To have a good-looking, sculpted chest you have to know the best chest and pectoral exercises and perform them correctly and intensely for quite some time. Are you tired of seeing the other guys at the beach or pool who basically need a bra because their pecs are so defined? Maybe it's time you started improving your body and your confidence with some of the chest exercises found below. Don't forget that in order to grow, you'll not only need hard work but also proper nutrition and recovery. With all of that in mind let's start looking at some ways you can start improving your pectorals today.
Best Chest and Pectoral Exercises:
- Bench Press (w/variations)
- The Push-up (w/variations)
- Flys (machine and free weight)
- Cable Crossovers
- Bench Drop Set
Above is a quick list of all the exercises we will go over. I will review my own experiences doing these exercises including difficulty, a video for technique, and my thoughts about it.
Bench Press and variations:
If you've done any amount of research or have any personal experience with lifting then you know that the bench press is the foundation of any chest workout. Bench press involves your chest but also your triceps and shoulders as well. Maintaining good form during this exercise is a must if you intend to prevent a shoulder injury, and you should always have a back-up plan or spotter if you plan on lifting heavy (which I recommend). Done right and this exercise will leave you feeling satisfied and probably a little sore.
Other variations of bench pressing exist which helps to break up the monotony and work different parts of your pectoral muscles. These variations include things like: incline bench, decline bench, dumbbell bench, smith machine bench, etc. While I encourage you to try out and research these variations I wouldn't recommend trying to squeeze absolutely every single one of them in a workout. Try picking out three that you like the most and try them out.
Below is a basic video easily showing the technique for standard bench press.
The Push-up and variations:
Push-ups are a great addition to bench pressing because where in bench pressing you can focus on heavy weight, push-ups requires more endurance and makes for a good balance of strength and functionality. Another great part about push-ups, similar to bench pressing, is that there are a lot of good variations to keep you from getting bored and to really get a good chest workout.
Some of the push-up variations out there include: triangle push-ups, clap push-ups, incline and decline push-ups, weighted push-ups, and so much more. Finding two or three variations for your chest or pectoral exercises will be a great way to keep things interesting and stay motivated. Personally I love to do clap push-ups with my feet elevated for an extra challenge.
Below is another video to help give you some ideas of what kind of push-ups you might want to try. I prefer doing push-ups for circuit training or at the end of workouts after the heavy lifting...this way I can burn out any leftover strength I have in my chest and arms and really get a great workout.
Pectoral / Chest Flys:
Flys can be done with dumbbells or with a machine and it's a matter of what you prefer. If you happen to have shoulder injuries or prone to such injuries I would suggest you don't do a lot of flys or you use the machine. As a competitive swimmer with some shoulder issues I know for a fact that these can sometimes be a problem. That being said, flys can offer your chest the special attention it deserves.
Flys tend to help isolate your chest and allow you to maximize chest days in the gym. Having a good technique, like with any exercise, is important especially with flys. I find that performing flys takes practice if you're not used to doing them. If you let your arms drop too far down you risk injury. You also want to make sure you bend your arms just a little bit or else you might run into more shoulder issues. Just make sure to watch the video below.
Overall flys are great pectoral exercises. Squeeze the dumbbells or machine bars together and squeeze your chest for every repetition and you'll get a good burn. I would suggest starting with a weight you can perform 10 repetitions with. Going too heavy too soon could be bad for your joints.
Cable crossovers are a bit new to me but I have found that by really squeezing the chest and bringing in your hands you can do a lot of chest building with these. If you've never done cable crossovers it may feel a little awkward at first trying to bring your hands from the outside to the inside, and it may also take some time to find your balance. Once you have the movement down all you have to worry about is squeezing your chest and putting in the effort.
Depending on your determination these can be quite difficult. On a scale of 1 to 10 about a 7. In general, with chest and pectoral exercises even the best chest exercises you should be struggling to push out a rep around number 8 of each set. Take about a minute or so to rest between sets, especially if you are going heavy with the weight.
I highly recommend cable crossovers in your chest workout and firmly believe that you will feel it the next day. As always there is a video below depicting proper technique.
To Hell and back -- Bench Drop Sets:
I don't know how many of you readers have ever done drop sets. If you haven't you're in for quite the treat. Drop sets involve starting out with a lot of weight and slowly bringing that weight down while getting as many reps as you can. The idea is to completely burn out any energy the particular muscle you are working has left (in this case the pectoral muscles).
Why do drop sets? Because they challenge you, and without a challenge you won't get anywhere. I find that drop sets are more mental than physical...and they are very physically challenging. I tend to save drop sets for the very end as a sort of "home stretch" exercise to end it all and to make sure I have put in a hard day's work.
The video I chose for this exercise may not hit on technique so much, but rather will give you an idea of what to strive for when doing a bench drop set. If you are truly looking for the best pectoral or chest exercise to include in your workout...do this and you'll never feel like you haven't worked hard enough again.
So you ready to start?
I really hope that you have checked out these exercises and try them out. Make sure to keep track of your progress in weight, repetitions, and sets so that you know how your improving. The most important part of training is not only to work as hard as possible, but to have the patience required to see results. Anybody can work hard for a week, but those people don't see results and don't impress anyone at the beach or gym.
People who believe in progress and patience will be the ones working hard for months and be the ones that others look up to. I hope you have learned a little from my article.
Go out and start building yourself.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Benjamin (author) on July 02, 2013:
Yea leg days are by far the toughest. I do it once a week for about an hour and it absolutely destroys my legs (I bike as well). I've also definitely notice that a lot of "meat heads" like to do just chest and biceps. Personally those people just end up looking artificial. I'm glad you commented on my article!
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on July 02, 2013:
Best exercise for a bigger chest- squats to really emphasise body testosterone production to improve muscle development. Leg exercises were proven years ago as most effective for enhancing muscle growth.
Weighted dips used to be a personal favourite in the gym although I've always been taught its how you perform an exercise that makes a difference.
For power generation I've always loved clap press ups but I've found changing training focus can do wonders for your overall routine and its amazing how many gym goers just seem to focus on chest back and biceps.