The Best Exercises to Build Your Chest Muscles

Are you looking to strengthen and define your chest or pectoral muscles? If so, look no further because you’ve come to the right place! Read on for some of the best exercises and techniques for your pecs.

Bench Press Variations

The basis for chest training starts with the bench press, which works the overall mass of the chest. With your back flat on the bench, grip the barbell with palms facing up and about 8-12 inches wider than shoulder-width. Lift the barbell off the rack to the starting position, which is straight above your face, your arms extended fully. Slowly lower the barbell until it touches the lower edge of your chest. Your elbows should be pointed out while the rest of your body remains in position. Slowly raise (push) the barbell to the starting position while flexing (squeezing together) your chest.

Many people tend to limit their chest training to just the traditional barbell bench press, which is more than likely the most popular exercise for this area. Yes, the traditional barbell bench press is a great exercise for the chest, but variation is very important. In other words, different variations of the bench press and totally different chest exercises, in general, should be done too. The fact is that variation prevents plateau and promotes muscle growth. Keep reading to learn about some of these variations and different exercises.

We will go over bodybuilding training variations of the bench press first. One of our favorites is the dumbbell press. Basically, two dumbbells replace the use of the barbell. However, as you lift the weights up, move them toward one another. Another great variation is the incline dumbbell press. This builds muscle mass in the upper chest. Using dumbbells allows an extra 15° of movement at the top than you’d get with a barbell. The steeper the incline, the more the deltoids, rather than the pecs, are performing the lift. Too many bodybuilders use a 45° incline. This is too much. 30° to 35° is perfect for upper pec development. Some of the other variations that we would recommend are the wide gripped declined barbell bench press, medium gripped inclined barbell bench press, and declined dumbbell press. Clearly, you can see that there are many different variations of this exercise, so make sure to mix it up from time to time!

Additional Chest Exercises

As stated, in addition to bench press variations, completely different bodybuilding training exercises for the chest should be performed. Here are some of the best:

One of our favorites that we have found to be extremely effective is known as a drop push. To do this exercise, put two low platforms about 2 or 3 feet away from each other. After that, get in the push-up position with your hands on the platforms and your feet on the ground. Lastly, go down as if you are doing a push-up, push up to thrust yourself in the air a bit, move your hands to the width of the shoulders, and land on the ground with your hands (your body should be an inch or so above the ground). Lastly, propel yourself back up on top of the two platforms and repeat. Note that this exercise is intended for those that are at least at the intermediate level.

Peck Deck: works the central pec with an emphasis on the inner area, building depth between the pectorals (cleavage). I prefer to do this with my arms straight in front rather than my forearms angled upward. This takes stress off the shoulder joints. This is better than flat bench dumbbell flys. Since dumbbells rely on the pull of gravity, tension decreases at the top of the movement. This is precisely where you want the most resistance to carve that inner pec detail. If your pec machine is under repair, substitute flys between the low cross-pulleys on a low bench.

Decline Dumbbell Press: since you worked the inner pecs with the last exercise, the declined fly works the outer pec as well as outlining the lower pecs. Use a 35° decline bench and do the exercise with arms slightly unlocked. Start with palms up. Keep this hand position throughout the exercise.

Others that we would suggest to check out are the cable cross over, low cable cross over, push up, and inclined dumbbell fly.

Pre Exhaust Training

Pre-exhaust training is a method of pre-exhausting a muscle with one exercise, and then working it to failure with another exercise. You can make tremendous gains this way.

The main exercise for working the chest muscles is the bench press. The bench press also uses the front deltoid muscles and the triceps muscles. Since the deltoids and triceps are smaller than the chest muscles, they get tired faster. If you pre exhaust your chest muscles with dumbbell flys, then you can work the chest muscles to total failure with bench presses.

Warm up with a light set of dumbbell flys followed by a medium set. Rest a few minutes then perform a heavy set of fly’s for 10 reps. Squeeze the chest muscles at the top of the movement and make every rep count. As soon as you are done with your heavy set of dumbbell flys, set the dumbbells down and without resting, do a set of bench presses for 6 or 8 reps. This will totally exhaust the chest muscles. Make sure that you use a spotter. Since your chest muscles will be tired out from the flys, you will not be able to handle as much weight on the bench presses as you normally would. Do 3 of these pre exhaust sets.

You can also use the same method for the upper chest. Do incline dumbbell flys followed by incline bench presses.

Do 3 of these pre exhaust sets twice a week for 6 or 8 weeks and you will see a vast improvement in your chest development. You will also find that you will be able to handle more weight when you go back to regular bench presses.


To get the best results from your chest workout, you should eat a proper diet and take muscle building supplements. Specifically, you should eat a diet that is beneficial for the muscles. Such a diet consists of protein rich foods, such as lean chicken breast.

On a final note, remember to practice variations in your chest bodybuilding training routine from time to time. Simply doing the traditional barbell bench press is not going to cut it for the best results. Also, always remember the importance of diet and bodybuilding supplements.

What chest exercises have you been using to build up your chest?

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