chest flyes on a cable machine, especially if you used to belong to a neighborhood gym. Dumbbell chest flyes give almost the same quality of chest workout, with the added benefit of getting your arms into the action.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring them up in front of your chest with your palms facing each other. The dumbbells should be almost touching right in front of your chest at mid-chest level.
Move your bells outward, keeping your arms straight and level, until you are in full spread-arm position. Then bring your arms in to your starting position, so the dumbbells are almost touching again. That’s one rep.
Start out with 10 reps per set, 30 seconds of rest between sets and three sets per workout. Progress to four sets per workout. Up your reps to 15 per set, if your arms and chest aren't screaming in protest.
9 – Dumbbell Floor Flyes
- Easy to incorporate into most floor dumbbell workouts
- Puts more emphasis on the chest than standing flyes, which work the shoulders more
- Easy for a beginner
This floor exercise is pretty simple, but very effective for the pecs. It’s good if you really want to isolate your chest.
Lie on the floor with your arms out in a “T” position and your legs bent comfortably at the knee. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your palms facing upward. Of course, have a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your arms straight, bring the dumbbells up and over so they meet at arm’s length right in front of the center of your chest. Return to the “T” position. That’s one rep.
Do 10 reps, have a 30-second rest, then continue for four or five sets.
10 – Upward Chest Flyes
- Works whole chest and shoulders
- Can be easily integrated with chest flyes
Start in the standard chest fly position, but holding the dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing inward. Slowly bring your arms up until they are parallel with the floor and about shoulder’s width apart or a little closer together. Move your arms slowly back down to resting position.
Start with 10 reps and the usual 30-second rest. Can you do four sets without too much next-day soreness? If not, start with three and work your way up.
Chest exercises without a bench can be just as effective as those you do with a bench, or even more so. Most exercises can be done with a single dumbbell. Now that you know how to do dumbbell chest exercises without a bench, you can take your chest workouts anywhere you go.
What do you think? Are there any good variations to these workouts that you like? Let us know below, and feel free to ask any questions you have.