12 Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without A Bench (With Pictures)

12 dumbbell chest exercises without a bench

While most dumbbell chest exercises may seem to require a bench, there are plenty of exercises you can do without access to a bench that still ensure your pecs are being put to work.

The 12 best dumbbell chest exercises that you can do without a bench are: 

  • Dumbbell Floor Press
  • Reverse Grip Dumbbell Floor Press
  • Standing Upward Chest Fly
  • Dumbbell Deficit Push Up
  • Dumbbell Tricep Push Up
  • Standing Svend Press
  • Lying Svend Press
  • Floor Chest Fly
  • Dumbbell Floor Hammer Press
  • Stability Ball Pullover
  • Stability Ball Chest Flys
  • Stability Ball Incline Press

Whether you go to a busy gym where the benches are limited or you workout from home, there are several exercise options that incorporate both presses and flys. 

In this article, I will go over how to do each exercise, its benefits, drawbacks, and how to include them in your program.

1. Dumbbell Floor Press

How To

To do a dumbbell floor press you will need 2 dumbbells that are moderately heavy and find a flat and firm spot on the ground.

From a seated position on the ground, grab the dumbbells and place them on your hips.

Transition into a laying down position, setting your upper back and arms on the ground with your forearms perpendicular to the ground.

Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.

Keep your elbows at about a 45 degree angle relative to your shoulders, similar to what you would do for a chest press on a bench.

Press the weight up and away from your chest without letting the dumbbells bump into each other and then lower them down with control until your arms meet the ground again.

Benefits

  • The reduction in range of motion may make the dumbbell floor press feel more comfortable for those with shoulder pain.
  • It gives the triceps a bit more work compared with a dumbbell press using a bench, so a good exercise if looking for tricep and chest engagement. 

Cons

  • The reduced range of motion doesn’t give your chest as big of a stretch as a chest press would on a bench or and may compromise some pec gains if you don’t supplement this exercise with other movements.
  • It is relatively difficult to set up if using heavier weights and so you may want to opt for having a friend just hand you the dumbbells instead while in the lying position or choosing lighter weight and sticking to higher reps.

How to Program

The dumbbell chest press can allow for slightly heavier weights than some other exercises on this list and so I would use it as one of your first movements for the day and program it like this:

  • 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps @ RPE 7-8

Not familiar with RPE scales? Check out: RPE vs RIR: What Are The Differences? How To Use Them?

2. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Floor Press

How To

To do a reverse dumbbell floor press you will need 2 dumbbells that are not too heavy and find a flat and firm spot on the ground where you can lie down.

Grab the dumbbells from a seated position and place them on your hips.

Slowly let yourself come into a laying down position, with your upper back and arms on the ground with your forearms perpendicular to the ground, but your palms/fingers facing the direction of your head. 

Keep your elbows at a slightly wider angle than you would for a regular bench or floor press to allow for more comfortable supination. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.

Press the weight up and away from your chest without letting the dumbbells bump into each other and then lower them down with control until your arms meet the ground again.

Keep your hands supinated (palms facing back) and try to resist the urge to turn them inwards.

Benefits

  • The reverse grip allows for more emphasis on the upper chest area (clavicular head of pec major) and the biceps brachii than when compared to a regular grip style
  • The reverse grip can feel more comfortable for those with shoulder injuries associated with regular pressing

Cons

  • The supinated arm position may be difficult for some people to achieve simply due to a lack of mobility
  • Because of the increased stress on the forearms or biceps, you may be limited in the amount of weight you can handle.  Check out my other article on what to do if your biceps hurt while benching

How to Program

To program this exercise I would opt for slightly lighter weights than with a regular grip floor press and would add it in as follows:

  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps @ RPE 7

Related Article: 12 Best Cable Crossover Alternatives (With Pictures)

3. Standing Upward Chest Fly

How To

To perform the standing upward chest fly you will start in a standing position with your feet about shoulder-width apart and 2 relatively lighter dumbbells in each hand.

Turn your arms so that your elbows are facing back and palms and dumbbells are facing in front of your body.

Bring the weights up and together to about chest height without actually having them crash into each other.

Lower the weights back to your side with control and not letting your arms just drop.

Make sure to not shrug the weight up with your neck by keeping your scapula (shoulder blades) down and back.

Want more standing chest exercises?  Check out my article: 12 Standing Chest Exercises.

Benefits

  • This exercise is great for developing the chest, especially the upper chest, and the shoulders
  • It can help improve chest mobility as it has a large range of motion

Cons

  • The movement will require you to use slightly lighter weights in order to get the full range of motion and so if you don’t have access to light enough dumbbells you may have trouble performing the movement
  • Some people may have trouble feeling their upper chest working because they are limited by their shoulder strength 

How to Program

This exercise is best performed for higher rep ranges and I would recommend a momentary pause at the top of the exercise to feel the upper chest engagement:

  • 3 sets of 15-20 reps with 1 count pause at the top @ RPE 8-9

The standing upward chest fly was also mentioned in my other article on the Best Dumbbell Chest Fly Alternatives.

