Are you trying to find out what are the best chest muscle-building exercises to gain a powerful-looking upper body physique with a chiseled chest? Although there are number of exercises that you can do on a chest day, but here we have listed only the ultimate exercises for building a muscular chest.
Chest Muscle Structure And Function
Your chest-muscles comprises of two muscle groups: the large pectoralis major, and the smaller pectoralis minor underneath – as shown in the pic.
The pectoralis major is to support and enable a number of actions involving the humerus, such as lifting the arm from the side (adduction), from the front (flexion), or turning it in an arm-wrestling motion (internal rotation). The pectoralis minor has one major function, which is to stabilize the scapula.
The most effective exercises are those that provide resistance to these basic movements such as bench-press, dumbbell-press, dumbbell-fly, cable-crossover, and the push-up.
How To Get Deeper, Wider, And Stronger Chest Muscles?
We’ve talked to the professional trainers and enlisted the top 10 best-of-the-best chest mass builders. You can build your own tailor-made chest workout program by including some of these exercises into your current routine, and for the best results, rotate in new movements every 3 or 4 weeks. Another way is just keep on trying and swapping 1 or 2 of them when your ongoing chest workout gets stale.
Wonder no more! Here are our top 10 chest-building exercises ranked in no particular order. For a better understanding, also are provided a little bit of training and science-based exercise tips to supplement each choice.
1.Barbell Bench Press: This is the most effective exercise to enhance the strength and flexibility of the chest and arms. A barbell allows you to load the most weight onto the movement. And really, its ability to move the most weight through the greatest range of motion is the major benefit of the bench press over the other pushing exercises.
Method: First of all, lie on an exercise bench, facing upward and planting your feet on the ground. Make sure the bench touches your butt and upper back at all times and maintain the natural curvature of your spine (neutral spine) throughout the movement. Then hold the barbell above the center of your chest. Grab the bar just outside of shoulder-width, maybe a little wider. Place the bar deep into the heel of your palm to take some stress off the wrist. Don’t go too wide with your grip, or you may irritate your shoulders. The forearms should be vertical or very close to vertical at the bottom of the bench press.
The position of your hands should be wider than arms width with elbows pointing out to the side. Hold the barbell in such a manner that your fingers hold the bar and thumb holds it around the front. When you’re in an accurate position for this exercise, then push the bar upwards. Raise the bar upwards slowly and inhale so that your chest gets expanded. Then bring it down and release the breath slowly so that your chest gets contracted. Make sure the bar doesn’t touch your chest throughout this exercise.
(i) Do it towards beginning of your chest workout.
(ii) Don’t forget to breathe! Take a deep breath into the belly as you lower the bar, and let out a compressed breath as you press it back up. Also, be sure to press back up to a full lockout with each rep.
(iii) If you’re a beginner or a skinny individual, then start with 3 sets of 10 each with no weights on the barbell.
(iv) If you’re new, but healthy, then you can start with 3 sets of 15, reps each with 2.5 kgs each side.
(vi) When you have crossed the beginner’s phase then make sure you start adding weights and may also increase the number of reps.
(vii) Last set you do with maximum weight that you can handle with lower rep range of about 6-8.
(viii) For more complete chest development, consider varying your grip width.
2. Flat Bench Dumbbell Press: The dumbbell chest press closely mimics the bench press — the preferred exercise among most of the serious trainers. This exercise builds your chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps. Those having shoulder, elbow, or lower-back problems, limit the range of motion.
Dumbbells allow each side of your body to work independently, so engages more stabilizer muscles; dumbbells are harder to control than a barbell. They involve a longer range of motion than the barbell bench press, both at the bottom and top of the movement. Flat dumbbell presses also let you lift fairly heavy weights.
Method: Lie down on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on top of your thighs. The palms of your hands will be facing each other. Then, using your thighs push the dumbbells up, lift the dumbbells one at a time so that your arms are directly over your shoulders in front of you at shoulder width and your palms are up. Once at shoulder width, rotate your wrists forward so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you. The dumbbells should be just to the sides of your chest, with your upper arm and forearm creating a 90-degree angle. Make sure to keep full control of the dumbbells at all times. This will be your starting position. Then, as you breathe out, use your chest to push the dumbbells up. Lock your arms at the top of the lift and squeeze your chest, hold for a second and then while breathing in, begin coming down slowly. Tip: Ideally, lowering the weight should take about twice as long as raising it. Repeat the movement for the required number of repetitions as per your training program.
