Chest Exercises: The Top 10

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Chest exercises are critical for getting one of the most intimidating muscle groups in a man’s physique. Similarly, doing the right chest exercises will make those muscles look defined while wearing a fitted shirt (new profile pic, anyone?), making you more attractive to the ladies. Show me a guy who says he doesn’t want a chiseled chest and I’ll show you a liar. A big, chiseled chest is a defining characteristic of the classic male physique and achieving it is perhaps the most coveted training goal among men. Not only will a bigger chest contribute to a stronger Bench Press but, by adding more muscle to the top of your frame, your waistline will appear considerably leaner.

To aid you in the process of building a respectable set of chesticles, below I’ll briefly outline two of the most commonly made mistakes when it comes to chest exercises:

Neglecting Heavy, Compound Lifts

Trainees often make the mistake of assuming low load/high repetition isolation exercise is the only way to gain muscle. In reality, though, using heavier loads to increase strength provides a necessary stimulus which facilitates muscle growth. While isolation movements such as Cable Crossover’s and Pec Fly’s are undoubtedly valid exercises for chest development, they should not be used at the expense of heavy, compound lifts like variations of the Bench Press and Dips.

Neglecting Full Ranges of Motion

Neglecting to take the chest musculature through a full range of motion (ROM) is possibly the single best way to sabotage your efforts. Granted, partial ROM movements serve a purpose under various conditions, but the vast majority of training should utilize full ranges of motion. For example, don’t shortchange yourself during the Bench Press by only lowering the bar halfway to your chest. Assuming your shoulders are healthy and you feel comfortable with the movement, lower the bar all the way to your chest prior to pressing it back up and finishing the lift.

The Top Chest Exercises for Maximum Results

Below I, Jordan Syatt, have provided a list of my top 10 chest exercises for sculpting a massive chest. I’d note, there are hundreds upon hundreds of exercise variations designed to target the chest, each of which has a time and place within a well designed training program. That being said, these are my personal favorite exercises which have produced astounding results time, and time again.

#1. Barbell Bench Press

chest exercises bench press

Why: The Barbell Bench Press is a big, compound movement which allows you to handle progressively heavier loads while simultaneously targeting the pecs. It’s widely regarded as the best “bang for your buck” exercise for sculpting the chest.

Execution: Lie on a flat bench while maintaining a slight arch in your lower back. Grip the bar a little wider than shoulder-width apart and, while keeping your upper back and butt on the bench, slowly lower the bar to your chest. Once the bar touches your chest immediately press the bar back up to the starting position. Focus on using your pecs and feeling them contact throughout the movement.

#2. Incline Barbell Bench Press

chest exercises

Why: The Incline Barbell Bench Press is great for the same reasons as the standard Barbell Bench Press with the added benefit of targeting the pecs from a different angle. Doing so will provide a new stimulus and improve upper pec development.

Execution: Lie on an incline bench while maintaining a neutral spine or a slight arch in the lower back. Grip the bar about shoulder-width apart and, while keeping your upper back and butt on the bench, slowly lower the bar to your chest. Once the bar touches your chest immediately press the bar back up to the starting position. Focus on using your pecs and feeling them contract throughout the movement.

#3. Dumbbell Bench Press

chest exercises

Why: The Dumbbell Bench Press not only provides many (if not all) of the same benefits as the Barbell Bench Press, but also requires more stability to control the dumbbells which could potentially contribute to greater muscle activation.

Execution: Lie on a flat bench holding one dumbbell in each hand next to your chest. Angle the dumbbells roughly 45degrees away from your torso and use your pecs to press them all the way up to lockout. Squeeze your pec’s at the top of the movement and then slowly lower the dumbbells all the way down to your chest again. Repeat for the prescribed number of sets and repetitions.

#4. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

chest exercises

Why: The Incline Dumbbell Bench Press is great for the same reasons as the standard Dumbbell Bench Press with the added benefit of targeting the pecs from a different angle. Doing so will provide a new stimulus and improve upper pec development.

