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This chest and tricep dumbbell workout will add mass to your pecs and tris

Build proportional pecs and tris with this dumbbell chest and tricep workout.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A weight lifter doing a chest and tricep dumbbell workout to build muscle mass

This simple yet intense chest and tricep dumbbell workout routine will put your pecs and tris through their paces by challenging them from numerous angles and with a variety of different rep ranges.

Unlike barbells, dumbbells allow for a deeper range of motion and a stronger muscle stretch, especially during compound presses. As such, this dumbbell chest and tris workout will naturally provide your body with a potent hypertrophic stimulus and a skin-skin splitting muscle pump.

Many lifters wonder whether they should train chest and triceps or chest and biceps together, but I think the answer is pretty simple. Since any kind of bench press already works your triceps to a high degree, you may as well train your triceps after your chest when your elbows are nicely warmed up.

See Our Other Chest and Tricep Workouts:

A full free weight chest and tricep dumbbell workout

Performing a chest and tricep workout with dumbbells is a great way to give your chest and triceps a stronger eccentric muscle stretch, which is the most important part of the rep for hypertrophy.

The reps increase as the workout progresses so that you can recruit a wide range of pec and tricep muscle fibers.

I've also utilized two same-muscle supersets to increase your pump and the amount of metabolic stress in your chest and triceps. Perform these exercises back to back and then rest for a minute before going again.

In general, you want to rest 2-4 minutes between sets of bench presses and around one minute between sets of isolation exercises. Alternatively, you can just rest until you feel sufficiently recovered.

Exercise 1: Flat dumbbell bench press — 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps

A man doing a flat dumbbell bench press

The flat dumbbell bench press is a great way to start this free weight chest and tricep workout because it's the ideal exercise for promoting both muscle gain and strength development. [1]

Since it's a multi-joint movement, the bench press is naturally suited to low rep lifting, which is ideal for training the many fast-twitch muscle fibers in your chest and triceps.

Yet, because it's a dumbbell exercise, the DB bench press is also effective for giving your chest that all-important growth-stimulating muscle stretch during the eccentric portion of the rep.

In terms of technique, you want to press the dumbbells up as explosively as you can and then lower them slowly so that you can avoid injury and give your chest and tris plenty of time under tension.

Exercise 2: Incline dumbbell press — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

A man doing an incline dumbbell press

Incline presses should be a staple of any good dumbbell chest and tricep workout because they train the upper chest, which is a commonly underdeveloped area of the upper body in natural lifters.

It also makes a great addition to any chest shoulders and triceps workout because it trains all three of your pushing muscles.

You'll be performing slightly higher reps during the incline press so that you can really feel the exercise in your upper chest rather than just in your shoulders. You want to bring the weights down as low as you comfortably can so that you really stretch the muscle fibers in your pecs to make them grow (the chest responds excellently to heavy, weighted stretches).

As for the incline setting, 30 degrees is a good place to start. While some lifters prefer a slightly higher angle—around 45 degrees—increasing the gradient means putting your shoulders in a stronger position, which could take tension off your upper chest.

Exercise 3A: Dumbbell chest fly — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

A man doing a dumbbell chest fly

Next, it's time to finish off your chest with dumbbell flys, another excellent exercise for giving your pecs a deep, growth-stimulating weighted stretch.

The key with dumbbell flys is to maintain the fly motion throughout the entire duration of the set. Since you'll naturally be lifting much lighter on flys than presses, you don't want to reduce the effectiveness of the exercise by lowering the weights in a fly motion and then pressing them back up with your shoulders and triceps.

Sure, you can lower the dumbbells in a fly-like motion and then press them back up, but that's a completely different exercise. You're doing flys in this scenario to give your triceps a break and to completely isolate your chest.

While I prefer flat flys for working the overall chest, you can do incline flys instead if your upper chest is lagging.

Exercise 3B: Wide-grip push-ups — 3-5 sets

A man doing wide grip push ups

To really pump up your pecs and ensure that no stubborn muscle fiber is left unrecruited, you'll be supersetting chest flys with wide-grip push-ups.

