It is time to look at the top ten best chest workout exercises. Chests exercises are more than just endless sets of bench presses and pec deck sets. A well sculpted chest means that you have taken the time to focus on all of the regions of the chest. Sure, bench presses are still excellent to perform, but chest workouts are far more than just bench presses.
Monday, also known as International Chest Day, is the day where all benches are full and all bros are happy. The start of the work week also brings in everyone’s favorite workout. You will find a line of benches covered with people using poor form and half reps to try and carve their chests into something out of a male model magazine.
Chest Workout Muscles
The pectoral muscles (pecs) are the muscles that connect the front of the chest with the bones of the upper arm and shoulder. The major muscle in the chest is the pectoralis major. This large fan-shaped muscle stretches from the armpit up to the collarbone and down across the lower chest region on both sides of the chest. This muscle moves each shoulder joint in four distinct ways as well as keeps the arms attached to the body.
The pectoralis minor lies underneath its larger counterpart muscle, pectoralis major. Both of these muscles form part of the anterior wall of the axilla region.
The serratus anterior is located more laterally in the chest wall, and forms the medial border of the axilla region.
The subclavius is the small muscle, which is located directly underneath the clavicle, running horizontally. It affords some minor protection to the underlying neurovascular structures (e.g in cases of clavicular fracture or other trauma).
Benefits of a Big Chest
Having a large chest is a goal for most men. It is aesthetically pleasing and a carved chest does get noticed. What does not get talked about much is that, when paired with a strong, muscular back, a large chest encourages better posture.
Functional benefits of a big chest is the ability to push heavy objects. Also, a strong chest leads to a generally strong upper body.
Everyone wants a big chest. If you look at pictures of ancient Roman and Greek gods, the images are of chiseled bodies with large, developed chests.
Chest Workout Exercises
1. Bench Press
Why: How much do you bench bro? Okay, I could not resist. Honestly, the bench press is the ultimate chest builder. People worry about how big their bench press is, but make no mistake, the bench press is the ultimate chest workout exercise. It hits the chest completely and is a mass builder for those huge pecs. Do not forget about the dumbbell bench press as well. Both chest workout exercises are amazing mass builders. If you suffer with shoulder pain during barbell bench presses, mix things up and use dumbbells.
How: Lie on the bench with your eyes under the bar.
Grab the bar with a medium grip-width (thumbs around the bar).
Unrack the bar by straightening your arms.
Lower the bar to your mid-chest.
Press the bar back up until your arms are straight.
2. Incline Bench Press
How: Lie flat on an incline bench and set your hands just outside of shoulder width.
Set your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench.
Take a deep breath and allow your spotter to help you with the lift off in order to maintain tightness through your upper back.
Let the weight settle and ensure your upper back remains tight after lift off.
Inhale and allow the bar to descend slowly by unlocking the elbows.
Lower the bar in a straight line to the base of the sternum (breastbone) and touch the chest.
Push the bar back up in a straight line by pressing yourself into the bench, driving your feet into the floor for leg drive, and extending the elbows.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
3. Cable Fly
Why: The standing cable fly is a variation of the chest fly. It is an exercise used to strengthen the pushing muscles of the body including the chest, triceps, and shoulders. The standing cable fly can be tough to overload as it requires a great deal of core stability, so it is probably best used as an accessory movement for those looking to increase their chest muscle mass.
How: Set both pulleys directly at (or slightly above) shoulder height and select the desired weight.
Grasp both handles with a neutral grip and take a step forward to split the stance.
Press the handles to lockout while flexing the pecs and extending the elbows.
Keep a slight bend in the elbows, move entirely at the shoulder joint, and slowly allow the arms to open while the pecs stretch.
Return to the starting position by flexing your pecs and bringing the handles together at chest height.
Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
4. Chest Pullover
Why: Chest pullover can be performed as barbell chest pullovers or dumbbell chest pullovers. I love the dumbbell variation. Performed correctly, the chest pullover expands the entire chest. You can literally feel your ribs expanding 2-3 sets into the exercise.
Of course, some people will argue that the pullover does not belong on this list as it works the back as well. Yes, the pullover is also a fine back exercise. But, that does not discount that it is an excellent chest workout exercise.
How: Lie perpendicular to the bench, with only your shoulders supported.
Your feet should be flat on the floor, shoulder width apart and your head and neck should hang over the bench.
Your hips should ideally be at a slightly lower angle than your shoulders.
Grasp the dumbbells with your hands crossed in a diamond shape using your thumbs and pointer fingers (palms should be facing the ceiling).
The movement starts with the dumbbell over your chest, elbows bent 10–15 degrees (do not let this angle change throughout the entire movement).
Take in a deep breath, hold and slowly lower the weight backward over your head until the upper arms are in line with the torso, parallel to the floor.
The weight travels in an arc-like motion toward the floor.
