The bench press is one of the most well-known exercises as a powerful chest builder, yet many lifters still struggle to grow chest size and strength with only one move.
Building a larger chest isn’t as simple as randomly doing bench presses and push ups, and here’s why…
It is advisable to perform a variety of motions covering multiple rep levels when aiming to develop chest muscle throughout a bulking phase. Your training should consist of a mix of compound exercises such as flat and incline bench pressing, dips, dumbbell training, and isolated movements such as flyes.
Higher rep training using machines is also beneficial since it allows you to exercise the chest more frequently and at higher intensities without being constrained by other muscular groups.
In summary, the more you can train your chest (up to 2-3 times per week) and correctly recover from that training (smart programming and enough nutrition), the more you can repeat this muscle-building process.
We asked Stevenson and Keith McNiven, founders of personal training firm Right Path Fitness, to propose their favorite chest exercises for beginner, intermediate, and experienced gym-goers, and we’ve thrown in a couple of our favorites as well, to aid you on your journey to a larger chest.
This article discusses exercises for increasing chest strength and definition.
For total beginners, a press-up on an elevated surface is a fantastic place to start.
“With this workout, you can quickly adjust the difficulty of a press-up.” “You could do it against an elevated surface like a bench, box, or a bar in a squat rack,” Stevenson explains.
“It’s one of the most popular exercises I employ with new students who aren’t quite ready for a floor press-up.”
The Chest-Building Exercise
1. Incline push-up
Pushups are an excellent multipurpose workout since they use the complete upper and lower body. Pushups performed on an incline will focus more on the lower chest.
- a flat exercise bench, a jump box, or a step platform
- Place yourself in front of the bench. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the bench’s edge.
- Put yourself in a plank posture by stretching your legs backward until your legs and back create a straight line. Maintain your weight on the balls of your feet.
- Bend the arms slowly to drop the chest toward the bench. Keep your elbows and arms close to your torso.
- Push the torso away from the bench slowly, extending the arms but keeping the elbows slightly bent.
- One set should consist of 8-12 repetitions.
This list has various press-up variants, demonstrating how effective it is as a chest workout. It’s recommended doing it before going on to intermediate exercises, but if it’s too difficult, try the hands-elevated press-up above.
Begin in a high plank posture, bracing yourself on your hands and toes and making a straight line with your body from your neck to your ankles. Lower your chest until it’s barely above the floor, then push back up, keeping your elbows tight to your sides.
Place your feet together, toes on the floor, hands wider than shoulder width and flat on the floor, and elbows outstretched in a plank posture. Lower yourself, keeping your head neutral and abs firm, by bending your elbows until your chest lightly touches the ground, then pressing through your palms until your arms are straight again.
2. Decline dumbbell press
The directions for this exercise call for dumbbells, although a barbell can also be used.
Folks who use a barbell can lift larger weights for less reps, but dumbbells provide a wider range of motion and may be a better alternative for people who wish to target their lower chest.
- two dumbbells or one barbell
- one decline bench
- Position the decline bench at a 45-degree angle and lie down with one dumbbell in each hand. Place the dumbbells on your thighs, palms facing in. Always keep the back flat.
- Raise the dumbbells above your chest, arms extended toward the ceiling. Hands should be kept facing inward.
- Hold the dumbbells shoulder-width apart and twist your wrists so that your hands face away.
- Begin by bending the arms to a 90-degree angle at the elbow. The dumbbells should be placed on the chest’s outside margins.
- Exhale and push the dumbbells up using your chest muscles. Hold the squeeze at the top of the lift for 1-2 seconds.
- Return to the beginning position by slowly lowering the dumbbells.
- One set should consist of 8-12 repetitions. Between sets, take a break.
The floor press is a terrific move to do when the bench is crowded. It works your chest similarly to the bench press, but there are several major distinctions between the workouts. Because lying on the floor and pushing the bar above you has a narrower range of motion than a typical bench press, it puts less stress on your shoulders; but, you can’t use your legs in the press, so your chest needs to do more work. Another difference is that when your arms contact the ground with each rep, you lose muscle tension and have to start again with each lift, making the start of each press substantially more difficult.
Lie on your back on the floor with your legs stretched or bent at the knees and your feet flat on the floor. Hands shoulder-width apart, above your chest, hold a barbell. Slowly lower the bar to your chest, allowing your shoulders to come into contact with the ground, then explode back up.
4. Cable crossover
Place yourself in the center of the cable machine, with both ends of the pulleys at their highest setting. Bend forward at the waist and grasp the handles with your elbows slightly bent. Pull your hands down and across your body, then gently return to the beginning position, maintaining your elbows bent throughout the action.
“After the bench press, this is certainly my second favorite exercise,” Stevenson adds. “The cable cross-over allows you to work on the pulley machine from low to high, across the center, and high to low, ensuring you receive the chest DOMS that everyone loves.” Combine this with any chest press for maximum gains and a horrifying burn.”
5 – Batwing Fly
Set up two dumbbells on a flat bench to impact a larger range of chest fibres than the bench press. Lie on your back with your arms stretched towards the ceiling, dumbbells over your chest. Lower the dumbbells out to the sides as far as is comfortable, keeping your elbows slightly bent and your back flat on the bench. Pause momentarily before reuniting the dumbbells above your chest. Aim for three sets of eight repetitions and a weight that makes the last few reps difficult.
Kettlebell incline flye
Incorporating some inclination into your chest workouts is a wise decision since it allows you to strike the muscles from various angles. We prefer utilizing kettlebells for this flye because the weight is kept on the outside of your wrists, making it easier to retain the same bend in your elbows throughout the motion. Set up a 15° angle bench and lie back, holding a kettlebell in each hand over your shoulders, palms facing. Lower the weights out to the sides, keeping both elbows slightly bent, until you feel a stretch across your chest. Then, compressing your chest, carefully return the bells to the starting position.
