Dumbbell Chest Workout
Bursting out of a shirt tends to be a priority on most male’s “to do” lists, especially during Summer. No-one can deny seeing the crowds queuing around the bench press every Monday in their local gyms…
Yet, despite the determination, not many develop this muscle group to its full potential. The most common reason behind the pecs crisis is poor “mind-muscle” connection – inability to “feel” the muscle working while performing an exercise. This can be the case especially for various barbell presses, and means poor muscle activation leading to poor growth. If that sounds familiar read on and find out how to up your game with top dumbbells exercises for chest and finally fill that shirt out.
In comparison to muscle groups such as legs or back, chest is relatively simple. When talking about the chest or pecs we mean a single muscle called pectoralis major.
The muscle further splits into three bundles:
1) Clavicular part (upper chest)
2) Sternal part (centre chest)
3) Costal part (lower chest)
Underneath pectoralis major lays smaller pectoralis minor, which isn’t of higher interest to our muscle building bunch, as it cannot be specifically targeted by any exercises.
Nevertheless, inflammation of this muscle (tendinitis) is often mistaken with shoulder pain. Therefore, knowing where our troublesome muscle is located can save on emphasising something that is not a problem…
The anatomy of pectoralis major highlights few important facts:
✓ Firstly, it is a single muscle; therefore the chest training volume (amount of sets) should be reasonable and never exceed the volume of your back or leg training. As a rule of thumb, I would not recommend more than 15 working sets in most chest workout.
✓ Secondly, the horizontal arrangement of the muscle fibres into upper, centre and lower bundles means that, anatomically, there is no “middle chest”. Many trainees complain on poor middle chest development and look for exercises which target this area directly – the muscle fibres in the chest cannot contract vertically. Therefore, there is no other way to fire up the “middle chest” than learning to forcefully contract pecs during all exercises.
✓ Lastly, “upper”, “centre” and “lower” chest muscle fibre bundles can be emphasised by manipulating the position of your arms in various exercises. This can be achieved by altering the angle of the bench during presses and flyes:
– Incline Bench Press – emphasises upper chest
– Flat Bench Press – emphasises centre chest
– Decline Bench Press – emphases lower chest
How to Safely Pick Up Dumbbells
It’s 100% necessary to highlight the issue of safety… Without unnecessary scaremongering, before handling heavy dumbbells in any chest press exercise you should feel comfortable at getting them into the starting position and putting them down on your own.
Unlike in barbell presses, you won’t be able to rack the weight or count on a spotter to lift the weight of your chest. Sure you can throw it, swing it, you name it – but this carries a great risk of injury to both yourself and the precious gym flooring.
…So, how to get these dumbbells up yourself?
1) Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit down on a bench, placing the dumbbells atop of your thighs. Make sure that your grip is firm and that your hands are facing each other.
2) Lie back on the bench whilst pushing the dumbbells up with your thighs.
3) Position the dumbbells above your chest while placing your feet on the floor.
4) Make sure that your chest is pushed up, your shoulders retracted (pulled back) and that your upper back and buttocks touch the bench at all times.
Once you have finished your set, simply reverse back the steps and place the dumbbells down. Now to begin the exercises…
— Top Dumbbell Chest Exercises —
This exercise is arguably the most effective free-weight movement for development of stubborn pecs. Dumbbell presses allow for better pecs contraction as you can bring the dumbbells together at the top of the movement.
These also allow for greater range of motion in comparison to barbell bench presses. – this is especially true for people with short arms and wide rib cages.
Starting position: Lie down on a bench and bring the dumbbells above your chest – Twist your wrist, so that your thumbs are facing each other (pronated grip).
a) Position your arms in line with your shoulder with slightly bent elbows – slowly lower arms and spread your elbows as far as possible.
b) Hold the stretch for a second and use your chest to bring the arms up and close together, in a triangle-like motion – Do not allow the dumbbells to touch each other at the top.
c) In order to allow greater muscle contraction, tilt your wrists outwards; so that your thumbs are pointing slightly up.
d) Squeeze your chest and hold the contraction for a 1-2 seconds
Sets and reps: 3-5 x 12, 10, 8, 6 reps (pyramid weight up)
TOP TIP: Using heavier weights will reduce your range of motion as the stacks of plates on dumbbells won’t allow you to bring the dumbbells close together. However, if you place this exercise at the end of your workout, you will be able to fatigue the muscle with lower weight and using greater range of motion.
2. Twisting Dumbbell Bench Press
Twisting Dumbbells Bench Press is an exercise rarely seen, which fully exploits the non-fixed grip advantage of dumbbells.