In the fitness industry, Mondays are recognized as International Chest Day. Meatheads all across the world begin the week by moaning and trying to be the first to shove the next set of plates in order to bulk up their barrel-shaped bodies. They then leave the gym without utilizing a single piece of equipment (unless, of course, they’re heading to the squat rack for a long round of biceps curls).
There are a variety of reasons to do your weekly chest exercises, just a few of which are relevant to your aim to be a Multi-Plate Bench Press Guy: The chest contains some of your largest muscles, and you use them all the time, even when you’re not in the gym. Trying to open a door? Do you have any dry cleaning to pick up? What are you doing with your hair (or the remnants thereof)? Yes, yes, and yes once more.
The sheer number of exercises available, along with the reverence with which every gym rat learns to treat their chest day, can make it tough to know what to do or if you’re doing it right. We asked a few top trainers for their advice on the best workouts for bulking up and perking up the pecs. As with other group-specific exercises, you may train your chest on up to three non-consecutive days each week. You’ll be stacking those plates in no time.
These aren’t usually the hardest or most demanding workouts. It focuses on the muscle builders that we believe are the best and most efficient pound for pound. To get you started, we’ve also provided an explanation and a brief “how to” instruction. These are ideal for substituting exercises in your current program, developing an entirely new chest routine, or simply changing things up and keeping things interesting when your regular practice becomes boring. But before we begin, there are a few things you should be aware of. Scroll down to get started if you’re a workout veteran who is solely interested in the exercises.
The Chest-Building Exercise
1 – Bench Press
Sure, we just discussed going beyond the bench press. But if you’re serious about training—or even if you merely go into any regular strength facility in the world—you can’t escape the workout. The maneuver is common for a reason: it works. To add some variation, let’s break it down using dumbbells.
Do it: Because you’re focusing on muscle growth rather than maximum weight, maintain your buttocks on the bench, feet flat on the floor, and glutes and core engaged. In addition, press your shoulder blades against the bench.
Squeeze the handles of your dumbbells tightly. Don’t merely hold the weights parallel to your shoulders after your back is on the bench. Maintain a 45-degree angle with your elbows to assist keep your shoulders secure. Squeeze your chest to force the weight higher, then drop it under control to just above your chest. Drive back up to complete another rep.
2 – Chest Fly
The chest fly, one of the most popular chest workouts, is all about producing tension via movement. The idea here is to squeeze rather than flap your arms like a bird to take flight, as the name indicates. As a result, you’ll probably utilize less weight than you think.
Do it: Lay down on a flat bench with dumbbells in each hand. With your pinkies bent slightly inside, press the weights up over your chest, keeping them from touching. On the bench, maintain full-body tension.
Lower your arms down, moving solely at your shoulders and preserving a tiny bend in your elbows. Go only as far as your shoulder mobility permits. Tightness your shoulder blades to return the weight to the beginning position, focusing on the squeeze in your chest at the top.
3 – Dumbbell Floor Press
Is there no bench? No worries. For a shoulder-safe chest pump, lower your dumbbell press to the floor. This is another great choice for building up your chest with home exercises because all you’ll need is some weights and some room to stretch out.
Do it: Lay back on the floor and securely grab a pair of dumbbells. Maintain a flat foot on the floor while driving with your heels and tightening your glutes. To keep your shoulders safe, maintain your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body.
In the top position, press the dumbbells up and compress your chest. Lower your back gently, letting your elbows to temporarily rest on the ground.
4 – Band Chest Fly
The band chest fly is a wonderful warmup before a chest exercise or a powerful burnout at the end of one. The motion is similar to its bigger brother, the cable fly (more on that below), or the dumbbell fly, but using exercise bands makes it more accessible and perhaps another workout you can perform at home. “This exercise may be an incredibly effective single or double arm exercise improving hypertrophy and muscular endurance (giving that pump) without placing as much stress on the shoulder joints as a chest fly with a dumbbell,” explains Curtis Shannon, C.S.C.S.
“I prefer using it as an accessory, warmup/priming lift, filler lift, or finisher lift.” It may also be designed to include worldwide lower and upper body pull workouts like the deadlift or bent-over row. Alternatively, utilize it as a “beach day” workout that focuses on high volume for that “pump.”
Attach two bands to a sturdy foundation, such as a power rack or tower. Wrap the ends of the bands around your palms in each hand. In the center of the station, take a staggered stance. Your arms should be slightly bent yet extended. Avoid rounding your back by leaning forward slightly at the hips.
Bring your hands together without adjusting the angle of your arms. Slowly reverse the movement while keeping the bands under control.
5 – Batwing Fly
Spend more time at the bottom of the movement to truly profit from it. Begin with low weights to get acclimated to the technique, and alternate between overhand and neutral grips to keep things interesting.
Sit on an incline bench, dumbbells in each hand. Begin with weights held in your hands at your pecs, as if ready for a press. Maintain a strong chest and a natural arch in your lower back.
Maintain your powerful chest stance by straightening your arms out to each side. Stretch your muscles by pausing for a count with your arms outstretched.
6 – Half-Kneeling Chest Press
Take a knee for some chest development. The half-kneeling chest press also allows you to work on your core while off-balance, providing additional advantages and making the workout more realistic. “We don’t get to operate symmetrically in the actual world.” “We’re a little off-kilter,” said Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “This throws you off guard.”
Do it: Kneel in front of a cable machine setup with one leg forward. Grab the cable with the same hand that is holding the knee that is on the ground. Press the cable out in front of your chest while keeping your core firm and your up-knee straight. Avoid rotating with the cable as you return your arm to the beginning position by clenching your core and anchoring your hip on the ground.
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.
“This is a terrific exercise to incorporate into your program to provide diversity to your upper body push routine,” Shannon explains. “The incline bench press is a higher challenge than the flat or decline bench because of the mechanical force and posture.” This allows you to achieve a stronger adaptational response with less weight than the flat benchpress. When I execute this exercise, I feel more muscle in my chest and less stress in my shoulder joint than when I do the flat bench.”
Shannon suggests programming this as a primary or secondary lift. The prescription is entirely determined by the load, intensity, and volume.
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 – Cable Fly
Most guys merely press when it comes to training their pecs. Including the fly in your program provides a fresh stimulation for your pecs and front deltoids.
Do it: Connect two stirrup handles to a cable-crossover station’s high-pulley cables. Grab a handle with each hand and stand in the center of the station in a staggered posture. Your arms should be slightly bent yet extended. Lean forward slightly at the hips, not your back.
Bring your hands together without adjusting the angle of your arms. Reverse the movement slowly.
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.
Each chain link weighs ‘X’ pounds, and that weight is now something you have to handle and manage. As you proceed through the eccentric (lengthening) portion of the lift, lowering the weight to your chest, the stress is reduced since more of the chain is on the ground. When you press the weight higher, you raise more chain links, carrying the added weight up with you. Bands function similarly, with continual strain on the bar.
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.
Take the barbell and lie down on a bench. Hold the bar above your chest with an overhand grip little wider than shoulder width and your arms straight. Lower the bar to your chest, then return 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.