The Best Chest Exercises: The Ultimate Guide On Chest Exercises

Bench Press for chest

First of all the chest Is an extremely important part of your physique. And to make the most out of your chest workouts you want to be prioritising the most effective exercises. That’s why in this article you’ll learn about the best chest exercises.

Furthermore getting a bigger and stronger chest at first can be a bit of a chew on for most natural weightlifters. Especially compared with leg development.

Because your gluteus maximus, hamstrings and quads are quite a bit larger then your pectroralis major and minor.

While trying to develop a bigger and stronger chest. If you train your legs properly they as a result grow at a faster rate.

Most importantly after few years of hard work. When you eventually start lifting in to the intermediate to advanced numbers/ weights your chest size will grow dramatically. It just takes time. Likewise with any other worthwhile goal.

Bench Press Strength Standards To Develop A Stronger And Bigger Chest – The Best Chest Exercises

These Bench Press standards are from Martin Berkhans fantastic book Lean Gains. Linked below.

Intermediate Bench press 1 rep max bodyweight x 1.2

Advanced Bench press bodyweight x 1.5

Highly Advanced Bench press bodyweight x 1.8

Above all to make this article as digestible as possible here is a pyramid of the most effective chest exercises. That I’m going to talk about in detail.

Hierarchy of chest exercises

To start these exercises off I’m going to talk about the exercise that’s most important. The 20% that gives you 80% of the results.

1. The Flat Barbell Bench Press – The Best Chest Exercises

First of all I picked this exercise because you can lift the most weight with the flat barbell bench press. As a result the stronger and bigger you get. Therefore if over a few years you can bench 1.5 – 1.8 x your bodyweight you will have a much bigger chest than when you first started lifting.

To give you an example of me when I first started prioritising heavy pressing my bench press numbers sky rocketed from 67.5kg x 4 reps to 115kg x 3 reps and this is the results.

The amazing thing about heavy bench pressing is that it also develops the shoulders and the pecs the stronger you get.

Specifically the anterior deltoids and pecs.

As long as your in a calorie surplus of 5-10% meaning 5-10% more calories than you use on a daily basis.

Above all if you get stronger at your heavy pressing, eat enough protein (0.8-1.2 grams of protein) Eat in that 5-10% surplus and recover properly as a result you maximise your chances of developing a stronger , bigger chest.

Finally I bet your thinking how do I perform this exercise. Well it’s not as complicated as some people may have you believe. I’ll Briefly describe how you perform the barbell bench press below.

Flat Barbell Bench Press Form: The Most Effective Exercise To Develop A Bigger, Stronger Chest

  1. Lie face up on a horizontal bench.
  2. Grip the barbell with a pronated over hand grip not a suicide grip. ( Just search “suicide grip bench press” and you’ll understand why)
  3. Take a deep breath and brace your core.
  4. Lower the bar to your sternum in a controlled manner.
  5. Shoot the bar off your chest exhaling at the end of the rep.

Tips on perfecting the movement.

  1. Tuck your elbows in, to avoid flaring your elbows out thus reducing the chances of injury.
  2. Arch your back. This helps you keep your chest up.
  3. Don’t overly focus on tempo. A controlled 1 second eccentric (lowering of the bar is enough) and fire the bar off your chest.
  4. Make sure you use a full range of motion. Touching the bar on your chest and locking out at the end of the movement.

Below is a demonstration of Mark Rippetoe teaching this important movement.

2. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press – The Best Chest Exercises

The Flat dumbbell bench press is performed just like the barbell bench press but there is 2 important distinctions.

  1. You get more range of motion and your holding two individual dumbbells.
  2. You lose some power output by just getting them up. If you train alone like most of us do.

Most importantly people can’t dumbbell bench press as much weight as they can flat barbell bench press because of these two reasons.

Similiarly it doesn’t mean it’s less effective. It certainly is just as effective. Just in a slightly different way.

The set up is the same as the flat barbell bench press. A good demonstration is below.

3. Push Ups And All Harder Variations – The Best Chest Exercises

I wasn’t going to put this exercise in here because this article is primarily focused on building muscle and strength and the best way to do that is lifting heavier weights over time with good from.

Similarly to the other exercises in this article.

But I’ve included push ups in here so that fitness enthusiasts who do bodyweight only training can focus their time and attention on push up variations to build a strong and developed chest.

Most noteworthy here is some push up variations below.

Standard push up.

Feet elevated push ups.

Diamond push ups.

One armed push ups.

For a full step by step guide on how to create your own bodyweight routine. Click below.

4. Chest Dips – The Best Chest Exercises

Chest dips are an extremely effective exercise that targets the whole of your pecs, specifically the lower portion of your chest which can be hard to target with the flat barbell and incline bench press.

