The 12 Best Chest Exercises for Bigger, Stronger Pecs

Table of Contents

Chest coaching is a spotlight in most lifters’ routines. It’s both the day they get to throw round massive weight on the bench or the day they get a wonderful pump with instant (nonetheless non permanent) outcomes.

Train alternative can dramatically affect total outcomes, particularly on the subject of coaching the chest. Between myths about “concentrating on” totally different elements of the chest, coaching too heavy, or over-stressing shoulder and elbow joints greater than pectoral muscular tissues, many lifters are fortunate to finish up with a well-designed program. Nevertheless, luck has a manner of evaporating once you lean on it too usually. Beneath, we checklist 12 of the very best chest workouts to construct your chest program round.

Finest Chest Workout routines

Flat Barbell Bench Press

For those who’re studying an inventory of the “greatest chest workouts” and don’t see the basic bench press, your intuition could be to shut the web page and transfer on. This founding member of the large three powerlifts can also be a time-tested bodybuilding staple.

The flexibility of the bench press, which makes it well-suited to building strength in addition to muscle dimension, makes it a key participant in lots of chest-building exercises. Very minor approach changes can shift the emphasis in direction of dimension or energy, so it’s vital to know the way and why you’re performing the train to get most outcomes.

Easy methods to Do the Flat Barbell Bench Press

Lie on a bench together with your toes flat on the bottom. Your glutes and shoulders ought to by no means depart the bench throughout the train. Preserve a slight arch in your decrease again. For optimum recruitment of the pec (chest) muscular tissues, seize the bar with an overhand grip barely wider than shoulder-width. A more in-depth grip de-emphasizes the pecs and as a substitute prioritizes the triceps. (1)

Along with your elbows barely bent, pinch your shoulder blades collectively whereas staying on the bench. Straighten your arms to unrack the barbell and “pull” the burden from over your face to above your higher chest. Decrease the bar to mid-chest stage whereas aiming your elbows at an angle between your toes and shoulders. Briefly pause within the backside place earlier than urgent up. Within the locked out place, the bar needs to be above your higher chest or neck.

Advantages of the Flat Barbell Bench Press

  • It trains the chest by way of an entire vary of movement, with help from the shoulders and triceps, making it an environment friendly higher physique train.
  • It’s sport-specific for aggressive powerlifters and has carryover to any athletes (particularly these in touch sports activities) who can profit from higher physique urgent energy.
  • You possibly can load the barbell with a big quantity of weight relative to different chest workouts, making it appropriate for very long-term progress.

Guillotine Press

The intimidating-sounding guillotine press (typically referred to as a “neck press”) was popularized by bodybuilding coach Vince Gironda within the Sixties. It applies particular approach changes to the usual flat barbell bench press to put much more muscular stress on the pecs.

This elevated muscular stress means much less weight can ship extra outcomes. In truth, the guillotine shouldn’t be carried out with heavy weight, since it might result in extreme joint pressure. It may be a wonderful addition to a chest-building exercise, however lifters with pre-existing shoulder points might have hassle performing the train correctly.

Easy methods to Do the Guillotine Press

Lie on a flat bench together with your toes flat on the bottom. Preserve your glutes and shoulders touching the bench. Flex your abs to flatten your decrease again into the bench. Seize the bar with an overhand grip, practically as vast as potential. Unrack the bar by urgent upwards, and pull the bar to a place above your neck.

As you decrease the bar, maintain your elbows pointed straight out to every aspect. It will drastically enhance the stretch on the chest muscular tissues. Preserve the bar in step with your neck as you decrease it so far as potential. Press upwards instantly after reaching most stretch.

Advantages of the Guillotine Press

  • Targets the chest with out the necessity for comparatively extreme weight, lowering put on and tear on the joints.
  • Emphasizes the chest whereas minimizing recruitment of the triceps and shoulders.

