Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises (At-Home Without a Bench)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 26, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Targeting muscle growth in your pectoral muscles usually involves a few variations of the bench press and some work on exercise machines.

But it’s entirely possible to achieve the same thing without a bench. By using a set of dumbbells, the floor, or a stability ball, you could be all set up to transform your chest workouts.

To help our clients exercise at home with limited equipment, we’ve put together a set of routines that you can easily try from your comfort zone.

Quick Summary

  • The best dumbbell chest exercises without a bench include the upward chest fly, standing chest presses, push-ups, stability ball flyes, and one-arm floor presses.
  • Push-ups and dumbbell pullovers are easy to perform dumbbell chest exercises.
  • Instead of going for heavier weights once you hit 10 reps, slow down your movement for maximum tension. If you can hit 20 reps continuously, then it's okay to add weight.
  • In my view, this selection of dumbbell exercises provides an excellent balance of simplicity and effectiveness for chest muscle growth.

Our Top Chest Exercise Recommendations

This versatile set of dumbbell chest exercises can be performed independently or incorporated into your existing workout routine.

From my coaching experience, I recommend focusing on form rather than weight; if you're not feeling a burn by the 10th rep, slow down and maintain tension at the peak of each movement for better muscle engagement.

Always start with a brief warm-up to reduce injury risk, as emphasized by WebMD [1].

I also advise clients to include high-quality protein supplements in the mix.

Read More: Best Kettlebell Chest Exercises to Build Athletic Pecs

1. Upward Chest Fly

upward chest fly

This is my favorite upper chest workout without a bench because it really isolates the pecs and delts.

In my experience as a health and performance coach, emphasizing the mind-muscle connection during this workout significantly boosts muscle activation.

Focusing on the pecs and delts being engaged leads to more effective results.

The starting position of the chest fly is standing tall with your feet flat and about shoulder-width apart.

Here's how to do it:

  • Hold the dumbbells on each side of your hips with your palms facing away from you and your arms straight.
  • Start by raising your arms without bending your elbow until the dumbbells reach about chin-high.
  • Then, slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
  • What I recommend to my clients is to count to 3 on the way up, then hold for 1 second and count to 3 on the way down.
  • This beats increasing the weight and struggling to do the exercise with a full range of motion.
  • You should notice a burn in your pecs and delts, which is exactly what you’re aiming for

2. Standing Chest Press

Standing Chest PressThis is the standing modification of a bench press, and you can do these exercises with a dumbbell or a weight plate.

Here's how to do it:

  • In a standing position, place your hands at each end of a dumbbell. Because you’ll only be using one dumbbell, make sure you pick up something reasonably heavy.
  • Hold the weight at about chest level right in front of your body with your elbows tight to your upper body.
  • Push the dumbbell away from your chest until you fully extend your arms, and they are parallel to the floor.
  • From here, slowly pull your arms back to your chest and repeat for a total of 10 reps.

You’ll probably find that this dumbbell chest workout will also cause quite a burn in your front delt and upper back muscles.

As a coach, I've found that adding brief cardio bursts, such as jumping jacks or high knees, between sets effectively boosts fat burning while still promoting muscle gain.


3. Standing Reverse Grip Press

Standing Reverse Grip Press dumbbell

This upper chest workout is a handy option to plan for right after your standing chest press.

You’ll probably use similar weight ranges, and it will limit your downtime between sets.

Here's how to do it:

  • Your starting position is to stand about shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Lift the weights up to chest level as if you’re doing a biceps curl.
  • Now, press out your arms until your arms are straight and parallel to the ground.
  • Hold the dumbbells in the fully extended position for a second and slowly pull them back to your chest.

The move is very similar to what’s known as the Svend press.

But because you’re using dumbbells rather than a weight plate, you should feel more comfortable with heavier loads.

The heavier dumbbells will strain your chest muscles more and bring on the burn that bit sooner.

If you don't like using weights, check out these chest exercises that use a resistance band.

4. Dumbbell Floor Press

dumbbell floor pressMost people will find that the standing chest press above feels a bit different than a normal bench press when it comes to activating the pectoral muscles.

It certainly does rely more on your delts, which is why you might want to consider doing the dumbbell floor press instead.

Here's how to do it:

  • Lay down on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold the dumbbells just above your chest, with your palms facing your knees and your elbows on the floor, pointing away from your body.
  • Push the dumbbells up until your arms are straight, and then slowly lower them down again.

The main difference you’ll notice is that the floor press won’t give you the same range of motion as you’d get on a bench.

But if you slow things down and increase the weights a bit, then you should still feel a significant burn by the time you hit 7 or 8 reps.

