The best chest exercises and workout to make your chest pop!
The chest is one of the most noticeable muscle groups, whether you’re shirtless on a beach or suited up and dressed to impress for the boardroom meeting.
A powerful-looking chest immediately projects strength, confidence, and masculinity.
A muscular chest is the pinnacle of a powerful-looking upper body.
It’s no surprise guys want chiseled muscular-looking pec muscles and women want to touch and put their heads on them.
In fact, according to MuscleandFitness.com, women show stronger attraction toward men with a figure consistent with the ideal hunting physique:
- strong shoulders
- narrow waists
and you guess it right, broad chests and shoulders.
“A solid chest, not man boobs or muscle boobs that rival our own, just chiseled pecs.”
They’re the pinnacle of chest craftsmanship and the embodiment of physical glamour.
And there are no better power tools for sculpting chiseled pecs and a strong chest than the 10 best chest workouts that follow.
Here’s a look at the top 10 Best Chest Exercises for building strength and size.
Understanding Your Chest Muscles
Do you want a killer pec deck?
Then you need to know your chest muscles. Before we get to the training program, let’s look at these muscles.
Any trainer will tell you the best way to get muscle gain, and maximal strength is to focus on that area during your workout routine.
The pectoralis major and pectoralis minor are your main chest muscles and run under the breasts of women.
You may hear a personal trainer talk about upper pecs, middle, and lower pecs.
This isn’t physically accurate, but again, it’s a way for your trainer to get you to mentally focus on the right muscle groups during a workout for muscle activation.
Muscles of the Chest
This is your key to a muscular chest. It’s one of the largest muscles in your body.
It’s a big fan-shaped muscle that originates from your collarbone, the sternum, the ribs, and the external oblique abs muscle.
It runs from the upper to the lower chest region and attaches at the rear of your humerus.
This muscle has two muscle heads.
The clavicular head is the upper chest muscle and essential for shoulder flexion, horizontal abduction, and internal rotation.
The sternal head is the middle and lower chest area and is responsible for shoulder extension, horizontal abduction, and internal rotation.
This muscle is located under the pectoralis major and runs up and down your upper rib cage and attaches to your shoulder blade.
It is responsible for pulling your shoulder forward and down (1).
Muscles of the Upper Torso
Other muscles contribute to your upper body strength.
Supplement workouts for a stronger chest with exercises that hit these, you’ll get that powerful physique you want.
Your trapezius muscle covers your neck, upper back, and shoulders. Traps move your head and neck, and you need them for shrugging, twisting your arms, and making sure you have good posture.
Your upper back has two rhomboid muscles on each side that move your shoulder blades. (In fact, if you have a shoulder injury, these might be the culprit.)
this set of muscles wrap around your ribs and connect beneath your shoulder blades.
These muscles give you scapular stability, which means they help you lock your shoulder blades in a place like you would in the plank position or when you hold weights in front of you (2).
Your delts are part of your shoulder muscles, and since they are in charge of all arm rotation, any weight training you do to build chest strength will likely involve these muscles as well.
Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
These are the most massive muscles in your back and go from shoulder to waist. There are other great articles on this site for building big back muscles, which you should check out.
It’s no good to have huge upper chest muscles and a weak back. Fortunately, a training program of the exercises below will help build your total upper body strength.
A Note On Training:
Sure, you want a colossal chest and more upper body strength.
But that doesn’t mean you hit the gym on Monday and grab the heaviest weight you can and start throwing it around.
Want to look like a powerlifter? Then train like one. Understand the concept of progressive overload.
To build muscle, you need the proper form, so start with lighter weight.
If you can hit 12 reps easily with perfect form, then go up.
The workouts below will let you increase repetitions or add weight to build muscle continually.
On the other hand, if you keep using the same weight, you will eventually plateau, so expect to add weight over time.
10 Best Chest Exercises for Men
Here’s a look at the top 10-Best Chest Exercises to build your strength and size.
Please note that while most of these exercises are beginner-friendly, more challenging moves such as barbell presses should be considered an advanced workout.
It requires additional muscular strength and endurance to perform the move correctly.
A pushup is the closest thing to a perfect exercise, and it’s a phenomenal classic exercise for your chest.
It’s a perfect home chest workout because all you need is your body weight. And it is a great exercise to build your chest size.
To do it perfectly and with proper form, you engage every muscle group in your body.
This includes your pectoralis muscles, triceps, biceps, shoulders, and core.
It’s the only bodyweight training chest move on this list, and there is a reason it is a staple in an upper-body exercise regimen.
So, how do you do a pushup with the proper technique?