Barbell Pullover

The barbell pullover is without doubt one of the oldest workouts a lifter can do, with weightlifters within the late-1800s advocating the train. It’s additionally one of the crucial complicated workouts. Not often do lifters argue over which muscular tissues are educated by a selected train, as a result of there’s virtually all the time a clear-cut reply, however the pullover is consistently on the middle of an ongoing “chest train or back exercise” debate.

The pullover really works each the chest and lats (again muscle) on the identical time, however many research, together with many anecdotal stories from lifters over the many years, assist the pullover as a really efficient chest train. (2)(3) In case your lats “take over” throughout the train and you can’t really feel your pecs working, carry out the train on the finish of your chest exercise when the pecs are pre-fatigued. (4)

Easy methods to Do the Barbell Pullover

Maintain a small barbell with an overhand grip barely nearer than shoulder-width. Sit on a bench and relaxation the bar throughout your legs. As you lie flat onto the bench, “kick” the burden right into a place over your face and straighten your arms. Plant your toes securely on the bottom.

Preserve your glutes on the bench. Decrease the burden in direction of your head, descending practically in step with the bench in case your shoulder mobility permits. Pause very briefly within the stretched place earlier than pulling again to the beginning place. Preserve a barely bent elbow place throughout every rep and don’t actively bend on the elbows to decrease the burden.

Advantages of the Barbell Pullover

  • Targets the chest, lats, and shoulder muscular tissues.
  • Emphasizes the chest with restricted triceps recruitment.
  • The pullover is an efficient stretch for the lats, in addition to the shoulders, and may enhance shoulder mobility over time.

Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Chest coaching usually incorporates a wide range of angles to optimally deal with each the “higher chest” (clavicular head of the pecs) and the “mid or decrease chest” (sternocostal head of the pecs). These totally different elements of the chest muscle shall be extra completely addressed in a later part.

Inclined chest workouts will goal the higher pecs. Nevertheless, a comparatively low angle is right as a result of an excessively inclined angle (extra vertical than horizontal) will cut back chest activation and enhance shoulder activation. (5) Dumbbells enable a deeper stretched place and/or extra vary of movement at lockout, in comparison with a barbell.

Easy methods to Do the Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Set an adjustable bench to a low incline — the second gap on an adjustable bench or place two bumper plates beneath one finish of a flat bench. Seize a pair of dumbbells and sit on the bench with the weights resting in your legs. Lie again onto the bench whereas “kicking” the weights right into a straight-arm locked out place above your chest.

Angle your palms barely in direction of your toes by rotating your wrists outwards. Neither your palms nor your thumbs needs to be straight pointed in direction of one another. Preserve this hand place all through every rep. Decrease the weights beneath management, reaching a stretched place with the weights close to your chest. Press upwards, bringing the weights shut collectively within the high place.

Advantages of the Low Incline Dumbbell Press

  • The incline angle optimizes higher chest recruitment with out extreme shoulder activation.
  • Train selection (incorporating angles and totally different implements) has been proven to enhance coaching outcomes. (6)
  • Dumbbells enable extra freedom for the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joint in comparison with a barbell, making the train much less annoying to the joints.

Decline Dumbbell Press

Decline bench press variations are sometimes believed to emphasise the “decrease pecs” as a consequence of arm place. Nevertheless, the “decrease pecs” aren’t one separate muscle, they’re solely a part of the bigger pectoral (chest) muscle.

A decline angle has been proven to activate the chest comparably to the flat bench press, whereas recruiting much less shoulder muscle, so decline urgent is a wonderful possibility for lifters with shoulder ache (7) Utilizing dumbbells as a substitute of a barbell additionally permits a larger vary of movement which may translate to a larger muscle-building stimulus.

Easy methods to Do the Decline Dumbbell Press

Modify a flat bench to raise your hips above your head. Take a pair of dumbbells and sit on the bench with the weights resting in your legs. Lie again onto the bench whereas “pulling” the weights right into a straight-arm locked out place above your chest. You should definitely hook the bench with the again of your knees to forestall your physique from sliding downwards.

