Chest and Shoulder Workout for Muscle Growth [Dumbbells Only]

11 min read
a man is working out with dumbbells and listening to music in his headphones_Chest and Shoulder Workout
David J. Sautter post Reviewer
The article is verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, BA in Professional Writing

Try this chest and shoulder workout or build your own using best 8 exercises with dumbbells for a strong and massive upper body!

Table of Contents

Is your goal to build muscle in your chest and shoulders? If so, combining exercises that train the chest and shoulder muscles is an intelligent way to build muscle in your upper body. 

Knowing which muscle groups to combine into the same workout can deliver a superior training stimulus while saving time and fully leveraging resources.

In this article, we’ll focus on the best dumbbell and bodyweight exercises that target the chest and shoulder muscles. We’ll also provide you with chest and shoulder workout routines that you can use immediately! 

Why Work Out Chest And Shoulders on the Same Day?

Combining chest and shoulder exercises into the same workout is a time-tested method for making phenomenal gains quickly.

Many of the same muscles are used while performing pushing exercises. 

And if you’re someone who is usually too busy to work out every day, the time savings of training for chest and shoulders on the same day may be a game changer.

Here are some of the reasons why you would want to combine both chest and shoulder exercises into the same workout.

Hit All the Push Muscles

The chest and shoulders (as well as the triceps) are categorized as “push muscles” because they do the work when you move resistance away from the body horizontally or vertically. You are literally “pushing” the resistance away.

Without putting much thought into it, grouping chest and shoulder work together on the same day allows you to easily target most of the upper body’s major muscles.

Time Efficient

Training chest and shoulders together in the same workout can save a lot of time while maximizing the time spent in the gym.

A lot of exercises that train the chest muscles also work the shoulders. When life gets busy and the window of time left to train is small, simultaneously hitting both areas of the body can be a huge benefit.

Although it’s important to remember that given the size of these muscles, you should always focus on your chest first and perform secondary exercises for the shoulders.

Leverage Dumbbells for Everything

If you’re short on time and equipment, it’s wise to leverage one type of equipment for most of your workouts. With dumbbells, you can leverage this one piece of equipment and maximize the training effect of your workouts. 

Especially if you find yourself training at a public gym or you’ve elected to work out at home where equipment and resources are limited. 

Naturally, some of the best chest and shoulder exercises incorporate dumbbells, even if they do replace different equipment, such as the barbell.

Chest First, Shoulders Second

There isn’t necessarily a “wrong” way to combine chest and shoulder exercises in the same workout. With that said, it’s worth considering performing major chest movements first and ancillary shoulder exercises second. 

Since the chest is a larger muscle group, giving your best effort to those exercises first will target the most musculature while avoiding the shoulder pre-fatigue. This can also help if you have man boobs and you’re looking to get a leaner and more muscular chest.

After performing chest movements, use whatever you have left in the tank to attack your ancillary shoulder movements.

8 Exercises For Your Chest and Shoulder Workout Day

Knowing which exercises are best to build a strong chest and muscular shoulders is critical. While doing something is better than doing nothing, selecting exercises that accommodate the heavier weight and adequate time under tension (time spent moving weight in a work set) are critical to creating a significant training stimulus. 

Here is a list of the nine best exercises for your next chest and shoulders workout day.

Push-Ups

a man is performing Push-Ups_chest and shoulder workout

Push-ups are a classic, and they are still one of the greatest upper-body strengthening exercises a person can do.  

Also, push-ups are a resourceful exercise. You use your body weight, and they have many variations and different adjustments that can be made to challenge beginners and advanced trainees alike.

Technique

  • Starting in a high plank position, bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest to the floor.
  • Aim for a 2-to-4-second descent.
  • Pause for 1 second at the bottom, then push aggressively back to the top. 

Sets and Reps

  • 3 sets of Failure Reps (as many reps as you can but aim for no less than 8 reps)

Pro-tips

  • Grip the floor with your fingers and push through the heel of the hand.
  • Touch the chest to the floor on each rep, extend the elbow at the top.
  • If full push-ups are too difficult, modify them by working from the knees.

