Exercises that target the chest are the foundation of any solid workout routine, whether you are an advanced bodybuilder with years of training under his or her belt, or a beginner just getting started in the game. An important concept in bodybuilding is the idea that training large muscle groups like the chest or legs not only lead to growth and development of the target area but also encourage muscle development all over the body. Here, we will examine the best chest workouts that will help you to develop a strong, firm chest as you embark (or continue) on your journey through bodybuilding.
Naturally, an important question to ask is why should we care about the chest at all. This question we will explore more deeply in a moment, but most bodybuilders, including beginners, have at least some interest in developing eye-catching body groups, and the chest is one of the most eye-catching areas of all. Adding inches to your chest will not only gain you respect in the gym, it will also be a sign to yourself and to others that you are serious about strength. By embarking on the quest of discovering the best chest workout, you will develop an eye-catching chest and develop the chiseled chest you want.
Chest Workout FAQs
As many of you may have guessed, a chest routine will naturally involve more than one chest exercise. Fortunately for us, many exercises work the chest, which makes sense considering the size and central location of this part of the body. Before we figure out the best chest workout, we will learn a little bit more about the chest and chest exercises in general in order to be better prepared to understand the exercises themselves.
Part of the reason why the chest muscles are so important is that they connect the chest, that is, the upper front portion of the torso, to the bones of the arm and shoulder. The chest muscles, also called pectoral muscles or pecs, consist of the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. There is also a third muscle called the serratus anterior that also plays a role in chest exercises. The pectoralis major is the large muscle located on the front of the chest while the pectoralis minor is located beneath it.
In reality, many exercises of the upper body work the chest whether you want them to or not. The chest is key in many push and pull movements of the upper body. Besides the reality that the chest often gets worked by other exercises, a strong chest also is a critical part of a balanced physique, and it serves as an indication of strength and power.
If that is the question you are looking to answer than you have come to the right place. In general, the best chest workouts will be those that lead to the greatest increases in size and strength of the chest muscles. For more advanced bodybuilders who already have some size, there may be an interest in exercises that add definition or that target the upper or lower chest. Here, we will focus on the key exercises for adding size quickly.
How We Reviewed
We reviewed the best chest workouts by singling out the exercises that personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts have rated as the most important for targeting the chest, especially for beginners. Exercises are rated based on how well they add mass to the chest. We also rated them in terms of pros and cons, focusing on qualities like difficulty and versatility.
What We Reviewed
Barbell Bench Press
The Barbell Bench Press is performed by setting up the barbell with plates and assuming a position lying on a bench. One of the key features of this exercise is that it adds size to the pecs while also pulling in other muscle groups like the lats, triceps, glutes, and even the legs.
Mainstay chest workout for many bodybuilders
Adds size and strength quickly
Works other muscles groups, not just chest
May be difficult for beginners
A spotter is required, especially for beginners
The pushup is an exercise so old school that no one can really say precisely how old it is. The pushup requires no special equipment other than the human body. It can be done at home, in a hotel room, on a cruise ship, or even in a prison cell. The pushup is performed by assuming a position with your body parallel to the floor and your arms touching the floor. There are many advantages to the pushup, like changing arm position to shift focus to the triceps, though it may be too easy for some bodybuilders.
Requires no special equipment
Can be modified by changing arm position
Perhaps the oldest chest exercise
Bodybuilders may see a plateau of results
May be too easy for some bodybuilders
May be difficult to target specific chest weaknesses with pushup
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
The Flat Bench Dumbbell Press is a variation of the Barbell Bench Press, but using paired dumbbells instead of a barbell. Although this exercise is similar to the Barbell Bench Press, some bodybuilders prefer the Dumbbell Press because it requires finer muscle control, and may help to fix imbalances, like one peck muscle that is weaker than another.
Safer to reach failure with dumbbells compared to a barbell
Can target muscle imbalances
Can add muscle and size quickly
Beginners should use a spotter
Requires some degree of muscle control
Medicine Ball Chest Throw
The Medicine Ball Chest Throw involves assuming a position facing the wall or a training partner. The ball should be held at the level of the chest and using your chest muscle to thrust the ball forward, the ball is thrown at the wall or at a workout partner. Compared to some of the other items on the best chest workouts list, this exercise has an explosive quality that can really stimulate your chest muscles towards growth
Explosive and versatile
Easy and effective for a beginner
May be too easy for a moderate level or advanced bodybuilder
May not lead to the same results as bench press or other exercises
Low-Incline Barbell Bench Press
This exercise is a variation of the traditional barbell bench press on a flat bench. In the Low-incline Barbell Bench Press, instead of using a flat bench, we use an incline bench set to a 45-degree angle. This exercise, a favorite of many bodybuilders, allows you to target specific areas of the chest while maximizing chest muscle growth.
