Any Tom, Dick and Harry can weigh in with suggestions as to what they think are the best chest exercises to help you get huge. But at the same time, because there are so many, sticking to the ones you believe to work, or forming any sort of routine, can often be easier said than done.
Whether you’re a fitness newbie who simply doesn’t like what they see in the mirror each morning, and is need of a starting point, or you’re a veteran gym rat who believes they know every chest exercises under the sun, it can always be handy to have some extra guidance.
It’s with this in mind that we reached out to several fitness industry professionals to find out their go-to chest exercises that will guarantee results, to bring you the definitive go-to guide.
We’ve spoken to industry big-wigs including former Cronulla Sharks NRL player and now the owner of Flow Athletic, Ben Lucas; online fitness coach Sam Wood; and Luke Andrew, a personal trainer and ambassador for Vitruvian Form Edge, an at-home piece of equipment that can make building a bigger chest in your living room a piece of cake.
Before we jump into the exercises, Luke gives us a quick biology lesson regarding the chest muscles, because after all, education is everything.
Functionally speaking, your chest has 3 main movements and if we choose to include these into our training, we can get a deeper contraction and better activation. Try these movements with your right hand and place your left hand on your right chest and see if you can feel these contractions.
- Flexion of the Arm i.e. bring your right arm from your side up so it parallels with the ground
- Medial Rotation of the Arm i.e. with your arm up, try rotating your arm inwards/medially so your palm goes from facing inside to facing the ground
- Abduction of the Armi.e. now try to bring your arm across your body as if you were performing a cable crossover movement
You should be able to feel an increase in tension in your chest and hence by sneaking in these functional movements even in small amounts, we’ll be able to get better chest recruitment and make your workouts more functional.
Ben Lucas’ Best Chest Exercises
Ben Lucas is a former NRL Cronulla Sharks player and now founder of Flow Athletic, a hybrid fitness and yoga studio. Having been involved with fitness for most of his life, it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about building muscle.
Before revealing his favourite chest exercises, Ben says it’s important you warm up first. A warm-up for chest day should consist of movement patterns related to what you want to do during your workout. Warmed up muscles provide greater flexibility and are able to generate more explosive power, which should equal greater results.
Incline Barbell Bench Press
An incline barbell bench press (on an incline of around 45 degrees) is more effective at targeting the upper chest and front side of the shoulders.
Lie back with your barbell at shoulder height and ensure your hand grip is facing away from you. Breathe out as you press both arms up and squeeze your chest as you get to the top before slowly returning back to the starting position. Count to three or four as you lower the bar.
To progress, add weight and/or slow down the movement so your muscles are under tension a little longer.
Close Grip Barbell Bench Press
Staying with the barbell, a simple movement of hand placement can help target a different area of the chest. A close grip is great for focusing on both your triceps and your chest while putting less strain on your shoulders.
For this exercise, stay lying on your back at an incline, but have your hands just inside shoulder width apart. Perform the move in the same way as the incline bench press, breathe out as you push up, and bring the bar down slowly.
Progression can be adding weight or changing the tempo again. You can also add in some tricep extensions depending on how heavy the bar is as well.
The cable fly is a great way to work your pecs and delts without having to press, adding a new stimulus and variety, ideal for getting results.
Using a cable machine, make sure the pulley is up high and attach the hand drips/stirrups to the cable. Take one cable in each hand and outstretch your arms with a slight bend.
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Make sure you have a leading foot forward, brace your core and then pull the weight down and across your body. With control, slowly release your arms back into the fly. Repeat.
To progress, simply add more weight.
Chest dips are not only great for working your chest but also your shoulders, upper back and arms. Why? Because as you lower yourself down into the dip, you fight to stabilise your body which maximises the results.
Go to the dip station and grab the bar. Make sure your arms are straight but your palms are facing inwards. Slowly lower until your elbows are at right angles. Then drive yourself back up. Make sure you tuck in your core so your body stays tight.
To progress, add reps or if you really want to add some weight such as a weighted vest.
Sam Wood Best Chest Exercises
Sam Wood is best described as a personal trainer and online training and nutrition coach, who is “on a mission to help people move more, eat better and make positive change.” His 28 by Sam Wood brand of nutrition and workout tips has amassed a large following on Instagram, so he’s well-versed to provide some top chest exercises.
Sam tells us when he completes his chest day, he goes for the heaviest sets first to put tension on the muscles.
Barbell Bench Press
Like Ben, Sam is an advocate for the barbell bench press, however, he prefers to standard flat bench move. He recommends performing four sets of six reps at full range, but with as heavy a weight as you can manage loaded on.
Dumbbell Bench Press
With the barbell out the way, Sam likes to switch to dumbbells to perform a similar move, although moving the bench up so it’s at an incline. Sam recommends four sets of 10 reps, pushing the arms up to full range and squeezing the chest when you get to the top. Bring your arms back down slowly before repeating.
