7 Dumbbell Chest Press Variations for a Stronger Chest

To build a stronger chest, incorporate these 7 chest press variations into your workout routine.


The Bench Press is a weight room staple, but athletes can receive similar benefits from its lesser-known companion exercise, the Dumbbell Chest Press.

Performing a Chest Press with dumbbells instead of a barbell evenly distributes the weight to each arm, negating the tendency to use your stronger arm to do more work than your weaker arm. Dumbbells also require more muscle activation to maintain balance throughout the entire range of motion.

Rather than performing the same old Chest Press with Dumbbells day in and day out, switch it up with different Chest Press variations and reap the benefits.

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1. Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

This variation changes the angle of the motion, targeting more of the upper chest muscles, forcing them to adapt and get stronger. It's perfect for football players coming off the line and pressing upward when blocking an opponent.

How to Perform:

  1. Adjust a flat bench to about 45 degrees or use a incline bench press station.
  2. Use dumbbells that allow you to perform 10 reps.
  3. Sit down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs.
  4. Lean back and bring the dumbbells up to chest level.
  5. With your feet flat on the ground, press the dumbbells straight up in a slow and controlled motion, avoiding the tendency to let them gravitate downward.
  6. Sets/Reps: 3x10

2. Decline Dumbbell Chest Press

This targets more of the lower chest muscles and allows you to lift more than you do with a regular Chest Press.

How to Perform:

  1. Adjust a flat bench to a 45-degree angle or use a decline bench press station.
  2. Use dumbbells that allow you to perform 10 reps.
  3. Sit down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs.
  4. Lean back and bring the dumbbells down to chest level.
  5. With your feet flat and hinged under the foot pads, press the dumbbells straight up in a slow and controlled motion, avoiding the tendency to let them gravitate backward over your head.
  6. Sets/Reps: 3x10

3. Dumbbell Floor Chest Press

By decreasing the range of motion, this variation focuses more on the triceps. You should be able to lift more than you can with a regular Chest Press.

How to Perform:

  1. Place a mat on the floor.
  2. Use dumbbells that allow you to perform 10 reps.
  3. Sit down on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs.
  4. Lean back and bring the dumbbells up to chest level.
  5. With your feet flat on the ground, press the dumbbells straight up in a slow and controlled motion.
  6. Lower the dumbbells back down until your elbows touch the floor.
  7. Repeat.
  8. Sets/Reps: 3x10

4. Dumbbell Wrist Rotation Chest Press

This variation adds rotation, which requires more muscle activation and coordination. It also simulates the wrist movement athletes use during throwing or passing. The movement is a little harder than a regular Chest Press, so you probably won't be able to lift quite as much weight.

How to Perform:

  1. Adjust a flat bench to 180 degrees.
  2. Use dumbbells that allow you to perform 10 reps.
  3. Sit down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs.
  4. Lean back and bring the dumbbells up to chest level with a neutral grip.
  5. With your feet flat on the ground, press the dumbbells straight up in a slow and controlled motion.
  6. As you press up, rotate your wrists so when your arms are fully extended, you are grasping the dumbbells with an overhand grip.
  7. As you lower the dumbbells back down, repeat the motion in reverse.
  8. Sets/Reps: 3x10

5. Neutral Grip Dumbbell Chest Press

For the Neutral Grip Dumbbell Chest Press, your palms face each other, promoting more muscle recruitment in the triceps. This variation is similar to a Chest Fly, but you keep your elbows close to your body, rather than spread out.

How to Perform:

  1. Adjust a flat bench to 180 degrees.
  2. Use dumbbells that allow you to perform 10 reps.
  3. Sit down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs.
  4. Lean back and bring the dumbbells up to chest level, holding them with a neutral grip.
  5. With your feet flat on the ground, press the dumbbells straight up in a slow and controlled motion, avoiding the tendency to let your elbows flair out.
  6. Sets/Reps: 3x10

6. Alternating Dumbbell Chest Press

This variation builds endurance and promotes stability in the chest, triceps and shoulder muscles—which is especially helpful in long games when your muscles start to fatigue from repetitive motion such as blocking in football, passing and shooting in basketball, and throwing in baseball.

How to Perform:

  1. Adjust a flat bench to 180 degrees.
  2. Use dumbbells that allow you to perform 10 reps.
  3. Sit down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs.
  4. Lean back and bring the dumbbells up to chest level.
  5. With your feet flat on the ground, press the dumbbells straight up in a slow and controlled motion.
  6. While keeping your right arm fully extended, lower your left arm in a slow and controlled motion.
  7. Press your left arm back up until it is fully extended as you lower your right arm. That is one repetition.
  8. Sets/Reps: 3x10

7. Single-Arm Dumbbell Chest Press

Performing a Chest Press with one arm really engages the core and stabilizer muscles in the chest. Athletes are often required to throw, shoot or hit a ball with one arm. This variation mimics those motions.

How to Perform:

  1. Adjust a flat bench to 180 degrees.
  2. Use dumbbells that allow you to perform 10 reps.
  3. Sit down on the bench with a dumbbell in one hand resting on your thigh.
  4. Lean back and bring the dumbbell up to chest level.
  5. With your feet flat on the ground, press the dumbbell straight up in a slow and controlled motion, avoiding the tendency to lean to the opposite side.
  6. Perform set with the other arm.
  7. Sets/Reps: 3x10, each arm


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CHEST | BENCH PRESS | BENCH | PRESS | THROW | DUMBBELLS | FLAT BENCH