Building the chest muscles are important for strength and aesthetics. The pecs are one of the biggest muscle groups in the upper-body and are a lot easier to build than many make it to be. The exercises I will be covering are not new top secret exercises that nobody knows about, rather they are time tested exercises that are known to provide results.
If you want a big chest that demands respect you need to put in the work to achieve it. This is going take effort and consistency in your training and nutrition. The best way to build a great set of ‘chesticles’ is to do a combination of strength building and muscle building exercises.
These exercises are one and the same just with varied intensity, volume, and different equipment used over a period of time. For example, you can build a great chest with push-ups, but it will not build strength the same way a barbell bench press will. Combining the right exercises and having different variations is the key to helping you build an armored chest.
This is the most basic exercise that can build up your chest muscles. To see results with push-ups, you need to do a bunch of them because 3 sets of 15 ain’t gonna do it. I am talking tons of volume; like hundreds on a daily basis or you can combine them with a well put together strength training program and do them as a finisher exercise to get in extra volume to create an abundance of blood flow to the muscle giving you that pumped up look that you want.
Push-ups work great for people that don’t have access to weights on a regular basis and still want to build their body. With push-ups, you can accomplish that goal because it is a compound exercise that will target your entire chest along with many other upper-body muscles. You can do push-ups many different ways.
- Incline – Easiest – With your upper-body elevated and feet on the ground; works the lower chest.
- Flat – Basic – Body parallel to ground; works the entire chest.
- Decline – Advanced – With your feet elevated and hands on the ground; works the upper chest.
You can do any of these variations with a close or wide hand placement; they will both target the chest just fine. The closer hand placement is just going to be a greater range of motion, but both styles work well. Do them all! Also, a great way to do push-ups if you bench press is to set the bar up in the rack so your hand placement is exactly where you grip the bar for benching and get busy. Do three sets of as many as possible after you bench and you will have a nice pump in your chest going.
#2. Dumbbell Bench Press
You can’t go wrong with the dumbbell bench press. Dumbbells will allow for a greater range of motion letting you really stretch and contract your chest muscles. Your hand position can be easily changed in different angles to aid in comfortability and to allow for a more natural movement pattern.
If you have an adjustable bench you can really target your chest with different variations although a flat bench will work just fine. It’s nice to have options and if you’re able to do incline presses you might find that these work well for you too. Give these different variations a try.
- Floor – Lay on the floor and bring the dumbbells down until your triceps touch the ground and pause before pressing back up; works the entire chest.
- Flat – Lay on bench and get it going; works all the chest muscles.
- Incline – The incline angle is dependent on what you have available; great for the upper chest.
- Decline – Targets the lower chest and for some is easier and less stress on the shoulders.
Regardless of what dumbbell variation you choose it is going to primarily target the chest muscles and hit other secondary muscles as well. Try them all! Dumbbell presses can be done as your main movement, but typically used as an accessory exercise after a barbell bench press for added volume.
#3. Barbell Bench Press
This is the main staple chest building compound exercise. With the barbell bench press you can really overload the muscle and force growth through high-intensity and volume based training. You can use different grip widths to target the chest. One of my favorite variations is a max wide grip with your feet up of the ground. Basically, this style makes you press the weight without using any leg drive and minimal arch.
Just like the dumbbell press you have many variations with the barbell bench press that will target your chest muscles and provide great results. With the barbell bench press you can use it as your main strength building exercise, but also use it to do volume training that will build a chest that Superman would envy! There are many different variations, so you can change things up and challenge yourself with new exercises when needed.
- Flat – Classic bench press; works entire chest.
- Incline – Great for the upper chest.
- Decline – Targets the lower chest.
- Floor – Works the entire chest.
Adding in pauses to your bench press increases the tension and will help with improving strength off the chest which in return will help you gain momentum in your strength training. When you gain strength you will be able to handle heavier weights which is also contributing to the overall volume on your chest muscles through progressive overload principles.
You will be able to not only handle heavier weights on a 1 rep maximum capacity, but also on a heavier sub-maximum volume capacity as well. Building strength and accumulating volume in your training program will contribute to building the best chest possible and the barbell bench press can do both.
#4. Pec Fly
The pec fly is a greatly misunderstood chest isolation exercise. I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard people say ‘don’t do pec fly’s, they’re bad for you.’ This just isn’t true, well to be honest any exercise has the ability to be bad for you if you do it wrong. I think the main mistake people make is going way to heavy with horrible technique. I would say that a pec fly by itself is definitely not the best chest builder but as an accessory exercise after your bench press would be great.
