10 Best Exercises for the Chest

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Exercises for chest
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Your guide to the best exercises for the chest!

It’s almost Monday, International Chest Day, which means it’s time to do exercises for the chest and pump those chest muscles. Well-built chest muscles are attractive to look at and important for a strong upper body to manage everyday tasks easily.

Whether it is opening a door or washing your hair, even the most mundane tasks involve using your chest because it is majorly responsible for the movement of your hands.

The human chest is also home to your pectoralis muscles, which help maintain a good posture and keep the upper body straight. So whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or not, you could try these exercises for chest to keep your upper pecs strong and healthy.

What Muscles Make Up Your Chest?

Before moving on to the chest exercises, it is crucial to understand what muscles form the chest. There are three primary chest muscles, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and serratus anterior, that form the chest cavity.

Pectoralis Major: Lying underneath the breast, it comprises most chest muscles. It is a large, thick, and fans shaped muscle that extends from the armpit to the collarbone and spreads across both sides of the lower chest. It is responsible for the adduction and rotation of the arms.

Pectoralis Minor: Thin and triangular, it lies beneath the pecs muscles. It helps mobilize the ribs and shoulder blades.

Serratus anterior: This fan-shaped muscle is situated inside the ribcage. It attaches the shoulder blades to the chest wall and helps rotate the scapula in different directions.

The Subclavius is a small triangular muscle involved in the process of breathing.

Now that you know about the chest muscles, let’s check out the best exercises for the chest.

10 Best Exercises for the Chest

1. Flat Bench Press-

The standard bench press allows you to lift the most amount of weight. You can find a flat bench in almost every gym and start muscle building by doing exercises for the chest anytime.

Equipment Required: Barbell and Flat Bench

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

How to do it:

  • Lie on the flat bench with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Hold the barbell and wrap your thumb around it.
  • Hold the barbell so that your hands are placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Relax your arms and press up the weight towards the ceiling.
  • Bring the weight down to your chest level and press back to the start position.
  • Repeat the barbell bench press for 10 repetitions spread across 3 sets.

Note- Work the bench press at the beginning of your workout with heavy sets for fewer repetitions. This will help you increase repetitions in your chest exercises.

Maintain shoulder-width grip when you place your hands on the bar, as it can affect your motion and form.

2. Incline Bench Press-

The incline bench press is one of the most effective exercises for the chest to strengthen the pectoralis major or the upper chest

It also pumps the serratus anterior, clavicular head, triceps, and biceps. The incline press is more challenging than the flat bench press-ups.

Equipment Required: Barbell and Incline Bench

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

How to do it:

  • Set the incline bench an incline at a 30-degree angle. Lie down with your knees bent and keep your feet flat on the ground. Make a firm overhand grip on the barbell with palms facing the direction of the feet.
  • Push your arms towards the ceiling and get the weight out from the rack. Align the weight with your collarbone. Slowly lower the barbell to your chest just above the mid-chest.
  • Pause for 1-2 seconds and press the barbell to the starting position.
  • Repeat the inclined barbell bench press for 3 complete sets of 8 barbell presses.

Note: Incline press works better if you go for low inclines such as a 30-degree one. A higher degree fatigues the shoulders more than the chest.

It is essential to do the incline bench press with proper form, so it’s recommended to do this exercise for the chest under the observation of a trainer if you’re a beginner.

3. Decline Bench Press-

Focused on the lower chest, the decline press-ups work the entire chest. The chest press is also good for cardiovascular health. It helps you lift heavier weights compared to the flat bench or other exercises for the chest.

Equipment Required: Barbell and Decline Bench

Difficulty Level: Modified (Beginner to Advanced)

How to do it:

  • Lie down backward on the decline bench, bend your knees and place your ankles behind the ankle rests provided. Hold the barbell by fixing the thumb around the bar with palms facing your feet. Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Lift your arms straight upwards and lift the weight.
  • Keep your core engaged, maintain a neutral grip on the wrist, and do not lose alignment.
  • Slowly lower the weight down to your chest by bending your elbows until your upper arms align with the back.
  • Pause for a few seconds. Then squeeze the chest to straighten the elbows for your upward movement.

