Dumbbell Chest Exercises You Can Do Without a Bench – 10 Exercises

dumbbell chest exercises without a bench

Did Hercules have a Smith machine?

Did Zeus ever drop $500 on a multi-positional padded bench?

Did Michaelangelo ask David to do some cable crossovers before he sculpted him into eternity?


You DO NOT need expensive equipment to look like a statue or a Greek God. Even a complete novice can build a full, thick chest with just a set of dumbbells and the floor (and protein).

Actually, the floor might be even better than a bench, since it allows you to lift heavier and gives the perfect range of motion.

We surveyed our community of personal trainers, fitness geeks, and fans on their most potent dumbbell chest exercises you can do without a bench.

These 10 were far and away the easiest, most effective, and convenient.

Let’s get sculpted!

PS! For a full list of dumbbell exercises see this article.

PPS! I seriously recommend these dumbbells for your home gym or these if you’re on a tight budget.

10 Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without A Bench


1. Standing Chest Press

standing chest press

Targets: Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Shoulders (deltoids & rotator cuff), Arms (biceps & triceps), Erector Spinae, Transversus Abdominis 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: Engages your stabilizer muscles for better balance
  • Pro: Builds muscle tissue, strength, and increases muscle power
  • Con: Should only be performed if you have a solid form for basic chest presses
  • Con: Works fewer muscles in your chest than standard chest presses 

How To: 

To perform this upper body exercise, you only need a single dumbbell and enough space. 

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Hold your dumbbell between your palms with your hands on either end, directly in front of your chest with your arms slightly bent at the elbow.
  3. Use your palms to squeeze the dumbbell and activate your chest muscles. 
  4. Extend your arms until they’re straight to push the dumbbell away from your chest. Return to the starting position to complete the repetition. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • Avoid lowering the dumbbells over your shoulders as this can harm your rotator cuff 
  • Engage your core during standing chest presses to avoid lower back pain and stress 

2. Standing Upward Chest Fly

The Incline Dumbbell Fly 101 | How to Exercise Your Upper Chest!

Targets: Chest (pecs), Arms (triceps & biceps), Shoulders (deltoids) 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: To increase the difficulty, all you have to do is increase weight, reps, and/or sets
  • Pro: Only requires enough room to exercise and a set of dumbbells
  • Con: This exercise should not be performed without medical guidance if you have an existing back, shoulder, or arm injury 

How To: 

  1. Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in, in a standing position. 
  2. Make sure your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down straight in front of your center m
  3. Extend your arms up and out to the sides, keeping your elbows straight and your arms at chest level. Bring them back to the center to finish a single rep. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • Don’t push yourself too hard with your weights, increase once a week or once every other week to keep yourself challenged without going overboard and risking injury
  • To work your core and stabilizing muscles even harder, try this move while sitting on an exercise ball
  • Focus on maintaining proper form to get the best results possible 

3. Dumbbell Push-Ups

Dumbbell Push-Up With Dumbbell Row

Targets: Chest (pectoral muscles), Shoulders (deltoids), Arms (triceps & serratus anterior), Core (abdominals), Upper back (latissimus dorsi) 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: Engage your core and keep your legs straight to turn this move into a full-body workout
  • Con: You should only attempt it once you’ve mastered the basic push-up and are familiar with your dumbbells and proper push-up form 
  • Con: You have to use hexagonal or other-flat sided dumbbells to complete this exercise 

How To: 

  1. Grip a dumbbell in each hand and get into a plank position with your palms facing down towards the floor. 
  2. You can choose to do these on your toes or your knees if it’s too difficult to stay on your toes.
  3. Keep your back flat and bend your elbows to lower your body closer to the floor without touching it. 
  4. Pause at the bottom of your push-up before explosively extending your elbows and pushing your body back into the starting position to engage your shoulders and arms further. 
  5. You’ve completed one repetition. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • When you assume the starting position, remember to keep your shoulders rotated down and back
  • Brace your core throughout your chest workout to keep it engaged
  • Tuck your pelvis in to avoid putting excess strain on your lower back 

4. Dumbbell Floor Press

Floor Press

Targets: Chest (pecs), Core (abdominals), Shoulders (deltoids), triceps

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: The Dumbbell floor press is simple enough that even beginners can perform them
  • Pro: Reduces shoulder joint extension to lessen shoulder strain compared to traditional bench presses
  • Con: Limited range of motion compared to conventional bench presses 

How To: 

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Using an overhand grip, grab your dumbbells and extend your elbows so that they’re in a 90-degree position with your triceps resting flat.
  3. Your dumbbells should be above your chest level and directly above your elbows. Engage your core and extend your arms toward the ceiling. 
  4. Pause and return to starting position to finish a single floor press rep.

