#1 Incline neutral-grip dumbbell press
It’s no secret that the dumbbell press is one of the best chest exercises out there. But I want to start with an underutilized variation – the incline neutral-grip dumbbell press.
This variation targets your chest differently, because it allows the dumbbells to travel through a wider movement path.
This places a greater stretch on the pecs at the bottom and keeps tension on them even at the top.
Apart from hand position, it’s performed almost exactly like a regular dumbbell press. Here’s the step-by-step process.
Grab two heavy dumbbells. Take a seat on an inclined bench and place the dumbbells on your thighs close to your knees.
Make sure to retract your shoulder blades. Then lay back, kicking the dumbbells up one at a time bringing them over your chest with your hands in a neutral position.
Arch your back and stick your chest out without raising your hips up off the bench.
Drive through your legs as you press the dumbbells straight up towards the ceiling. Don’t bring the dumbbells together at the top like you would with a fly.
Instead, keep the tension on your chest by keeping them apart and then lower back down.
Get a nice wide stretch at the bottom and press right back up with the dumbbells still apart. Then repeat for reps.
Keep in mind there are major benefits to regular dumbbell presses as well. So don’t get rid of them in exchange for these.
Just switch up your grip every so often when you change up your workouts.
#2 Crush press (or Hex press)
This exercise provides a concentric, eccentric, and isometric contraction for your pecs.
But I want you to think of it as the crush press because the more you focus on crushing the dumbbells together, the more effective the exercise will be for your chest.
This can be performed on a bench at a flat, incline or decline angle.
To perform this on a flat bench, start with the dumbbells on your knees like before.
Lay back and bring the dumbbells together in a neutral position until they’re pressed against each other. They should be right above the center of your chest.
Squeeze the dumbbells tight together and press them straight up towards the ceiling over the line of your chest.
Stop right before locking out your elbows to keep all that tension on the chest.
Lower the dumbbells back down towards your chest. Your hands should end up either at your lower chest or around your upper abs.
Remember to keep pressing the dumbbells together and squeezing your pecs the whole way through your repetition. Then press back up and repeat for reps.
Just like with the bench press you can do this at a flat, incline or decline angle.
To perform these on a flat bench, take a seat with the dumbbells on your knees. Once again before beginning make sure to retract your shoulder blades so that your chest is sticking out.
Lay back and raise the dumbbells straight over your chest.
Lower the dumbbells to your sides following a wide arch-like path while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
This is important. Make sure you avoid the common mistake of performing your reps with your elbows locked out as this will put extra strain on the biceps and take a lot of the tension off of your chest.
You’ll also get a better stretch by going down further. But to avoid shoulder problems it’s very important that you don’t go down too far during the fly.
The dumbbells shouldn’t go much lower than about even with the chest.
Return the dumbbells in the same wide arch path to the starting position over your chest. Then repeat for reps.
An old-school tip that really helps is to concentrate on moving your arms in a motion that looks like you’re hugging a tree.
Also, if bringing the dumbbells down even with your chest bothers your shoulders, you can either not go so low or do a variation on the floor.
The floor will stop your elbows and prevent you from going too low.
This exercise will allow you to do a couple of unique things. First, if you have a spotter, you can grab heavier weights than you would normally use for regular dumbbell presses. That’s because you’ll only have to cover a much shorter range of motion.
The other great benefit is that on every rep, you’ll come to a dead stop at the bottom. This is important because all of your muscles have a stretch reflex, almost like rubber bands, that want to pull back together when stretched apart.
But when you pause and relax at the bottom, it takes that stretch reflex out. This creates a different type of challenge for your chest/arms to press the dumbbells back up.
That’s why this exercise is great for building strength and stability.
Performing this exercise is pretty straightforward.
Start seated on the ground with the dumbbells on your thighs and kick them back as you lay down with your chest out.
Press the dumbbells straight up towards the ceiling.
Lower back down until your elbows come to a dead stop against the floor.
Then press back up and repeat for reps.
As you’re doing this remember to avoid flaring your elbows out. Instead, keep them at about a 45-degree angle from your ribs.
