- 1. Bench Press
- 2. Flat Dumbbell Press
- 3. Incline Dumbbell Press
- 4. Cable Bench Press
- 5. Dips
- 6. Push-ups
- 7. Hindu Push-ups
- 8. Plyo Push-ups
- 9. Cable Chest Fly
- 10. High To Low Cable Crossover
- What Are The Muscles Of The Chest
- How Often Should You Train Your Chest
- Additional Resources
A typical gym workout plan includes a bench press, dumbbell incline press, and cable chest flys as the man exercises for building bigger pecs. However, there are many more exercises that you may be missing out on that are of great benefit to your chest muscle growth. Here are our top 10 best chest exercises you can add to your workout plan.
1. Bench Press
The bench press (barbell bench press) is a traditional exercise. Powerlifters perform it to test the best pressing power, and athletes practice it for explosive pushing skills. It’s a foundational exercise for your chest and has been used for a very long time to build chest muscles and strength.
The bench press is probably the most effective exercise to train your upper body pushing strength and muscles. Every rep puts much stress on your chest muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids which are the main muscles used in every pushing motion.
The bench press also helps you strengthen and build the lateral and medial heads of the triceps, particularly during the lockout period. You will benefit from triceps strength while practicing other pressing exercises. Furthermore, having big triceps will make your arms look much bigger.
This exercise works not just the chest but also the anterior and, to a lesser extent, the medial deltoid. Each bench press repetition puts a significant amount of strain on the front delts, providing them with an excellent training stimulus.
The movement is also beneficial for bone health. Compared to other chest workouts, the bench press allows you to pump the muscles with a pretty large amount of resistance. What does it mean? The skeletal system adjusts and refines itself in the same way that muscle tissue does.
How to do a bench press
- Set up your bench and barbell. Ensure the barbell is at the point you can comfortably get it off.
- Lay down on the bench with your knees bent. Grab the barbell using a neutral grip.
- Get your shoulder blades together. Put the weight down, holding the barbell over the level of your nipples.
- Push straight up, breathing in on the way up.
Maintain the 90 degrees angle in the arms when bringing the barbell down. It’s not necessary to touch your chest with the bar. It all depends on your actual chest muscles and the length of your arms.
2. Flat Dumbbell Press
The flat dumbbell press is similar to the previous exercise. It also works your triceps, shoulder, and chest muscles. The difference is the equipment used and the technique. When doing the dumbbell press, you will be holding weights in both of your arms which will force smaller stabilizer muscles to work harder than if you were doing a barbell bench press.
The exercise allows a full range of motion as the movement is not limited to the bottom part. Also, the dumbbells provide athletes with a deep stretch. That fact also creates contraction and maximum flex at the move’s top part.
It helps strengthen other muscles surrounding the chest area, including your deltoids, serratus anterior, and triceps.
The dumbbell bench press reveals any muscular imbalances you’ve acquired due to preferring one side of your body over the other. Regular practice of the exercise will help you to achieve symmetry.
How to do a dumbbell press:
- Grab the dumbbells and sit on the edge of the bench. Roll back and lie on the bench, keeping your feet on the floor and bringing your toes back.
- Extend your hips into the air and slide back a bit. Put your butt back on the bench. This way, you will ensure you pack your shoulders and won’t hurt yourself.
- Kick the weights up. Flex your glutes to create more stability, and bring the dumbbells down. You can keep your arms angled at 45 degrees away from the torso or tucked in. The second option will put more tension on your triceps.
- Return to the top part of the movement.
3. Incline Dumbbell Press
It is a version of the standard dumbbell bench press. The change is that you execute the movement on an incline bench instead of a flat bench. In this variation, you will shift the focus a bit more towards your shoulders and upper chest, depending on the angle of the bench. The higher you go, the more focus will shift towards your shoulders and away from your chest.
The incline dumbbell press is designed to concentrate more significant effort on the upper pecs. The biggest advantage of practicing incline presses is that they help build the top of the pectoral muscles.
Due to the angle of the bench, this exercise places less strain on your rotator cuff, which is the area with potential injury risk. So if you have issues with shoulder joints, this alternative chest press is just what the doctor ordered.
Practicing an incline bench press is a great way to build a well-balanced body. Your shoulders will be more stable as a result. In addition, this exercise assists you in correcting any imbalances that may emerge during machine or barbell workouts.
How to do an incline dumbbell press:
Make sure the inclination of the bench is set at a 45-degree angle. If you go higher, the focus will shift to the shoulders a lot more and it will become a shoulder exercise.
- Place your feet on an incline bench. Maintain a bending of the knees and a flat foot on the floor.
- Use a neutral grip to pick up dumbbells. Maintain the weight in your outstretched hands in front of you.
- Lower the dumbbells slowly while keeping your elbows slightly bent. Go as far as you can until your chest and shoulders are stretched.
- Hold this posture for one count at the bottom of this movement before pushing up.
- Return to your starting point.
