Many guys don’t know the best chest workout exercises they should be doing.
Chest workouts for men usually focus on barbell bench press and then these same guys wonder why their pec development and strength lag behind.
The best workouts for the chest include different exercises hitting your pec muscles from different angles.
I know why you’re here.
Studies suggest that women and men’s perception of the ideal male body includes a muscular chest and V-shaped torso.
In this article, you will find 12 of the best chest workouts for building muscle in your pecs from targeting different angles and using different types of equipment.
Want to learn how to get a muscular chest?
You push the limits.
There are PLENTY of exercises for chest day to choose from, but some are more optimal for your goals than others.
If you want to know the best exercises to build pecs, look no further!
I’ve done the work for you.
If you want to get those perfect pecs you’ve been longing for, you’ll first need to learn what the different muscles are that are involved.
Pectoralis Major: This muscle is the bigger of the two. It has a large upper part (clavicular head) and a lower part (sternal head).
The main function of this muscle group is to bring your arm across your body in front of you, like when doing an incline bench press or chest flys for example.
If the goal of your chest workouts is mass, you’ll ABSOLUTELY need to target this muscle.
Pectoralis Minor: This smaller muscle lies underneath the pectoralis major which makes it harder to see. Its main action is depression – pulling down on skin/chest tissue like when someone looks sad with their lips outwards and downwards – think about how pouting works!
If you want big pecs but neglect exercises for both these parts, then don’t expect much size development because they are too small to do the work for you.
Serratus Anterior: This muscle is the one that looks like a washboard and runs from your shoulder blades to your ribs.Its main function is protraction – pushing outwards. This will happen when doing pushups or throwing a punch for example.
You could also think about pulling something upwards towards you because it’s going in the opposite direction to pectoralis major which pulls downwards.
Your chest workout at the gym should include targeting all three of these muscles.
So enough talking about how important they are, let’s get into how to build up chest muscle with the exercises that will build them up best…
The best exercise for chest development: Barbell Bench Press
Chest workouts in the gym should focus on big compound exercises and barbell bench is the king.
It forces you to use a wide range of muscles, from the tiny ones in your rotator cuff up to those massive ones on top of your shoulders!
It’s been shown that Barbell Bench Press is more effective at developing upper body muscles than any other exercise with weights in chest workout.
Due to it being a larger, compound movement, do bench press toward the beginning of your chest workout with weights that challenge you.
A staple of the best chest workouts with dumbbells: Dumbbell Bench Press
Looking to include dumbbells in your chest workout? Then look no further!
Chest workouts for men looking to build strength and size should absolutely include this exercise!
This allows for a greater range of motion which leads to better muscle development.
Also, different arm angles allow less stress on the rotator cuff and shoulder area, as well as helps train for muscle balance.
Chest exercises with dumbbells require more balance than their bar-based counterparts.
So when it comes to targeting your upper body, dumbbell chest workouts are among the best.
You can mix up when to do dumbbells for chest press, sometimes doing some heavier sets at the beginning of your chest workout plan.
Other times, do lighter weight for more reps in the middle or end of your lift.
Do not do flat barbell bench and flat dumbbell press in the same workout.
EMG studies show that there are no significant muscle activation differences between the two.
However, this means you won’t be able to lift as much compared to a barbell bench.
Chest exercise for men looking to build a shelf: Reverse Grip Bench Press
This one of the best exercises for creating chest muscle and one of my personal favorites.
It does put your wrists in an awkward position and sometimes it’s rough to un-rack the weight without a spotter, but this exercise hits your pecs hard!
The reverse grip also protects your rotator cuff and shoulder joints by focusing on external rotation rather than possible internal rotation, which can be severely damaged by improper form.
It will help you engage all surrounding muscles in your body, including those in your shoulders and triceps.
This exercise has also been shown to increase upper chest strength levels significantly more than other chest exercises or movements.
Beginners should start with a wide-grip bench press as this takes away the stress from the wrists. As you get stronger, move to closer grips for increased power.
When doing the Reverse Grip Bench Press, do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement.
This can cause serious damage to your joints and muscles. If you are unable to avoid locking out on this exercise, it is best to stop immediately.