The point with these is that your not training to do a 1 rep max pec fly competition; it’s to provide some extra volume after you shot your main load on the bench. You can start light to warm-up and progressively work your way up until you get to a somewhat challenging weight without bad form.
There are many ways to do the pec fly and some are better than others, but this depends on the individual. Find what works for you and don’t go crazy with these, ease into them and try to look at the pec fly more as a chest rejuvenator. It pumps fresh blood into your pecs and keeps them healthy and happy. Try some of these different variations and find what works best for you.
- Floor – Great way to do the pec fly exercise, so you get consistent range of motion every rep. Done with dumbbells.
- Flat – On a bench; classic exercise with dumbbells.
- Incline – On an incline bench.
- Machine – Pec deck works fine if you have access to one or cable crossover works great too allowing you to hit the pecs from different angles.
- Chains – This is a great way to do the pec fly if you have access to chains. All you need is two handles with equal amount of chains on each. The chains deload on the eccentric and load the concentric part of the movement.
- Bands – These are an awesome way to do the pec fly because of the versatility they bring to the exercise. You can use two equal bands and attach them to a fixed position like a power rack or whatever you have that won’t move and do them similar to a cable crossover. You can adjust them to hit the pecs from different angles as well. Also, use a band with your dumbbells to add some extra resistance without actually using heavier weights.
The pec fly should not be overlooked because it can be an excellent way to get in added volume to build a great set of pecs. The pec fly is like an insurance policy to keeping your pecs healthy and full, just don’t go to heavy with these. There are many different ways to do this exercise, so find what works for you and after your bench press and dumbbell press do the pec fly to really get your pecs pumped up.
Many regard dips as the squat of the upper-body because it works so many muscle groups, but I tend to think the barbell bench press to be. Dips can be a great pec building exercise if done properly. You need to get a full range of motion with your arms at a 90 degree angle at the bottom and use a slight pause before you go back up and also a slight pause at the top before going back down. Do these steady and controlled. There are different ways to perform dips giving you variety in exercise selection to help with consistent progression.
- Parallel – Standard dip.
- Rings – A bit more challenging, really working all the stabilizer muscles.
- Weighted – Added load to progress.
Once you master the parallel body weight dip move on to rings or weighted dips to keep challenging yourself and to make progress with this exercise. Some people get great carryover from doing dips for their pressing exercises. I personally have not found that to be true for me, but it could work for you.
Dips can be done with varying tempos and iso-holds, but the main idea is to try the exercise for a while and see if it works for you. Dips can be a great exercise to help build the perfect chest, but kind of like the push-up you need to do a lot of volume and progressively load them heavy to see any real progress.
Build Your Pecs for Muscle and Strength!
Having a big strong chest will show dominance and the women will love it. More importantly having a bigger chest has the potential to be a very strong chest, and can possibly lead you to having a great bench press if that is your goal. Most great bench pressers have huge pecs that help them explode the weight up with extreme force.
Gaining muscle and strength is never a bad thing, but it will take time for a natural lifter to build a well sculpted physique. You have to work hard and eat enough to fuel your body to grow. Make sure you’re tracking your macros and getting a sufficient amount of rest to promote muscle growth and strength gains.
If I had to prioritize these exercises in a way to do a full chest workout it would look something like:
- Barbell Bench Press
- Dumbbell Bench Press Variation(Incline, Flat, Decline)
- Pec Fly
Also, if you bench multiple times a week you could pick one or two of these exercises after your main bench exercise and get in more volume to get your pecs swole. I will say, in my opinion you can build a good chest with any of these exercises, but if you want a great chest you are going to have to learn the right combination of exercises that work best for you.
My recommendations and suggestions are for healthy non-injured lifters that are looking for some time-tested chest building exercises to boost their progress to another level. If you have shoulder, sternum, clavicle, and elbow issues take it easy and don’t do stuff that is going to make you worse than better. Try variations of exercises that don’t aggravate prior or existing injuries if you want to progress.
Remember to build big pecs you need to put in a lot of volume in your training while progressively overloading the muscles through strength based exercises. Strength and muscle go together and always will!
Let me know what you think about this exercise selection for building bigger and stronger pecs. Are these exercises good or nah?
If I have missed something that works great for you and has given you the pec poppin chest you always wanted, let me know in the comment section below.
When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.-Paul Brown
All the best,