Updated: May 13
The chest is one of the most popular muscle groups to train, as a well-defined chest can give you a confident and strong appearance. When exercising the chest, it can be divided into different areas including the upper chest, the middle chest, and the lower chest. As for the anatomy of pectoral muscles, there are 4: the Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Serratus Anterior, and Subclavius. But what are the best exercises for building a chest? In this article, we'll explore some of the most effective exercises that you should always include in your regimen for chest development, and discuss why they're so effective. These are 5 exercises to keep in your chest routine:
1) Barbell Bench Press
“What do you bench?”, is perhaps one of the most common questions asked revolving around weight lifting and bodybuilding. The barbell bench press is perhaps the most popular exercise for chest development. It targets the upper, middle, and lower chest, as well as the triceps and shoulders. The barbell bench press is a compound exercise that allows you to lift heavier weights, making it an excellent exercise for building strength. Progressive overload is the key here, you don’t want to go lift only for weight. Make sure you can control the weight on the concentric and eccentric portions of the exercise.
To perform a barbell bench press, lie on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground. Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the bar to your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in and your wrists perpendicular to the bar, there should be little to no bend at the wrists. Pause for a moment and then press the bar back up to the starting position.
2) Dumbbell Fly
The dumbbell fly is another popular exercise for chest development. It will give you the appearance of a wider chest, which is essential in creating a v-taper. It targets the upper and middle chest, as well as the shoulders. The dumbbell fly is another exercise where you do not want to ego lift, make sure that you are controlling the weight throughout the movement. Dumbbell flies are an isolation exercise, meaning they only work one joint at a time, allowing you to focus on your chest muscles more directly.
To perform a dumbbell fly, lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms above your chest, with your palms facing each other. Slowly lower the weights to the sides of your chest, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Pause for 1-2 seconds and then lift the weights back to the starting position. Remember to build that mind-muscle connection, you don’t want to go through the movement without maintaining constant flexion on the chest. Remember to squeeze your chest at the top of the movement.
The push-up is a classic exercise that targets the entire chest, as well as the triceps and shoulders. It's a bodyweight exercise that can be performed anywhere, making it a convenient exercise to include in your workout routine. Starting your chest day with push-ups can be game-changing. It allows you to start that mind-muscle connection and warm up all essential anatomy for chest day. Push-ups can also be done in many different variations that target different areas of the chest or provide more resistance during the exercise.
To perform a push-up, start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your chest touches the ground, keeping your elbows slightly tucked in. Push back up to the starting position. If a conventional push-up is still too difficult, get into position with your knees on the ground while you build strength in your upper body.
4) Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press is a variation of the barbell bench press that targets the upper chest more directly. It's an excellent exercise for creating a well-rounded chest. This exercise is in many ways superior to the standard bench press for chest development because it isolates a little more from the help of the triceps. It can also be done with dumbbells for even more isolation. Focus on control, keeping the chest stretched and tensioned on the eccentric movement and squeezing on the concentric.
To perform an incline bench press, set the bench to a 45-degree angle. Make sure not to incline the bench more than a 45-degree angle or you will be working the shoulders more. Lie on the bench and grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the bar to your upper chest, keeping your elbows tucked in. Pause for 1-2 seconds and then press the bar back up to the starting position.
5) Cable Crossover
The cable crossover is another isolation exercise that targets the entire chest, as well as the shoulders. It's an often underrated yet excellent exercise for creating a deep stretch in your chest muscles, which can promote muscle growth. You can do the cable crossover at different heights to target different areas of your chest. Also, you can try doing this exercise with a bench, which will take away the advantage of the momentum and help you isolate the chest muscle during the movement.
To perform a cable crossover, set the cables to a high position on each side of the machine. Grab each handle and step forward, keeping one foot in front of the other (almost a lunge position). Lower your arms to your sides, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Pause for 1-2 seconds and then lift the handles in front of you, and at chest level, back to the starting position.
These are some of the best exercises for chest development. Keep these exercises in your chest regimen and remain consistent for a button-popping chest. Remember to use proper form and gradually increase the weight with progressive overload to avoid injury and promote muscle growth.
Before starting any fitness program or making dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.