Tips To Do It Right:

  • Drive your shoulder blades into the floor to add power to your press and pauses at the bottom of your lifts to negate the stretching reflex 
  • Have a workout partner help you to position your dumbbells by handing them to you
  • If you don’t have a partner, hold your dumbbells vertically on your thighs, then lie back and bend your legs to gain momentum for lifting your weights

5. Svend Press 

Best Svend Press GIFs | Gfycat

Targets: Pectoral muscles, Shoulders (deltoids), Arms (Triceps) 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: Using dumbbells, instead of the weight plates that are usually used for Svend Presses, allows you to work with heavier loads to stimulate muscle growth
  • Con: This move can quickly fatigue your muscles; try it out towards the end of a workout to avoid tiring yourself out too early
  • Con: If you have a tight serratus anterior muscle (the muscle that goes along the side of your rib cage) it can be challenging to perform this exercise; try relaxing your abs and arching your back slightly to make this move more accessible if you have this issue 

How To: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders pulled back, and your chest out. 
  2. Grip your dumbbells overhand with your palms down. 
  3. Bend your arms at the elbow until your dumbbells are parallel with the floor; this is your starting position.
  4. Push your dumbbells out by extending your arms out until your elbows are straight. 
  5. Engage your chest muscles and pause as you hold your dumbbells out. 
  6. Return to your starting position to complete the repetition.

Tips To Do It Right:

  • Fully extend your muscles to get the most vigorous contraction possible and increase the benefits of your Svend Presses
  • Squeeze your dumbbells throughout the exercise to keep constant tension on your pecs 

6. Single-Arm  Floor Chest Press

Single Arm Chest Press

Targets: Chests (pecs), Core (abdominals), Shoulders (deltoids), Arms (triceps)

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: Promotes stability and balance in your core and chest 
  • Pro: Demands more engagement from your core than two-arm floor chest presses
  • Con: Limited range of movement compared to standing and bench presses

How To: 

  1. Use an overhand grip to grab your dumbbell in your right hand while lying flat with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. 
  2. Lay your left arm out flat beside you, and the dumbbell in your right hand should be at chest height, with your right elbow at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Push the dumbbell up towards the ceiling with your right hand by extending your elbow and pause. 
  4. Retract your arm to resume the start position and switch arms to finish the rep and begin again. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • Make sure you take your time and pause at the bottom of your lift to negate your stretching reflex
  • Power your press by pushing your shoulder blades into the ground 

7. Reverse Dumbbell Chest Press

Reverse Dumbbell Press

Targets: Chests (pectoral muscles), Shoulders (deltoids), Arms (triceps) 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: Easy enough for beginners to try 
  • Pro: Builds more muscle in your pecs than traditional incline presses and overhand chest presses 
  • Con: Compared to standing position or bench reverse dumbbell chest presses, you get a lesser range of motion when lying on the floor (avoid this by using a stability ball) 

How To: 

  1. Lay down flat on your back with your feet on the floor and your legs bent at the knee. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an underhand or ‘reverse’ grip at chest height by your sides. 
  3. Your elbows should be bent, and your triceps should be lying flat on the floor.
  4. Extend your arms by straightening out your elbows and push your dumbbells up into the air towards the ceiling.
  5. Once your arms are fully extended, pause before slowly lowering your arms back to the floor to resume the starting position and finish the repetition. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • Try to avoid letting the dumbbells touch when you’re at the top of each rep
  • Take your time as you go through your reps; lower your dumbbells more slowly than you raise them to get the most out of your chest workout 