A must for chest workouts with a barbell: Incline Barbell Bench Press
The best workouts for upper chest must include an incline variation!
The upward motion of the Incline Barbell Bench looks like sitting up in bed, which will make it easier on some people’s shoulders than lying flat on their back.
This also forces you to focus more on using the pecs instead of triceps as well!
When doing an incline press, be sure not to lean too far forward at the bottom of the movement; keep that back straight but don’t hyperextend either!
You won’t get full range if you do that (which can also cause injury) so you need to be as strict as possible.
For best results, do Incline Barbell Bench Press at the beginning of your workout when your energy levels are highest and press strength is strongest.
I also highly recommend you focus on a low incline angle as most fixed benches tend to be very steep which takes a good portion of the stress off your chest muscle fibers and directs it to your delts.
Due to the difficulty of this exercise, you should either start with it (even before flat bench) or do it soon after as another main exercise.
Top dumbbell exercise for the upper chest of your dreams: Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
The benefits of this dumbbell exercise for upper chest include increased shoulder flexibility, more control over the weights, and a greater range of motion.
When doing Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, you want to be careful with wrist position and technique: do NOT let them bend inward or outward excessively; this can lead to injuries down the road.
To help keep yourself from going too deep on the movement, focus on squeezing those shoulders together at the top for maximum contraction in your pectorals.
Be sure not to lock out either – make sure there is tension in your chest muscles throughout each rep!
As one of the best exercises for upper chest, it either works as the first exercise with heavier sets or as a secondary with slightly more reps.
Best chest exercise without weights: Dip
The best chest workout routines don’t just include the three main presses, but other variations to target your chest.
Chest workouts with dips are great because they allow for a greater range of motion than many other movements that work similar muscle groups or angles within them.
Supplemented with other chest exercises, dips are great for a more complete targeting of your pec muscle fibers.
To specifically target your pecs, try to lean forward and allow your elbows to flare out a bit.
As you improve your technique and get stronger, definitely add some weight via a belt or by holding a dumbbell between your legs.
You may notice increased strength with dips as well since there’s a higher demand placed on both shoulders and triceps compared to barbell pressing variations like incline or decline presses.
They can be done towards the middle with heavier sets or at the end with higher reps as a burnout for your chest day workout.
Best chest exercise with cables: Cable Chest Press
It’s no secret that Cable Chest Press is one of the best chest exercises for building muscle in your pecs.
Cable press has some versatility as it can be done seated, standing, or lying on a bench.
Chest workouts with cables allow for constant tension to be placed on your muscles through the full range of motion and throughout each set.
You can expect good results from this movement as long as you keep strict form: do not bend or arch backward excessively, lock out at the top of each rep, or lean too far forward!
The best chest workout routine would include Cable Chest Presses either first in your workouts with heavy sets (and progression upwards) OR later after free weight presses.
There are several different Cable Chest Presses you should consider adding to your chest workout routine: Neutral Grip, Wide-Grip, and high-to-low, and low-to-high.
Each one of these Cable Chest Press variations will work slightly different angles within the pectoral muscles for more effective development over time.
Your upper chest workout with cables should include pushing from a low-to-high position.
Vice-versa, push from high-to-low position when targeting your lower chest workout with cables.
A great variation is to sit on the chair sideways and target one side at a time by pushing across your body (adduction).
This hits the muscle fibers hard and all can be done as a great burnout at the end of the workout for higher reps.
Include in chest workouts with no free weights: Machine Press
Great addition, specifically, for chest workouts for beginners when you need some extra burn for your chest.
You must keep strict form on this movement, controlling the weight through all phases of each rep and not allowing momentum to take over at any point.
The benefit of using machine press versus free weights is that you can slow down each repetition thus increasing the time under tension.
Also, these machines recruit the shoulders far less meaning you’re targeting your pecs!
Machine Chest Presses are an amazing tool because they allow much heavier weights than free-weight presses without compromising technique or safety…
However, if done incorrectly, the risk of injury increases considerably!
Keep these tips in mind when doing Machine Bench: lock out every single rep at the top; do NOT hyperextend your elbows nor flare them outward.
A great tip if you can find a hammer press is to sit on the chair sideways and target one side at a time by pushing across your body (adduction).