Angle your palms barely in direction of your toes by rotating your wrists outwards. Preserve this diagonal hand place for every rep. Your elbows ought to preserve a slight angle between your shoulders and toes. Pause briefly within the stretched place earlier than urgent to the place to begin. On the final rep of any set, decrease the weights into the stretched place and carry out a “curl” by bending on the elbows to decrease them to the ground earlier than getting up from the bench.

Advantages of the Decline Dumbbell Press

  • Dumbbells cut back joint pressure by permitting extra individualized motion of the wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
  • The decline angle trains the chest with restricted shoulder stress.

Decline Dumbbell Flye

The dumbbell flye is an efficient isolation (single-joint) train to activate solely the chest muscle with minimized involvement of the shoulders and triceps, in comparison with compound (multi-joint) bench press variations which recruit all three muscular tissues. This makes it a wonderful addition to any exercise targeted particularly on coaching the chest.

 

The decline place takes benefit of gravity within the locked out place for elevated muscular pressure. On a flat bench, the weights provide restricted resistance on the high. With a decline bench, the muscular tissues are extra extremely activated to assist the load.

Easy methods to Do the Decline Dumbbell Flye

Set an adjustable bench to a slight decline angle. Take a pair of dumbbells and sit on the bench with the weights resting in your legs. Lie again onto the bench whereas “pulling” the weights right into a straight-arm locked out place above your chest. You should definitely hook the bench with the again of your knees to forestall your physique from sliding downwards.

Preserve a slight bend in your elbows all through the train. Start together with your palms going through one another. Decrease the weights in direction of the bottom whereas conserving your palms in step with your elbows. Don’t enable the weights to rotate your arms in direction of your head. Within the backside place, the weights needs to be close to chest-level. Contract your chest to “pull” your palms again to the beginning place.

Advantages of the Decline Dumbbell Flye

  • Isolates and emphasizes the chest with restricted activation of the shoulders and triceps.
  • Decreased shoulder joint pressure in comparison with urgent.

Dip

The dip, together with the pull-up, have each been referred to as “the higher physique squat” due to their potential for constructing dimension and energy. Makes you suppose {that a} program targeted on squats, dips, and pull-ups can be nice for including a bunch of muscle and getting actually robust, proper? Yep, proper.

 

Dips, particularly, are a wonderful method to goal the chest, shoulders, and triceps utilizing solely your body weight, making it excellent for lifters with restricted gear. It really works the muscle by way of a protracted vary of movement and has the potential for including important weight through the use of a weighted vest, dip belt, or dumbbell held with the legs.

Easy methods to Do the Dip

Start on the high place on a set of dip bars together with your arms locked out. To make sure optimum chest recruitment, lean your higher physique ahead throughout the motion. Protecting an upright torso will cut back chest exercise and enhance deal with the triceps.

Bend your arms to decrease your physique so far as your shoulder mobility permits. Pause briefly within the stretched place to additional enhance muscular stress earlier than urgent as much as lockout.

Advantages of the Dip

  • The body weight train may be carried out with minimal gear.
  • Assesses and builds shoulder mobility throughout the train.
  • Body weight workouts are sometimes seen as extra “purposeful” than utilizing free weights or machines, contributing to total-body efficiency and joint well being. (8)

Sliding Push-Up

The fundamental push-up may be an efficient introductory train for brand spanking new lifters, however it may be troublesome to progressively overload. Quite than including weight, particular push-up variations can present an efficient coaching stimulus for continued dimension and energy.

The sliding push-up is a sophisticated variation which permits the pec muscular tissues to work by way of a particularly lengthy vary of movement, shifting the arms inwards throughout the train moderately than remaining static. This inward movement has been proven to considerably enhance muscle activation within the chest. (9)

Easy methods to Do the Sliding Push-Up

Take a pair of furnishings sliders, or towels on a tile or wooden flooring, and arrange in a push-up place together with your palms on the sliders and practically touching one another. Preserve a straight line out of your heels to your neck.

