For some exercises or workouts, two dumbbells are better than one. After all, it's double the weight when you're squatting or lunging. But where your chest muscles are concerned, you can get an excellent strength workout with a single dumbbell.
Whether you only have a single weight lying around or just want to try some new chest exercises, these moves are by far the hardest you can do with one dumbbell. And by focusing on one arm at a time, you can address any potential strength discrepancies between arms (ex. if your right arm is stronger than your left).
If you don't have a workout bench available, you can use an at-home alternative, like a couch armrest or table bench. And to make each of these exercises even more challenging, add some eccentric (slow lowering) reps, Carolina Araujo, New York-based certified personal trainer, tells LIVESTRONG.com. Or, pair them with a set of quick push-ups to really burn out your chest.
1. Unilateral Chest Press
- Begin lying down on a flat bench with a single dumbbell in your right hand at chest level.
- Hold your left arm out to your side.
- Root your heels into the ground and contract your abs. On an exhale and press the weight straight up over your chest, straightening your elbow.
- On an inhale, lower the weight back down to chest level.
- Make sure to do the same number of reps on each side.
Keep your feet planted in the ground the whole time, neck and back against the bench. You can make this exercise more challenging by setting your bench to a low incline, Araujo says.
2. Narrow Dumbbell Press
- Begin lying on a flat bench with your feet flat against the ground, head and neck against the bench.
- Hold one end of the dumbbell in each hand with your elbows at about a 45-degree angle from your ribs.
- On an inhale, lower the dumbbell to chest height.
- Exhale and press the dumbbell straight over your chest.
You can even perform this exercise with a low incline to get even more lower pectoral engagement, Araujo says.
3. Dumbbell Pullover
- Start lying on a flat bench with your feet planted on the floor, head and neck resting against the bench.
- Hold one end of the dumbbell in both hands straight above your chest.
- With an arcing motion, lower the dumbbell behind your head, allowing the free end of the weight to dip below the bench.
- On an exhale, reverse the motion and pull the dumbbell back over your chest.
You can make this exercise even harder by aligning your shoulder blades on the edge of the bench with the rest of your body hanging off, holding a bridge position with your lower body, Araujo says.
4. Dumbbell Press Out
- Start standing tall with your feet at hip-width apart, shoulders back. Hold a dumbbell with both hands at chest height, one end in each palm.
- On an exhale, press the dumbbell straight out, squeezing your palms inward into the weight.
- Inhale and reverse the motion, bringing the weight back to your chest.