The Best Chest Exercises for All Levels of Gym-Goers
This range of exercises is suitable for all levels and will help you build a larger chest.
You may want to bulk up if you spend a lot of time in the Weights Room or start a strict workout routine. Even if you don’t plan to go to the gym, there is no denying that you want bigger abs. There is no shortcut. It’s impossible to get bigger abs if you put in the work.
Robert Stevenson, Optimum Gold Standard PT of year, says that “Building a larger chest is not something you can do overnight.”
Make sure you do chest exercises at least two days per week to strengthen your chest. For experienced lifters, you can incorporate maximal (one to three repetitions), heavy (4-8 reps), medium (8-12 reps), and lighter (12+ reps) sets. For those new to the gym, you should stick with lighter weights and higher rep ranges until they get better at their technique.
It is important to work your chest from all angles. Not only should you focus on the largest muscles, the pectoralis major, but also smaller muscles such as the pectoralis minor or clavicular.
We asked Keith McNiven, the founder of Right Path Fitness personal training company, to share their favourite chest exercises for beginners, intermediate, and advanced gym-goers.
Beginner Chest Exercises
This is a great place to begin for complete beginners: put your hands on an elevated surface for a pressing-up.
This exercise will allow you to adapt to the difficulty of a push-up. Stevenson suggests performing the exercise against a raised surface, such as a box, bench or bar on a squat rack.
“It’s one my most popular exercises that I use with clients who aren’t ready to do a press-up on a floor.”
Incline dumbbell press
Place a bench at 45 degrees. Place a dumbbell on each side of your body, one in each hand. Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Keep your dumbbells straight by pressing the dumbbells upwards. Lower under control.
It can be easy for beginners to get started in the gym on a flat bench. Stevenson says it is easier to transfer the dumbbells to the incline by starting on an incline.
Resistance band flye
Two resistance bands should be attached to a post. Keep your arms straight while holding the other end of the bands to your sides. Slowly move your arms so that they touch your chest. Keep your arms straight. Then slowly return them to their original position.
Stevenson says, “This is an effective and safe way to learn the difference between a press and a flye movement.
The bands create maximum tension where your hands meet in the middle. You also have a lower risk of injury at the stretch point.
This can be used to finish a workout and get a real chest burn. You’ll be able to see the difference if you do 60 seconds of fast reps.
This list contains several variations of the press-up, which is a testament to its effectiveness as a chest exercise. You should ensure you master it before you move on to intermediate exercises. If it proves difficult, then try the hands-elevated pressing-up.
Begin in a plank position. Your body will support your legs and keep your feet on the ground. Lower your chest to just below the floor. Then press down, keeping your elbows close together.
This plank variant is great for your core, shoulder strength, and chest. Your hands should be under your shoulders. You will then form a straight line between your neck and ankles by starting in a high plank. Tap your right shoulder with your left hand, lift your left hand and tap your right shoulder with your right. Keep going with the same pattern, but keep your hips straight and your core engaged.
Intermediate Chest Exercises
TRX Press-up to Flye
With your arms straight and your shoulders apart, hold the straps in your hands. Press down until your thumbs touch your armpits. Keep your elbows bent and your palms facing in. Next, move your hands to the sides to see your chest below the handles. To return your chest to its original position, bring your hands together.
Stevenson says that you can alter the difficulty of the variation by moving your feet. It will be more difficult if your feet are further away from the TRX ropes.
Balance and stability are the most difficult aspects of this exercise. It takes some coordination to alternate between a press-up movement and a flye movement, but once you do it, you will feel the benefits of combining both of these movements into one.
This classic chest exercise is meant to be a compliment. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on a bench. Then, lower the barbell to your chest and push it up.
Stevenson says, “This is and will always be the daddy chest exercises.” “A combination of flat, decline and inclined bench presses will hit your chest from the top to the bottom.”
Place both the ends of the pulleys at their highest point in the middle of the cable machine. Keep your elbows bent slightly forward at the waist and bend slightly at the handles. Slowly lower your hands and cross your body to hold the handles. Then slowly return them to their original position. Keep your elbows bent throughout the movement.
Stevenson says, “This is easily the second favourite exercise after a benchpress.” The cable cross-over allows you to work from low and high, across the middle and high and low on the pulley and will ensure that you get the chest DOM that everyone desires. This can be superset with any chest press to get maximum gains and a horrible burn.
Cross-over resistance band
McNiven says that while the cross-over exercise on a cable machine is a great way to strengthen your chest, you can also use resistance bands. Resistance bands are a great option because you can perform the move indoors or outdoors.