- Get down on all fours in a high plank position on a mat. Place your hands on the floor so that they’re slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Extend your legs behind you, feet shoulder-width apart. Contract your glutes and brace your abdominals as if you were about to be punched in the gut.
- Maintain these contractions in both your upper and lower body for the duration of this move. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head.
- Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Your upper back muscles should pull back as if you were doing a row.
- Pause 1-2 seconds at the bottom, then push yourself back to the top as quickly as possible. Complete 15-20 total reps. You can also go for higher reps if you can maintain good form.
Trainer Tip: If you are a beginner and having a hard time keeping your body in a straight line during a standard push up lower your knees to the ground to make it a little easier.
However, a better bet might be an incline pushup. In this push-up variation, placing your hands on a box or bench gives you a different angle that’s closer to a full range of motion, plus it’s useful for targeting your lower pecs.
Trainer Tip #2: Want to hit your biceps too? Try alternating sets of standard pushups with a close-stance set, and move your hands in closer together.
2. Decline Pushup
These are an effective chest workout for hitting the upper chest and shoulders.
Elevating your feet takes this bodyweight exercise to the next level. Fo this push-up variation, you’ll need a workout bench or a step, box, or stability ball to put your feet on.
The height should depend on your upper body strength and fitness level.
- Assume a plank position with the balls of your feet on an elevated surface. Tighten your core and tighten your glutes.
- Your body should form a straight line from your heels to your head. Without letting your hips sag. In one motion, take a deep breath and exhale to lower your body until your chest almost touches your mat.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds, then push yourself back up to the starting position. Continue for 15 repetitions for 2 to 3 sets.
Bodybuilders love bench press exercise for good reasons. There’s no better chest exercise for building muscle and strength.
Want to build your chest muscles like a bodybuilder? You are going to need to bench press.
This exercise targets the pectoral muscles, shoulders, and triceps, and it’s a good way to create strength and size in your chest.
Trainer tip: you have two options here, the barbell bench press and the dumbbell bench press. Both can be done with heavy weight.
However, to reduce the risk of injury, have a spotter nearby when you use the barbell. If you are a solo lifter, stick with dumbbells.
While a barbell will let you move a heavy load, there is another advantage to dumbbell chest exercises.
The instability of the weight will force you to stabilize using your core muscles, which means it is still an effective exercise, even if you are moving less weight.
Note: You’ll need a workout bench if you’re doing this exercise at home.
3. Dumbbell Bench Press
- Sit on the edge of a bench with a pair of dumbbells. Rest a dumbbell on each knee. Roll onto your back as you bring the weights outside your shoulders with an overhand grip.
- Push the weights directly above your chest until your arms are extended, palms forward. Bend your elbows to slowly lower the weights until your upper arms are slightly below parallel to the floor.
- Pause, and then push them back up to the starting position. Push the dumbbells together without letting them touch.
With neither chest exercises, good form is key to get results and avoid injuring yourself.
4. Barbell Bench Press
Using a bar lets you move heavier weight than a dumbbell chest workout, but it becomes an isolation exercise working your pecs only. Each lifter’s hand position will be slightly different, but for most, somewhat wider than shoulders is ideal.
- Lie flat on your back on a bench with the bar in the rack above you. Grip the barbell with an overhand grip. Your hands should either be just wider than shoulder-width or go wide grip and put your index finger on the ring.
- Unrack the bar and breathe in as you lower the bar until it just touches the middle of your chest around your nipples.
- Pause, and explosively push the barbell back up as you exhale.
Trainer Tip: Want to change up your bench press?
Use a neutral grip on your dumbbell bench press to hit inner pecs and triceps. Try a reverse grip bench press to target your upper pecs.
Incline Chest Press
Performing the incline press targets the upper chest (the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major).
Other muscle groups affected are the deltoids (shoulders) and the triceps.
If you want a huge chest, plain and simple – work that muscle—which resides high on your chest and gives your pecs extra pop. The incline bench press is one of the best exercises to do.
Like the bench press, you have two options, the incline dumbbell press, and the barbell chest press.
You can use heavy dumbbells if you are training solo. Or, reduce the risk of injury and have a spotter nearby when you use the barbell.
5. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
- Lie on an incline bench with the backrest set at a 45-degree angle.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells above your chest with your arms straight, and your palms turned toward your legs.
- Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells to chest level.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds, then push them back up to the starting position.
6. Incline Bench Press with a Barbell
- For a barbell press, lie on an incline bench with the backrest set at a 30-40 degree angle. Grab the bar in an overhand grip.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor about hip-width apart, with your lower back pressed against the bench.