4. Cable Bench Press
The cable bench press is another excellent chest exercise, the effect of which can be used in a variety of sports and everyday activities. Similar to a flat dumbbell bench press, this exercise will help you train smaller stabilizer muscles around your chest as well as expose and fix your muscle imbalances.
Many experts claim a cable bench press is an optimal way to build your chest. It targets many muscles at once and provides peak activation. That’s because you can bring your arms closer together during the top portion of the movement, which will force your chest muscles to activate even harder.
Using a chest press machine instead of a simple bench press puts your safety first. You won’t need a spotter for this since the machine employs cables and pulleys and is on a defined path of movement.
How to do a cable bench press:
- Install a bench between two low pulleys on the cable crossing station’s bottom pulleys.
- Make sure the bench isn’t too high so that your elbows are bent at 90 degree in the starting position of the exercise.
- Sit on the bench and grab cables. Keep your feet on the floor and lean on the bench.
- Press the weights up while bringing your arms closer together, feeling contraction.
- Go down, and return to the starting position.
This exercise is one of the most effective compound movements that can be done with just your bodyweight or with weights. Dips focus on the chest muscles and triceps, as well as your shoulders. The focus of the exercise will depend on how much you lean forward. If you want to target your chest more, you’ll need to lean forward more and keep your shoulders back. If you perform the exercise completely upright, then your triceps will be doing most of the work.
To perform the exercise, you will need access to calisthenics equipment pieces like a traditional dip station, parallettes or you can even use 2 chairs that are stable enough.
Even a bodyweight version of this exercise can be quite challenging, which makes it a great exercise for people who don’t have access to a gym.
Like other compound workouts, dips improve not only your strength but also your coordination and flexibility.
In addition, it works a lot for stabilizing muscles. Strengthened joints and well-developed stabilizing muscles will make you less likely to get injured when engaging in other types of physical activity.
How to do dips:
- Take hold of the parallel bars and spring up, straightening your arms.
- Lean forward a bit, and start lowering your body until you reach about a 90-degree angle in your elbows. Look down throughout the movement.
- Once you’re at the bottom position, start pressing yourself up. Your core and glutes should remain contracted.
- When you get to the peak, lock your elbows together.
Push-ups are on the top list of exercises for the chest. It’s probably the most well-known exercise for chest muscles in the world and doesn’t need much explanation.
You can effectively build upper body strength by performing traditional push-ups. This exercise focuses on the triceps, pectorals, and shoulders.
This exercise doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere which makes it super versatile.
You can also make the exercise easier or harder by doing pushups from your knees (easier version) or doing elevated pushups or one-arm pushups (harder version).
Another benefit of pushups is that they will also help you strengthen your core muscles since you’re essentially holding a plank position during the movement.
Push-ups also increase the synthesis of human growth hormone, which is beneficial to one’s general health and strength.
How to do push-ups:
- Get on your fours. Palms should face the floor; both legs are together on the toes. Keep the core straight.
- Come down, bending your arms. Try to touch the floor with your chest while keeping your torso in a straight line. Keep your elbows tucked in at about a 30-45 degree angle from your torso. Do it in every rep.
- Push straight up. Extend your arms fully at the top of the movement.
- If you are not strong enough for the whole range of motion, you can start with half bending your arms or try doing push-ups while standing on your knees.
7. Hindu Push-ups
These push-ups work for many different muscle groups at once. Typical push-ups generally target the chest muscles, but Hindu push-ups focus on the delts, triceps, serratus anterior, subscapularis, erector spine, and hips. In addition to helping to open up your body, the exercise will also provide you with more energy to go through your day-to-day activities.
The moves during a Hindu push-up are similar to waves. It is a mixture of two yoga poses. No wonder it improves the body’s flexibility. Also, Hindu push-ups strengthen and stretch your spine, hips, and shoulders.
It utilizes maximum muscles in one exercise. The exercise works the pectoral, deltoids, erector spine, triceps, serratus anterior, subscapularis, and even abdominal muscles.
Hindu push-ups are all about allowing your joints to move from flexion to extension. So the joints benefit significantly from regular practice of this exercise.
How to do Hindu push-ups:
- Put your hands and feet firmly on the ground. The distance between the hands is equal to the distance between the shoulders. Look down at your feet with your buttocks dangling in the air.
- Lower your head between your shoulders, dip, and use your chest to push your body through.
- Make a wave. Pull your shoulders back. Squeeze the upper back and the back of the delts together. As you rise, stretch your arms to their fullest extent.
- Return to the starting position and do reps. The best way to get your body through the arch is to elevate your buttocks as soon as you’ve gone down. This will simplify you to go back to where you started.
8. Plyo Push-ups
Plyo push-ups are a plyometric movement that is also a great way to make the pushups exercise harder.
The exercise helps stimulate a lot of fast-twitch muscle fiber in your upper body. That will help you improve your strength and explosive power.
Plyo push-ups may easily burn calories and strengthen muscles at once. Many athletes practice the exercise to enhance their sports performance by improving strength, endurance, and speed.