(i) Do flat dumbbell presses toward the start of your chest workout.
(ii) Be sure that your back keeps a natural arch so that there is a slight gap.
(iii) Lift only as much weight as you can handle while maintaining good form.
(iv) While raising the dumbbells up, pull your abdominals in, tilt your chin toward your chest – and accentuating your chest.
(v) While raising the dumbbells up, have them follow a triangular motion; they don’t need to touch each other.
(vi) When pressing the weights back up, make sure not to lock your elbows or allow your shoulder blades to rise off the bench.
Note: There is no significant difference between the movements of barbell bench press and dumbbell press, so you can include either of these in your chest muscle building routine.
3. Low-Incline Barbell Bench Press: Many bodybuilders prefer incline presses than flat bar bench press for chest building. The incline barbell bench press is an upper body training exercise that focuses on the chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles. When you do barbell bench press an incline, you target the upper region of your chest. This exercise helps develop a deep, thickly muscled chest and imparts the look of power and muscular impressiveness to the whole physique.
Load the bar with an appropriate weight. Lie on the incline bench on a 30-45 degree angle with your feet flat on the ground. Your back should be slightly arched, and your shoulder blades retracted. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip that’s shoulder-width apart, remove the bar from the rack, holding the weight above your chest with your arms extended upwards, locking out elbows. This will be your starting position. Lower the bar straight down in a slow, controlled movement to your chest. Pause a little, then press the bar in a straight line back up to the starting position.
(i) As a habit many beginners start chest workouts with flat-bench movements first then move to inclines. Every so often, break this routine and start with inclines. The plus point is that you’ll be fresh, so can lift more weight, which will put a greater amount of stress on the upper pec fibers that could lead to faster growth.
(ii) Do not lower the bar to the neck. Bring the bar to the upper part of your chest on the descent.
(iii) Do not hyper extend the neck. Maintain a neutral long spine.
(iv) Do not bounce the bar off of the chest. Lower the bar slowly, maintaining control.
(v) Do not do it at a very steep incline, which recruits more the front delts than the chest to move the weight. Try to use less-steep incline to target the upper pecs without as much stress on the delts.
(vi) To build more of an upper chest, EMG results recommend a bit closer grip as that will stress upper-chest fibers significantly more.
4. Incline Dumbbell Press: The incline dumbbell bench press is a great workout for building mass on the upper chest. This makes every trainer’s top 10 list. Using an adjustable bench you can work on a number of variations that you can’t with a fixed bench such as changing the angle of the incline from one set to the next, or from one workout to the next. Targeting a muscle from varying degrees of incline angles builds it more exhaustively.
Method: Set an incline bench at an angle of about 30 degrees and place the dumbbells at the low end. Grab the dumbbells and sit down on the bench, placing the dumbbells on your thighs or knees, with palms of your hands facing each other. Move back onto the incline bench using your thighs to help push the dumbbells up – lifting the dumbbells one at a time so that you can hold them at shoulder width. Once you have the dumbbells raised to shoulder width, rotate your wrists forward so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you. This will be your starting position. Make sure to maintain full control of the dumbbells at all times. Then breathe out and push the dumbbells up with your chest. Pause for a second, and then slowly lower the dumbbells down towards your upper chest until the handles are about level with your chest. Ideally, lowering the weights should take about twice as long as raising them. Without pausing, slowly raise the dumbbells back up without locking your elbows with your arms fully stretched upwards. Repeat the movement for prescribed reps.
(i) You can do this anywhere from first to third on your chest routine day. The later you do this movement, the less weight you’ll likely be able to take on.
(ii) Keep a full control on the dumbbells throughout this workout by lowering them slowly, not allowing them to touch your body at the bottom of the movement and not touching them together at the top of the movement.
(iii) To pump wilder, try to slowly rotate the dumbbells from palms-forward to a palms-inward position during the concentric portion of the lift, causing medially rotation of the upper arm, really engaging your pec major.
(iv) Don’t lock your elbows at the top of the movement.
(v) Don’t set the angle of the bench too high. This will engage more of the front shoulders.
(vi) When you are done, place the dumbbells back on your thighs and then on the floor. This is the safest manner to release the dumbbells.