I didn't specify a rep range for push-ups because, as a bodyweight exercise, they're so strength dependent. Some people might only manage 10 wide-grip push-ups after flys, whereas others might be able to do 20 or more.

The number of reps isn't that important. What matters the most is that you're pushing your pecs to the limit to force them to grow.

Still, you might want to leave one rep in the tank on each set so that you don't burn out (or only train to failure on the final set).

Exercise 4: Lying tricep extension — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

A man doing a lying tricep extension with dumbbells

The lying DB extension is a great exercise to kick off the tricep portion of this dumbbell chest and triceps workout because it trains the long head of your triceps.

In case you weren't aware, the long head of the triceps is a crucially important muscle for building big arms because it's the largest muscle in your upper arms. As such, it has a ton of growth potential (much more than most people realize).

The catch is that in order to turn that potential muscle into slabs of triceps mass, you need to perform a tricep extension with your arms behind your head, which is to say, with your shoulders in flexion.

An overhead extension is one way to do this, but your triceps don't care whether you're standing up or lying down because working the long head is all about the shoulder position.

To get the most from the lying dumbbell extension and really stretch the long head, you want to lower the weights behind your head by allowing a liberal amount of backward shoulder movement during the eccentric position of the rep.

Exercise 5A: Tricep kickbacks — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

A man doing tricep kickbacks

Kickbacks make an excellent addition to any chest and triceps dumbbell workout because they force your triceps to contract as hard as they possibly can.

Kickbacks also put your shoulders in extension, which means that the exercise emphasizes the long head of your triceps since that's the only triceps muscle that crosses the shoulder joint.

Just be sure to lift really light on tricep kickbacks. The aim of the movement is to achieve the strongest possible peak contraction in your triceps. And if that means using the lightest dumbbells in the gym, then so be it.

Exercise 5B: Tricep dips — 3-5 sets

A man doing bench dips

As if your triceps weren't already pumped up enough from kickbacks, it's time for one final effort with tricep dips. I know that they're not a dumbbell exercise, but I included them anyway because you can do tricep dips just about anywhere. [2]

The key is to dip until your triceps really start to burn so that you can finish them off and target all of the remaining muscle fibers. You can train to failure if you want, but it will require a strong tolerance for burning triceps!

You can also check out our other tricep dumbbell workouts if you're looking for more ideas for your next workout.

A chest and tricep workout at home with dumbbells

A man performing a dumbbell chest and tricep workout at home

While you can definitely do the above chest and tricep dumbbell workout at home, I wanted to create a bench-free workout for people with minimal equipment.

I've programmed the exercises in a superset fashion to compensate for the fact that you won't be able to lift as heavy on the majority of these movements.

Perform the exercises back-to-back, rest for a minute, and then repeat.

1A: Floor press — 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps

1B: Wide grip push-ups — 3-5 sets of 15-30 reps

2A: Pullover — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

2B: Lying tricep extension — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

3A: Floor flys — 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps

3B: Dumbbell overhead extension — 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps

See Also: Back and tris workout

Conclusion: Should you do your next chest and tricep workout with dumbbells?

A man doing a chest and tricep workout with dumbbells

Performing a chest and tricep workout with dumbbells is a great way to build balanced triceps and proportional pecs because using dumbbells forces you to lift two independent weights.

Since all of these dumbbell chest and tricep exercises will make you stronger, they'll naturally have plenty of carryover to your barbell exercises as well.

Feel free to follow my dumbbell chest and tricep workout as is or modify it based on your needs and goals. For example, you can start with incline presses if your upper chest needs improvement.

Alternatively, you could do close grip bench presses if your arms are lagging behind your chest. The choice is yours.

References

  1. Harris-Fry, N. (2019, January 11). How To Do The Dumbbell Bench Press. Coachmaguk. https://www.coachmag.co.uk/chest-exercises/7391/how-to-do-the-dumbbell-bench-press
  2. Cooper, E. (2021, March 24). Tricep Dips: How to Get the Most from This Killer Arms Exercise. Men’s Health. https://www.menshealth.com/uk/building-muscle/a33643012/tricep-dips/
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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