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Use This 20-Minute Chest Workout With Dumbbells To Build Muscle And Break A Sweat

Dumbbell bench press
(Image credit: Getty Images / Cavan Images)

Waiting in line for a spare barbell every chest day can get tiresome. If that feels familiar, give this fast-paced dumbbell chest workout a try. It’s been programmed by JJ Stone, personal trainer and owner of JJSFitness (opens in new tab), and it’s worth doing even if the barbell area is free.

Stone explains that with some intelligent programming, we can work our bodies smarter with a simple set of dumbbells. 

“One of the key benefits of dumbbells is that they can be used for unilateral training,” says Stone. “This means that both sides of your body are required to work in unison for balance and stability which can help to protect you from injury. Because there’s no way for your stronger side to pick up the slack, the functioning of your neural pathways are improved and muscles can recruit more evenly.”

You don’t even need access to a gym for this particular workout because it uses weights you can keep at home. Need some guidance on what to buy? Have a browse through our list of the best dumbbells (opens in new tab) and best weight benches.  

How To Do the Workout

All you need for this workout is a bench (or a stable equivalent to lie on) and a set of dumbbells. The workout is a circuit of five exercises. Complete four rounds with a maximum of 60 seconds’ rest time in between. 

Focus on trying to control each movement. As you drive through the pushing phase of each exercise, exhale or inhale steadily and aim for maximum effort. 

If you’re looking for an extra challenge, perform this workout as an AMRAP pyramid instead, starting with two reps of each exercise and increasing the rep count by two each round.

1 Alternating single-sided dumbbell bench press  

Alternating single-sided dumbbell bench press

(Image credit: Future)

Time 45sec Rest 15sec 

Lie with your back supported on the bench, ensuring both feet stay planted on either side of the bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand over your shoulders, with your palms facing forwards. Keeping your core engaged, press both dumbbells upwards above your chest and extend your elbows so that your arms are straight. Pause at the top. Slowly lower one weight to your shoulder then press the weight back up to the starting position for one rep. Repeat on the other arm. Alternate arms with each rep.

Tip: Try a neutral grip (palms facing inwards) if you struggle with weak wrists or shoulders – this will help ensure the weights do not drift outwards. Challenge yourself by performing this exercise lying on a gym ball or Bosu.  

2 Pull-over 

Pull-over

(Image credit: Future)

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Lie with your entire back supported on the bench, ensuring both feet stay planted on either side of the bench. Create a gentle arch in your back, but keep your hips and lower body in contact with the bench, and engage your core. Holding one dumbbell in both hands over your chest, slightly bend your elbows and lower your arms behind your head until you feel a stretch through your chest and back. Pause. Pull the weight back over your head to return to the starting position.

3 Devil’s press 

Devil's press

(Image credit: Future)

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Hinge forwards at the hips and grasp the dumbbells on the floor in front of you. Step or jump back into a plank and perform an explosive narrow press-up. Jump your legs forwards so that both feet land wide of the dumbbells with your heels planted. Drive through your heels to stand while holding the dumbbells between your legs (mimicking a sumo deadlift). Engage your core and glutes. Hinge forwards at your hips and swing the weights between your legs, then drive the weights upwards into an overhead position. Lock out your arms so they’re in a straight vertical line. Pause, then lower the weights to your sides to complete one rep. Practise with light hex weights and focus on form before progressing. 

4 Svend press 

Svend press

(Image credit: Future)

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Stand with the dumbbells pressed together at your chest and palms facing. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, engage your core, and inhale, filling your chest. Raise your elbows out to the sides and squeeze the weights together. As you exhale, press the weights outwards and extend your elbows so that the dumbbells are in front of you, parallel to the floor. Pause, then slowly bring the weights back to your chest to complete one rep. Avoid leaning back and keep your core tight. 

5 Stagger-grip deficit press-up 

Svend press

(Image credit: Future)

Time 45sec Rest 1min 15sec

Start in a press-up position with your shoulders directly above your hands and your arms extended, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Engage your core and stagger your hands by moving  one forwards and the other backwards. Lower your chest towards the floor without allowing your elbows to flare, pause, then press back up to your starting position for one rep. 

Tip: Perform the movement on your knees to make this exercise easier or elevate your feet on a bench for a progression. Holding dumbbells raises your hands, so you can lower further than usual to increase your range of motion and make the move more challenging. 

Sam is a personal trainer, reiki practitioner, and fitness writer at Future, the publisher of Coach. Having been trained to work with both the mind and body, Sam is an advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and aims to bring mental wellbeing to the forefront of fitness. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and how we can build more sustainable training methods. She writes about the importance of habit-building, nutrition, sleep, recovery and workouts.