Chest Dips/Low Cable Fly Superset
Supersetting is where you perform one exercise right after the other, before taking a rest and repeating. Although, if you want, you can perform all your sets before taking a break if you’d prefer. Supersets place extra tension on muscle groups, which should result in greater gains (and you can fit more exercises into the same time period).
Sam recommends performing slow, deep dips on parallel bars until failure (until you can’t perform any more full reps) and moving straight into a controlled low cable fly. A low cable fly is similar to Ben’s exercise, but you want to set the cables at a lower setting, so you bring your arms up.
Squeeze the bottom of the chest and holding the squeeze for one second at the end of every rep, working until failure. Superset these for three sets.
Sam finishes his chest workout with push-ups, but a serious push-up work-out at that. Start with your hands placed out wide, then neutral (shoulder-width) and then really get the triceps and inner chest working, finish by doing close grip medicine ball push-ups (resting your hands on a medicine ball for an incline).
Perform 10 of each variation with one minute of recovery between sets and go for three sets.
Luke Andrew Best Chest Exercises
Luke Andrew is an ambassador for Vitruvian Form, a single piece of home equipment that can be used to perform a whole range of exercises to work the entire body. It can provide an easy route to a bigger chest from the comfort of your own home. You can pre-order one now, and the bench Luke mentions in many of the exercises can be added as an optional extra.
Luke predicts most chest days will include the bench press and cable fly combos (spot-on, it seems), but with the V-Form Trainer, you can add some variety to your chest workouts.
V-Form Incline Bench Press
Lie flat on the bench with your hips and back in contact with the bench surface and shoulder blades round and down. Keep your feet flat on the ground to brace yourself.
Start by holding the handles with palms facing your body at nipple level. Push upwards in a strong fluid motion, medially rotating the hands to that your palms face away from you. Bring your hands closer together at the top of the movement for a deeper contraction.
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V-Form Pec Fly
Start in a similar position to the bench press. Hold the handles with your palms facing upwards. Ensure you have a soft bend in your elbow to keep it locked safe, to transfer force to your working muscles and not just connective tissue.
Bring your arms together so they meet at the top and cross over your arms for a deeper contraction. You can pause at the top of the movement to work the chest muscles further, before bringing your arms back down in a slow, controlled motion.
Dumbbell Adducted Chest Press
Lie flat on the bench with dumbbells in each hand in a natural grip (palms facing inwards). Press the edges of the dumbbells together as you push up into your chest press. At the top with arms fully extended, really push the two dumbbells into each other and focus on squeezing the chest. This simple tweak engages the chest across the full range of movement.
Kneeling Two Arm Landmine Press
Utilising a landmine press, kneeling nice and tall with a neutral spine, shoulders and hips should be stacked on top of each other in alignment with the knee that is on the ground.
Place both hands on the end of the barbell, push upwards so the bar is over your head, bracing your core and squeezing your chest together similar to the dumbbell adducted chest press.
This is a great movement to get your core firing as well and trains functional strength and stability.
Luke adds that you can perform any of the above exercises in a superset with an ab roller. Not only will using one work your core, but as your arms move through the range of motion, you’ll feel additional stress on the chest, giving them a workout as a secondary mover.
Remember to drive this movement from Spinal Flexion (curling your spine) and now just Hip Flexion (hinging at the hips) as you want to get your abs working and not just tight hip flexors.
Luke also tells us that no chest workout is complete without training the antagonistic muscles. Face pulls are an awesome movement to get them firing and ensuring great posture in the process.
Keep your elbows nice and high and focus on pulling the cable or band as close as possible to your face, really squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Chest Exercise FAQ
Your body needs to recover after a chest exercise, so doing it daily is not ideal. A twice-weekly session will give you optimal gains, allow for muscle recovery and development and avoid excess stress. You can perform one to four chest exercises per workout. Doing too much can diminish returns, prohibiting your body from building new muscle mass and resulting to suboptimal quality volume. If your body is out of shape, chest tightness or pain during or immediately after exercise is no reason to panic. Slow down or stop exercising and drink water. Still, if you are worried, best see your doctor.
Can I do chest exercise daily?
How many chest exercises should I do per workout?
Is chest pain normal during exercise?
Your body needs to recover after a chest exercise, so doing it daily is not ideal. A twice-weekly session will give you optimal gains, allow for muscle recovery and development and avoid excess stress.
You can perform one to four chest exercises per workout. Doing too much can diminish returns, prohibiting your body from building new muscle mass and resulting to suboptimal quality volume.
If your body is out of shape, chest tightness or pain during or immediately after exercise is no reason to panic. Slow down or stop exercising and drink water. Still, if you are worried, best see your doctor.