6. Decline dumbbell bench press with external rotation
This move is a variant on the previous one. It is significantly more complex than a typical dumbbell press, so beginners should start with smaller weights until they feel comfortable with the technique.
- two dumbbells or one barbell
- one decline bench
- Place one dumbbell in each hand on the decline bench. Place the dumbbells on your thighs, palms facing in.
- Raise the dumbbells above your chest, arms stretched toward the ceiling, hands in the same posture.
- Lower the dumbbells to the beginning position, but maintain the palms facing inward this time. The palms should not be rotated. Dumbbells should be held parallel to the torso.
- Slowly inhale.
- On the exhale, utilize the chest muscles to force the dumbbells up while twisting the palms outward to face each other. Squeeze for 1-2 seconds and hold.
- Slowly drop the weights while twisting the palms inward to return to the starting position.
- Each set should include 8-12 repetitions. Between sets, take a break.
7 – Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
This is an upper-body push exercise that works the pectoralis major, clavicular, costal, and sternal heads, as well as the anterior deltoids, triceps, biceps, and serratus anterior.
Do it: Place yourself on a bench with the backrest set at a 45-degree angle. Hold a pair of dumbbells over your chest, arms straight, palms towards your feet, which should be flat on the floor. Maintain a strong core and prevent arching your back, which means your buttocks should be glued to the seat.
Dumbbells should be raised directly over the shoulders. You may have seen individuals at the gym slamming weights together at the top, but there’s no need to do so here. Lower the dumbbells to chest level (without worrying about how deep you go) before pressing them back up for the next rep.
8 – Close-Grip Bench Press
Because barbells are more stable than dumbbells, you can lift more weight with them. As a result, barbell presses tend to increase raw strength in your chest. However, because this variant focuses more on your triceps, you’ll receive extra training for the largest muscles in your arms as well.
Do it: Hold a barbell above your sternum with your arms straight, using an overhand grip slightly narrower than shoulder width. Reduce the bar to your chest. 1 second holding Raise the bar.
9. Parallel-bar dips (chest)
Dips on parallel bars work several muscular groups in the chest, arms, shoulders, and back. Remember to lean slightly forward on the dip to stimulate the muscles in the lower chest throughout this exercise.
- a set of parallel bars
- Grip the bars and lift your body up over them with your arms.
- Inhale slowly while bending your arms and leaning forward. Lower your body till you feel a little stretching feeling in your chest.
- Lift the body back over the bars on the exhale.
- Rep as many reps as you can without overworking the muscles.
Parallel-bar dips need a substantial level of upper-body strength. People who are unsure about doing a full chest dip might attempt the variant below instead.
10 – Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
Changing the angle of the bench changes more than just the landscape. According to Tyler English, C.S.C.S., author of Natural Bodybuilder’s Bible, this workout focuses on your lower chest, assisting in the development of substantial size. Do it: Place your shins beneath the leg support of a decline bench. With your arms straight, hold a pair of dumbbells over your chest. The weights should be just outside your shoulders, with your hands towards your feet.
Lower the dumbbells to your chest, pause, and then press them back up to start.
11 – Band or Chain Barbell Bench Press
Adding chains or bands to the ends of a barbell modifies the weight as you progress through the lift’s stages.
Do it: Attach a link to each end of the barbell, or connect resistance bands to the bench and lay them over each end. Begin without weight to get acclimated to the unsteady bar.
Grab the barbell and lie down on a bench. Hold the bar above your chest with an overhand grip that is little wider than shoulder width, maintaining your arms straight. Lower the bar to your chest, then push it back up to the starting position.
12 – Plyometric Pushup
According to English, this forceful pushup targets the fast-twitch muscles in your chest, prepping them for growth. The movement also provides you with an additional, more potent option for at-home chest growth. Do it: Put your hands slightly outside your chest, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your body in a straight line from head to heels in a pushup position. Prepare your core.
Lower your chest to the floor and then explode up, lifting your hands off the floor. Clap your hands together before returning to your starting posture on the ground if you can.
13 – Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise strikes your chest as hard as any great bench variant. The opposite side of your body, notably your core, must lock down so the dumbbell does not drag you off the bench, according to Dan John, famed strength instructor.
As a result, the workout sculpts your chest—as well as your abs—to a larger extent.
Do it: Lie on a bench with your back flat and a dumbbell in your right hand. Directly over your chest, press the dumbbell until your arm is straight. Lower the weight to the right side of your chest slowly.
Pause, then hit it again. Perform all of your repetitions on your right side, then switch to your left.
14 – Suspended Pushup
Pushups performed with your hands in an unstable suspension trainer engage your core, chest, and stabilizer muscles harder than pushups performed on the floor, according to English. The use of TRX straps makes this a more accessible alternative for at-home training.
Grab the TRX strap handles and stretch your arms in front of your chest. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your torso should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor. From head to heels, your body should make a straight line.
Reduce your chest to the floor so that your hands are slightly outside your shoulders. As you drop, keep your elbows in and your head in a neutral position. Throughout the exercise, keep your core tight.
15 – Standing One-Arm Landmine Press
Most chest pushes put strain on your shoulders. This workout strengthens your chest while also increasing shoulder mobility.
According to Eric Cressey, co-owner of Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA, your shoulder blade glides with you as you push, placing less strain on the joint.
It also shakes your abs since your core has to lock down to prevent your torso from bending back or twisting.
Do it: Perform this one-of-a-kind workout by securely inserting one end of a barbell into a corner and grasping the opposing end with one arm. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and buttocks pushed back. Begin by placing your elbow by your side and your wrist near your shoulder. Brace your core muscles and extend your arm straight up and out toward the ceiling.