8 Best Chest Excercises for Building Mass

Chest Workout Men

 

One of the defining attributes of a cut physique is a burly, muscled chest. Gain mass, boost your strength, and train like an athlete with this ultimate chest workout. The exercises below use combinations of similar movements. The first in each set allows you to load weight on classic chest exercises. Contrastingly, the second part on each lessens the weight but provides a full contraction and extension of the chest muscles. Mixing the two variations of exercises makes for a comprehensive workout that produces results.

 

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Chest Muscles

While there are several muscles in the chest, the largest and most visible muscle is the pectoralis major. This muscle, commonly called your pec, sits at the front of the chest and is the most natural muscle to focus on when it comes to working out. However, fully understanding the make-up of the chest structure is fundamental in getting peak performance in your chest workout.

 

Chest Muscles

 

Pectoralis Major

The broad, fan-shaped pectoralis major features two muscle heads — the clavicular and sternocostal. It’s responsible for various shoulder movements, and for attaching the arm to the body.

 

Pectoralis Minor

Located underneath the pectoralis major is the pectoralis minor. The role of this muscle is to pull the shoulder forward.

 

Chest Workout

Getting to know your muscle structure is one of the best ways to reach peak performance in your workouts. Jeff Cavaliere’s ATHLEAN-X program is the perfect way to gain an understanding of your anatomy relating to exercise. His workouts are backed by science and focus on working the muscles to their full capacity and range of motion. Jeff was the Head Physical Therapist and Assistant Strength Coach for the New York Mets. Additionally, he has a Masters Degree in Physical Training and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. The following exercises should be performed as combo sets. They feature a standard move that you can load with weight. Then, each combo adds a crossover exercise to ensure the arm crosses the midline for a full muscle contraction.

 

 

Chest Exercises

1a. Barbell Bench Press

Barbell bench presses are a fundamental chest workout. This exercise not only focuses on the pectorals but also the deltoids, back, and triceps. Doing barbell bench presses as a drop set will allow you to load up the muscle to see gains faster and more effectively. Choose weights that will challenge you, but not force failure. As mentioned earlier, the pec is fan-shaped. This means the angle of the fibers varies across the muscle. You need a movement that corresponds with the direction of the fibers, to get them to work. The benchpress aligns the arms parallel to the fibers in the midsection of the pec. Therefore, this area is getting the most development with this move.

 

Barbell Bench Press

 

Execution

  • Hold the barbell in an overhand grip, with your hands wide enough apart, so your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  • Maintain good bench posture — engage your core and glutes, keep your feet flat on the floor, and drive into the bench.
  • Lift the bar to a full extension, with your arms 90 degrees to your body.
  • Bring the bar back to your chest, with control. The bar, when lowered, should be sitting across the middle of your sternum. 
  • You’ll complete four sets of six, then eight, then 10, and finally 12, starting with a heavier weight, which then decreases as the reps increase. 

 

Sets: 4

Reps: 6/8/10/12 — dropping weight each set

 

1b. Horizontal Cable/Band Crossovers

Still working those middle fibers of the pecs, the horizontal cable or band crossover will take your chest workout to the next level. Crossing your arms over your body will make sure the muscles are fully engaged and achieve that sought-after maximum contraction. You should move into this exercise immediately after you’ve completed your benchpress sets.

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Cable Cross Over

Execution

  • Stand with your back to the cable machine. Have your feet just wider than hip-width apart, torso straight and core engaged. The cables should be adjusted, so they’re pulling from just above shoulder height. 
  • Hold the cables in both hands, with your arms extended out.
  • Pull the cables forward and across your body. Your arms should be at mid-chest height — the same level that the bench press worked. They should also cross over the centerline of your body. 
  • Allow the cables to retract with control, pulling your arms back, but keeping your elbows slightly bent. Allow your arms to pull back far enough that you feel a stretch across your chest, ensuring you’ve reached the full extension of that muscle. 
  • Repeat this action 15 times over four sets. With each cable pull, swap which arm crosses over the top. 
  • If you don’t have a cable machine, you can do this with resistance bands attached very securely to a weight rack. Attach them at the same height as the middle of your sternum, so the movement is horizontal. 

