Chest exercises: dumbbells and barbells

atleta che solleva manubri su panca piana

Do you want to strengthen your chest but don’t know which exercises are the best and especially the most effective ?

You can decide to use machines such as the pectoral machine but the undisputed queen has always been only one: the flat bench.

It is the fundamental exercise to train your pectorals. If you still have this exercise in your training plan, make up for it right away and you’ll see the difference.

Today you will have a complete guide on how to do bench presses and two variants of it to be able to alternate stimuli and give a touch of liveliness to your workouts.

You know, repeating the same exercises over and over again in the long run tires and demotivates even if you have a fire inside.

But first things first: why should you train your chest ?

Chest benefits: the benefits of training It

Let’s take a look at the various pros that you will get by constantly training your pectorals.


A first benefit certainly concerns the visual side. Men will get a wide and muscular chest while if you are a woman don’t worry, you won’t become more masculine, quite the contrary.

Training the pectorals is great for firming the body and being more defined.

You don’t have to go into muscle hypertrophy or become a bodybuilder – none of that. The benefit is to have a more harmonious, balanced and feminine body with less fat mass and more strength.

bare-chested man in gym on bench press before working out


The pectorals, along with the lats, lumbar and abdominals are essential for posture, they are in fact called postural muscles.

Training your chest will certainly bring you advantages in this area.

By strengthening your pectorals, you will assume a more suitable position throughout the day to disperse less energy in any position: both stationary and moving. It will lead you to maintain a correct posture, avoiding pain that can worsen your daily life in the long run.

Consider that we work our postural muscles without interruption for about sixteen hours a day. They only rest when we go to sleep.

Training them is essential to avoid imbalances in the skeletal structure.

Then there’s the question of balance…


First of all aesthetic balance. Our body is one so we can’t train our legs a lot and leave out our chest, for example.

There are areas that we want to train more, of course, it’s natural. For women, for example, it will be the buttocks, while for men it will be the biceps. But that doesn’t mean we just have to strengthen those muscles and forget about all the others.

The training aims to create a harmonious, balanced and toned body. For this reason, it is necessary to have exercises that train completely, without leaving some muscle on the way.

But let’s also talk about muscle balance. Having one part of the body more trained than the other compromises the balance of the body which due to these imbalances could adapt in ways that we would not want.

Train comprehensively and avoid significant and annoying imbalances. In the end, you train for your well-being. 


Always working out and stretching before and after exercise is one of the best ways to become more flexible.

Whether it’s to do everyday chores but also to be able to touch the tips of your toes with your hands or reach that box a little hidden in the closet… flexibility pays off and helps.

If your muscles are more elastic, you will also have the advantage of protecting your joints and lowering the risk of injury, cramps or tears.

Lose weight

To lose weight, you need to increase your calorie consumption and eat a balanced diet at the same time. Training your body certainly leads to the first step.

Exercise, burn calories and get the body you’ve always wanted.

That’s why you started working out.

Bench press exercise with barbells

Now let’s take a look at the fundamental exercise to train your pectorals: bench presses with barbells.

You should not underestimate them, on the contrary, they are included as training in many disciplines: they are one of the key exercises of powerlifting, they are used in weightlifting and fitness and are becoming an integral part of athletic training in various sports.

They are an essential movement to learn, but what muscles are used ?

Muscles involved

Stretches are a multi-joint exercise that puts more muscle under stress.

The target muscle of this exercise is certainly the pectoralis major. The wider your grip is, the more active your chest will be. Conversely, if you keep a tight grip you will have a greater focus on the triceps.

However, be careful not to keep the grip too wide, we’ll explain how later.

We have already anticipated a second muscle involved: the triceps.

And finally we have the anterior deltoid which becomes dominant in the final phase of the lift. In this case, the inclination is the determining factor, not the grip: the more inclined the bench is, the sooner the effort will pass from the pectoral to the shoulders.