- Unrack the bar and hold it overhead, arms extended. Inhale and lower the weight to your upper chest at your collarbone.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds, then push them back up to the starting position.
7. Dumbbell Decline Bench Press
Yes, more home workouts with dumbbells!
This dumbbell press chest exercise is performed on a decline bench.
The decline bench press primarily builds muscle mass in the lower part of your pectorals. It also works your triceps and anterior deltoid muscles.
- To do a decline press, lie on a decline bench with your shins hooked beneath the leg support.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells shoulder-width apart. Your wrists should face your feet, and the weights should be just outside your shoulders. Tighten your shoulder blades.
- Exhale and push the weights up until your arms are extended, and the weights nearly touch. Pause at the top of the movement.
- Lower the dumbbells to your chest, pause, and then push them back up to the starting position. That’s one rep. Continue for 10 to 12 repetitions for 2 to 3 sets.
Trainer tip: If you do not have a weight bench, you can do this workout on the floor without losing much range of motion.
Lay on a mat with your feet hip-width apart. Contract your glutes into a glute bridge and hold this position while you complete the chest presses.
The chest fly is a great isolation exercise for the chest.
It stimulates the entire region of the chest and pumps blood into the area.
It also works the shoulders and triceps muscles, but not to the extent that the bench press does.
Here we have two variations of this chest workout, the dumbbell flye and the cable fly (also called a cable flye.)
8. Dumbbell Chest Fly
The dumbbell fly (aka dumbbell flye) builds a big chest by working the muscle fibers attached to your sternum.
If you are into the aesthetics of a big chest, these fibers are what creates that chest separation between your pecs.
- Lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Your head, shoulders, and hips should be in contact with the bench, with feet flat on the floor and your spine neutral.
- This is the same ‘3 points of contact’ position used in the bench press. If your feet cannot touch the ground without extending your back, use a box or step to raise your feet.
- The dumbbells should be positioned directly above the shoulders with knuckles facing upwards when gripping the dumbbell and palms inwards. With arms outstretched, slightly bend your elbows and bring the weights out and down to the sides of the chest.
- Raise the dumbbells back up to the center while exhaling. Keep the palms facing inwards, and elbows slightly bent throughout the movement. Hands should be over the elbows and in line with the mid-chest. That’s one rep.
- Complete 10 to 12 for 2-3 sets. When you have finished your last rep, sit up and move dumbbells to your thighs, then down to the floor.
9. Cable Machine Chest Fly
For a cable flye, set the pulleys on the cable machine to chest height.
- Grab the handles and raise your arms out to the side of your body, palms facing forward.
- Step forward to create tension on the cables and stand with one foot in front of the other, keeping a slight bend in your elbows.
- Pull the handles towards each other in a wide arc, keeping your arms extended and at shoulder level, until your hands’ touch.
- Slowly return to the starting position. Make sure to switch which foot you have forward for each set.
Trainer tip: if you are working out at home and don’t have an adjustable bench, a good alternative is to rest your shoulders and upper back on a stability ball.
This is great for building core strength. Keep your feet planted on the floor and use light weights. You can also use a resistance band attached to the doorframe at chest level in place of a cable machine for a cable flye.
10. Cable Crossover
The cable crossover is one of the best chest workouts a lifter can use to superset a chest fly or press routine.
As opposed to free weights, the cable machine lets you adjust the pulleys, so it is a great way to create muscle growth in different areas of your chest.
- Set the pulleys to above shoulder height or their highest setting. Grab the handles and raise your arms out to the side of your body.
- Step forward to create tension on the cables, and so you can feel a slight pull in your chest area.
- Stand with one foot in front of the other, leaning forward slightly so the weight on your front foot.
- Pull the handles towards each other in a wide arc, keeping your arms extended, crossing one forearm over the other. Keep constant tension of the cable.
- Slowly return to the starting position. Make sure to switch which arm is on top: right arm up, left arm down, then left arm up, right arm down.
Trainer Tip: This isolation exercise is also a great way to fatigue your muscles at the end of your chest workout routine. For maximum hypertrophy and chest development, you want to fully fatigue the muscles you want to build.
11. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
The dumbbell squeeze press is similar to the flat bench press. However, this strength training movement builds your pec deck by taking it to the next level.
This dumbbell chest workout can be done on laying a bench or on a mat on the floor.
- Hold dumbbells in front of your chest, one in each hand with the palms of your hands facing each other and arms extended.
- Squeeze the dumbells as hard as you can. This is the top of the movement.
- Keep squeezing them together as you lower the weights to your chest and the bottom of the movement.