8. Stability Ball Dumbbell Pull-Overs

Pin on ABS

Targets: Chest (pectoral muscles), Shoulders (deltoids), Butt (glutes), Back (latissimus dorsi) 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: You can make this move easier by bending your elbows slightly or using light weights to begin and get a full understanding of proper form and technique before increasing the difficulty
  • Pro: Using a stability ball allows you to get a full range of motion throughout your shoulders during this exercise
  • Con: Pull-overs can also be modified to engage your legs; however, you’ll have to move to the floor to do this and sacrifice your full range of motion in the process 

How To: 

  1. Start by sitting on your stability ball and walk your feet forward until your upper back, shoulders, and neck are flat on the stability ball. 
  2. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle so that the rest of your body is parallel with the floor. This is also known as the bridge position.
  3. Hold one end of your dumbbell with both hands directly over your chest, keeping your arms straight and your core tight. 
  4. Slowly lower your dumbbell over and behind your head until your arms are in line with the rest of your body and pause. 
  5. Raise your dumbbell until you return to the starting position to complete a single repetition. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • Be sure to keep core engaged and your lower back as straight as possible throughout the entire exercise
  • Maintain caution when moving your dumbbell behind your head to avoid swinging it and causing injury
  • You can turn this move into a full-body exercise by moving to the floor and lifting your feet slightly while working out; this forces you to engage further your core, chest, and thighs 

9. Dumbbell T Push-Ups

What are the best home workouts done with limited space, using ...

Targets: Chests (pectoral muscles), Shoulders (deltoids), Arms (triceps & serratus anterior), Core (abdominals), Upper back (latissimus dorsi) 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: You can use this push-up variation to challenge your current push-up game
  • Pro: You can practice T push-ups without dumbbells to get a better understanding of the body mechanics involved before incorporating free weights
  • Con: You have to use a flat-sided or hexagonal dumbbell to perform this chest workout 

How To: 

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and get into a standard push up position. 
  2. Rather than laying your hands out flat on the floor, grip your dumbbells on the floor and use them as your base. 
  3. Lower yourself to the floor as you would for a basic push-up.
  4. As you push up, rotate your right side upward by pivoting on your toes and lift the dumbbell in your right hand up above your shoulder. 
  5. Lower the dumbbell to the floor to resume the starting position and repeat with your left side to finish the rep. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • This exercise can be a bit tricky, so try it out without a dumbbell to get a better understanding of your body movements before attempting it with your dumbbells
  • Your dumbbells should never be above your head during this exercise; if at any point they are, stop what you’re doing and resume start position 

10. Dumbbell Fly On a Stability Ball

15 Stability Ball Moves for a Total Body Workout | Stability ball, Stability ball exercises, Ball exercises

Targets: Chest (pectoral muscles), Shoulders (deltoids), Upper Back (latissimus dorsi) 

Pros & Cons:

  • Pro: You can better strengthen your abs and glutes compared to traditional chest flies
  • Pro: Improves core stability and balance by integrating the use of the stability ball
  • Con: Much more challenging than basic chest flies because of the inclusion of more muscle groups 

How To: 

  1. Start by sitting on your balance ball and walk your feet forward until your upper back, shoulders, and neck are on top of your stability ball. 
  2. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle, with the rest of your body parallel to the floor. This is the same starting bridge position as the stability ball dumbbell pull-overs mentioned previously.
  3. Hold your dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing in towards your center and raise your arms until they are fully extended, perpendicular to the floor. 
  4. Lower your dumbbells out to your sides slowly until they’re pointing straight out, and you feel a stretch in your chest. 
  5. Return to the start position to complete the repetition. 

Tips To Do It Right:

  • For more assistance from your legs, spread your feet wider apart
  • To make this workout more challenging, place your feet closer together on the floor
  • Squeeze your chest when you’re bringing your hands back together to engage your pecs 


The Bottom Line

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on an industrial-grade workout bench. These dumbbell chest exercises without a bench are just as effective!  

With a little bit of creative thinking and the appropriate alternatives, like stability balls or the floor, there’s nothing that can hold you back.

Take a little time out of your day today to try one or two of these workouts, and you just may find that you feel better physically and emotionally for it. 

And if you liked this article, then please feel free to check out some of our product reviews or our blog for more news, information, and reviews on everything fitness related.

PS! These are the dumbbells that I recommend to my clients. Or these, if you’re on a budget.

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Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.