To build a robust, resilient physique, you need to focus on far more than just your beach-ready ‘mirror muscles’. But while everything from mobility to stabiliser strength is fundamental, sometimes a good old-fashioned pec pump is exactly what’s called for.

You’ll be familiar with most of the exercises in this workout – not least because some of the dumbbell moves are mentioned in our guide to the best dumbbell exercises – but tried and tested is no bad thing.

For the main body of the session, you’re going to hit your pecs from every angle, starting with the heavier stuff while you’re feeling fresh, then progressing to the lighter isolation work.

Once your chest is fully inflated and you’re feeling like prime Schwarzenegger, you’re then going to tag on a bit of functional core work.

Essential for every facet of fitness, a stable midsection also protects against injury, improves posture, and will keep your now-DD pecs from knocking you off balance.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

1. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

Reps: 8-10
Rest: 60-90 secs
Sets: 4

  • Set the bench to a 45-degree incline.
  • Pick the dumbbells up off the floor and sit on the seat of the bench.
  • Kick your knees up as you lean back onto the bench – using the momentum from your kick to bring the dumbbells to the sides of your chest.
  • Tense your glutes and core, then powerfully press the weights towards the ceiling, stopping when the dumbbells are an inch or so away from each other.
  • Lower with control – all the way down until the dumbbells are at chest height – then repeat.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

2. DB Flye

Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60-90 secs
Sets: 3-4

  • Lie back on the bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms straight and palms facing.
  • With your chest up and a slight bend in your elbows, lower the weights out to the sides until you feel a good stretch across your pecs.
  • Reverse the movement, focusing on moving the weights with your pecs, until your arms are extended.
  • Stop the weights just before they touch and squeeze your pecs for a count of one – you should really feel it in your inner chest.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

3a. DB Pull-Over

Reps: 8-10
Rest: Straight into 3b

  • Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Holding a dumbbell over your chest, keep your arms long and begin to lower the weight over your head towards the floor.
  • Pause when you feel a good stretch through your pecs and upper back, then squeeze your lats to bring the dumbbell back to the start.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

3b. Weight Plate Pinch Raise

Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60 secs, then repeat 3a
Sets: 3

  • Stand holding a pair of light weight plates (2.5kg should do) together at chest height.
  • Not got plates? Hold a dumbbell end over end instead – pressing it hard between your hands.
  • Keeping the plates pressed firmly together, slowly extend your arms straight out and slightly up until your elbows are completely locked out.
  • The aim of the game here is to go slow and purposeful – you’re using light weights, so need to make the contraction count.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

4. Spiderman Press-Up

Reps: To failure
Rest: 60 secs
Sets: 3

  • From a press-up position with your feet shoulder-width apart, begin to lower yourself to the ground, while simultaneously bringing one knee up and out to the side.
  • Keeping tension throughout, try to connect your knee with your elbow at the bottom of the press-up.
  • Return that leg as you drive yourself back up to the start position.
  • That’s one rep. Now go again with the other leg.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

5a. Side Plank Reach

Reps: 15
Rest: Straight into 5b

  • Start in the side plank position with your core engaged.
  • Raise your right hand, then twist your torso so your right hand and head are pointed to the ceiling.
  • Twist back down and around so your hand goes under and across your chest.
  • Return to the start.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

5b. Dumbbell Crunch Reach

Reps: 15
Rest: 60-90 secs, then repeat 5a
Sets: 3

  • Lie flat on the floor, with knees bent and a dumbbell held in your hands.
  • Straighten your arms, holding the dumbbell overhead.
  • Keep your lower back flush to the floor throughout.
  • Now engage your core and use your abs to crunch up, keeping the weight in a fixed position overhead.
  • Reach as high in the air as you can, hold for one second at the highest point, then slowly lower back to the start.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

6a. V Sit-Up

Reps: 15
Rest: Straight into 6b

  • Lie flat on the ground.
  • Raise your legs as high as you can, keeping them straight and together, and lift your torso up towards your thighs so you form a V-shape.
  • Keep your back straight and try to keep your movements smooth and controlled – avoid jerking.
  • You can keep your hands on the floor, or bring them up to meet your feet.
  • Slowly lower back to the ground.

Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK Muscle Building Dumbbell Chest & Core Workout | Men's Fitness UK

6b. Extended Plank

Reps: 15
Rest: 60-90 secs, then repeat 6a
Sets: 3

  • Assume a press-up/straight-arm plank position –  your body should form one straight line from your head to your heels, with no lifting or sagging at the waist and no rounding through the back.
  • Squeeze your entire core, your glutes and your quads, and tuck your backside under a little to keep your lower back in good alignment.
  • Maintaining this position, and keeping torso movement to an absolute minimum, ‘step’ both hands further out.
  • Hold for one second, then step back to the start. That’s 1 rep.

Photography: Eddie Macdonald  |  Model: Harry Sellers