Note: Incorporate free-weight presses earlier in your chest sessions as they will help stabilize your muscles.

Ensure you maintain proper form throughout the declined barbell bench press-ups for best results.

4. Dumbbell Bench Press-

One of the best dumbbell  exercises for the chest builds your pectoral muscles. You can modify the exercise with an incline or decline bench press too.

Equipment Required- Dumbbell and Bench Press

Difficulty Level- Medium

How to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell in either hand and lie down on the bench with the dumbbells placed on the sides of your hips.
  • Using your core, push the dumbbells upwards with your palms facing in front. Rotate the shoulders outwards. Make sure your back is stable.
  • Slowly bring the weights down until your arms align with your back. Your lower arms should be placed at a right angle while your elbows positioned 45 degrees away from your body.
  • Pause for a few seconds and squeeze your chest to take the dumbbells up to the starting position. Repeat the process for 8-10 repetitions for 3 sets.

Note: Your goal should be to build muscle than lifting heavyweights. So, choose a weight that allows you to maintain good form and technique throughout the sets.

5. Push-Ups-

One of the best exercises for the chest, push-ups, is a versatile and effective way to strengthen your chest muscles. You can experiment with variations and modify your pushup as per your fitness levels.

This bodyweight exercise activates your muscles, promotes muscle gains, and should be part of your workout regimen.

Unlike other exercises for the chest, a push-up requires no equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

Equipment Required: None

Difficulty Level: Modified (Beginner-Advanced)

How to Do it:

  • Using hands and knees, get into the plank position. Make sure your hands are placed wider than your shoulder width. Engage your hamstrings and keep your spine and pelvis aligned.
  • Tighten your core and keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Push-ups require proper posture; only arms and toes should touch the floor and keep elbows tucked in.
  • Go as low as possible and press your hands to the floor to pull your chest off the ground till your elbows stretch straight.
  • Repeat the push-up and complete 3 sets with 8 repetitions each.

Note: Your hips, shoulders, and ankles should be straight.

If you find the traditional push-up difficult, modify the exercise and do it on your knees. However, if you wish to challenge your body’s ability, you can try a decline push-up.

Place your toes on a bench/table and challenge yourself.

6. Cable Cross Over-

One of the most popular exercises for the chest in the gym is a terrific way to build your torso. It helps expand the upper chest and pump the pecs muscles.

You can also do this exercise with resistance bands if you do not have access to cables. Resistance bands are an effective way to tone and strengthen your chest muscles without using heavy equipment.

Equipment Required: Cable machine or Resistance Band

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

How to Do it:

  • Set the machine with as much weight as possible. Attach the D-handle on both the ends of the band and hold them with your palms facing up. You could also switch to a resistance band workout if you prefer the same.
  • Take one foot forward, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your back straight. Make sure you slightly bend your arms on both sides.
  • Pull both handles forward across your entire body till your belly button level. Hold the pose momentarily and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 3 sets, 10 repetitions in each set.

7. Chest Dip-

A great way to hit those upper arms, chest dips stretch the chest muscles like no other exercise. A chest-heavy exercise helps build muscle mass and endurance.

Equipment Required: Dip Bar

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to Do it:

  • Head to your dip bars and stand between them. Place your palms on the bars, facing them in. Also, lean forward to bring your chest to a lower angle.
  • Press down, straightening your elbows to lift yourself in line with your hands.
  • Lower your body. Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows.
  • Pause for a few seconds and repeat the process for 8 repetitions for 3 sets.

8. Chest Fly-

The chest fly is the perfect way to target your upper chest in isolation. You flap your wings to ‘fly’ like a bird while pumping those chest muscles, as the name suggests.

The use of cables allows for constant tension throughout the exercise.

Equipment Required: Dumbbell or cables

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

How to do it:

  • Lie down on the bench and grab a dumbbell in each hand with a firm overhand grip. With arms extended on either side, bring the weights up to your chest without touching them.
  • Bring your arms down to your shoulder height and slightly bend your elbows. Work the shoulder blades and bring the weights back to the starting position.

Note: Try working out your pecs in isolation at the end of your schedule. Maintain continuous tension in the entire body while on the bench.

