9 Chest Exercises With Dumbbells To Try For Better Posture

Functional strength training FTW.

The best chest exercises with dumbbells to do for functional upper body strength.

While exercise routines often center around the glutes, abs, and arms, the chest muscles deserve a little love, too. This area is often ignored or forgotten, and yet there are so many benefits to be had by simply picking up a pair of weights and adding a few chest exercises with dumbbells to your routine.

The chest muscles, located by your sternum, include the pectoralis major or “pecs”. And they’re one of the main powerhouses of the body, says personal trainer Michele Riechman. “They allow you to do daily activities, including pushing and pulling,” she tells Bustle, which is why chest strength is actually considered functional. According to Stephanie Butterfield-Richardson, a fitness coach and founder of Activate House, you engage your chest muscles whenever you push open doors or get up off the ground — all movements that rarely garner a second thought, but can often feel difficult.

That’s not all: Your chest muscles play an important role in good posture, upper body stabilization, and they support deep breathing, Butterfield-Richardson explains. Whether you want to keep this area in top working order or have a goal to build more muscle, experts recommend strength training your chest about three times a week.

Muscle mass is lost very fast, so you want to make sure you are consistently working your chest,” Riechman adds. “And since these muscles expand in different directions, it helps to do a variety of exercises so you can target all parts of the chest.” To get started, grab a pair of dumbbells and try some of the chest exercises listed below.


Incline Chest Flys

Oscar Colon IV, a certified personal trainer and founder of fitness studio MTHD by Oscar, recommends this exercise to start working your chest.

- Lean back on an incline bench.

- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.

- Start with your arms at your chest.

- Keep your arms level at each side, elbows bent and pointing out.

- Slowly exhale and lift your arms above your chest.

- Inhale and slowly lower your arms to your sides, back to the start position.

- For a visual, pretend you have a barrel on your chest and you’re giving it a big hug, Colon says.

- Do 5 sets of 3 to 6 reps.


Chest Flys With Pulse Hold

Riechman suggests adding a pulse hold at the end of your chest flys for an extra challenge.

- Grab your weights and lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

- Bring the weights up so they are directly over your head.

- Palms should face each other. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.

- Engage your core by pushing your lower back into the mat.

- Bring your arms down closer to the floor, keeping a slight bend in the elbows.

- Your arms should not touch the floor.

- Do quick up and down motions to “pulse” for 10 seconds at the bottom.

- Bring arms back up overhead.

- Repeat 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps.


Chest Press

Here, Colon shares how to do a chest press.

- Set up a workout bench at an incline of 30 degrees.

- Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your back on the bench.

- Lift the dumbbells to chest height with your palms facing forwards.

- Breathe out and push the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended, using your pecs to power the movement.

- Do 5 sets of 3 to 6 reps.


Chest Press To Chest Fly

Butterfield-Richardson suggests adding a fly at the end of your chest press for a slightly different angle.

- Lie on your back on a mat or bench.

- Hold weights over your chest with your palms facing each other.

- Keeping your elbows slightly bent, lower your arms out to the sides and down until they're level with your chest.

- Bring the dumbbells up and keep your elbows tight to lower them to your sides and lift them back up.

- Squeeze your chest to bring your arms back up.

- Repeat 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps.


Decline Chest Press

Working your chest from this angle does different things to your body. “The slight decline works the pecs with the shoulders in a centrated — or neutral — position,” Colon says. “This balanced position permits maximal drive from your muscles, while the decline angle recruits more of the muscle fibers that connect to the sternum, targeting the lower chest.”

- Lie back on an inclined bench, your head at the lower end.

- Hold two dumbbells at arm’s length above your chest.

- Place your feet flat on the bench.

- Slowly bend your elbows and pull your shoulder blades together on the bench, lowering the dumbbells until they are close to the sides of your chest.

- Pause in the stretched position.

- Press the dumbbells back to the starting position.

- Do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.


Crush Grip Bench Press

This move will light up your chest muscles, Colon says. “Your chest needs to deal with applying force both horizontally and vertically,” he explains. “This allows for incredible muscle contraction and activation.”

- Lie down on a flat bench and bring the dumbbells above your chest.

- Keep your palms facing each other with a neutral grip.

- Bring the dumbbells together.

- Position your arms in line with your shoulders and slightly bend your elbows.

- Squeeze your chest and press the dumbbells against each other as hard as you can to form “crush grip.”

- Lower the dumbbells approximately one inch from your chest while maintaining crush grip.

- Return the dumbbells to starting position.

- Contract your chest for a second at the top.

- Do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.


Standing Chest Compression

Butterfield-Richardson also recommends this move.

- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.

- Hold the dumbbells together.

- Interlock your fingers at chest level with your arms bent at 90 degrees.

- Squeeze your elbows in to contract your chest.

- While continuing to squeeze your elbows to touch, slowly extend the elbows out. Keep your fingers interlocked.

- Repeat 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps.


Lying Svend Press

According to certified personal trainer Rachel MacPherson, the Svend press is a good move to do after bench presses and flys. “It’s joint-friendly, so you can use it to add volume to your training when your joints, triceps, and shoulders begin to fatigue,” she explains.

- Lie on your back on a bench.

- Hold two dumbbells in the middle of your chest.

- Press the dumbbells into each other.

- Maintain that pressure as you extend your elbows to raise the dumbbells straight above your chest.

- Don't lock out to maintain the tension, then reverse the motion.

- Drive your feet into the ground for support.

- Repeat for 3 sets, 10 to 15 reps.


Dumbbell Pullover

“Dumbbell pullovers are fantastic for working your pectoralis major, which is the main muscle of your chest,” says MacPherson. “They also work the supporting muscles called your serratus, which are on your sides.” She adds that this is one of the best moves to do for better posture, since it strengthens and stretches tight chest muscles.

- Lie with your upper back on a bench.

- Keep your feet on the ground and raise your hips to be in line with your back.

- Hold a dumbbell between your hands, palms facing up.

- Lift the dumbbell above your chest with a slight bend in your elbows.

- Maintain this position with your arms as you lower the weight behind your head.

- Don’t bend your elbows, but instead move at the shoulder joints.

- Return to the start by pulling the dumbbell back over your chest, almost vertical.

- Maintain tension as you lower it again.

- Repeat 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Studies referenced:

Lung, K. 2021. Anatomy, Thorax, Serratus Anterior Muscles. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:


Michele Riechman, personal trainer

Stephanie Butterfield-Richardson, fitness coach, founder of Activate House

Oscar Colon IV, certified personal trainer, founder of fitness studio MTHD by OCIV

Rachel MacPherson, certified personal trainer