5. Dumbbell Flyes: When you do it on a flat bench, you target the chest as directly as possible because you are on a horizontal surface and fully supported by the bench below you. This is a good option – as while keeping your strength levels high, you can push yourself to a new limit. Make sure that while doing this exercise that your back does not come up off the bench. That is the most common mistake I have noticed people making during this exercise.
Method: Grasp a set of dumbbells and sit on the end of a flat bench with the dumbbells resting on your thighs and the palms of your hand facing each other. While using your thighs to help raise the dumbbells, laying on the bench, so as to hold them in front of you at shoulder width with the palms of your hands facing each other. Extend your arms out, raising the dumbbells up like you’re pressing them, but stop and hold just before you lock out. The dumbbells should not be touching. Keep your feet planted on the floor for balance. This will be your starting position. With a slight bend on your elbows so as to avoid stress at the biceps tendon, lower your arms out slowly at both sides in a wide arc until you feel a stretch on your chest. Breathe in as you perform this portion of the movement.
Remember that all through the movement, the arms should remain stationary; the movement should only occur at the shoulder joint – keeping your arms slightly bent. Once the dumbbells get about level with your chest, squeeze the chest muscles and while breathing out raise the dumbbells back up to the starting position, using the same arc of motion (semi circle) as you did on the way down. Hold for a second at the contracted position and without letting the dumbbells touch, slowly lower them again. Repeat for desired repetitions.
(i) This exercise should be done slowly, focusing on the stretch and contraction of the chest pectoral muscles.
(ii) Don’t rest or allow the dumbbells touch together at the top of the exercise.
(iii) Use a full range of motion while lowering the dumbbells and returning to the start position as far as comfortably possible.
(iv) Remember use a wide semi circle motion while doing this exercise, and don’t let the dumbbells to come too close to the body.
6. Machine Decline Press: You need to involve a range of angles to build a well-balanced chest. In addition to doing flat and incline bench presses and flyes, you should also do these exercises on a decline bench. To really develop the lower pecs, there is no better exercise than the decline bench press. You can use Smith machine decline bench press because it makes the exercise easier to perform so that you can better focus on the lower pecs.
Position a decline bench in the middle of a Smith machine; set it at an angle of 30–40 degrees so that the bar will be above your chest. Load an appropriate weight and take your place on the bench. Lie on the bench and rotate the bar to unhook it from the rack and fully extend your arms, but your elbows should not be locked out. Your back should be slightly arched and your shoulder blades retracted. This will be your starting position. Begin the movement by slowly lowering the bar to your chest. Pause a little, and then press the bar back using your arms to push it back to the starting position. When you have completed the desired number of repetitions, rotate the bar to rack the weight.
Total Fitness Tip: Do free-weight exercises first in your chest workout since they demand more effort and stabilizer muscles than machines. With that in mind, this could be the last multi joint exercise in your chest routine.
7. Dips For Chest: Dips are great versatile workout that can be modified to target on the chest, triceps and upper back. Here, I will tell you how to do chest dips so that you can target the chest pecs.
Method: Place your hands on two parallel bars on either side of you, holding your body at arms length above the bars and elbows locked out. Bend your knees and lean forward as far as possible so that your feet are behind you. This helps to balance your weight as you lean forward. Leaning forward is necessary to target the chest. Bending at the elbows and allowing your elbows to flare out slightly until you feel a slight stretch in the chest, lower your body in a slow and controlled fashion, without ever touching your feet or knees to the ground. Breath in while doing this. Stop when your shoulders are at level with your elbows, and then slowly bring your body back up to the starting position as you breath out. Repeat the movement for desired number of repetitions, always making sure to maintain good posture and a forward-leaning position.
(i) Chest dips are a great spotter-free alternative to the decline press.
(ii) More advanced lifters can add weight to the exercise by using a weight belt that allows the addition of weighted plates.
(iii) It is a great finisher and makes a great superset pairing with push-ups for a big pump at the end of your workout.
8. Seated Machine Chest Press: Free-weight pressing moves on a flat bench are exceptional, but the machine press also has some specific benefits. For one, it is comfortable for your body while allowing you to lift heavier weight with more control. EMG studies reveal that the machine bench press involves much less of the shoulder muscles, that is the three heads of the deltoid (anterior, middle, and posterior) than free-weight variations due to the decreased requirement for humeral stabilization. This allows you to really aim your pecs.