12. Dumbbell Pullover
Dumbbell pullovers are one of the classic dumbbell chest workouts beloved by powerlifters. This single-joint movement is a great exercise to work both your pecs and your lats.
- Lie faceup on a flat bench and grasp a dumbbell with both hands directly over your chest, arms perpendicular to the floor.
- Place your feet flat for stability and press your back into the bench. You won’t need much weight to start.
- Slowly lower the weight in an arch over your head with straight arms. When your elbows come to ear level, reverse the move and return to the start. That’s one rep.
- Complete 10 to 12 repetitions for 2-3 sets. Make sure to pull evenly with both arms.
Trainer Tip: Greater range of motion isn’t necessarily better. Everyone’s shoulder condition is different and unique. This also applies to weight. Extra weight isn’t always better or a sign of better performance.
Heavier loads may lead to shoulder strain. Instead, work on making slow and controlled movements.
13. Chest Dip
Dips are one of my favorite exercises for chest training.
But they can also be troublesome and hard on your shoulders.
But a simple form tweak will allow you to redistribute your weight so that your torso leans forward as you lower your body, placing more of the stress on your chest (good!) and less of it on your shoulder joints (bad!).
Even if you don’t find the classic dip causes you shoulder pain, you’re better off doing this variation—known as the incline dip—regardless.
It’ll help protect your shoulders while making your pecs pop.
- Grasp the parallel bars of a dip station and lift yourself so your arms are completely straight.
- Raise your thighs in front of you until they’re parallel to the floor, and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle (almost as if you’re sitting in a chair). Hold them this way for the entire exercise.
- Keeping your elbows tucked close to your body, slowly lower yourself by bending your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. (Allow your torso to lean forward.)
- Pause, then push back up to the starting position.
Trainer tip: If you are trying to build strength, do chest dips at body weight with a lower rep range. For muscle growth, increase your rep range and consider adding weight.
There you have it. You just learn the absolutely best chest exercises. Pick or two to implement in your next chest workout day.
Best Chest Workout Frequently Asked Questions
A press movement like the bench press with heavier loads will give you the most muscle activation for your chest.
Go for 3 sets of 3-5 reps of a weight that is close to your 1 rep max. You want rest periods of 3-4 minutes in between sets.
However, the best chest workout will contain a mix of chest exercises that press, lift, and pull.
You want a training program that hits every major muscle group plus the smaller muscles, for a well rounded, chiseled look women will love.
Progress takes time. Staying consistent and including these chest workouts in your fitness routine is the most effective way to build your chest muscles.
To get the best results, you need a solid training program that mixes up your movement pattern.
Supplement days with a heavier weight with lower weight days. Superset isolation movements like a standard bench press with exercises that hit every major muscle group.
If you work the same muscles every day, you run a risk of injury, or you will hit a plateau.
Neither of these is what you want! Alternate with back exercise sessions and arm days for a complete upper torso look.
You can build a powerful chest regimen that can be done at home, combining bodyweight variations with dumbbell exercises.
Get yourself a set of dumbbells, some decent kettlebells, a resistance band, and a mat, and you will have most of what you need to make serious muscle gains.
Lifters should stick to 2 to 3 nonconsecutive chest day workouts, with sessions being between 30-45 minutes.
If you are lifting heavy weight, three days of rest is ideal. So, train heavy on Mondays and again on Thursdays, for example.
And don’t forget the days of rest. The only way your muscle fibers can rebuild is through rest.
Best Chest Workout
Perform each exercise for the prescribed number of reps, then rest 30-60 seconds and repeat the exercise for 1 to 4 times before moving on to the next.
You don’t need a fancy training program and a bunch of expensive supplements and stimulants to have a bigger chest.
You need reliable training techniques and bar, cable, and dumbbell exercises that provide progressive overload.
All of the chest workouts on this list will give you that. Plus, working your chest muscles will help your upper body look more complete, and you’ll also be stronger and more built.
So, look through these chest exercises and start adding them to your chest days.
While a lot of guys tend to solely focus on the chest, be sure to do a workout program for different muscles on other days. Resistance training that targets other muscle groups can lead to a faster metabolism and more fat loss.
Furthermore, it’ll build strength in your entire body and lead to improvements in everyday activities.
With that, you can hit your fitness goal faster and be tank top ready in no time. Not to mention, it’ll lead to the loss of man boobs! Now go get ready for international chest day!
Talk to a certified strength coach or personal trainer for help at the gym.
You may also like:
- “Pectoralis Muscle | Definition, Location, Function, & Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, www.britannica.com/science/pectoralis-muscle.
- “Anatomy, Thorax, Serratus Anterior Muscles – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 10 July 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531457/.