The primary muscles of the chest are the pectorals, which make up about one-fifth of that part of the body. Developing chest muscles will improve shoulder movement and posture, important for both men and women. Women sometimes worry that chest exercises will affect the breasts, but the pectoral muscles are underneath the breast tissue and developing them can enhance the breasts. You can build chest muscles with simple exercises using 5-pound dumbbells two or three times a week.
The basic chest exercise is the press, done lying on your back, standing up or seated on a bench. Hold the dumbbells at your shoulders and press them upward. Lie on a bench with the back flat for bench presses, but vary the routine by setting the bench back at a 45-degree incline. For seated presses, sit on a bench with your feet on the floor and start with the dumbbells above your shoulders.
Raises are another dumbbell chest exercise that can be done standing or while seated or lying on a bench. Hold the dumbbells at your sides while standing and raise your arms to the side until the dumbbells are shoulder height. Lift the weights in front of you for front raises. Vary this by bending at the waist, either while standing or seated on a bench, and lifting the dumbbells to the side. You also can do raises with the bench set at an incline.
The dumbbell flye is done lying on your back, on the floor or a weight bench. You hold the dumbbells above your chest with your arms slightly bent. Lower them to each side, keeping your elbows bent, until you can feel the chest muscles slightly stretched, about when your arms are parallel to the floor. Raise them back together in a sort of hugging motion.
The pullover is another bench dumbbell exercise for the chest. Lie on your back perpendicular to the bench with your shoulders on the bench and your feet on the floor, your body parallel to the floor. Hold a single dumbbell in both hands above your chest with your arms slightly bent. Lower the dumbbell above and beyond your head until your upper arms line up with your torso, then lift the weight back up.
- Exercise Prescription: Dumbbell Bench Press
- Exercise Prescription: Dumbbell Fly
- Exercise Prescription: Dumbbell Incline Shoulder Raise
- American Council on Exercise: Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- American Council on Exercise: Seated Dumbbell Press
- Brian Mac: Dumbbell Exercises
- Exercise Prescription: Dumbbell Pullover
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.