Decrease your physique beneath management till your chest virtually touches the bottom whereas permitting your palms to “slide” outwards. Within the backside place, your arms needs to be effectively past shoulder-width. Whereas urgent upwards, pull your palms collectively till they practically meet within the beginning place.

Advantages of the Sliding Push-Up

  • Elevated chest activation in comparison with primary push-ups.
  • Permits intense coaching with restricted gear.
  • Push-up variations prepare belly and complete core stability whereas additionally concentrating on the chest.

Hand-Launch Push-Up

The hand-release push-up was popularized by CrossFit as a method to obtain constant, unquestionable depth throughout high-repetition push-ups.

The hand-release push-up manipulates the “stretch-shortening cycle,” which is a manner muscular tissues are recruited to supply drive in response to being in a stretched place. (10) Whereas the hand-release push-up does require a full vary of shoulder mobility, it additionally recruits the chest muscular tissues extra considerably than normal push-ups.

Easy methods to Do the Hand-Launch Push-Up

Start in a typical push-up place, in your palms and toes together with your palms simply exterior shoulder-width. Preserve a straight line out of your heels to your neck. Decrease your physique till your chest touches the ground.

Briefly carry your palms off the bottom and pull your shoulder blades collectively, permitting your total higher physique to relaxation on the bottom. Instantly substitute your palms simply exterior shoulder-width and press as much as lockout.

Advantages of the Hand-Launch Push-Up

  • Elevated chest activation in comparison with primary push-ups.
  • Permits intense coaching with no gear.
  • Push-up variations prepare belly and complete core stability whereas additionally concentrating on the chest.

Cable Crossover

The cable crossover is a time-tested chest train, usually utilized by bodybuilders to “carve element” into the chest muscular tissues. That’s not really a factor as a result of “element” is just achieved by lowering body fat to disclose muscular growth.

As a result of the cable offers fixed resistance, the muscle is labored fully by way of the whole vary of movement, in comparison with dumbbell flyes which offer various intensities as a consequence of leverage altering relative to gravity. Fundamental flat dumbbell flyes turn out to be more easy as the burden strikes from horizontal to perpendicular. Cable pulleys bypass that limitation.

Easy methods to Do the Cable Crossover

Stand within the middle of two excessive cable pulleys with single-handles hooked up to every aspect. Seize the handles and start together with your arms at shoulder stage and your palms going through ahead. Preserve a slight bend in your elbows whereas pulling your palms to satisfy at stomach button-level.

Pause briefly to maximise the height contraction earlier than returning your palms to the beginning place.

Advantages of the Cable Crossover

  • Isolates and emphasizes the chest with little to no activation of the shoulders and triceps.
  • The cable pulleys apply fixed pressure to the chest, rising the muscle’s complete time beneath pressure and resulting in elevated progress.

Smith Machine Incline Press

The Smith machine has earned a comparatively unfair repute as being ineffective for muscle progress or, worse, harmful for joint well being. That mindset comes primarily from improper train type or loading, in addition to the machine’s design which makes use of a set path and requires much less joint stabilization.

The Smith machine press has been proven to activate the chest to a virtually equivalent diploma in comparison with the flat barbell bench press whereas lowering shoulder muscle recruitment. (11) When mixed with an incline angle to emphasise the higher chest, the Smith machine incline press turns into a particularly environment friendly chest train.

Easy methods to Do the Smith Machine Incline Press

Place an inclined bench beneath a Smith machine and be sure that the bar is in step with your collarbones. Seize the bar with a wider than shoulder-width grip. Unrack the bar and decrease it till you are feeling a most stretch throughout the chest.

Press up instantly and easily. To keep up muscular pressure, cease simply in need of lockout within the high place earlier than starting the subsequent rep.