Dips

a man is performing Dips on the smith's machine_chest and shoulder workout

Dips are a vertical upper-body pressing exercise that delivers a potent training stimulus to the pectoralis minor, anterior deltoid, and triceps. This exercise activates the rhomboids, infraspinatus muscle, triceps, and other vital muscles surrounding your shoulder blades.

Technique

  • Place hands on parallel bars and straighten the arms while supporting body weight. 
  • Slowly bend the elbows and lower your body until the elbows reach 90 degrees. You can go slightly below 90 degrees but not too far.
  • Press back to the top until the elbows are straight. 

Sets and Reps

  • 3 sets of Failure Reps (as many reps as you can but aim for no less than 6 reps)

Pro-tips

  • Use an assisted dip machine station if needed. 
  • Dips are most effective when you move through a large range of motion.

Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

a man is doing Flat Dumbbell Bench Press_chest and shoulder workout

The flat bench press is one of the best chest-building pushing exercises, especially when your goal is strength and muscle mass. The functionality of the flat bench press gives it great carryover to sports and daily tasks. 

Technique

  • Lay down on a bench set to a neutral (flat) position.
  • Position the dumbbells over the chest with arms extended.
  • Slowly lower the weight down to the chest, near the armpits.
  • Pause at the bottom, but do not let the dumbbells rest on your chest.
  • Press back to the top position. 

Sets and Reps

  • 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

Pro-tips

  • Explore different hand positions (palms facing in, overhand grip, etc.)
  • Try a single-sided variation where you lower one side at a time. 
  • Slow the eccentric (lowering) phase of the lift to prolong time under tension and increase muscle gains. 

Dumbbell Chest Flys

a man is doing Dumbbell Chest Flys_chest and shoulder workout

Dumbbell chest flys target the pec musculature like few other exercises.  This exercise is simple to learn and has a clear progression path to ensure gains are made over time. 

Technique

  • Holding a pair of dumbbells, sit on a flat bench, then lay flat on your back.
  • Move the dumbbells directly over the chest with arms straight at the elbow.
  • Allow the dumbbells to move apart (and lower) as if you were opening up for a hug. 
  • When you feel a stretch in the center of the pecs, reverse the path of motion back to the top.

Sets and Reps

  • 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Pro-tips

  • Start with light weight to avoid strain injuries and excessive muscle soreness.
  • Slow down the lower tempo for max muscle gain. 

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press

a man is doing Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press_chest and shoulder workout

The dumbbell bench press offers is a traditional exercise that targets chest muscles. By alternating the repetitions, you’ll challenge your coordination and stability and add time to the work set.

Technique

  • Lie on a bench and move the dumbbells up to shoulder height. This is the start position of the exercise. 
  • Press both dumbbells overhead, careful to keep the dumbbells in line with the armpits.
  • Lift until the elbows are fully extended. 
  • Lower one dumbbell down slowly, stabilizing the other dumbbell. 
  • Press back to the top, and repeat on the opposite side in an alternating fashion.
  • Aim for 2-3 seconds on the descent. 

Sets and Reps

  • 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Pro-tips

  • Target you chest even more by adjusting the backrest of the bench to an inclined angle (45-degree angle).
  • Use lightweight to acclimate to the change of angle.
  • Keep your eyes focused on the dumbbell that’s overhead.
  • Lower down slowly to take advantage of the eccentric muscle-building phase. 

Front Deltoid Raises

a man is doing Front Deltoid Raises with dumbbells_chest and shoulder workout

Strengthening the anterior part of the deltoid can be done effectively by performing front deltoid raises. This exercise is simple and effective.

Technique

  • With dumbbells of the same weight in each hand, raise the arm to shoulder height straight out in front of the body, keeping the elbow only slightly bent. 
  • Pause briefly at the top, lower back down to the starting position.

