Let’s face it:
We all want an armor-plated chest. It looks great, says a lot about our fitness level, and makes us more functional and athletic. When developed, the pectorals contribute to aesthetics and play an essential role in many upper body movements.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the eight best chest exercises for building muscle mass.
While some people might be surprised that we’ve put push-ups first, the exercise is incredible for various reasons. For one, push-ups emphasize the pectorals, forcing them to grow. Second, push-ups involve the serratus anterior, triceps, and shoulders (the front deltoid heads). Third, push-ups are fantastic for shoulder health and promote stability in our joints.
What’s great about push-ups is that everyone can take advantage of the exercise. For example, a beginner can start with knee push-ups to build strength, but advanced folks can perform variations like:
Shifting your body’s angle also emphasizes different portions of the chest. For example, a horizontal body position helps you develop the mid and lower chest. In contrast, performing decline push-ups puts greater tension on the upper (clavicular) portion.
2. Flat Bench Press
The flat bench press with a barbell or dumbbells is another fantastic exercise for the chest. Like push-ups, the objective is to use your pectorals, shoulders, and triceps to press a weight. The primary difference is, you’re using external weights, whereas push-ups allow you to use your body for resistance.
Bench pressing is beneficial because you can adjust the difficulty by choosing a weight that fits your current capacity. You can start with light weights and gradually increase the resistance as you get stronger.
3. Incline Bench Press
Incline bench pressing is similar to the classic exercise in many ways. You train the same muscles, the overloading potential is identical, and both activities build upper body strength and stability.
The primary difference between the two exercises comes from the torso angle. When performing an incline press, your torso is at an angle of around 30 to 45 degrees, which shifts the emphasis to the upper portion of your chest––the clavicular head.
Including some incline pressing into your training is beneficial for more balanced pectoral development.
4. Chest Press Machine
Having access to a decent chest press machine is a true blessing. It allows you to emphasize your chest with a lot of weight and build pressing strength without worrying about stability.
Similar to bench pressing, the machine chest press works the same muscles. The primary difference is, you don’t have to work as hard to keep the weight in balance. Plus, you don’t have to worry about dropping a barbell on your chest if you fail to press it successfully.
Chest press machines are also beneficial because they work for all sorts of people, thanks to their adjustment options. The primary thing you can adjust is the seat height, which determines arm position relative to your torso. Some machines also allow you to press the weight slightly upward or downward to emphasize the upper or lower chest, respectively.
5. Chest Flyes
Chest flyes are an isolation exercise that focuses on your pectorals. Unlike pressing movements, flyes are fantastic because you’re not involving other muscles and are instead putting all of your attention to the pectorals. As a result, you can form a better mind-muscle connection and stimulate the muscles to grow.
What’s excellent about flyes is that you can emphasize different portions of your chest by utilizing various options. For example, an incline dumbbell fly focuses on the upper chest; a flat fly works the middle and lower portion; a decline fly emphasizes the lower chest.
6. Chest Dips
Like push-ups, chest dips are a fantastic bodyweight exercise that strengthens your chest, shoulders, triceps, serratus anterior, and midsection. Thanks to the torso position and direction in which you press, dips emphasize the middle and lower portion of your chest. Your triceps and shoulders also assist the chest, allowing you to push and lower yourself.
Dips are great because all you need is a dip bar to take full advantage of the movement. Plus, you can attach additional weight to yourself via a special weight belt once the bodyweight version becomes too easy.
7. Cable Crossover Fly
The cable crossover is similar to classic flyes, but the movement offers additional benefits. Most notably, performing flyes on a cable machine offers consistent tension, possibly leading to a more potent growth stimulus. When using dumbbells, your muscles have to work hard on certain parts of the exercise. But cables offer consistent tension from start to finish.
Similar to classic flyes, the crossover version also allows you to emphasize different portions of your chest as you see fit. High cable flyes emphasize the middle and lower chest and low cable flyes develop the upper chest.
8. Floor Press
The floor press is a more unusual exercise, but it works great for chest growth. In case you’re unfamiliar, the objective with floor pressing is to lie flat on the ground, push the weight (be it a barbell or dumbbells) to the top position, and lower it until your upper arms come in contact with the floor.
The primary drawback of floor pressing is the reduced range of motion. The floor prevents you from lowering the weight as you could during a regular press, reducing the stretch you could place on your pectorals. But despite that, the floor press is beneficial.
For one, the floor press allows you to train with slightly more weight and cause more significant contractions at the top position. Second, lying on the floor prevents you from using leg drive, so your upper body musculature has to do all the work. Third, the floor press is beneficial for trainees who struggle with shoulder aches but want to keep training.
Similar to other pressing movements, the variation emphasizes the middle portion of your chest, the triceps, and shoulders. Your midsection muscles also contribute and offer torso stability.
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