Plyometric push-ups teach you how to properly absorb significant contact, and they’re a great way to develop that skill. Several studies have shown that plyometric exercise is an excellent method of increasing bone mass, which aids in the prevention of injury and enhances your quality of life.
How to do plyo push-ups:
- Warm up the shoulder area before practicing the plyo push-ups.
- Begin the exercise in the standard push-up starting position with your hands and feet on the floor. Have your hands by the sides, next to your ribs.
- Lower yourself to the ground as you would in a regular pushup
- Explosively push yourself up off the ground. The force you produce to push up should make it easy for your hands to lose contact with the ground in the top position of the movement.
- Come down to the floor, trying to absorb as much impact as possible by landing softly and bending your arms.
- Do reps as fast as you can.
9. Cable Chest Fly
In terms of chest training, the cable chest fly is by far the most adaptable and effective alternative. It is possible to train the upper and lower sternal heads of the pectoralis major simultaneously. As a result, you can do cable chest flies at various heights. Due to the total usage of resistance capability, you will feel the strain during the whole exercise. The triceps and shoulders are also targeted in the workout.
One of the main benefits of the cable chest fly is that it puts consistent tension on the chest muscles throughout the movement, which will result in better muscle activation and ultimately growth.
It is also safer for your joints as compared to other exercises like a bench press. Besides that, it is also less risky to do this exercise to complete failure without a partner, as opposed to the same bench or dumbbell press exercises.
By varying the angle of the pulleys, you can shift your focus from upper to middle and lower muscles. Using a low-to-high motion will load the top of your chest while using a high-to-low action will target the lower fibers.
How to do a cable chest fly:
- Get the cable to a height of approximately your hips. Keep in mind that you may arrange cables higher or lower.
- Grab each handle with your hands. Avoid squeezing the handles excessively firmly.
- Make one step ahead. Bend your front knee. Keep your rear leg straight as you lower yourself slightly. Sustain a slight bend in your elbows while maintaining a neutral spine. Make a little arch in your back and thrust out your chest.
- Exhale and bring your hands together in front of you (slightly under the chest). If you’re unable to do so, it would be best to lighten your load.
- Come back to the start.
10. High To Low Cable Crossover
The high to low cable crossover is a cable crossover variation when you start high and end it low. This movement primarily targets the lower part of the chest while also working your triceps and shoulder muscles. The result of regular exercising is well-defined muscles in the pectoral area.
What happens when you practice high to low cable crossover? Stabilizer muscles in the chest are recruited and activated due to the constant tension and resistance. This is good news for gaining muscular definition, strength, and power.
High to low cable crossover also boasts constant and smooth resistance. This means you pump targeted muscles to the maximum. Nobody can achieve the same effect using dumbbells or other free weights.
The high to low cable crossover also allows you to cross your arms at the end of the movement, which will increase the tension on your chest muscles.
How to do a high to low cable crossover:
- Grab both cables in your hands. Step a bit forward, don’t stand in line with a cable machine. The cables will naturally pull back, which will cause the desired muscle tension.
- Pull the cables together in front of you from a high to a low position. Arch your chest and keep your arms together. Focus all the energy on your elbows and squeeze the pecs.
- Go back to the starting position but avoid spreading your arms too wide not to hurt your shoulders. Come back when you feel enough stretch.
What Are The Muscles Of The Chest
The main muscles in the chest area are:
- pectoralis major
- pectoralis minor
- serratus anterior
Large and powerful, the pectoralis major is a fan-shaped muscle. In fact, as the name “major” implies, this muscle constitutes the bulk of the chest’s muscular mass. Your arm glides toward and across your chest as the pectoralis major works to flex the shoulder joint. One of the smaller muscles of the pectoralis major is the pectoralis minor. It assists in moving the shoulder forward and downward.
Though not an actual component of the chest’s anatomy, the serratus anterior joins close to the pectorals and is thus considered a member of the chest muscle group. Moving the scapula to the right or left is one of its primary duties.
How Often Should You Train Your Chest
The periodicity of workouts varies depending on your fitness level and goals. One athlete wants a bigger chest, and the other just wants to define the muscles. Each aim needs its own realization program.
In general, if your main goal is to achieve hypertrophy then you should do 1 heavy chest-focused workout per week. If you’re training for strength or power, then 1 to 2 times per week should be your goal.
Overtraining the muscle, you’re aiming to build will cause more damage than good. Remember to allow your chest muscles at least a 48-72 hours (ideally more) rest period after a heavy workout since this is the time when they grow.
Having a well-developed chest is a pillar of both athletic performances as well as an aesthetic look. Usually, sportsmen turn to the chest press, push-ups, or cable movements as go-to exercises when it comes to strengthening the chest muscles. Many alternatives target chest muscles, and people wonder what to choose. There’s no right or incorrect answer here. It’s more a question of personal taste, objectives, and aspirations than anything else. We hope that our list of the most effective chest exercises will help you choose and practice your favorites.