Sets and Reps

  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Pro-tips

  • Use lightweight and control the reps.
  • Explore a neutral grip (palms inward) or overhand grip (palms facing down).
  • Lower the weight slowly back to the starting position.

Lateral Deltoid Raises

a man is performing Lateral Deltoid Raises with dumbbells_chest and shoulder workout

These are fantastic for strengthening the lateral head of the deltoid muscle. Lateral means moving away from the midline of the body out to the side.

Technique

  • In a sitting or standing position, back straight and eyes forward, lift the arms to the side of the body up to shoulder height.
  • Pause at shoulder height for a quick second. 
  • Resist the weight back to the start position.

Sets and Reps

  • 3 sets of 10-12 repetition

Pro-tips

  • Start with lightweight; it’ll feel heavy after a few reps. 
  • Emphasize the pause in motion at shoulder height.
  • Keep the palms facing down.

Rear Deltoid Raises

a man is doing Rear Deltoid Raises with dumbbells_chest and shoulder workout

It’s important to remember that the shoulder muscles on the posterior side of your body are critical to strengthen for performance and posture. The posterior deltoids can be trained effectively using a rear deltoid raise. 

This exercise activates the rhomboids, infraspinatus muscle, triceps, and other essential muscles surrounding your shoulder blades.

Technique 

  • Start in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and slight flex in the knees. 
  • Hinge the hips and lean forward until the chest faces the floor, chin tucked in. 
  • With straight arms, lift the weight up, trying to “squeeze” the shoulder blades together at the top. 
  • Lower slowly and with control. 

Sets and Reps

  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Pro-tips

  • Start with light weight.
  • Focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of the lift.
  • This lift can be performed equally well from a seated position. 

How to Avoid Injuries and Maximize Gains

There are several keys to avoiding injuries while lifting weights. 

Go Light (At First)

First, it is critical to start with lightweight and control every inch of the movement. Avoid compensating to satisfy the ego with heavier weights. Lifting light weight with many of the shoulder exercises listed in this article will humble you.

Move Through a Full ROM

Selecting a weight you can control, you can now perform the exercises through the most extensive range of motion possible. Solid muscle is best built by moving through a full range of motion during resistance training. 

Daily living often demands that we be able to move our bodies through unique ranges, and training for these scenarios has excellent benefits.

Build a Strong Mind-to-Muscle Connection

Finally, something to be said for giving full attention and focus while working out. In other words, stay in the moment and nowhere else when you’re exercising. 

Focus on moving as best you can, controlling every repetition. You’ll keep yourself safe by staying in the moment and not allowing your mind to wander.

Chest and Shoulders Workout Routines

Workout #1

Set 1 ExerciseSets x RepsRest PeriodWeight
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press3 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsHeavy
Chest Flys3 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsMedium
Lateral Deltoid Raises3 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsLight
Set 2 ExerciseSets x RepsRest PeriodWeight
Alternating Incline Dumbbell Bench Press3 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsHeavy
Bodyweight Push-Ups3 sets x Failure60 secondsBodyweight
Posterior (rear) Deltoid Raises3 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsLight

Workout #2

Set 1 ExerciseSets x RepsRest PeriodWeight
Dips5 sets x Failure60 secondsHeavy
Lateral Raises5 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsLight
Set 2 ExerciseSets x RepsRest PeriodWeight
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press5 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsHeavy
Posterior Deltoid Raises5 sets x 8-12 reps60 secondsLight

One of the best ways to make consistent progress is by following a workout planner app

Final Words

Working the chest and shoulders in the same workout is an excellent way to create a massive training stimulus, leading to incredible strength and muscle gains. 

A good chest and shoulder workout can:

  • Save time
  • Deliver a superior muscle stimulus
  • Boost strength 
  • Leverage equipment and resources

If you combine chest and shoulder work, include adequate rest between each training session. If you’re training hard, don’t be afraid to give yourself two days of rest to recover from the stress of the workout. Rest days are critical for muscles to repair themselves and grow bigger. 

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!



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