Advantages of the Smith Machine Incline Press

  • Permits the higher chest to be focused with decreased shoulder recruitment.
  • The Smith machine permits lifters to bench press safely with out the necessity of a spotter.

Drugs Ball Chest Go

Drugs balls are sometimes utilized in athletic or conditioning-based exercises, however can serve an vital position for constructing muscle, energy, or energy.

The drugs ball chest cross permits an explosive motion which has been proven to extend chest activation in addition to enhance energy when adopted by heavier lifting. (12)(13) This makes it an environment friendly stimulus for constructing dimension and energy.

Easy methods to Do the Drugs Ball Chest Go

Stand a number of steps away from a sturdy wall, together with your toes shoulder-width aside and legs barely bent. Maintain a medication ball in each palms, with the ball touching your chest. Shortly and forcefully throw the ball ahead, not upwards, into the wall.

Rigorously look ahead to the ball’s rebound. Decide up the ball (don’t attempt to catch it). Take a second to arrange the beginning place earlier than repeating. Observe: To make sure explosive energy, use a light-weight drugs ball. For instance, 10-15 kilos could possibly be utilized by skilled lifters.

Advantages of the Drugs Ball Chest Go

  • Will increase chest activation throughout workouts carried out shortly afterwards.
  • Develops explosive energy which transfers to bench press energy.
  • Recruits the legs, core, and higher physique with an emphasis on the chest muscular tissues.

The Chest Muscular tissues

The chest has a number of heads, or sections, which may be emphasised by understanding their function and selecting particular workouts to focus on every separate part. Sadly, some lifters have misinterpreted the muscle’s design, which has made their chest exercises far more sophisticated than is critical.

Pectoralis Main

The pec main is the first chest muscle. Whereas it’s one particular muscle, it consists of two separate heads — the clavicular head (higher chest) positioned within the higher quarter of the chest close to the collarbone and the sternocostal head making up the complete remaining a part of the chest.

Man in gym performing cable chest exercise
Credit score: ARENA Artistic / Shutterstock

There’s no anatomical proof for a “decrease chest,” “interior chest,” or different fashionable subdivision of the muscle. Solely the higher pecs have been proven to be emphasised individually, particularly from workouts carried out at an incline, because of the separate attachment level of the clavicular head.

The pecs work to carry the arms in in direction of the physique’s centerline, seen when the arms are prolonged in a flye or press and introduced above the chest, for instance.

Pectoralis Minor

The pec minor attaches to the shoulder blade and is closely recruited to carry the scapulae (shoulder blades) ahead, significantly within the lockout place of presses. The pec minor is just not seen or usually straight focused, however performs a key position in total shoulder well being.

Serratus Anterior

The serratus is a small sequence of muscular tissues that sit alongside the ribs. Just like the pec minor, they connect to the scapulae and assist to manage scapular motion. The serratus are additionally closely recruited on the finish portion of the locked out place.

How Typically Ought to You Practice the Chest

Whereas chest coaching is fashionable, it shouldn’t be overemphasized relative to different physique elements. Extreme chest or shoulder coaching might exacerbate postural issues except balanced by comparable again coaching. (14)

Nevertheless, for optimum muscle progress, one to 3 correctly programmed exercises every week may be an efficient strategy for muscle progress. Ideally, the chest needs to be educated in a exercise together with the shoulders and triceps, the higher physique, or the complete physique.

Woman performing chest exercise on bars outdoors
Credit score: Anton Romanov / Shutterstock

Every coaching break up would require a unique strategy to complete quantity (units and reps), utilizing decrease quantity for the chest when extra physique elements are educated in a single exercise. For instance, chances are you’ll carry out a complete of 14 units for the chest, adopted by shoulders and triceps; otherwise you would possibly carry out six units for chest, preceded by again and adopted by shoulders, triceps, and biceps (for a whole higher physique exercise) and repeat that higher physique exercise a number of days later.