If you can, you want to be doing this exercise weighted to reap the benefits from it the most. The 3-5, 4-6 , 5-7, 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 rep ranges seem to all work well with this exercise and many of these movements.

Furthermore the exercise form is below.

5. Incline Barbell Bench Press – The Best Chest Exercises

Firstly the Incline barbell bench press is probably on par with the flat barbell bench press.

But in a different way.

The Incline bench press targets the upper portion of your chest and can really bring the top half of your chest up with heavy resistance training.

As a result giving your chest that shelf appearance.

Generally speaking you can’t lift as much weight with this exercise compared to the flat barbell bench press.

But it’s still extremely important to include in your weight training routine.

The only difference in set up is that:

  1. You want to set the bench to 45-60 degrees.
  2. You then want to bring the bar down to your clavicle instead of your sternum.

For a video demonstration look below:

6. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Furthermore there is a demonstration for this exercise below. By the guys at mind pump media I highly recommend their podcast.

7. Smith Machine Bench Press Flat And Incline

Firstly the Smith machine can be a good exercise to do if you have problems with your shoulders. Or are getting over an injury in your shoulders.

The reason for this is it gives you a fixed bar path.

So there’s no chance that your elbows will flare out.

But because it’s on a fixed axis it makes the exercises easier and thus bringing less muscles into play.

for this reason I’ve put it third on the list.

Furthermore It’s not as effective as free weights.

But if the smith machine is all you’ve got. You can still gain strength and muscle as long as you get stronger at it over time.

Video demonstration below:

8. Chest Press Machine

The reason I’ve put the chest press machine 3rd in the pyramid is because it’s just not as effective as barbell/ dumbbell free weight training.

Because your working on a fixed machine. Whereas with the barbell you’re controlling the weight against gravity, using many different muscles doing so.

You also use your stabiliser muscles to a greater extent with barbell and dumbbell exercises.

Above all look at the biggest guys and women in the world and you’ll notice that none of them got that size and strength by doing machine presses.

Likewise I’m not saying theres no benefit for this exercise.

Because there is.

Probably after you’ve done your heavy pressing.

One disadvantage about machines is that for the most part they’re meant for the average height and person.

As soon as an outlier goes on one of these machines they’ll feel awkward and the machine won’t feel comfortable.

On the other hand dumbbells and barbells can be used by anyone and fit all kinds of people at different shapes and sizes.

But if you do want to put this exercise in your workout the link for this exercise is below.

9. Dumbell Fly

So as we go higher and higher up the pyramid the exercises become less and less effective.

Similarly dumbbell chest flys are a great exercise.

But they are pretty useless if you haven’t developed some muscle and strength with heavy pressing.

Above all if you just focus on the first two exercises on the pyramid you’d build plenty of muscle and strength over the years.

The dumbbell fly is the exercise that will help you squeeze out the last 20% of gains that obviously can help but isn’t super important.

The one most important thing that gives you basically all the results is heavy flat and incline bench pressing.

So if your going to do the dumbbell fly then do it towards the end of your workout once you’ve done the heavy pressing.

Demonstration below.

10. The Peck Deck

Similarly to the dumbbell fly, the peck deck can be useful. But not as useful as the dumbbell fly this is due to the reasons I mentioned before about free weights being more effective than resistance machines.

The peck deck is performed just like the dumbbell fly but using handles on a machine.

Using This Information We’ll Now Create A Push Day

As Eric Helms states in the muscle and strength pyramids 10-20 working sets per muscle group ( including overlap. For example the overhead press uses the pectorals to a slight degree) Seem to work the best for inducing strength and hypertrophy for most people.

Firstly this is a push day:

Secondly you could do a Chest day instead.

Flat barbell bench press 3 sets 0f 3-5 reps

Incline barbell bench press 3 sets of 5-7 reps

Overhead press 3 sets of 5-7 reps

Chest dips 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Tricep pushdown 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Most note worthy, If you get stronger at this workout consistently over the next few years you will get bigger and stronger.

The Bottom Line On The Best Chest Exercises

  1. Firstly the one thing you should spend your time doing to develop a bigger, thicker and stronger chest is to focus on heavy bench pressing.
  2. Secondly If you can only do bodyweight training then focus on push ups. Thus progress to harder and harder variations.
  3. Finally don’t prioritise isolation movements like dumbbell flys. Therefore put them at the end of your workout.

Similarly to watch the YouTube video of this article click below.

Thanks for reading.

Furthermore, If you’d like a free muscle-building routine click below.

Lastly to get a free fat loss guide click the link below.

To sum it up, I hope you now know the best chest exercises that you should perform. Although if you need extra help or want to ask me a question send me an email at

Published by henrypaget

Hi, I'm Henry and it's my mission to help you succeed with your fitness & health.

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