Discover the best chest exercises for building a chest worthy of Greek god status. On this page, I’ll give you my take on top 5 exercises for chest training.
As an overview, here are my picks for the best chest exercises:
1. Barbell Bench Press
2. Chest Dip
3. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
4. Cable Incline Fly
5. Push Up
Now, I’ll discuss the benefits of these exercises and how to perform them correctly.
1. Barbell Bench Press
Lie on a flat weight bench, feet flat on the floor, and eyes positioned directly under the bar. Grasp the bar using a wider than shoulder width grip.
Arch your lower back and push through your heels so that your weight goes onto your butt and shoulder blades. Keep your butt on the pad.
Unrack the bar, and position it directly above your upper chest. Keep your elbows tucked at about 45° to your torso.
Lower the bar it until it touches your nipples. Press the bar back up to the start position. Repeat.
Note: Read these bench press tips for more technique cues, and tips on how to increase your bench.
The flat bench press is a fundamental exercise that deserves a place at the core of every weight lifter’s chest workout.
It works chest, shoulders and triceps the most. But when you go heavy, you’ll feel it everywhere. Abs, hamstrings, lats. I often wake up the day after a heavy bench workout with sore glutes.
The flat bench is the bets exercise for horizontal pushing strength. Bar none. And it’s a toss up between bench press and overhead press for best overall upper body pressing movement.
Basically, the bench press will help get your upper body strong as sh*t while building plenty of mass on your chest. So do it.
2. Chest Dip
How to Do Chest Dips:
Claim the dip station (any halfway decent gym will one). If your dip station has different grip width options, slightly wider than shoudler width is best.
Hoist yourself up by extending your elbows. Cross your legs at the ankles and contract your glutes to stabilize your body.
Slowly lower your body until your elbows are at 90°, leaning forward as you dip down to target your chest.
Then push yourself back up to the start position. I recommend locking out, but some people choose not to (do whatever feels best for you). Repeat.
Note: Check out my tutorial on triceps dips for more info on technique (the only difference between chest and triceps dips is that you lean forward for chest dips).
Chest dips obviously hit your pecs the hardest, but they also work the heck out of your triceps and front delts. As such, they are a potent upper body mass builder…
…But isn’t the chest dip limited in its muscle building capacity because it’s a bodyweight movement?
Hell no! You can add weight to your heart’s content by simply using a dip belt to attach plates to your body.
3. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
You’ll need an incline bench (adjustable or fixed) and dumbbells to perform the incline dumbbell press. Tip: If you train at home, I recommend getting a good pair of heavy adjustable dumbbells, which you’ll be able to use on tons of other exercises, too.
Start in a seated position. Hold the dumbbells on your knees and hoist them up to your shoulders with your knees, as you recline into the backrest.
Plant your feet on the floor, pull your shoulder blades together and arch your back slightly. Keep your head and butt on the bench.
Press the dumbbells up and towards each other until your arms fully extended and vertical, with your palms facing forward.
Lower the dumbbells in a slow controlled motion until they are just above the outer part of each pectoral. Your elbows should stop at 90°. Repeat.
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press Benefits:
The incline dumbbell bench press is one of the best chest exercises because is it is unmatched (IMO) in its ability to target the upper chest muscle fibers.
Pressing on an incline shifts the emphasis to the upper pecs. And using dumbbells allows you to maneuver your arms in a way that isolates the pecs much more precisely than is possible with a barbell.
Additionally, this lift trains the stabilizer muscles in a way barbell training can’t. You’re forced to balance and stabilize the dumbbells independently…
…As such, the dumbbell incline press can increase your barbell bench press (incline and flat) strength
4. Cable Incline Flyes
How to Do Cable Incline Flyes:
Go to the cable crossover station and set both of the cable columns to the lowest setting. Make sure the weight stacks are the same on both sides.
Grab the handles one at a time and stand in the center of the cable station with chest open and your arms extended down. Use a staggered stance (one foot forward, one back) and lean forward slightly.
Hold the handles with your palms forward and bend your elbows slightly (maintain this bend throughout the movement).
Contract your pecs to bring the handles together in an upward arcing motion, until your hands touch in front of your body at neck-height.
- Tip: As shown/described in the video below, rotate your wrist outward slightly as you bring the handles together at the top of the motion. This helps engage the upper fibers.
Reverse the motion to lower the weight and return to starting position. Repeat. (Be sure to alternate which foot is leading/trailing, each set).
Benefits of the Cable Incline Flyes:
Cable incline flyes are my absolute favorite exercise for targeting the upper pecs. They isolate them even more than the dumbbell incline bench press, and give you a ridiculous pump to boot.
I believe this exercise is superior to its dumbbell equivalent: dumbbell incline flyes. Why?…
…For one, the tension on your pecs with the cable is constant at all points in the range of motion. With a dumbbell, it varies. Secondly, using cables makes it a lot easier to learn the technique and feel your pecs doing the work, instead of your arms or shoulders.
You might be wondering why do I care so much about the upper pecs. Why not choose exercises that isolate the lower pec fibers, or exercises that isolate both evenly…
…Well, the reason is that your lower pec fibers get taken care of by simply doing the bigger compound movements (i.e. flat barbell bench press, dips). Unless you’ve got good chest genetics, the upper fibers often lag somewhat in comparison unless targeted intentionally.
5. Push Up
Get on the floor in a plank position, holding your body up with your arms fully extended. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
Space your hands shoulder width apart, and your feet close together (somewhat narrower than hip width). Keep your neck neutral by retracting your chin into your face and looking at the floor (your chest should hit the floor, not your face!)
Throughout the movement, your elbows should stay tucked so that your upper arms are about 45° to your body.
Keep your abs, glutes and hams tight to keep your hips from sagging. Keep your upper back muscles tight to keep your scapula (shoulder blades) close to your ribcage.
Lower your body by bending at the elbow and shoulder joints until your chest touches the floor (engage your back muscles as lower yourself).
Push yourself back to the start position, focusing on your using pecs to do so. Repeat.
Check the scene at any weight training facility and you’ll see people doing push-ups, but how often do you catch someone properly performing a push-up?
A properly performed push up is an effective way to train your pecs, but no doubt you’ll see gains in core strength, triceps, and shoulders, too.
An often overlooked benefit of the push up is that it hits the serratus anterior (muscle on side of ribs) when you do it with good form. A developed serratus not only looks good, but is an essential component of scapular mobility (specifically upward rotation, elevation and protraction).
Another thing that makes push ups one of the best chest exercises is that they’re super versatile. Simple adjustments like changing your hand width or the incline of your body can make a world of difference in how easy or difficult the movement is, and what muscles it targets!
This classic exercise is a great warm up movement. It’s also highly effective as an assistance chest exercise near the end of your chest training – It allows you to precisely target and fatigue the already worn-down pecs.
Note: There are many push up variations you can do to make the push up more challenging or easier.