Easy methods to Progress Your Chest Coaching

As a result of the chest may be successfully educated with a wide range of compound workouts, it’s potential to progress steadily by including weight to these workouts every week.

Dumbbell urgent workouts, for instance, don’t essentially accommodate including 10 to twenty kilos per dumbbell every week. These weights would rapidly turn out to be dangerously unwieldy and energy ranges don’t usually progress that quick. Growing 5 to 10 kilos per dumbbell could possibly be maintained for an extended interval.

The character of isolation workouts, being single-joint, doesn’t mix successfully with utilizing heavier weights. To encourage joint security and to keep up stress on the goal muscle, deal with including a rep (or a number of reps) on workouts like flyes or cable crossovers.

Man in gym performing incline dumbbell press
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

One dependable strategy with chest coaching is to carry out a compound train (like a press or dip) for decrease reps with a heavy weight adopted by reasonable to greater reps with reasonable weight utilizing a mixture of compound and isolation workouts.

Easy methods to Heat-Up Your Chest

All chest workouts contain the shoulder joint and, as a result of the shoulders can endure from important put on and tear, an intensive warm-up is an important first step to any chest exercise. Take a light-weight resistance band and carry out this primary warm-up circuit earlier than any chest coaching.

  • Cat/Camel: Start in your palms and knees together with your arms straight. Look as much as the ceiling whereas sinking the arch of your backbone downwards. Whenever you’ve reached so far as your mobility permits, reverse path by driving into the bottom by way of your straight arms. Look right down to the bottom whereas rounding your backbone in a deep curve. That’s one full rep. Carry out 5 reps earlier than shifting to the subsequent train.
  • Band Pull-Aside: Take a resistance band with a palms-down grip, holding the band at arms-length in entrance of your physique. Preserve a slight bend in your arms whereas pulling each palms again. Pause when the band touches your chest. Return to the beginning place. Carry out 10 reps earlier than shifting to the subsequent train.
  • Band Dislocate: Widen your grip on the resistance band to effectively past shoulder-width. Start with the band at your waist. Preserve your arms straight whereas elevating the band above your head, reaching way back to potential. When your shoulders have reached their full vary of movement, return to the beginning place. Transfer at a sluggish and managed tempo in every path. Carry out 5 reps earlier than shifting to the subsequent train.
  • Push-Up Plus: Start in a basic push-up place, in your palms and toes together with your palms simply exterior shoulder-width. Preserve a straight line out of your heels to your neck. Decrease your physique till your chest practically touches the ground. Press upwards beneath management. After locking out within the high place, proceed urgent with straight arms and permit your shoulder blades to spherical forwards, earlier than reversing the method to decrease your physique. Carry out 5 reps earlier than repeating the primary train. Do a complete of three full circuits.

Constructing a Full Chest

Chest exercises don’t must be overly sophisticated with a half-dozen workouts “attacking” the muscle from each potential angle. Nevertheless, environment friendly chest coaching additionally shouldn’t be overly minimalistic with only one train to coach the complete pec. By sorting by way of the train choices you’ve simply discovered, you possibly can design an entire exercise that delivers dimension and energy with out losing time within the health club and with out beating up your physique.

References

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  10. Seiberl W, Hahn D, Energy GA, Fletcher JR, Siebert T. Editorial: The Stretch-Shortening Cycle of Energetic Muscle and Muscle-Tendon Complicated: What, Why and How It Will increase Muscle Efficiency?. Entrance Physiol. 2021;12:693141. Printed 2021 Might 20. doi:10.3389/fphys.2021.693141
  11. Schick, E. E., Coburn, J. W., Brown, L. E., Judelson, D. A., Khamoui, A. V., Tran, T. T., & Uribe, B. P. (2010). A comparability of muscle activation between a Smith machine and free weight bench press. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 24(3), 779–784. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cc2237
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Featured Picture: ARENA Artistic / Shutterstock

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