Okay, so you’re on a mission to learn how to get a big chest.
You probably think you should hit it heavy with the key compound moves:
- Bench Press
- Incline Press
- Dumbbell Press
These are on your radar, right? (HINT: They Aren’t What You Think!)
Well, what if I told you that you may be misled? That the real secret for how to get a big chest was not actually lifting the heaviest dumbbell you could find? The real secret is actually a process of activation before overload.
This is an often overlooked strategy but is extremely powerful for building muscle stronger, larger, and more dense. While there’s no getting around the fact that heavy sets are beneficial, most guys will reach a sticking point. You can only keep getting stronger for so long and eventually, you need to do something else.
At that point, this becomes extremely beneficial. So let’s chat what this is and show you the best dumbbell chest workout you’ll ever do.
The Concept Of Activation Before Overload
So what is activation before overload? Essentially it’s a method of pre-fatiguing the muscle before you apply the overloading stimulus.
Why do this?
When you do finally get to your final exercise where you are applying the progressive overload, you’re already in a state of being quite tired. This means you won’t lift as much heavy weight, but you will still receive the same benefits like you did.
Your muscles are working just as hard as they always would have – if not harder, and this allows you to make great strength gains when you may be in a progress plateau.
In addition to this, it also helps prevent injury. If you’re a regular heavy lifter, chances are, you’re no stranger to joint and tendon pain due to all those plates you’re stacking on the bar. Lightening up a bit will give your joints and soft tissues a chance to heal and recover, preventing those long-term nagging injuries that never seem to let up. This is a fantastic way to train for injury prevention.
The second reason why this process is so beneficial is because it’ll also train your body to push hard during a state of fatigue. When you’re feeling fresh, both physically and mentally, it’s easy to push out the heavy reps. But when you have an underlying sense of fatigue, things become far more challenging.
By training in this manner, you’ll develop a degree of muscle toughness that will then transfer over to other exercises you do, both now and down the road.
Finally, the third reason why you focus on this method of chest training is to help develop a better degree of mind muscle connection. The process of activation is all about knowing which muscles you’re working and doing everything you can to target those muscles. You aren’t trying to just push a max load, but rather, challenge a particular set of muscles.
Many aren’t really focusing on any particular muscle as they train and as such, muscles other than the ones they’re targeting are unfortunately taking over, providing less than optimal training progress.
By learning how to do this properly through this training, you can then apply those concepts to other training you do down the road.
Let’s get to your dumbbell chest workout.
The ‘Bigger Chest’ Workout
This workout is only going to last around 7 minutes or so to complete, but it will be one of the most intense seven minutes of your life. Consider it a 9/10 on the intensity scale and make sure that you push hard enough that you achieve this intensity.
If you really want to see how to get a big chest, you need to go to the limit.
Dumbbell Chest Flex
The first exercise will be the dumbbell chest flex. This should be done for two sets and you should utilize 45 seconds of rest between each set.
You’ll primarily be focusing on upper chest activation on this exercise, so think of squeezing that muscle hard as your raise the dumbbells up towards the ceiling.
This exercise should be done in a slow and controlled manner, so as to avoid momentum from carrying you through the exercise.
You won’t count reps here, but instead, use a time under tension concept. Try and perform as many sets as you can in 30 seconds if you’re an intermediate or 45 seconds if you consider yourself advanced.
Dumbbell Fly Into Hex Press On The Ground
Now we’re doing a joint exercise combining two movements in one. By doing this exercise on the ground, you’ll limit your range of motion to help save your shoulder joints. Many guys go too far down, placing undue stress on the tendons and ligaments.
Do your dumbbell fly, focusing on activating the inner chest muscles and then with the palms facing each other, press the dumbbells down to the chest and directly back up again.
As you press up, you want to really think of driving the weight upwards by squeezing the chest muscles together. Don’t think of pressing through the arms, think of pressing through that chest.
You’ll do two sets of this exercise, resting 75 seconds between each set and doing 8-10 reps per exercise. You can alternate each exercise as you go. So do one fly followed by one hex press followed by one fly, and so on.