This hits the muscle fibers hard and all can be done as a great burnout at the end of the workout for higher reps.
Machine presses should be completed towards the end of the workout and usually for higher reps.
Best workouts for lower chest strength should include: Decline Barbell Bench Press
Great for increasing strength in the lower pecs, but it does still hit the entire chest.
You should also be able to lift heavier and more comfortably than flat bench.
Due to this exercise being easier than flat and incline, you should do it after them for heavier sets.
One of the best exercises for lower chest development: Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
The benefits include how it removes stress from your shoulders while still providing a great lower pectoral workout.
This is the best chest exercise with dumbbells to target your lower pecs.
Lower chest workouts with dumbbells not only reduces the load on the shoulders, but also allows you to use more weight than with traditional flat or incline presses.
This means that you can work out longer without getting fatigued as quickly, which will lead to better results over time!
Plus, this exercise utilizes more force throughout its range of motion because it engages both heads of the pectoralis major.
Best chest exercise at home: Push-Up
It’s one of the most common exercises in fitness, but it’s also part of the best workout at home.
What body parts do push-ups work besides chest?
They’re great for targeting your arms, shoulders, and abs when you have no equipment for your chest workout!
They’re also really easy for anyone to do, which makes them perfect for beginners or when you just don’t have the time for a full workout.
The chest exercises in your home tend to be limited.
So if you’re looking for a quick chest workout with bodyweight that will help you get stronger while maybe even burning some calories too – then pushups are what you need!
Try doing 10 at once with good form – you’ll be amazed by how much more comfortable it is on your chest muscles.
If you want to take it up a notch in your pec workouts at home, try doing pushups with weights!
You can even do an upper chest workout at home by elevating your legs and doing decline push-ups.
This will help you build strength quickly and still give your pecs the workout they need.
If traditional push-ups are getting uncomfortable for your wrists or shoulders, then simply elevate yourself onto an elevated surface like a bench or kitchen counter.
After all, no one said anything about having to do them flat on the floor, right?
A chest workout with bodyweight won’t get you as strong as using barbells, but they can absolutely have a place in chest workouts for bodybuilding to tear your muscle fibers!
Great in bodybuilding chest workouts: Flyes
Flyes are a great way to isolate your chest muscles.
Cable flyes are a great finisher at the end of a workout for a high volume of reps.
They can also be done as a single set with fairly light weight for lower pecs development.
I chose cable flyes over other variations such as dumbbell chest flyes and cable because it’s a lot easier to have good form without putting your shoulders at risk.
You won’t be able to do much weight on this exercise which won’t help in the strength department, but the range of motion will allow you to focus on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (aesthetics, bro).
You can use this exercise as a warm-up for your heavy presses or at the end of your chest workout to get a pump, but the sets should always consist of higher rep ranges.
Learn how to build muscle in your chest: Exercise Variations
The best chest workouts for men who want to up their pec game include variations of their go-to lifts.
For chest workouts with barbells, the width of your grip has a big impact on how much it works your chest muscles.
If you’re looking to build muscle in your chest, then you’ll want to use a wider grip.
A narrower grip will increase the range of motion but target your triceps more.
One of my personal favorites for increasing chest strength.
When lowering the bar/dumbbells to your chest during a press, pause at the bottom of the rep.
This ensures the elastic energy has been removed from the rep as it becomes dead weight.
Then proceed to exhale and press the rep back to starting position.
One way to do tempo reps is by slowing down the eccentric phase (lowering) and speeding up on the concentric phase (lifting).
This prevents momentum from assisting in lifting heavy weights, so you can focus more on strengthening your pecs than on using other muscle groups or getting help from gravity.
According to EMG studies, time under tension is important for muscle growth!
You should focus on certain second counts for each part of the lift.
The chest is the most common muscle group to be developed in weightlifting.
They are used as technique where you do a slow eccentric contraction (lowering of the weights) with no pause at the bottom, then proceed to concentric contractions (pressing up), generally with the help of a spotter.
This type of training can help build muscle by doing more repetitions than normal for this exercise or using a heavier weight than you could normally press.
And since it’s not as tough on your joints, you’re able to push yourself harder and longer without risk of injury like you would if you were only doing regular presses.