Choose a lightweight dumbbell to work out for more repetitions. This will help build a stronger and bigger chest.

9. Incline Dumbbell Fly-

The incline dumbbell fly is one of the great exercises for the chest to hit your pectoralis mand major mobilize the upper body. Since you also use your biceps to stabilize the motion in the exercise, you’re working on those too.

Equipment Required: Dumbbells and Incline Bench

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to Do it:

  • Set the incline bench at a 30-degree angle. Extend your arms upwards and slightly bend your elbows.
  • Slowly bring down the weights on either side till they are in line with the shoulders.
  • Squeeze your chest and shoulders to bring the weights up again.
  • Breathe out as you do so. Maintain tension throughout the movement.
  • Complete the process for 3 sets with 10 repetitions in each set.

Note- Do not choose heavyweights for the exercise. You will not be able to lift heavier weights for more repetitions.

Make sure that you focus on the chest rather than the arms in the exercise. This is a common mistake. You should feel your elbows coming together rather than your arms.

10. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

This exercise helps you build your chest muscles and strengthens your core. So, if you’re doing it right, you’re also feeling this exercise in your abs.

Equipment Required: Dumbbells and Bench

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to Do it:

  • Lie down on a flat bench holding. Grab a dumbbell with your left hand and bring it down to your chest till your arm extends straight.
  • Lower the dumbbell to the left side of your chest. Pause for 1-2 seconds and press the dumbbell back up.
  • After completing all the repetitions on the left side, switch to the right side. Repeat the same procedure for the other side.
  • Complete the exercise for 3 sets and 10 repetitions in each set.

Eating Right For a Stronger Chest

When muscles increase in size and get into shape, it is called muscular hypertrophy. However, working out is not the only way to achieve muscle growth.

While proper training is important to reduce body fat, one must also focus on a healthy and nutritious diet.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, pulses, grains, and proteins helps cut down fat while paving the way for muscle definition. Protein helps build muscle.

However, to build these blocks of muscle, one must consume protein greater than what is utilized in muscle protein synthesis.

Protein-rich meals should be consumed at intervals. They should be taken at a gap of 3 hours at least. High-quality protein found in whey or supplements can also be consumed to fulfill protein needs.

Tips To Get The Ultimate Chest

exercises for the chest
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Plan your workouts- There are various ways to train your chest muscles. You can pump your pecs with these 10 effective exercises for the chest on your Monday workout sessions or spread your chest workouts throughout the week.

Try experimenting with your routines once in a while to challenge yourself and your body’s ability. Please choose from these chest exercises and incorporate a few of them into your current workout routine. Pick new exercises after a few weeks to spice up your workouts.

Improve Shoulder Stability- To get the best results on the bench, you need to achieve shoulder stability. Keep your shoulder blades together and downwards on the bench press.

Proper Diet- To build muscle properly, you also need to provide them with adequate nourishment. Consult a dietician to make sure you are consuming the right -amount of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc.

Adequate Rest– Continuously doing chest exercises could overstrain your muscles and lead to injury. To build a stronger chest, you need to take adequate rest too.

Also, using heavy weights and completing more repetitions does not guarantee the best results in a short duration. It takes time and consistency to build proper muscle and get into shape.

Mistakes To Avoid In The Gym

  1. A proper form on the bench press is crucial to prevent injury and focus the tension on your chest muscles. Keep your elbows tucked inside and bring the barbell to the lower part of your chest wall while performing the exercise.
  2. Burning out yourself- Do not exhaust yourself by working out your pecs too much. Focus on the traditional bench presses and pushups for results.
  3. Choosing heavier weights- Choose lighter weights to work out for more repetitions and progress steadily.

Conclusion

Try the exercises for the chest mentioned above and follow a healthy diet to get the best results over time. Whether your goal is to flaunt defined pecs or lift heavy boxes, incorporating these exercises for the chest in your workout will help you build strength and endurance.

Be consistent in your workouts, do not skip rest periods, and allow your muscles to repair. Before you move on to presses, make sure you’ve done a good warmup.

Practice under the supervision of a trainer if you’re a beginner to build proper form and prevent injury. Most importantly, enjoy working out without worrying about the results!

 

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While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 

Do note that any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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