4. Dumbbell Push Up

How To

To do a dumbbell push up you will need a set of sturdy dumbbells with flat sides (do NOT perform this exercise with round dumbbells).

Grab the dumbbells and then set up your arms where you normally would for a push up, slightly wider than shoulder width apart and elbows pointing back at roughly 45 degrees.

Bring yourself up to a plank, using the dumbbells like handles.

Lower yourself slowly down toward the ground and in between the weights, allowing yourself to drop below hand level if possible to give yourself extra range of motion.

Push yourself back up with as much power as you can and repeat the movement.

Benefits

  • Dumbbell push ups are a great way to create a small deficit and increase the range of motion of the push up for greater chest activation.
  • Using dumbbells as handles helps mitigate wrist pain for those with a history of injury or strains.

Cons

  • Holding up your body weight while holding on to dumbbells can be painful or uncomfortable for some on the palm of their hand
  • If you are not strong enough for just regular push ups from the ground these may prove to be too challenging or advanced especially if you’re trying to get the benefit of the increased range of motion

How to Program

I would program the dumbbell push ups to failure or close to failure and place them close to the end of your workout as a burnout exercise:

  • 4 sets of AMRAP (as many reps as possible) @ body weight
  • Program these at the end of the workout, after other chest exercises

5. Dumbbell Tricep Push Up

How To

To perform a dumbbell tricep push up you will need a set of moderately heavy dumbbells with flat sides that will stay firmly on the ground when you place your body weight on them.

You will then set the dumbbells up parallel to your body to allow for a neutral grip and at about shoulder width apart.

Hold on to the dumbbells like handles and prop yourself up into a high plank on your toes.

Lower your chest toward the dumbbells, keeping your arms close to your body and elbows pointing back, towards your legs.

Resist the urge to flare your elbows and focus on feeling the movement in your triceps.

Benefits

  • They may feel better than regular tricep push ups for those with wrist sensitivities and history of injuries to the wrist.
  • Push ups also engage your core and are a more compound movement than exercises like presses and flys

Cons

  • The tricep push up is even more difficult than a regular push up for most people and so it may be too advanced for novices and beginners.
  • If you have any joint sensitivities in the elbows you may feel discomfort with a narrow positioning.
  • It relies heavily on the triceps and so the limiting factor will be tricep, not chest, strength.

How to Program

Dumbbell tricep push ups can be programmed at the end of a workout as a burnout or even within a superset with another arm exercise.

Superset Example: 

  • A1: 3 sets of 10-15 dumbbell tricep push ups @ bodyweight
  • A2: 3 sets of 15 hammer curls @ RPE 9

Related Article:  Is Arm Day A Waste Of Time?

6. Standing Svend Press

How To

A traditional svend press is done standing with a weight plate, however you can modify it by holding a single dumbbell on both ends.

You will want to bring the weight to about chest height with your arms bent and squeezing the weight as hard as you can inwards.

Now push the weight away from your chest and out in front of you which still maintains that pressure inwards.

Press away and back in for as many reps as you need to feel your chest engaging.

Benefits

  • The svend press works well to isolate the pecs since it works both the pressing and horizontal adduction action of the chest muscle.
  • The svend press is not limited by rotator cuff or tricep strength and endurance

Cons

  • It may take some good mind muscle connection to really engage the pecs in a way where you are doing the movement in the most optimal way

How to Program

To program the standing svend press it can be the final exercise of the day to burnout the chest, within a super set or as a primer before your heavier movements, like the following:

Example: 

  • 3 sets of 10 reps standing svend press @ RPE 7
  • 5 sets of 5 chest press @ RPE 7

Related Article: How Do Powerlifters Train Chest?

7. Lying Svend Press

How To

To do a lying dumbbell svend press you will need a set of 2 hex dumbbells (flat sides).

Start in a seated position and bring the dumbbells to your lap and slowly lower yourself to the ground with your back flat on the ground and knees bent and feet on the ground.

Press the dumbbells together and position them in the centre of your chest and then keeping the tension, press them up and away from your chest.

Lower the weights down to your chest again, making sure to maintain the pressure between the dumbbells throughout.

Benefits

  • The lying svend press is a good alternative to the standing svend press if you are unable to reliably retract and depress your shoulders and keep your upper back in a good position.
  • You may be able to handle more weight when doing it lying compared to standing.
  • The svend press challenges both the pressing and the horizontal adduction action of the pecs, ensuring their engagement.

Cons

  • It’s easy to end up using weights that are too heavy and relying on the shoulders too much, ultimately missing out on the benefits to the pecs
  • Requires a good mind to muscle connection

How to Program

To program the lying svend press you can use it as an accessory within your workout like the following:

  • 3 sets of 10 reps @ RPE 7

8. Floor Chest Fly

How To

To do a floor chest fly you will need 2 relatively light dumbbells and a sturdy floor surface.

From a seated position, bring the weights into your lap and then lay back on the ground bringing the weights with you and straightening your arms up toward the ceiling with palms facing each other.

Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.