Begin by adjusting seat height so that when you sit and grasp the handles, your hands should be in line with your chest—not above or below it. Your feet should be able to rest on the floor. Form is important, so start with a lower weight and adjust it later. The weight should be heavy enough to fatigue your muscles within 8-15 repetitions, yet not too heavy that you can’t complete a full range of motion. While seating, use the seat back to support you – keeping your abs in tight. Grab the handles with palms facing down or outward (depending on the machine design). Step on the foot pedal (if provided in the machine) to help you initially bring the handles forward so that you can grab the handles and fully extend the arms. When done, place your feet flat on the floor. Exhale and push the handles forward until your arms are extended, but your elbows should not be locked. Now slowly bring the handles back towards you as you breath in so that your arms are back to chest level—but not completely (the weight stack should not slam, but should come close to touching). Repeat for the prescribed number of reps with 3 sets.
Note: As this is a machine exercise, so preferably do it at the end of your workout.
9. Incline Bench Cable Fly: The cable crossover station remains occupied, so when it does open up, you usually get only a little time before people start impatiently looking at you in expectation to work in. That is the reason probably you find yourself always doing the same exercises over and over—either a high crossover or a low crossover. Be experimental, so when you hit the station next time, try by wheeling an adjustable bench to the center of the rack for incline cable flyes. It’ll fire up the muscles of your upper chest in like an incline dumbbell flye, but also the use of cable will enable continuous tension throughout the exercise’s full range of motion.
Method: Place an incline bench (set at 45 degrees) halfway in between the pulleys in a cable crossover machine. Set the cable pulleys to the lowest possible level on the machine that is below your torso. Select a desired weight on each side, lie back on the incline bench and grab hold of the d-handles. Start with your hands directly out to the sides, at about shoulder height, and your elbows slightly bent (not locked out). This will be your starting position. With a slight bend of your elbows (in order to prevent stress at the biceps tendon), contract your pecs to pull your hands up and in a wide arc toward each other until the handles nearly touch. Don’t bend your elbows any farther from the start position—maintain a slight bend in the arms throughout. At the top of each rep, squeeze your pecs together for a second or two to maximize the contraction. Return your arms back to the starting position as you squeeze your chest muscles and exhale. Hold the contracted position for a second. Make sure that throughout the movement, the arms should remain stationary and use the same arc of motion while raising and lowering the arms. The movement should only occur at the shoulder joint. Repeat the movement for the targeted number of repetitions.
(i) Do the incline bench cable fly late in your chest workout (after incline and flat bench press) for slightly higher reps (sets of 12-15).
(ii) If you’re training with a partner, do a few dropsets for some real muscle-building fun!
(iii) You can vary the angle of the bench in order to target the upper chest at slightly different angles.
10. Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover: Maximizing muscular development requires engaging the muscles’ different functions through different ranges of motion and various angles. The chest is no different. You need to target it from multiple angles. Your chest muscles control the movement of your upper arm at the shoulder joint. So, if your upper arm is moving in toward the front of your body, in some way, it will engage the chest muscles. Presses and flyes are great, but the pullovers help hitting the chest muscles from those angles, which you miss while doing bench and dumbbell presses.
Method: Lie perpendicular to the bench press (torso across it as in forming a cross), with only your shoulders lying on the surface. Hips should be below the bench and legs bent with feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. Your head and neck should be off the bench. Your hips should ideally be at a slightly lower angle than your shoulders. Grasp a dumbbell with your hands crossed in a diamond shape using your thumbs and pointer fingers (both palms should be pressing against the underside of one of the sides of the dumbbell and facing the ceiling). Hold the dumbbell straight over your chest at arms length. This will be your starting position. The movement starts with the dumbbell over your chest, elbows bent 10–15 degrees (do not let this angle change throughout the entire movement). Hold and slowly lower the weight backward over your head in an arc behind your head while breathing in until you feel a stretch on the chest. Now, while exhaling pull the dumbbell back to the starting position using the arc through which the weight was lowered. Hold the weight on the initial position for a second and then repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.
(i) The movement should be in an arc-like motion over your head toward the floor.
(ii) Do the pullover as a finisher on your chest work out day.
(iii) Keep the reps high, often in the 12-20 reps range, and focus on getting a deep stretch for every set, usually doing 3-4 sets.
(iv) If you have a history of shoulder problems, take great care to start with very light weight or avoid it altogether.
The above 10 exercises are not enough to complete your entire chest toolkit. If you don’t see your fovorite on the list, don’t fret! We welcome your input under the comments section below for for any other recommendations you may have!