You're planning your chest workout. You get to the gym, and all the benches are taken. Or maybe you're working out at home and don't have any equipment besides your set of dumbbells. No matter what the reason, you need to know how to build a big chest without a bench.
With a bit of hard work and training, you can build a big chest and upper body with a just set of dumbbells.
In this article, we'll show you how to do 7 effective dumbbell exercises without a bench. The best part is that they're easy dumbbell exercises to do at home or when training outdoors—no bench required!
Dumbbell Floor Press
The floor press is often used to break through sticking points on the bench press. The movement of the floor press is like the bench press, but your elbows don’t go below the chest. Theoretically, you can lift more weight which helps with the top part of the bench press. Additionally, eliminating the bottom part of a traditional bench press reduces the activation of the tricep. Thus making the floor press better for chest activation.
How to Perform it
First, lay on the floor, face up. Make sure you get your knees bent before you do this. It's really important that you don't lower the dumbbells to your chest before you bend your knees. That would just be weird and would probably hurt.
Then, lower the dumbbells to your chest, gently. Lower them like as if you were lowering a baby into a crib.
Then quickly push them back up to full extension. Keep your elbows tucked in throughout the movement and don't let them flap around.
Reverse Dumbbell Floor Press
The reverse floor press is like the regular floor press but your grip is switched. Rotating your palms from an overhand grip to an underhand position increases the stimulation in your upper chest or pectoral muscle fibers. To hit our upper pectoral muscles with a bench, we usually perform the incline bench press. But, since we don’t have a bench, the reverse floor press is an effective alternative.
How to do it
Now that you're a pro at the dumbbell floor press, it's time to reverse (and impress) with this advanced technique.
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent.
- Hold the dumbbells with an underhand grip (palms facing your head).
- Lower the dumbbells to your chest, then push them back up to full extension (arms straight).
- Keep your elbows tucked in throughout the movement!
And there you have it—it's like you're a human press machine!
The Svend press allows you to isolate the pectoral muscles (especially the upper chest) and get in some high-volume chest training. The Svend press is also used as a bench press alternative for those with a shoulder injury or shoulder pain. Unlike many other chest exercises, the Svend press places less strain on the shoulder. For this exercise, you’ll want to use a lighter weight.
Picking a weight that is too heavy can shift the focus from your chest to your shoulders.
Stand tall with your core engaged and feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart. Interlock your hands around the handle of the dumbbell. Grip the plates with your thumb and middle finger. Make sure to press the dumbbell upwards and inwards on the plates.
Hold the dumbbell between your pectoral muscles by keeping them close and pinching the plates together. Press the dumbbell upwards keeping the plates in close contact with each other. Focus on squeezing your pectoral muscles together while pushing the dumbbell. Keep pressing until your arms are fully extended.
Dumbbell Push Ups
Performing push ups on dumbbells adds a little more range of motion to a classic chest exercise. This increases pectoral muscle engagement. It also strengthens the muscles around your shoulder joint. You'll have a healthier shoulder joint all around. Obviously, the bigger the dumbbell, the wider the range you'll have to move through. The wider the range, the harder it is. Start with the smallest dumbbells and work your way up.
This is an easy one to get to grips with
Place dumbbells slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your core tight and shoulders stacked over the dumbbells, lower your chest to the floor. Pause briefly before pressing back up.
Dumbbell T Push Ups
The Dumbbell T Push Up is a chest and core strengthening exercise that helps to develop strength and stability in the chest and core. Essentially, it is the same as a regular dumbbell push up, with the added twist of rotating your torso and lifting the weight above your head at the end of the push up.
This movement aids in the activation of the sides of your core as well as your rotator cuffs.
How to Perform this exercise
1. Start by placing the dumbbells slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
2. Lower your chest down to the floor while keeping your core tight and your shoulders stacked over the dumbbells. Pause briefly before pressing back up.
3. Hold the dumbbell and raise one arm towards the sky while rotating your torso. Slowly return to the center before repeating on the opposite side. Keep your core as stable as possible during the rotation.
Standing Upward Chest Fly
Standing upward chest fly with dumbbells is similar to a cable machine exercise. It’s also a great alternative to the dumbbell chest fly and incline dumbbell bench press when you don’t have a bench.
Standing upward chest fly focuses on building chest strength during an adduction movement (moving your arms towards your body). It builds upper chest strength, along with shoulder and tricep strength.
How to Perform
- Begin in the standing position with your core engaged.
- Hold the dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing forwards. Keep each arm straight.
- Slightly bend your elbows then raise the dumbbells until they meet at chest level.
- Pause for a second before slowly lowering to the starting position.
Dumbbell Pullovers are a classic gym staple used to develop your chest and lats. A bench is traditionally used, but a box, chair, or stability ball can also be used. The lower chest is emphasized in dumbbell pullovers, a difficult to target area.
How to do this exercise
- Place your upper back, shoulder blades, and neck on a surface such as a chair or stability ball. This is sort of like the bridge position but your shoulder blades rest on the stability ball.
- Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle so your body is parallel to the floor. Keep your feet flat on the ground.
- Hold the dumbbell at one end in both hands over your chest.
- Keeping your arms slightly bent, lower the dumbbell behind your head.
- Pause briefly before returning to the starting position.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you train your chest without a bench?
Chest press is a staple compound exercise that helps build muscle and stability in the pectoral muscles and shoulder muscles. Your chest muscles are primarily responsible for moving your arms up, down, and across the body. So, any movement that mimics this action will work the chest muscles. A weights bench provides support to your back and helps create greater ranges of motion during chest exercises, but it’s not an essential piece of equipment. You can perform chest exercises while laying on the floor, standing up, or using another piece of equipment such as a stability ball, box, chair, or foam roller.
How to do a bench press without a bench?
In simple terms, you can’t. Bench press by its very nature requires the use of a bench. Without a bench, it’s just a press. So, how do you perform a press? There are a couple of ways you can do this: 1. perform a press while laying on the floor. Note that the range of motion is limited. Since your elbows can't move below your chest, the amount of tension being placed on the chest is limited.
To combat this problem, you can try laying on a foam roller or stability ball. Unlike a bench, stability balls and foam rollers don’t provide full stability. Therefore, the movement will be harder as they require more work from the stabilizer muscles. How should I stretch before a dumbbell chest workout?
Before you get going with your chest workout, you’ll want to spend a bit of time warming up your shoulders and arms. Perform arm crossovers, arm circles, and knee press ups for 30 seconds each, for a total of 2-3 rounds. If you’re lifting heavy, perform a few warm-up sets with lighter weights before moving on to your main sets.
Can floor press replace chest press with weights?
While the floor press can’t replace the chest press on bench, it is a good alternative. The main difference between these exercises is the range of motion the shoulders go through. With the bench press, your elbows drop below your chest, giving you a greater range of motion, and therefore more tension in the chest muscles. Therefore, this exercise should be in every chest workout, with some caveats. If you have access to a bench, using the floor and bench will have a synergistic effect. If you don’t have a bench, perform the floor press along with other chest exercises like the ones discussed above.
What kind of dumbbells should I buy for home?
If you have a lot of space for working out at home and cash to spare, I’d suggest investing in a full set of hex dumbbells. They’re comfortable to use and don’t roll around all over the floor. However, most of us can’t justify buying a whole set of dumbbells for our home gyms. The next best alternative is adjustable dumbbells. Sure, they can be a bit fiddly, but they do give you a range of weight options without breaking the bank or taking up essential room in the house.