Execution: Lie on an incline bench holding one dumbbell in each hand next to your chest. Angle the dumbbells roughly 45 degrees away from your torso and use your pecs to press them all the way to lockout. Squeeze your pecs at the top of the movement and then slowly lower the dumbbells all the way down to your chest again. Repeat for the prescribed number of sets and repetitions.

#5. Chest Dips

chest exercises

Why: The Chest Dip is another big, compound movement which recruits a huge amount of muscle and allows for significant advances in progressive overload over time. Plus, the angle at which it trains the chest is easily manipulated by slight changes in torso positioning.

Execution: Position yourself as though you were to perform a standard tricep dip but allow your upper body to lean further forward. From this position, slowly lower yourself to the bottom of the movement and then, using your pecs, press yourself up and back to lockout. Be sure to emphasize your pecs and feel them contracting throughout the entire concentric (upward) portion of the movement.

#6. Feet Elevated Beyond the Range Push-ups

chest exercises

Why: Another great compound movement, Feet Elevated Beyond the Range Push-ups will demolish your chest. Through increasing the ROM you’ll force your pecs to do more work, potentially leading to greater improvements in muscle hypertrophy.

Execution: Grab a pair of dumbbells and place them on the ground roughly shoulder-width apart. Grip the handles and assume a standard push-up position with your feet on a slightly raised surface. Slowly lower yourself towards the ground until you cannot lower yourself any more. Once you reach the end ROM, use your pecs to press yourself back up to lockout. Repeat for the prescribed number of sets and repetitions.

#7. Flat Bench Dumbbell Fly

chest exercises

Why: The Flat Bench Dumbbell Fly is an isolation exercise specifically designed to target the pecs. Performed correctly, these are extraordinarily effective and will absolutely demolish your chest. 

Execution: Lie on a flat bench holding a pair of dumbbells above your chest, palms facing towards each other, and elbows slightly bent. Maintaining a slight bend in the elbows, slowly allow your arms to lower horizontally and towards the ground. Once your upper arms are roughly parallel with the floor, reverse the movement by squeezing your pecs and bringing the dumbbells back to the starting position. Remember, squeeze your pecs tight and keep a slight bend in the elbows!

#8. Incline Dumbbell Fly

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Why: Similar to the Flat Bench Dumbbell Fly, the Incline version is just as effective with the added benefit of target the pecs from a different angle and improving upper pec development.

Execution: Lie on an incline bench holding a pair of dumbbells above your face, palms facing towards each other, and elbows slightly bent. Maintaining a slight bend in the elbows, slowly allow your arms to lower horizontally and towards the ground. Once your upper arms are roughly parallel with the floor, reverse the movement by squeezing your pecs and bringing the dumbbells back to the starting position.

#9. Dumbbell Pullover

chest exercises

Why: A highly underrated exercise, the Dumbbell Pullover is an extraordinary tool for sculpting a bigger chest. Utilizing variations of the pullover on a regular basis may be a good idea as they likely target fibers that aren’t recruited during standard pressing movements. 

Execution: Lie on a flat bench with your upper back and the bench perpendicular to one another. Grab one dumbbell and place the palms of both hands underneath the top plate. Hold the dumbbell over your chest while squeezing your pecs tightly together and maintaining a slight bend in the elbows. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until your upper arms are roughly parallel with the ground. Once you reach this position, immediately reverse the movement by squeezing your pecs and pulling the dumbbell back to the starting position with your lats. Repeat for the prescribed number of sets and repetitions.

#10. Cable Crossover

chest exercises

Why: Few exercises pump the pecs up as much as the Cable Crossover. With numerous variations to utilize (i.e. high, medium, and low) the Cable Crossover is one of the best isolation exercises for overall pec development.

Execution: Standing in the middle and slightly in front of a dual cable machine, grab a handle from each side of the apparatus. While maintaining a slight bend in the elbows, allow the cable to slowly pull your arms horizontally and away from the front of your body. Once your upper arms are roughly in line with your torso (and/or you feel a large stretch in your chest), reverse the movement by squeezing your pecs and bringing the handles towards each other. Squeeze your pecs tightly at the end of the movement and repeat for the prescribed number of sets and repetitions.