A long-time bodybuilder favorite, dumbbells work your body harder and in a greater variety of ways, all while putting less strain on your body than barbell excises. 

Their clinically proven benefits even extend as far as providing increased resistance against cardiovascular diseases.[1

This guide will talk you through several different dumbbell chest exercises without bench access being necessary. That way, you can always have a range of routines at your disposal, whether you are on a strict home gym budget or simply working out on the go! 

While the TV portrays bodybuilders as forever straining under the weight of a big bending barbell, dumbbells are actually the smarter option for building balanced muscle mass with minimal unnecessary strain on the body. 

And the biggest benefit? With just one set of equipment, most dumbbell chest workout no bench exercises can be done anywhere!  

The four main benefits of a chest workout with different types of dumbbells without a bench at home are: 

  1. 1
    They work the pecs harder
    Keeping two individual weights in line with one another while you work out activates the Pectoralis Major (or pecs) more effectively than alternatives.
  2. 2
    They allow a greater range of motion
    The central bar of a barbell is extremely limiting. Without this, you can stretch your muscles further, activating more muscle fibers and leading to greater gains and athletic performance.
  3. 3
    They put less stress on your joints
    A symmetrical barbell causes subtle damage over time to the asymmetrical human body, particularly in the joints, which are more vulnerable to exercise-related strain. With two individual dumbbells, your body can move more naturally, preventing unnecessary strain. Remember, exercise is for the muscles, not the joints!
  4. 4
    They give you balanced strength gain and development
    You may not notice, but it is very common for barbell lifters to subconsciously perform more effort with one arm. With dumbbells, this is impossible; you will noticeably struggle if one weight is out of step with the other. This leads to much more balanced muscle development.

9 Top Dumbbell Chest Movements That Don't Require A Bench

This section will walk you through nine different exercises that can be done easily at home without needing a weightlifting bench.  

From dumbbell chest exercises standing up, laying down, and even balancing on a stability ball, you might be surprised at the amount of dumbbell chest exercises without bench at home access that are possible! 

1. Dumbbell T Push-Ups (Best Home Chest Workout With Dumbbells)

Man Doing Dumbbell T Push-Ups

The dumbbell T push-up is one of my favorite dumbbell chest exercises without a bench. It works your chest, triceps, shoulders, upper back, and core, giving you a lot of bang for your buck. 

With this movement, you only need a set of dumbbells and a small amount of space, making it a perfect movement for your home gym. 

However, I must add that it's a challenging exercise, so it might not be suitable for beginners. 


  • Uses your body weight.
  • Minimal space required.
  • Develops strength and coordination.

How to do it:

  1. Enter the standard push-up position with either a hexagonal or flat-sided dumbbell held in each hand.
  2. Grip the dumbbells and use them as a base, instead of laying your hands on the floor as usual. 
  3. Lower yourself as if you were doing a regular push-up. 
  4. When pushing up, rotate the right side of your body upwards by pivoting using your toes. Lift the dumbbell held in your right hand above your shoulder. 
  5. Lower the right dumbbell to the floor, returning to your starting position. 
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with your left side.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you are finding these too difficult, simply try doing a regular push-up while gripping the dumbbells. 

2. Dumbbell Floor Press (Chest Workout Without A Bench Press)

Man Doing Dumbbell Floor Press

The dumbbell floor press is an excellent exercise to perform if you want to work your chest without a bench. 

During the dumbbell floor press your chest and triceps will work hard to move the weight you're lifting. However, as there is less range of motion being used, your shoulders don't need to work as much.

This is beneficial if you've got a shoulder injury and want to work your chest without aggravating your shoulder joint.

My clients enjoy this chest exercise as it allows them to work their pecs pretty much anywhere so long as they have access to dumbbells, but if you don't have access to them, you can try out floor press alternatives.

I've found it's a great movement to perform in hotel gyms as they don't always have benches. 


  • Lower stress on shoulders.
  • Builds your triceps.
  • Doesn't require much room.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit in an upright position on the floor. Your legs should be straight. 
  2. Grab each dumbbell and, while maintaining a tight grip, set them high in your hip creases. 
  3. Lie down slowly, while keeping both dumbbells close to your chest. Bend both knees to around 45 degrees while moving your feet slightly upwards.
  4. Press the dumbbells to full extension by contracting your chest muscles and triceps.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows are touching the floor, then press them back upwards to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Do not lock your elbows entirely. Instead, maintain tension in the pecs. Tilting the dumbbells to a 45-degree angle helps here. 

  • Never hit the two dumbbells together at the top of the rep or bounce your elbows off the floor at the bottom. 

3. Standing Chest Press (Best Chest Standing Exercise)

Woman Doing a Standing Chest Press With Dumbbells

Looking for a chest exercise without a bench? - If so, you'll LOVE the standing chest press.[2]

This movement works your Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids and Rotator Cuff), arms (Biceps and Triceps), back (Erector Spinae), and the core (Transversus Abdominis). While it works several muscles, I've always found it gives you a HUGE chest pump. 

If you're new to working out, you'll be pleased to know it's suitable for all ability levels. 