Allows you to target the upper chest
Effective in adding size and increasing strength
May be difficult for a beginner
Not too many cons really
Machine Decline Press
Pressing movements are the mainstay of the many of the best chest workouts because strength and motor control are required to push forward, away from the torso. The Machine Decline Press is push movement done at a decline, that is, at an angle below a flat bench. The advantage of this exercise is that it allows you to target specific areas of the chest, like the lower chest, while also allowing you to move your arms separately, as you would with dumbbells.
The machine allows arms to be moved independently
Allows you to target certain portions of the chest
Some bodybuilders prefer free weight exercises over machines for adding size
May be a little advanced for a beginner
Decline Dumbbell Flye
The Decline Dumbbell Flye involves assuming a position on an adjustable bench set to a decline position. Place a dumbbell in each hand, starting with arms approximately parallel with the torso and bring the arms toward the center of the chest. The advantage of this exercise is that it involves stretching the muscle fibers in a way that some of the other best chest workouts do not, while also allowing you to target the inner chest.
Stretches and contracts muscle fibers
Dumbbells allow you to reach fatigue
Good for lower chest and inner chest
Requires muscle control to stabilize the weights
May be considered an accessory exercise by some, and not a mainstay like a bench press
Beginners may need to start with very low weights
Seated Machine Chest Press
The Seated Machine Press is based on the same idea as the bench press except that it involves using a machine rather than free weights and the fitness enthusiast is in a seated rather than a lying position. Advantages of the Seated Machine Press are that it takes away some of the muscle control element from the bench press, allowing you to focus on controlling the speed of the movement, while also potentially pressing heavier weight.
Less muscle control required
Focuses pressing motion on the chest, away from deltoids
Suitable for a beginner
Machine exercises may be too easy for some
Less muscle control required (many believe muscle control is a good thing)
Many advanced bodybuilders prefer free weight exercises over machines
Cable Chest Press
Similar to the Seated Machine Press is the Cable Chest Press, which involved pushing a pair of cables away from a machine while in a standing position. This movement incorporates the advantages of the Seated Machine Press with the advantages of dumbbell exercises, which allow for muscle control and the correction of muscle imbalances.
Allows the bodybuilder to target each side of the chest
An effective way to build size and strength
Allows great muscle fiber stretch
May be a little advanced for a beginner
Some bodybuilders prefer free weight exercises over machines
Dips For Chest
In the list of best chest workouts, dips are often overlooked, which is unfortunate. Dips for Chest are an old-school form of exercise that requires upper body strength, muscle control, and have been found to be very effective for adding size and strength quickly. An important factor to note about dips is that body position can cause this exercise to shift the target action away from chest toward triceps. To target chest, make sure you raise your feet up behind you and shift your body forward a little.
Very effective for adding size and strength
Increase resistance by adding weights around the waist
Great for supersets of other best chest workouts
Incorrect form can target other muscle groups instead of chest
Beginners may have difficulty with these exercises
Choosing the best chest workout isn’t easy, primarily because there are so many great options to choose from, but also because a superior chest routine should ideally involve several exercises. A good routine would involve exercises like Dips for Chest, Dumbbell Bench Press, Cable Chest Press, and Decline Dumbbell Flye, among others. One of the keys to developing a strong, powerful chest is targeting the chest from all angles, and bench press, dips, and cable flyes allow you to do that. Making sure you engage in a variety of exercise activities can help you to achieve the perfect results. It also means that your exercise routine will be more varied and interesting, so you are less likely to become bored with it.
So the task at hand, of choosing the best chest workout, wasn’t an easy one, but if a beginner has to choose one workout that they absolutely must do then the tried and tested Barbell Bench Press would have to be it. Although we tend to agree that dumbbells have an advantage over the bar when it comes to forcing muscle control and stretching muscle fibers, the Barbell Bench Press has allowed beginners the world over to add size and strength in record time.