Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without Bench (Alternative Options)

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. 

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! 

If you are lacking a good set of dumbbells, check out our guide to the 8 cheapest adjustable dumbbells. 

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 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.
man holding two dumbbells

9 Different Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without Bench (At Home)

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! 

Confused about the different types of dumbbells? Check out this handy guide! 

1. Dumbbell T Push-Ups 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), arms (Triceps and Serratus Anterior), shoulders (Deltoids), upper back (Latissimus Dorsi), and the core (Abdominals). 

Method  
  1. 1
    Enter the standard push-up position with either a hexagonal or flat-sided dumbbell held in each hand.  
  2. 2
    Grip the dumbbells and use them as a base, instead of laying your hands on the floor as usual. 
  3. 3
    Lower yourself as if you were doing a regular push-up. 
  4. 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. 5
    Lower the right dumbbell to the floor, returning to your starting position. 
  6. 6
    Repeat steps 4 and 5 with your left side.  
Correct Form 

When lifting the dumbbell above your shoulder, never go above your head. 

For the optimum number of daily push-ups, see how many you can do in a row. Then, do three sets of this amount per day. 

If you are finding these too difficult, simply try doing a regular push-up while gripping the dumbbells as indicated in this method.  

Benefits

This variation on the classic push-up (which will no doubt already have been part of your routine at some point) works many key muscle groups. 

As well as building muscle, this exercise works to improve coordination, flexibility, and overall balance. 

dumbell t pushup

2. Dumbbell Floor Press 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids), arms (Triceps), and the core (Abdominals). 

Method  
  1. 1
    Sit in an upright position on the floor. Your legs should be straight. 
  2. 2
    Grab each dumbbell and, while maintaining a tight grip, set them high in your hip creases. 
  3. 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. 4
    Press the dumbbells to full extension by contracting your chest muscles and triceps.
  5. 5
    Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows are touching the floor, then press them back upwards to starting position.
Correct Form

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. 

Keep your abs tensed and try not to arch your back excessively. 

Benefits 

Much less strain is put on the shoulders compared to a traditional bench press. 

An easy and simple exercise that works for key muscle groups and is especially great for gaining Tricep mass. 

3. Standing Chest Press 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids and Rotator Cuff), arms (Biceps and Triceps), back (Erector Spinae), and the core (Transversus Abdominis). 

Method
  1. 1
    Begin standing with both feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. 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. 3
    Squeeze the dumbbell using your palms to activate the chest muscles.
  4. 4
    Push the dumbbell away from your chest by extending your arms, then return to your starting position.
Correct Form 

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. 

Benefits

Works to engage the stabilizer muscles, which help to build better balance. 

woman doing a standing chest press with dumbbells

4. Standing Upward Chest Fly 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids), and arms (Biceps and Triceps). 

Method  
  1. 1
    Start in a standing position with both feet shoulder-width apart and your dumbbells in hand, with your palms facing forwards.
  2. 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. 3
    Return from chest level to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
Correct Form 

Do these in a slow and controlled way, without allowing momentum to do the work for you. Always engage your core. These exercises are an alternative to cable flies or crossovers.

Benefits 

Effective as an arm workout that also activates the chest muscles. 

man using dumbbells for standing chest fly

5. Stability Ball Dumbbell Pull-Overs 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids), back (Latissimus Dorsi), and behind (Glutes).

Method  
  1. 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. 2
    Assume the bridge position by bending your knees at a 90-degree angle with your body parallel to the floor. 
  3. 3
    Hold a single dumbbell at one end with both hands directly over your chest. Keep both arms straight and your core tensed.
  4. 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. 5
    Raise the dumbbell slowly back to your starting position.
Correct Form

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. 

Benefits

The addition of a stability ball means that your shoulders benefit from their full range of motion. 

6. Stability Ball Dumbbell Fly 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids), behind (Glutes), and upper back (Latissimus Dorsi).

Method 
  1. 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. 2
    Assume the bridge position by bending your knees at a 90-degree angle with your body parallel to the floor. 
  3. 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. 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. 5
    Return to your starting position.
Correct Form 

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. 

Benefits

Works harder to strengthen the abdominals and glutes than regular chest flies. 

The stability ball also works to enhance the balance and stability of your core. 

7. Svend Press 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids), and arms (Triceps).

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

Be sure to reach full extension for maximum benefits. 

You can maximize tension in your pecs by keeping the dumbbells tightly squeezed. 

Benefits

Using dumbbells over plates in this exercise actually allows you to lift a heavier load, thus better stimulating the growth of your muscles. 

8. Single Arm Floor Chest Press 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids), core (Abdominals), and arms (Triceps).

Method 
  1. 1
    Lie with your back and feet flat against the ground, with your knees bent. Grip one dumbbell overhand with your right hand.
  2. 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. 3
    Extend your elbow to push your dumbbell upwards. Once fully extended, pause.
  4. 4
    Return to the starting position and repeat with the dumbbell in your left arm instead. 
Correct Form 

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

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

Benefits 

Works the core harder than any traditional two-armed chest press. 

Also enhances balance and stability in both the core and chest. 

9. Reverse Dumbbell Chest Press 

Muscle Groups Worked

Chest (Pectorals), shoulders (Deltoids), and arms (Triceps).

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

Never allow the dumbbells to touch at the top of your lift. 

You should be lowering the dumbbells at a slower rate than you raise them to maximize the benefits of this workout. 

Benefits 

While easy to master, this exercise builds more muscles than a regular incline press or overhand chest press. 


The Best Dumbbell Only Chest Workouts For Each Part Of The Chest 

man doing pushups with dumbbells

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 exercises 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 activities 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. 


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. 


People Also Ask (FAQs)

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

To build the most chest muscles with a push-up, you should either opt for 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? 

While you do not need a bench to complete these dumbbell only exercises, there are plenty of around-the-house alternatives you can use to simulate a bench.  

Everything from step stools, coffee tables, and couch armrests can be used to support you as a bench would.  

Alternatively, a stability ball is an excellent choice and builds your balance too.  

If you are simply looking to avoid the hard surface of the floor, try a yoga or camping mat. 

How much weight should an average garage gym have to do dumbbell presses? 

This all depends on what your personal level of strength is and what your gain goals are. To build muscle, fewer reps of a higher weight are recommended, whereas to tone, you will want to do more reps of a lower weight. 

Remember, always lift sensibly within your strength range. If you push yourself too hard too quickly, you may end up injuring yourself. 


Conclusion

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!