Wrap the resistance band behind a sturdy surface such as a post and then face away from it holding each end in your hands. Open your chest and extend your arms to the sides. Next, bring the ends of resistance bands in front of you in a controlled motion.
Press-up with a gym ball
McNiven says that the press-up is a great exercise for your chest. If you want to challenge yourself, you can use a gym ball. Stand with the ball in your hands and place your abs on it. Roll your body forwards until your feet touch the ball. Your arms should not be wider than your shoulders. Inhale and bend your elbows. Next, exhale and extend your arms.
Press-ups can be done by moving your hands closer together. This will increase the attention on your chest muscles. It’s important not to place your hands too far apart. This can ruin the quality and effectiveness of your press-ups.
The floor press is a great way to work your chest when the bench is full. However, there are key differences between these two exercises. The floor press is a less active exercise than the bench press. This means that your shoulders are not as stressed, and your chest can do more of the work. The other difference is that your arms touch the ground every rep, which causes tension in your muscles to drop. This makes each lift more difficult.
Lay on your back, with your legs extended or bent at your knees. Your feet should be flat on the ground. With your hands spread shoulder-width apart, hold a barbell. Slowly lower the barbell to your chest, allow your shoulders and head to touch the ground, and then lift the bar explosively.
Two dumbbells and a bench will allow you to hit more chest fibres than the bench presses. With your arms extended to the ceiling, place the dumbbells on your back and raise them above your chest. Keep your elbows bent and your back flat against a bench. Then lower the dumbbells as far as you feel comfortable. After a brief pause, bring the dumbbells up to your chest. You should aim for eight reps in each set. Use a weight that makes it difficult to complete the last few reps.
Kettlebell incline flye
It’s a smart move to introduce an incline to your chest workouts. This allows you to hit different angles on the muscles. This flye is best done with kettlebells. The weight of the kettlebells will be on the outside of your wrists. It makes it easier to keep the elbow bend constant throughout the movie. Place a bench at 15 degrees. Now, lie down and hold a kettlebell in each of your hands. Your palms should be facing. Keep the weights at the sides and bend your elbows slightly so that you feel the weights stretch across your chest. Slowly lift the bells back up to their original position by pressing your chest.
Because of its curving path, the landmine press will work your chest, arms, and shoulders. It also puts less pressure on your shoulder joints than a traditional press. To prevent any damage to walls, secure one end of the barbell in a corner. Wrap a towel around it and load weight plates onto the other end. Keep the weighted end of the barbell in your hands and place it in front. Push the bar up to extend your arms, and then lower it. The move can be done with one hand or by kneeling.
The dive bomber is another great press-up variation. It works your hamstrings, stretches your lower back, and hits the chest hard. To make a move more challenging, you will need to lift your hips. Next, lower your head and move your head forwards. This will flatten your body so that your hips and legs hover just above the ground. Push forwards, raising your chest and head. To return to the original position, reverse the motion.
Advanced chest exercises
Top to bottom press-up
Stevenson says, “You will need a Smith machine or squat rack for this one along with a set parallettes [tall handle].”
Start with the bar at the bottom of the rack. Hold onto the parallettes and place your feet on top of the bar. Your body will look like a plank. Do ten to fifteen press-ups. Make sure your chest is not parallel with the parallettes.
Then, move the bar to the next hole in the rack or peg on your Smith machine. Continue this process until your chest and shoulders can no longer go further. This is the ultimate progression in decline press-ups and a great exercise for any gym.
Single dumbbell press
Stevenson says, “Not to be mistaken with a single arm dumbbell press. This is a press that uses both arms, but only one dumbbell.”
Imagine trying to squeeze a dumbbell out of both ends. Your force should be towards the middle. You’ll feel your chest begin to fire as soon as the inward force is applied. As you push the dumbbell upward and downward, keep the pressure constant. This exercise targets your mid-chest.”
Keep your back straight while you lower yourself on the dip bars. To maximize the load on your chest, keep a wide grip. Wear a dipping belt to increase your reps or keep a dumbbell between your legs for low-rep sets.
This exercise, which is charmingly named, is best for advanced gym-goers with a trusted spotter. It is because if you do it wrong, a barbell will apply an unpleasant amount of pressure to your throat. You lift the bar towards your throat rather than lowering it to your chest like a standard bench press. You can increase the range of motion by lowering the bar to your neck rather than your chest. This will make your pecs grow bigger and stronger.
Clap press-ups are a powerful plyometrics move that stimulates growth in areas where other exercises don’t. Start in the top press-up position and lower your chest until it touches the ground. Then, explode up with a powerful push so that your hands are free to clap.