When it comes to building muscle, one of the first things on the mind of every young man is having a strong, well-developed chest.
It is the dream of every man to have a chest sculpted out of stone like a Greek god statue.
Men are not the only ones that want a strong chest, many women also want a strong chest as part of a well-rounded physique.
The main exercise that comes to the minds of gym goers is the bench press.
Considered the main staple of a well-balanced chest program, the bench press is a strong compound movement stabilizing the body and isolating the pectoral muscles. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a bench.
Some people may not have time to get to the gym after a long day at work.
You may be wondering, how can I still develop a well-rounded chest without the use of a bench?
Although a bench can help isolate the muscles, if you have a simple set of dumbbells and a bit of creativity almost any workout can be effective.
Have no fear, we are here to provide you the tools and resources necessary to make your chest workout complete even without a bench.
Some of the exercises we’ll be looking at today include:
- Incline push-ups
- Svend Press
- Dumbbell pullovers
- Decline push-ups
- Standing chest fly
- Dumbbell push-ups
- Dumbbell floor press
- Exercise ball dumbbell flys
Upper Chest Exercises
Having a built upper chest is one of the most popular goals among bodybuilders and casual gym goers alike.
Unfortunately there is a strong genetic component to upper chest growth. Some people are born with upper chest definition even before they begin working out.
Other people have to work for years and years before really having a defined upper chest.
You can control your genetics about as much as you can control the weather. All you can do is maximize results by performing proper exercises to target your deficiencies.
Many people begin their chest routines by starting on the upper chest since it is usually the most difficult part to develop.
Do these exercises at the beginning of your routine to maximize results if your upper chest is lagging behind.
If you do not have access to an incline bench, one of the next best exercises is incline push-ups.
To perform this movement, simply find some way of stabilizing your feet in an elevated position. Some items that you can use are a sofa, chair, foot stool, or small table.
To begin this movement, simply get in the standard push-up position with your arms about shoulder width apart.
Place your feet on one of these elevated surfaces and begin doing push-ups.
There is really not much else to it. As long as you keep your core stabilized and your back straight, the elevated position will do the rest and activate the upper portion of your chest muscles.
This exercise can be performed using any dumbbell or weight plate. The important part of this exercise is to use only a light to moderate weight.
If the weight is too heavy, it will activate the front deltoids which then becomes a shoulder exercise.
We want to activate the chest muscles so we will keep it light. For most people this means using a dumbbell that is most likely in the neighborhood of between 10 and 30 pounds.
Simply pick up a single dumbbell and interlock both hands around the handle portion.
Start the movement with the dumbbell close to the body at nipple level and push it up and outwards while focusing on squeezing the inner portion of the chest.
Throughout the movement the dumbbell should be elevated slightly from the beginning to the end of the exercise.
Control the dumbbell throughout the entire movement in a slow and methodical fashion, it’s not a race to get done quicker.
We want to maximize results no matter how heavy the dumbbell is.
Arnold himself preached the effectiveness of dumbbell pullovers for building the upper part of the chest.
Although a bench is not needed, you should be elevated off the ground in a position that allows full movement throughout the exercise.
Simply place your back flat on a surface that is elevated off the ground. Lay on the edge of your couch or use a chair that supports your back.
Grab a dumbbell with your fingers interlocked and begin in a bridge position with your arms extended out above the chest.
Your elbows should be slightly bent as you lower the dumbbell behind the head until you feel the stretch of the movement.
Once the dumbbell is behind your head, slowly move the the weight upwards while contracting the chest muscles.
Note, the dumbbell should stay perpendicular to the ground throughout the entire motion. This exercise also will activate your lats as well.
Think of it as getting a two for one special while performing this movement.
Lower Chest Exercises
People tend to neglect lower chest exercises for several reasons.
To fully build the roundness of the lower chest we must remember to incorporate lower chest movements as part of our routine.
Decline push-ups can be performed with anything that elevates you while keeping your feet flat on the ground.
You can take a set of dumbbells, face them upwards, then do push-ups off them or try push-up handles. You can also put your arms on the edge of a chair, couch, or stairs.
The main idea is to elevate the top portion of your body off the ground.
Much like incline push-ups, the decline will activate the lower portion of the chest as long as the top portion of your body is off the ground.
Gravity will do the rest for you. Don’t be shocked if your cup size is larger than your girlfriends in no time flat.