 

Sets: 4

Reps: 15

 

2a. Incline Dumbbell Press

The incline dumbbell presses reposition your arm movement to work the fibers at the top of your pecs. These run in a downward direction from your collarbone to your arm. Another foundational chest workout, the incline dumbbell press can be manipulated, so you feel it in different parts of your body. You’ll need to focus on your hand position to ensure the chest is putting in the most work. As with the bench press, this exercise should be completed as a drop set.

 

Incline Dumbbell Press

 

Execution

  • Lie down on your inclined bench, again ensuring you have good posture. Engage your core and glutes, keep your feet flat on the floor, and drive into the bench.
  • Hold the dumbbells in an overhand grip.
  • Push your arms toward the ceiling. As you move upwards, rotate your wrist and hands slightly, so that your thumbs are leading the movement. This is the best way to engage your chest muscles, rather than have the back or triceps doing the hard yards. 
  • Release your arms down, with control, until they are back and bent, with your elbows slightly behind your body. Again you should feel that glorious stretch along your chest at the bottom of the move. 
  • You’ll complete four sets of six, then eight, then 10, and finally 12, starting with a heavier weight, which then decreases as the reps increase. 

 

Sets: 4

Reps: 6/8/10/12 — dropping weight each set

 

2b. Low to High Cable/Band Crossovers

There’s no rest for the wicked. Once you’ve completed your incline dumbbell presses, it’s time for crossovers. Head back to the cable machine for another session working the muscles into their full contraction.

Low Cable Cross Over

 

Execution

  • Stand with your back to the cable machine. Have your feet just wider than hip-width apart, torso straight and core engaged. This time, the cables should be adjusted, so they’re pulling from hip height. 
  • Hold the cables in both hands, with your arms extended out.
  • Pull the cables forward and upwards across your body. Your arms should crossover at head height. Channel your inner T’Challa and “Wakanda Forever” energy for this move. 
  • Allow the cables to retract with control, pulling your arms back, but keeping your elbows slightly bent. Allow your arms to pull back, so you feel that stretch and full extension. 
  • Repeat this action 15 times over four sets. With each cable pull, swap which arm crosses over the top. 
  • If you don’t have a cable machine, you can do this with resistance bands attached very securely to a weight rack. Attach them at hip height, to the movement travels low to high.
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Sets: 4

Reps: 15

 

3a. Weighted Dip

A weighted dip is not only a great tricep and shoulder workout, but it’s also excellent for the chest. Focus on your form is critical in this move. With the correct posture, the dips will work on the lower portion of the pecs. You’ll need a variety of weights to do a drop set. Depending on your fitness levels, you can reduce your weight down to just bodyweight, or even assisted dips using a resistance band.

 

Weighted Dips

Execution

  • Set yourself up at the dip station. Hang your weights around your waist or hold them between your thighs. 
  • Position yourself on the handles, then slide your body and chest forward to sit in front of your shoulders. You’ll also need to tilt your torso slightly forward. Putting your chest in front of your shoulders and leaning in like this means that your chest will bear the load.
  • Dip down until your elbows are at 90 degrees. Make sure you’re holding your body position firm and not swinging.
  • When you push out of the bottom of the dip, focus on pushing up using your biceps and elbows and squeezing them in. Doing this will increase your chest engagement. 
  • You’ll complete four sets of six, then eight, then 10, and finally 12, starting with a heavier weight, which then decreases as the reps increase. 

 

Sets: 4

Reps: 6/8/10/12 — dropping weight each set

 

3c. High to Low Cable Cable/Band Crossovers

When you’re done and dusted with you weighted dips, move immediately back to the cable machine for more crossovers. This time you’ll be moving high to low.