Keeping your elbows slightly bent and back flat on the ground, open up your arms out to the side, lowering your arms slowly to the ground.

Once your elbows have reached the ground, bring the weights back up and together, hovering over the centre of your chest.

Benefits

  • It works both your pecs and the front of your shoulders rather than chest and tricep involvement.
  • Fly movements stretch your pecs more than pressing movements do and it ensures you are working all functions of the muscle, ultimately helping with hypertrophy.

Cons

  • If you have any shoulder impingements this may be a movement that feels uncomfortable or painful to do.
  • Because you are on the ground you do lose several degrees of range since you are not raised on a bench or platform.

How to Program

To program floor chest flys you will want to stick to higher reps, lower weight and use it after your pressing movements.

  • 3 sets of 20 @ RPE 8

9. Dumbbell Floor Hammer Press

How To

To do a dumbbell floor hammer press you will set up on the ground with 2 dumbbells, one in each hand and resting on your hips.

Lean back to lay on the ground, keeping your knees bent and flat on the floor while your arms come up with palms facing each other.

From here you will bend your elbows until they reach the ground, keeping them narrow and close to the body and then pressing back up.

The hammer floor press is similar to the lying svend press except that the dumbbells are not kept glued to each other and you are not adding the additional pressure inward.

Benefits

  • The neutral grip of the hammer press can be easier on the shoulders when compared to a reverse or regular grip press.
  • The hammer grip increases activation of your bicep region and can aid in some strength and size development there as well as the chest, shoulders and triceps.

Cons

  • Because of the increased activation in other areas of your upper body, you may not be targeting the chest as directly as you may want.

How to Program

To program the dumbbell floor hammer press try it out as a primary movement for the day.

  • 4 sets of 6 reps @ RPE 7

Related Article: What Else Should I Do On Chest Day? (4 Examples)

10. Stability Ball Pullover

How To

To do a stability ball pullover you will need a stability ball and a single, moderately heavy dumbbell.

Start seated on the stability ball with the dumbbell resting in your lap and walk your feet out until the stability ball is supporting your upper back.

Keep your feet flat on the ground, glutes and core engaged and then bring the weight with both arms to hover over your face. 

From here move the weight back behind your head at a controlled speed and then bring it back up to hover over your face.

Benefits

  • It is one of the few chest exercises that also engages the back muscles and so is a good way to target different muscle groups
  • The movement targets the upper chest area to help create better developed pecs

Cons

  • The stability ball will limit how much weight you can safely move around, may also feel awkward at first

How to Program

To program the stability ball pullover, use it as a high rep accessory movement after your main movements for the day.

  • 3 sets of 15 reps @ RPE 7

Related Article:  Can You Train Chest And Back On The Same Day?

11. Stability Ball Chest Flys

How To

To do stability ball chest flys you will start seated on a stability ball with relatively light dumbbells in either hand and resting on your legs.

From here walk your feet out and away from the ball, allowing the ball to roll up to your upper back.

Once your upper back is supported by the ball and your feet are in a stable position with your glutes engaged and holding you in a bit of bridge, bring your arm up with your palms facing each other.

From there, keeping your core and legs engaged for safety, open up your arms to the side until you feel a stretch in your chest and then bring them back up to the top without banging the weights together.

Benefits

  • The stability ball gives you the opportunity to stretch your flies out farther out than flys done from the ground.

Cons

  • The added instability will limit how heavy you can go with the weights you choose

How to Program

Because of the limited ability to go very heavy when doing exercises on a stability ball, opt for higher rep sets.

  • 4 sets of 20 reps @ RPE 8

Related Articles: Can You Train Chest 2 Days In A Row? (Pros & Cons)

12. Stability Ball Incline Press

How To

To do a stability ball incline press you will need a set of dumbbells as well as a stability ball.

Start by holding the weights in your hands and sitting on the ball with feet firmly planted on the ground.

From there slowly walk your feet out as you roll down until the ball is making contact with your upper back, as if you are lying on an incline bench.

Find your footing with feet apart and stable and then bring your weight up to your shoulders and press them up and in line with your upper chest. 

Make sure to keep your core activated and bracing as you don’t want to roll off the ball. If you find this difficult, place your toes against a wall for added stability.

Benefits

  • The stability ball raises you off the ground which allows you to get the added range of motion you are missing out on when doing a floor press to get better chest activation
  • The incline will give you more stimulation to the upper chest 

Cons

  • The stability ball may add too much of a challenge of staying on the ball and won’t allow you to push as much weight as you likely have strength for.

How to Program

To program a stability ball incline press I would add it right after a heavier floor press as a secondary movement.

Example progression: 

  • 4 sets of 6 dumbbell floor press @ RPE 7
  • 3 sets of 10 stability ball incline press @ RPE 7

About The Author

Elena Popadic

Elena Popadic has worked within the fitness industry for over 6 years, is co-host of the Squats and Thoughts podcast and trains and competes as a powerlifter. She has a BSc in Life Sciences from McMaster University, a Postgrad Certificate in Public Relations from Humber College and is currently pursuing a MSc Occupational Therapy at Western University. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.