How it works

Start by lying on your back on the bench and activating the scapular set-up. It is a very particular position of the shoulders and shoulder blades that allows you to carry out the exercise without taking risks, therefore, it is essential that you learn it.

In a nutshell, you have to keep your shoulders away from your ears and bring your shoulder blades into adduction, creating a more or less accentuated chest arch depending on your flexibility.

Take all the time you need to perform the scapular set-up correctly and avoid injuries.

Remember to lie down with your eyes under the barbell.

If you are further back, it will be more difficult to detach, while if you position yourself too far forward, you will risk hitting the supports while performing.

Then hold the barbell with a distance between the index fingers of no more than 81 cm. If you have an Olympic barbell you’ll see markings – here’s where you need to grab the barbell. With a wider grip you risk getting hurt and injured.

The feet must be firmly planted on the ground with the legs bent at least 90°.

At this point, slowly detach the barbell from the rack without losing set-up and bring it on top of you. The weight should not be borne by the muscles of the arms but unloaded on the back of the bench.

Inhale and bring the barbell up to your chest at approximately the level of your sternum.

Barbell bench with weights

Wait a second and then push until you return to the starting position.

As you can see, barbell presses seem like a very simple exercise, but you have to use the right technique.

We recommend that you simply start with the barbell without a load to learn how to perform the movement in the correct way.

Once you’ve mastered it and made it your own, then you can move on to weighted barbells.

Tips and mistakes to avoid

A first mistake to avoid is to raise your butt when you are in the pushing phase. If it happens, it means that you are loading too much and can’t handle the weight and therefore pushing excessively with your feet.

If, on the other hand you can’t get to your chest it means that you need to improve your scapular set-up. If you don’t reach your pectorals you won’t fully engage them and the exercise will be much less effective.

The third mistake is the bounce.

Simply put, once you lower the load you use the chest bounce to lift it. The problem is the same as before: you don’t make the most of your pecs and therefore you don’t train them optimally.

How do you fix it ?

In all three of these cases, there is only one solution: lower the load and learn to manage the weights as you go before increasing them.

What if I don’t have a barbell? You can do it with dumbbells.

Dumbbell bench press

The starting position is the same: lying on the bench with your feet flat on the ground and the correct scapular set-up. Bring the dumbbells to your chest and you’re ready to go.

Push the weights up by extending your arms, wait a second, and then slowly bring them back to your chest.

As you can see, these are two similar exercises, but let’s see the differences.

Dumbbells can be uncomfortable for high-intensity workouts and dangerous for your shoulder joints if you don’t have a good spotter, due to the difficulty of loading in the starting position.

While you simply have to detach the barbell from the rack, you have to grab the dumbbells before leaning on the bench if you are performing the exercise alone.

It’s more complicated.

With dumbbells however you will train the stabilizing capacity and develop precise beams that are not used in the other case.

On the other hand, the barbell is the perfect exercise if you are looking for maximal pectoralis major strength. It is the tool that activates your pectorals the most.

If you want to give even more variety to your workouts, you can also try…

Narrow bench exercise: comparison

Barbell presses on a narrow bench press are considered a variant of the flat bench, but what are the differences ?

The two exercises are very similar and the execution is the same. The main aspect that changes is the muscles involved.

By using the narrow bench press you will have a greater focus on the triceps because you will be able to create a wider flexion of the elbow in the loading phase, bringing more work on this muscle group.

We recommend that you talk to your personal trainer and alternate the two exercises to get different stimuli and change the angle of work on the same muscles.


Today we have comprehensively seen all the benefits of chest training, both for men and women, and how to do it as effectively as possible thanks to bench presses with barbells.

Then we talked about two alternatives: dumbbell presses and narrow bench presses.

We recommend reading this article if you want to find out what other equipment needs to be part of your home gym to fully train.

Remember to start with barbells with light weights and then gradually increase the weight, being careful to always manage it in the best possible way.

That’s all for today, we wish you a good workout!



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