Also, keep in mind that as you get heavier with the dumbbells, you’ll most likely have to get a spotter to hand the dumbbells to you on the ground.
This one will only require one of your dumbbells.
There are a couple of ways you can do this exercise to put more focus on the lats, and there are other ways you can do it to put more tension on the chest.
Start by sitting perpendicular to a bench with the dumbbell in an upright position at your side.
You can lay parallel along the bench, but with heavier weight loads it’ll be beneficial to have your hips hanging off the bench as a counterbalance.
Once seated, slide down the bench until your shoulder blades and head are on the bench.
Grab the dumbbell by placing one hand on top of the other in what looks like a diamond shape.
Make sure you’re holding the head of the dumbbell (the weight portion, not the bar between the weights).
Press and raise it straight above your chest. That will be your starting position.
Lower the weight down and over your head in an arch-like path until you feel a nice stretch.
Return the dumbbell following that same arch-like path until you’re back at the starting point over your chest. Then repeat for reps.
#6 Standing cross-body dumbbell raise
This is another unorthodox chest exercise that I’ve found to work very well.
Since this exercise is performed standing it will also target your shoulder. Though it does a great job at hitting the chest as well.
Stand straight up, with one dumbbell in your hand. This dumbbell should be relatively light.
Raise the dumbbell up at an angle towards your opposite shoulder. Come up and across your body.
When you get as far across as possible, hold it there for a second and really squeeze your pec. Then lower back down the same way that you raised the dumbbell up and repeat for reps.
You can also perform this exercise with two dumbbells simultaneously. But I feel I’m able to get a better contraction with one dumbbell coming all the way across my body.
#7 Reverse grip dumbbell press
This is an exercise you can use to target your upper chest more on a flat bench.
Start by grabbing a pair of dumbbells that are lighter than what you typically use on regular dumbbell presses. Then take a seat on a flat bench.
Just like before, lay back and bring the weights up over your chest with your hands in a neutral position.
Rotate your hands into a supinated position, with your palms facing up towards you. And press the weights up in an arch-like path going from over the line of your sternum to over the line of your shoulders.
Slowly, lower back down and repeat for reps.
Keep in mind, as you do your reps your elbows will be a lot closer to your body than when you’re performing regular dumbbell presses.
You want to allow them to stay close to the ribs, and make sure you’re not flaring them out.
#8 Renegade row-pushup combo
This is another great stabilization-building exercise that works both your chest and your back.
Start by getting on all fours with two dumbbells in your hands. Then walk your feet out into a pushup position.
Keep your body in a straight line from the back of your head to your heels, with your chest out and your shoulder blades back.
Before beginning, shift your body weight slightly towards the opposite side that you’ll be rowing on, by rotating your torso away from that side.
This will prevent you from falling over once the weight is off the ground and pulling you down.
Also, remember not to turn too far. You only want to be a couple of inches higher on one side than the other.
Retract your shoulder and lift the dumbbell off the ground while still allowing your arm to hang straight down.
While squeezing your core tight to stay in that same position, row back by pulling your elbow up towards the ceiling.
Once the dumbbell comes up to your chest, lower it slowly back down to the ground. And then repeat the same thing on the other side.
Finally, perform two pushups on the dumbbells, and then repeat the whole process for reps.
#9 Single-arm dumbbell press
You can perform this one on a flat, incline, or decline bench. This exercise is great to build up your core, chest and arm stabilization strength.
The extra stability will allow you to lift a heavier weight load when using two dumbbells.
This is done just like a regular dumbbell press.
Lay back on a flat bench and bring the weight over your chest.
Press straight up towards the ceiling.
As you do this, you’ll notice that your body wants to just roll off the bench towards the side that you’re using to press.
To resist that force, engage your core tightly.
Then slowly lower the dumbbell back down and repeat for reps.
So those are some of my favorite chest-building dumbbell exercises that you can start using right away to develop a nicer chest.
If you want to combine these into a workout, I would select three to five of these exercises and perform each for 3 sets of 6-10 reps with a heavy load.
That about wraps it up, guys. I really hope this helped you pick up some new exercise for your pecs.
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