 

Cable Pulldown

Execution

  • Stand with your back to the cable machine. Have your feet just wider than hip-width apart, torso straight and core engaged. This time, the cables should be adjusted, so they’re pulling from the top of the machine. 
  • Hold the cables in both hands.
  • Pull the cables forward and downwards across your body. Your arms should crossover in front of your hips.
  • Allow the cables to retract with control, pulling your arms back to the sides of your chest, keeping your elbows slightly bent. You should feel that full extension and stretch. 
  • Repeat this action 15 times over four sets. With each cable pull, swap which arm crosses over the top. 
  • If you don’t have a cable machine, you can do this with resistance bands attached very securely to a weight rack. Attach them at just below shoulder height, to the movement goes high to low, without coming over your head.

 

Sets: 4

Reps: 15

 

4a. Weighted Pushups 

For the final chest workout, go back to basics with a weighted pushup. This classic exercise is easy to do, and you can load yourself up with weights to level up. There are dozens of variations of the pushup that engage different muscles.

 

Assisted Weighted Pushup

Execution

  • Set yourself up on the floor. You’ll want your legs spread slightly, so your feet are just wider than hip-width. Your hands should press into the floor just outside shoulder width. Keep your body as straight as possible, and core engaged.
  • Pushups from your toes are the best for maximizing your efforts. However, if you’re still pretty new, you can always do these pushups from your knees. 
  • Place your preferred weight on your back, sitting across your shoulder blades. You might need to phone a friend for help with positioning them. 
  • Lower your body toward the ground until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. You don’t want your body or chest to touch the ground.
  • Drive-up through your hands until your arms are straight. Try to focus on turning your elbows in towards your body as you rise. Doing so will result in a better chest engagement. 
  • Repeat until failure, for three sets. 
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Sets: 3

Reps: To failure

 

4b. Band Crossovers Pushups

For the final exercise in the last combo, you’ll be doing another crossover pull. However, this time it will be at the top of your pushup, rather than at the cable machine.

 

Band One Arm Twisting Chest Press Chest Medium

Execution

  • Attach your resistance band to a weight rack or fixed pole. You’ll want it positioned roughly a foot off the ground. 
  • Place yourself parallel to where you have your bands set up. The side you’re working should be closest to the bands. 
  • Maintain your overall body position on the floor, as per your previous pushups. However, you do want your legs positioned slightly wider for better stability as you move.
  • Hold the band in your hand on the side you’re working. Press down into a pushup, as usual.
  • Push back up with both hands driving into the ground. As you reach the top of the move, pull the hand holding the resistance band across your body. Then, place it on the floor to the top of your stationary hand. You should feel the contraction in the center of your chest. 
  • Return your hand to its original position, and repeat. You’ll do three sets of 15 on each side. 

 

Sets: 3 on each side

Reps: 15

 

Chest Workouts FAQs

What are the best chest exercises?

The best chest exercises take the muscle through its full range of motion. This means both fully extending and contracting the muscle, bringing your arms from out wide, and crossing the body’s centreline. As such, combo exercises that let you first load weight, then cross the body, are excellent. Try a barbell bench press and horizontal cable/band crossover, then an incline dumbbell press and low to high cable/band crossovers. After that, do a weighted dip and high to low cable/band crossovers, followed by weighted pushups and band crossover pushups.

What is the best exercise for the upper chest?

Some of the best exercises that specifically target the upper pec will use an incline bench or body angles to your advantage, shifting the movement’s focus to the muscle fibers at the top. Try incline dumbbell/barbell presses, Low to High Cable/Band Crossovers, and high cable flyes.

Can I do chest exercise daily?

It’s best not to do chest exercises every day, as this doesn’t allow enough muscle repair time. Ideally, you want to aim for two non-consecutive times a week, as this will enable you to lift heavy and two or three days recovery well before the next session.

How can a man get chest fast?

The fastest way to build a strong, muscled chest is by incorporating exercises that target that muscle area. You’ll need to perform them regularly while gradually increasing the weight as you become stronger. This will continue to stimulate your muscles to build bulk as well as strength while they repair. Just remember, it won’t happen overnight but combined with the right diet and consistency, you can start to see results in only a few months.

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