Read More: Highly Effective Bench Press Alternatives

5. Push-Ups

push up dumbbell

Dumbbell push-ups, excellent for chest and triceps, are ideal for bench-free workouts.

However, use only hexagonal dumbbells to avoid rolling and potential injuries.

In my coaching experience, clients without these can use push-up stands for deeper and safer push-ups.

How to do it:

  • Start by doing standard-width push-ups, but I’d also alternate the sets with some wide and even diamond push-ups. It’s also important to look at the quality over the quantity. I see it too often that folks at the gym race through 25 or 30 push-ups and think they are some sort of hero.
  • Take it slowly and get down as far as possible.

The results will be much better.

“By shifting your focus from quantity to quality, you will find that your maximum repetitions will drop significantly. However, this should not matter because, in the end, you will be rewarded with phenomenal gains and a healthy body.”

- Dr. Jamie Schwandt, Contributor at

6. One Arm Floor Press

one arm floor dumbbell pressThe one-arm floor press, a variation of the standard floor press, involves alternating arms while lying on the floor with dumbbells held above the chest.

Many clients have successfully used this exercise to correct muscle imbalances, achieving enhanced strength and noticeable muscle symmetry improvements.

How to do it:

  • Your elbows should point away from your body and be at about a 90-degree angle, similar to your setup for a bench press.
  • Push each dumbbell up in an alternating way and feel the difference in your core.
  • Your body will be slightly off-balance, and that should engage your core muscles to help stabilize you better.

One thing you want to avoid is starting to push up the other arm as the current one is coming back down.

That could cause some unnecessary strain on your upper back and shoulder blades, as reported by BoxLife Magazine [2].

Just make sure you finish one move before you start the next.

Read More: 20 of The Best Chest Exercises

7. Dumbbell Pull-Over


You could do these on the floor, but I would suggest using a stability ball to gain a better range of motion.

You also need to be careful not to choose a dumbbell that’s too heavy and could slip through your hands.

You do not want it to crash down on your face. Start this upper chest workout by getting into a bridge position with your upper back on the stability ball.

How to do it:

  • Hold onto the dumbbell with both hands right in front of your face and your elbows slightly bent.
  • From here, you’ll slowly move the dumbbell behind your head and then pull it back to the starting point.

It’s more of a compound upper-body workout, as you’ll probably notice your core engaging as well.

One way to make it more interesting is to hold the top position for a second or two so that the burn starts a bit sooner.

8. Stability Ball Flyes

stability ball flyThis is the perfect follow-on exercise from the pullovers because you should be all set and only need an extra dumbbell.

How to do it:

  • Set yourself up the same way in a bridge-like position with your shoulders across the top of the exercise ball.
  • Raise the dumbbells above your chest with your elbows a little bit bent.
  • Start the workout by slowly lowering the weights to your sides in a wing-like motion. When you reach about chest-high, reverse the move back to the top.

What’s great about this exercise is that it doesn’t just work the upper chest muscles; you’ll feel it in your delts and upper back as well.

9. Reverse Dumbbell Chest Press

Reverse Dumbbell Chest Press

This is another workout for your pectoral muscles that you could do on the floor or on an exercise ball, but I prefer the stability you get on the floor to slow things down.

How to do it:

  • Lay down flat on an exercise mat with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
  • Grip onto a dumbbell in each hand and hold them with a reverse grip, meaning your palms are facing towards your head.
  • With the weight at about chest-high and your elbows pointing away from your body, push the weight up until you get to the fully extended point.

You might feel like this is a bit awkward on your joints, in which case you could go for slightly more angled hands than fully reversed.

Take it slowly and pick a lower weight to assess how straining it is.

Related Articles:

10. Dumbbell Push-Up Reaches

Dumbbell Push-Up ReachesOur final chest workout on this list is a modification of the standard dumbbell push-ups above. Pick something relatively light here, as it’s going to burn quickly.

How to do it:

  • Start off in the normal push-up position with your hands about shoulder-wide apart and directly below your shoulders.
  • Do a full range push-up and when you get back to the start, lift your left hand with the dumbbell off the ground, rotate your body and point the dumbbell straight above you as high as you can.
  • To avoid falling off-balance with something heavy hovering above your head, try to keep your feet a bit further apart to give you more support.
  • Repeat this move with your right hand for about 20 reps. If you get to 20 and don't feel the burn, then it’s time to slow it down or increase the weight.

It's worth noting that incorporating nutritional guidelines, such as consuming a protein-rich snack after your workout, can aid in muscle recovery and growth, enhancing the benefits of exercises like the dumbbell pull-over


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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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