Exhale and pull the dumbbell back over your chest, purposely squeezing the chest.
Hold for a second, and then repeat the exercise.
5. Incline Dumbbell Fly
Why: Along with the incline barbell bench press, the incline dumbbell fly is another mass grower for the upper chest. Both variations of the incline bench press are valuable to your chest routine and both can be included as some of the best chest workout exercises out there.
How: Hold a dumbbell on each hand and lie on an incline bench that is set to an incline angle of no more than 30 degrees.
Extend your arms above you with a slight bend at the elbows.
Now rotate the wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing you. Tip: The pinky fingers should be next to each other. This will be your starting position.
As you breathe in, start to slowly lower the arms to the side while keeping the arms extended and while rotating the wrists until the palms of the hand are facing each other.
As you exhale start to bring the dumbbells back up to the starting position by reversing the motion and rotating the hands so that the pinky fingers are next to each other again.
Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
6. Pec Deck
Why: The pec deck is not a bad machine by any means. Performed with proper form and a slow negative, you will pump blood into your chest and feel the burn. Not including the pec deck into a list of top ten best chest workout exercises would be a critical mistake.
How: Sit on the platform. Press your back firmly against the back of the platform with your feet flat on the floor.
Grab one handle of the machine with each hand. Depending on the model, the pec deck may have a resting pad. If so, place your forearms on each pad. Bend your arms at a 90° angle and keep your elbows at chest level.
Gripping the pec deck handles, pull your arms toward your body while contracting your pectoral muscles. Bring the handles or arm pads in front of your chest, hold the position for a couple of seconds, and then slowly release back to starting position.
Repeat the desired number of reps.
7. Decline Bench Press
Why: Decline bench presses can be performed as barbell decline bench presses or dumbbell decline bench presses. A lot of lifters can lift more weight in a decline. Also, targetting the lower chest gives you the full pectoral muscles that everyone is looking for.
How: Secure your feet at the end of the bench. Lie down with your eyes under the barbell.
Grip the bar with your palms facing forward, arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Straighten your arms to lift the barbell from the rack. Move it over your shoulders, locking your elbows.
Inhale and slowly lower the barbell until it touches your mid-chest, keeping your elbows 45 degrees from your body. Pause.
Exhale and lift the barbell to starting position, locking your elbows. Pause.
Complete 12 repetitions. Return the barbell to the rack.
Repeat 3 to 5 sets total.
Why: There are a reason that there are a myriad of pushup challenges. The pushup is, and always has been, one of the best chest workout exercises out there. If pushups get too easy, have someone put a plate on your back and perform pushups with the extra weight on your back.
The decline variation of the pushup always puts more emphasis on the lower chest so do not ignore that pushup variation either.
How: Start in a high plank position. Place hands firmly on the ground, directly under shoulders. Ground toes into the floor to stabilize your lower half. Brace your core, engage your glutes and hamstrings, and flatten your back so your entire body is neutral and straight.
Begin to lower your body—keeping back flat and eyes focused about three feet in front of you to maintain a neutral neck—until chest grazes floor. Don’t let your butt dip or stick out at any point during the move; your body should remain in a straight line from head to toe. Draw shoulder blades back and down, keeping elbows tucked close to your body (don’t “T” your arms).
Keeping core engaged, exhale as you push back to starting position. Pro tip: Imagine you are screwing your hands into the ground as you push back up. That’s one! Repeat for 10 to 20 reps or as many as can be performed with good form.
9. Chest Dip
Why: The chest dip seems like a forgotten exercise. But, you rarely see anyone doing them at the gym yet they are an amazing way to fill the chest with blood. The key difference between a chest dip and a tricep dip is that you lean forward and the chest is now the target of the exercise.
How: Grab the bars of a dip station with your palms facing inward and your arms straight.
Lower yourself slowly until your elbows are at right angles. The elbows will stay tucked against your body.
Drive yourself back up to the top and repeat.
10. Incline Bench Cable Fly
Why: The incline bench cable fly is an effective move to isolate the chest. Cables allow for continuous tension throughout the exercise’s full range of motion. This is a great exercise to close out your chest session and is of the of best chest workout exercises out there.
How: To get yourself into the starting position, set the pulleys at the floor level (lowest level possible on the machine that is below your torso).
Place an incline bench (set at 45 degrees) in between the pulleys, select a weight on each one and grab a pulley on each hand.
With a handle on each hand, lie on the incline bench and bring your hands together at arms length in front of your face. This will be your starting position.
With a slight bend of your elbows (in order to prevent stress at the biceps tendon), lower your arms out 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. Tip: Keep in mind that throughout the movement, the arms should remain stationary. The movement should only occur at the shoulder joint.
Return your arms back to the starting position as you squeeze your chest muscles and exhale. Hold the contracted position for a second. Tip: Make sure to use the same arc of motion used to lower the weights.
Repeat the movement for the prescribed amount of repetitions.