These are a great way to build muscle in your chest because they activate the muscles of the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid (front shoulder) more than when doing regular presses.
Finally, floor presses allow you to use heavier weights than you might be able to do with regular bench pressing due to the reduced range of motion.
Incorporate this into your chest workouts with dumbbells but without a bench and watch your upper body get strong!
They’re perfect for anyone who’s looking to gain strength without risking injury.
If you’re struggling with mobility issues like tight shoulders or wrists then floor pressing is ideal because it takes more pressure off these joints than other chest exercises.
Pressing with your feet off the ground.
This technique is beneficial for building muscle in your chest because it increases the range of motion and targets your chest more than a normal bench press.
They’re great for breaking through plateaus due to increasing the amount of weight you would normally be lifting because you are not focusing on the complete range of motion and generally increase the time under tension.
To benefit from static holds, select a weight and after getting into starting position, lower the weight only to your sticking point or a fixed point. Hold the weight for a specific amount of time before re-racking it.
Try any of the aforementioned strategies in your chest workout with free weights to watch your chest development progress well!
Chest Building Mistakes
If you’re looking to target your chest for mass, workouts aren’t enough. You need to make sure your nutrition is focused or you’ll never progress much.
Making sure you have the appropriate amounts of carbs to power your muscles and protein for recovery are essential.
Incorrect form will inhibit muscle gain and lead to injury
You should maintain proper form at all times, but if your shoulders feel sore or fatigued, you should know how to modify the exercise.
You should also ensure that your elbows stay aligned with your shoulders.
Don’t allow them to “fly out” too far from your body during the exercise.
If you’re not using a warm-up before your chest workout, then it’s time to start.
While this might seem like an added step that you don’t have time for or something that doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.
There are good reasons why a proper warm-up is so important – and they all center around muscle gain.
The first reason is that your muscles will contract more easily when they’re warmed up.
This means that the contraction phase of every rep will be stronger and last longer.
The second reason has to do with blood flow.
As your body temperature rises from the exercise, you’ll increase blood flow through those same muscles.
This contributes to improved performance during each rep as well as the next.
The last reason for doing a warm-up is that it can help to improve your range of motion.
This means you’ll be able to do more reps with better form without feeling too fatigued in the process.
This will allow you to get stronger and build muscle faster!
Are you doing chest exercises incorrectly? You might not be. But your technique could be preventing muscle growth, so it’s worth exploring.
If you’re not using proper form on a chest exercise, then you’ll never get any benefit from it.
Your shoulders could also injure themselves which means they won’t be able to train for quite some time!
Cheat Reps/Swinging Weights
This doesn’t help strength or build muscle because all of the work is being done by momentum rather than actual effort.
It might seem like cheating makes things easier in the short term but this practice ensures no progress long term.
The more time your muscles are under tension, the more muscle they will grow.
This is why bodybuilders often use very slow repetitions when training chest to build up their pecs.
If you want to get bigger chest muscles, then you need to put them under constant tension.
Make sure that you’re always performing reps slowly enough so that the muscles are fully engaged for at least 2-3 seconds per rep.
This should be done during both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phases of the movement.
This means no cheating or swinging weights!
You should also avoid any form of momentum which might take some weight off your pecs during each repetition.
Overworking your chest
Many people use chest exercises to build muscle in their pecs.
However, if you’re not giving them enough time to recover then working them out will inhibit growth.
Overtraining is a common mistake that many people make when trying to get bigger or more defined pecs.
They push themselves too hard and never give themselves any rest days between workouts.
This causes stress on the muscles which can lead to reduced production of anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone (GH).
These two hormones are responsible for triggering protein synthesis which is what builds muscle tissue after each workout.
So if you’re not giving your muscles enough time to rest, then they’ll never get the chance to grow larger or stronger.
If you are trying to build muscle in your chest but aren’t seeing results, then this could be the reason why!
There are many different exercises you can do to work your chest muscles.
However, the 12 listed above will give you a better chance at maximizing muscle growth in this area of your body.
It seems that most people want big pecs but only a small percentage utilizes proper techniques and uses effective exercise routines to achieve their goals.
If you’re ready for bigger pectoral muscles, then make sure you consider these tips as they’ll help improve results!
Share this article with your workout partner so that they can take advantage as well!