I often use this movement near the end of my chest workout as a finisher.


  • Great for beginners.
  • Develops muscular endurance in your chest.
  • Doesn't require much equipment.
  • Engages stabilizer muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Begin standing with both feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grip a single dumbbell between both palms, holding it directly in front of the chest. Your arms should be bent slightly at the elbows.
  3. Squeeze the dumbbell using your palms to activate the chest muscles.
  4. Push the dumbbell away from your chest by extending your arms, then return to your starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Do not lower the dumbbells over your shoulders directly, as doing so can cause harm to your rotator cuff. 
  • Engaging the core ensures you avoid unnecessary lower back stress.  

4. Standing Upward Chest Fly (Standing Chest Workout With Dumbbells)

Man Doing a Standing Upward Chest Fly Exercise In The Gym

The standing upward chest fly is a highly underrated exercise in my books. And it's one that isn't used by many gym goers. 

However, it's an excellent movement for working the chest without a bench. 

During the movement, you'll be using an underhand grip on the dumbbell and this places emphasis on your upper pec muscles. 


  • Works your arms and chest. 
  • Safe for beginners. 
  • Develops your upper pecs.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a standing position with both feet shoulder-width apart and your dumbbells in hand, with your palms facing forwards.
  2. Lift both arms from your sides so that the dumbbells meet at your chest. A subtle bend locked in at the elbow is necessary for this to work correctly. 
  3. Return from chest level to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner.

Tips From A Trainer!

5. Stability Ball Dumbbell Pull-Overs 

Man Doing Stability Ball Dumbbell Pull-Overs

The dumbbell pull-over is a brilliant chest exercise which works your chest through a HUGE range of motion. 

Traditionally it's performed on a bench, but this variation used a stability ball and if you ask me it's even better. 

Using a stability ball not only increases your core activation, but it's also more comfortable than using a bench. I've often found using a ball places less strain on your back, so if you've got back issues, this might be a good exercise for you. 


  • Works your chest using a wide range of motion.
  • Less stain on your back.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on a stability ball and walk forwards using your feet until your neck, shoulders, and upper back are flat against the ball.
  2. Assume the bridge position by bending your knees at a 90-degree angle with your body parallel to the floor. 
  3. Hold a single dumbbell at one end with both hands directly over your chest. Keep both arms straight and your core tensed.
  4. Lower the dumbbell slowly over and then behind your head. Once your arms are in line with all the rest of your body, pause.
  5. Raise the dumbbell slowly back to your starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Slow and controlled movements are key to avoid causing injuries when the dumbbell is behind your head. 
  • Always engage your core and keep that lower back straight. 

6. Stability Ball Dumbbell Fly 

Man Doing Stability Ball Dumbbell Flys

If you're looking for a chest isolation exercise without needing a bench, the stability ball dumbbell fly is an excellent option for you. 

During this movement, your chest is worked through a HUGE range of motion, stretching your chest's muscle fibers in the process. 

As you're using a stability ball, your abs, glutes, and other core muscles need to work extra hard to keep you stable. 


  • Your core works extra hard. 
  • Develops your pecs.
  • Works your chest through a wide range of motion.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on a stability ball and walk forwards using your feet until your neck, shoulders, and upper back are flat against the ball.
  2. Assume the bridge position by bending your knees at a 90-degree angle with your body parallel to the floor. 
  3. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms should be facing inwards towards you. Fully extend and raise both arms until they are both perpendicular to the ground.
  4. Lower the dumbbells out and to the sides until the point where they are pointing straight outwards. This should be done slowly until you feel stretching in your chest.
  5. Return to your starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • The closer your feet are together, the more difficult this workout will be and the more you will benefit from it. 
  • As you bring the dumbbells back together, squeeze your chest muscles as hard as you can.

7. Svend Press 

Man Doing Svend Press In The Gym

The Svend press is a simple yet effect chest exercise which doesn't require a bench. In fact, all you need is a dumbbell, some floor space and your best gymnastics mat!

I've often used this exercise in a similar fashion to the standing chest press exercise, as a pec pumping finisher. But, you can use it anywhere in your workout routine and still get excellent results. 

One thing I love about this movement is how simple it is. You don't need to be an advanced lifter to give this one a whirl. 


  • It's a simple movement to learn. 
  • Gives you an EPIC pump. 
  • Doesn't require a lot of room.

How To Do It:

  1. Lie on the floor with your feet flat, hip-width apart. Your shoulders should be pulled back, and your chest should be pushed out.
  2. Hold both dumbbells in an overhand grip with your palms facing downwards. 
  3. Assume the starting position by bending both arms at the elbow until your dumbbells become parallel with the ground. 
  4. Extend your arms and push the dumbbells out. This should be done until both elbows are straight.
  5. Tense your chest to engage your pec muscles, then pause with the dumbbells held outwards.
  6. Return to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Be sure to reach full extension for maximum benefits. 
  • You can maximize tension in your pecs by keeping the dumbbells tightly squeezed. 

8. Single Arm Floor Chest Press 

Man Doing Single Arm Floor Chest Press

The single arm floor chest press works your chest (obvisously), shoulders, triceps, and your core muscles. It's a great exercise if you want to build muscle while working on your stability. 