As you do this, remember to never lock out the elbows at the top of the move as this can also lead to additional joint pain.
Dumbbell Around The World
If you want to learn how to get a big chest, this is one of the best must-do moves to get into a dumbbell chest workout. Dumbbell around the world are going to work the chest muscle from all angles, something that many miss out on in their workout sessions.
Because you are working the shoulder joint through the entire range of motion here in a circular motion, you’ll be using lighter weights. Leave your ego at the door, guys.
Don’t be ashamed if you’re only using 10 lb. dumbbells for this one. That’s normal and natural.
You’ll do two sets of this exercise, taking 45 seconds of rest between each set and aiming to do it for a total of 45 seconds under tension.
This exercise will gain you a feeling of activation like you probably haven’t felt before, so prepare for that. It’s not your typical exercise and you’ll pick up on this right away. When you push through it though and feel those muscles working, you’ll get a great burn and the soreness you get the next day will help you know that your db only chest workout is working.
Incline Isolation Into Slow Motion Superset
Now we move onto an incline isolation press with a slow motion superset. This exercise is great because it’ll work each arm on its own, allowing you to divert your entire focus to that arm only. Then you combine this with a slow motion superset to really add more time under tension, which will make your chest muscles explode as you see the best pump of your life.
You’ll also get extra training gains here because you’re working every single muscle fiber deep within the chest as the superset pushes you to your limits.
You’ll perform two sets total, resting for 75 seconds between sets. You are to do 8-10 reps for each exercise. So do 8-10 reps on the right arm, pressing it up, and then 8-10 reps for the second arm, pressing it up. Once that’s finished, you’ll do a standard dumbbell press but using a slower tempo than normal. Take two seconds to lower the weight and 2-4 seconds to raise back up. Slow and controlled is the name of your game here.
Incline Inner Chest Press
The incline inner chest press is excellent for ramping up activation on that inner and upper chest thanks to being on an incline and the position of the hands and dumbbells. Hold those weights close together and press that weight up slowly and in a controlled manner.
Aim for two sets with 45 seconds rest in between and keep a total time under tension of around 30 or 45 seconds depending on your skill level.
No dumbbell chest workout would be complete without a pull over. For this exercise, you’ll do a drop set, doing a pullover to the point of mid-chest level and then doing a set of pull-overs where you stop just past the head. This is what will help to really activate the upper chest, allowing for that micro focus on the muscle fibers.
Aim for 8-10 reps total of each range of motion, doing two sets and taking 75 seconds of rest between each set.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Finally, the last step in the equation of how to get a bigger chest is to add your overload exercise. For this, we’ll be doing the dumbbell bench press. Your mission here is to lift heavy and apply overload. Note you will be weaker than normal, so don’t be surprised to see that weight drop.
This is normal. As long as you are pushing yourself hard, that’s all that matters.
Aim for 6-10 reps and 3-4 sets of this exercise, resting around 90 seconds between sets to allow for full recovery.
This is the final exercise, so it’s time to give it all you’ve got.
So there you have your complete dumbbell only chest workout. Hopefully this now has you thinking of exactly how you can dominate your own chest workouts and see faster and better results without doing the ‘traditional route’ of just adding more weight to the bar.
Break away from the norm and you might just find you see better results because of it.
Hungry for more?
Check out Alphalion.com where I give you an entire workout program using this balloon method of training for every muscle group. Prepare your body for the challenge!
I’m Troy and I’m the creator of SuperHuman You and Co-Founder of Alpha Lion.
I created SuperHuman You to give you access to the most cutting edge information so you can reach your body goals as fast as humanly possible.
I’ve been obsessed with training since 2005 when I attended IMG Academy and got to train alongside NBA, NFL and Olympic Gold Medal winning athletes.
Now I’m on a mission to transform as many lives as possible and I’m so excited you found us!
I’ve been fortunate enough to train alongside and pick the brain of some of the best pro athletes, bodybuilders and trainers in the world – and this site represents over 15+ years of insights from the world’s best.
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