Ask The Trainer #151 – Dumbbells Only For Chest?

Ask The Trainer #151 - Dumbbells Only For Chest?


Alright Chad, I’m new to weightlifting and I’m in my 30s. I plan on doing a 3-day split. Chest triceps, back biceps, and so forth. The reason I’m messaging you is because I’m wondering if on Mondays I can train chest exclusively with bench dumbbell variations and still continue to make progress without stagnation? I’m too weak to do dips, so if I do dumbbell flys instead for my last 3 sets, will my triceps development suffer? Looking forward to hearing from you!



Hi Barry. I see no problem with a 3-day split, as long as the “so forth” you mentioned is legs and shoulders!

To answer your question regarding training your chest exclusively with dumbbells and still being able to make progress, my short answer to this is…YES! The key to stimulating muscle growth is engaging in progressive resistance. There are numerous forms of resistance that one might use; barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight, machine, cables, just to name a few.

Although there are inherent advantages and disadvantages with each form of resistance equipment, one thing is for certain: If you can increase the amount of resistance and the number of reps you’re doing from week to week, then you WILL see progress in the form of strength and muscle size increases.

Invest In Adjustable Dumbbells

If you’re limited to just 1 or 2 sets of dumbbells, then you may want to do what I did and invest in some dumbbell handles and collars that allow you to add weight plates up to and a little bit beyond your limit.

For example, I purchased some extended dumbbell handles online that can hold up to 7 10 lb. plates on each side of each. I haven’t had to completely load them up yet, but I’m only about 10 pounds away. That is 10 pounds per dumbbell. It can be a pain constantly interchanging the plates on the dumbbells as you go from exercise to exercise. But, if you train mostly at home like I do, it will save you a ton of money rather than purchase a half dozen or more sets of dumbbells.

Best Dumbbell Exercises For Chest

As far as dumbbell exercises you could do to obtain complete chest development, here are some great options: Flat Dumbbell Press (works central and outer chest), Incline Dumbbell Press (works upper chest), Decline Dumbbell Press (works lower chest), Lying Dumbbell Fly (works central and outer chest), Incline Dumbbell Fly (works upper chest), Dumbbell Pullover (works chest, lats, intercostals, and the serratus anterior muscles around the rib cage).

As long as you’re training your triceps effectively, I wouldn’t worry too much about not being able to perform dips just yet. If you were looking for an alternative to dips using dumbbells, you could perform flat dumbbell presses with your hands in a neutral position (palms facing inward). This would allow your triceps to work more as a secondary muscle, as opposed to the front deltoids, which are worked more when you do regular flat dumbbell presses.

Alternative Splits

If you feel like your triceps are becoming overly fatigued by training chest and triceps together, you may want to switch up your split and train biceps and triceps together. Then, then back and chest together.

This is the way I do it because anytime I’ve trained chest with triceps or back with biceps, I always feel like I’m being shortchanged on whatever muscle I train second. I never feel this way when I train opposing muscle groups together the way I typically do.

I wish you all the best of success in your health and fitness goals!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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