The movement relies on your core muscles to counteract the imbalance caused by chest pressing one dumbbell. If you partake in sports specific training, throwing this exercise into the mix could be beneficial, helping you become a more stable athlete. 

As the exercise is uni lateral, it's pretty good at ironing out any muscular imbalances that you've developed throughout your life.

Trust me, it happens to us all. 


  • Helps you iron out muscular imbalances.
  • Great for developing stability.

How to do it:

  1. Lie with your back and feet flat against the ground, with your knees bent. Grip one dumbbell overhand with your right hand.
  2. Keep your left arm flat on the ground next to you. Start with your dumbbell at chest height and a 90-degree angle in your right elbow. 
  3. Extend your elbow to push your dumbbell upwards. Once fully extended, pause.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat with the dumbbell in your left arm instead. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Pause at both the top and bottom of each rep to maximize effectiveness. 

  • Push your shoulder blades into the floor to provide more power. 

9. Reverse Dumbbell Floor Press 

Man Doing Reverse Dumbbell Floor Press Exercise

The reverse dumbbell floor press is basically the reverse grip bench press minus the bench. As it's not using a bench, it doesn't require much space at all. 

By reversing your grip you place more emphasis on your upper pecs, so if you want a barrel-like chest, you should add this exercise to your arsenal. 

While the main focus is on your upper pecs, it does engage your shoulders and triceps too, making it a great compound exercise that you can do in your home gym. 

If you are lacking a good set of dumbbells, check out our guide for the cheapest adjustable dumbbells. 


  • Builds your upper pecs. 
  • Doesn't use a lot of space.

How to do it:

  1. Lie with both your back and feet flat against the ground; your legs should be bent at the knees.
  2. Grip a dumbbell underhanded in each hand at chest height by the sides of your body. 
  3. Keep your elbows bent, with your Triceps flat against the ground.
  4. Straighten your elbows to extend and push the dumbbells upwards.
  5. Once you reach full extension, pause. Then, slowly lower both arms back to your starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Focus on slow and controlled reps throughout this movement, it'll engage more chest fibers, resulting in more muscle growth. 

Best Dumbbell Chest Workouts For Each Part Of The Chest

Man Doing Pushups With Dumbbells at the Gym

Every bodybuilder will have different goals, and as these are chest workouts with dumbbells without a bench, this section will show which dumbbell-only chest workout routines are best for building each chest muscle group.  

That way, you can tailor your routine to your exact needs. 

Upper Chest

For exercises focused on working your upper chest muscles, the best upper chest workouts are the standing upward chest fly, dumbbell fly using the stability ball, and dumbbell t push-ups. 

Additionally, when working out, avoid moving your arms out too wide and keep that back flat against the bench to focus on the upper chest muscles. 

Lower Chest

For exercises focused on working your lower chest muscles, the best lower chest workouts are the dumbbell floor press (especially with your weights held at 45-degree angles) and stability ball dumbbell pull-overs. 

Generally, when focusing on the lower chest muscles, any exercise that includes a downwards motion against the chest will be what you are looking for. 

Whole Chest

For working your entire chest, the best exercises are regular dumbbell push-ups and dumbbell floor presses. 

However, to optimize your chest workout, the best option is to combine a range of exercises that work all of the muscle groups – and remember, squeeze and tense to properly activate your chest. 

Related Article: Single Dumbbell Exercises

Which Chest Exercises Are Appropriate For Beginners Vs Professionals?

As practice truly does make perfect, some exercises will be better suited to beginners and others to seasoned professionals. 

For Beginners

The best place for beginners to start is with dumbbell floor presses, reverse dumbbell chest presses, and dumbbell push-ups (which even be done on the knees instead of toes, if you are struggling). 

For Professionals

If you already know your way around a garage gym, you will benefit more from standing chest presses, standing upward chest flies, dumbbell t push-ups, and dumbbell flies on a stability ball. 

Finished your workout and want to carry on the perfect form? Check out our guide on how to correctly clean your dumbbells. 

Common FAQs Answered

What type of push-ups build the upper chest muscles? 

To build the most chest muscles with a push-up, you should choose the dumbbell T push-ups or decline push-ups – which can be done by elevating your feet on any surface such as a stable chair, box, or step.  

What are some common weight bench substitutes for home or garage gyms? 

Common weight bench substitutes include step stools, coffee tables, couch armrests, and stability balls can be used to support you as a bench would.  

With how much weight should an average person do dumbbell presses? 

The weight you should have for dumbbell presses varies depending on your strength and experience level. It's always better to have dumbbells that are a little too light, than dumbbells that you can't lift. 


As you can see, there really is no excuse for letting an overreliance on equipment get in the way of maximizing your body’s potential. With just a simple set of dumbbells, you can work many of the body’s key muscle groups, as well as building your balance and stability. 

Hopefully, you have found this guide useful and are one step closer to maximizing your gains while minimizing the fuss.

Choose a handful of these bench-free dumbbell chest exercises and add them to your workout. 


1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658361216300580


Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.