Standing Chest Flys
Chest flys can be performed with cables or dumbbells. The moment you perform the exercise standing, they almost instantly become a lower chest exercise.
Simply grab light to moderate weight dumbbells. For most people this will typically be 10-25 pounds.
Begin the movement with your arms to the side of your body with your palms facing upwards. Slowly control the weights upwards until your arms form a 90 degree angle with your body.
As you bring the weights upwards, you should also be moving the weights toward one another while squeezing the chest.
Be sure to maintain control on both the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement.
Whole Chest Exercises
These exercises will build the chest into a solid rock of mass. Some people will call these middle chest exercises, but the truth is there is no such thing as a middle chest. There are only upper and lower pectorals. Doing these movements will give a full balanced look to the chest muscles.
The good thing about push-ups is they can be performed almost anywhere and at any time.
They are one of the staples of any bodyweight workout plan.
It’s no surprise that they are a favorite of prisoners and military personnel alike.
All you really need is a space the length of your body.
However, traditional push-ups can place unwarranted tension on your wrist eventually leading to tendonitis.
Sure you can do knuckle push-ups if you like that sort of thing. However, using a set of dumbbells will also work just as well.
Simply grab a set of dumbbells and place them slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Both of the dumbbells should be positioned in line with the body.
Next, place your hands on the dumbbells and begin doing a standard push-up motion.
Note, if you feel the contraction too much in your triceps, try moving the dumbbells outward slightly to increase chest activation.
This exercise will activate the chest and also save your wrists at the same time.
Dumbbell Floor Press
Powerlifters will traditionally use the floor press to break through plateaus on their bench press.
Since this movement doesn’t allow the arms to go past parallel to the body (because the floor is in the way), it helps them break through sticking points if they are struggling with the top portion of the bench press movement.
In theory, you could do the same thing with dumbbells.
If you are struggling with heavier dumbbells, doing the movement off the ground may help increase your max weight.
However, you don’t need to be going heavy to feel this movement.
Even using a lighter weight will take some of the tricep activation out of the equation and focus strictly on the chest movement.
Exercise Ball Chest Flyes
The exercise ball is a handy tool for performing a variety of exercises.
In addition to the primary muscle movement, it simultaneously activates the abdominals by engaging the core as well.
One of the best chest exercises that can be performed on an exercise ball is the chest fly.
Simply grab a lighter set of dumbbells and lay your back down flat on an exercise ball.
First, bring the dumbbells upwards and slowly contract them down until your arms are parallel to the floor.
Keep your elbows slightly bent to prevent elbow tendonitis.
Control the weights throughout the entire motion while keeping focus on core engagement.
Don’t go too heavy or you risk losing stability and/or popping the exercise ball.
Sample Dumbbell Chest Workout
A developed chest is one of the most desired muscles amongst gym goers.
If you struggle to get to the gym or are simply running short on time, this workout is for you.
Note, whatever portion of your chest is lagging, prioritize that movement first.
For many people that would be the upper chest so we will build the workout as such.
- Incline Push-Ups: 4 sets of 25 reps (30 seconds rest between sets)
- Svend Press: 4 sets of 15 reps (45 seconds rest between sets)
- Dumbbell Pullovers: 4 sets of 12 reps (45 seconds rest between sets)
- Decline Push-Ups: 4 sets of 25 reps (30 seconds rest between sets)
- Standing Chest Flys: 4 sets of 15 reps (45 seconds rest between sets)
- Dumbbell Push-Ups: 4 sets of 20 reps (30 seconds rest between sets)
- Dumbbell Floor Press: 4 sets of 15 reps (30 seconds rest between sets)
- Exercise Ball Chest Flys: 4 sets of 12 reps (30 seconds rest between sets)
This exercise routine can be performed using minimal equipment and only takes around 30 to 40 minutes to complete depending upon rest time.
Whether you do it early before work or late after getting home, it is easy to fit this routine into most any person’s schedule.
All it takes is a little bit of effort and time.
People tend to get the impression that a fancy gym membership, expensive trainers, and a wealth of equipment are needed to see proper results.
The truth is with just a couple pieces of equipment and a little bit of creativity, the number of exercises at your disposal are endless.
It’s easy to see that a bench is not required for an effective chest workout. Most exercises just have to modified slightly.
Work with what you have and don’t worry about what you don’t.
Just having a simple set of dumbbells lying around will go a long way towards seeing big results.
Don’t count your reps, make every rep count.