Over the years, I've experimented with exercises, tried time-saving routines, and taken on month-long challenges. But I've never chosen to do a dedicated chest workout, so I decided it was time to change that.
I tend to prioritize developing core strength using the best workouts for abs or picking up a kettlebell for a quick round of high-intensity training. My main aim is efficiency to stay active even between work, dog walks, and social events.
But I realized it didn't make sense to train my arms, core, and lower body but mostly ignore my chest. Aside from the aesthetics, a more muscular chest can improve your posture and build upper body strength more generally.
As I was thinking about this, I came across a 10-minute dumbbell chest workout from popular YouTube trainer Chris Heria. His routines focus on efficiently building practical muscle, so it seemed ideal for me.
James is an experienced fitness writer always on the lookout for accessible at-home workouts. He invested in a set of dumbbells in 2020 and hasn't returned to the gym since. Despite the focus on muscle-building workouts, his personal aim is to develop functional muscle and strengthen his core.
Watch Chris Heria's 10-minute dumbbell chest workout
All you need is a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, as Heria switches between heavier and lighter weights during the quick routine. He uses a gym bench, but I don't have one of those, so I lay down on a kitchen bench instead.
It was a short workout, and I'm used to training with weights, so I thought this wouldn't be too much of a challenge. But I was surprised to find that it was impressively effective for a 10-minute workout. Here's what I learned.
1. Chest workouts train your whole upper body
I had this idea that training your chest only helps build your pectoral muscles, often called your pecs. However, Heria guides you through some of the top chest workouts at home, which work multiple muscles simultaneously. These are known as compound moves and are an efficient way to build muscle.
The routine starts with 40 seconds of dumbbell bench presses, and also includes twisting bench presses (these were actually quite fun) and close-grip presses. You'll also do a set of dumbbell flyes, which train your chest and biceps, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine.
Although most of the exercises involve weights, two push-up variations help train your shoulders, upper arms, and chest. It's easy to overlook bodyweight moves, but they play an essential role in developing practical muscle, and, as you don't need any equipment, you can fit them into whenever you have a spare moment.
2. You can fit a lot into just 10 minutes
I always look for ways to integrate exercise into my day, which is why I walk for 90 minutes every morning. A quick 10-minute workout fits the bill, but I was worried about how much you could achieve in such a short space of time. It turns out quite a lot. The main aim is to train intensely for 40 seconds, take a 20-second break, then move on to the next exercise.
According to Heria, "what makes this workout routine so effective is this specific combination of free weight and calisthenics (bodyweight) exercises with minimal rest, instead of doing them for repetitions." And he was right! I work out with dumbbells most days, but I was really feeling the burn in my muscles even after the second move.
This workout style is known as High-Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT), which is similar to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but the focus is on building muscle and developing strength. It's effective, too, as a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that it improved muscle strength, endurance, and lean body mass.
3. Short workouts can still make you sore
If you go on a long run, spend hours at the gym, or return to exercise after a break, you expect some muscle pain the next day. When you work your muscles, it creates tiny tears in the fibers, which causes delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). But I mainly associate that with long, heavy training.
I should have listened to Heria's introduction more carefully as he does say that "there are days when I bench heavy in the gym, and I don't even feel as sore as I do after this workout." Still, when I woke up the next day, I was surprised that my chest felt tight and sore. I even spent a lot of the day at my desk tensing and stretching out my muscles.
I also didn't realize how much I'd notice soreness in my chest, as I thought these muscles don't get involved with typing on a keyboard. But I found myself longing for some time with a foam roller so that I could quickly massage the muscles and reduce the soreness.
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James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.
In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.
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