We often hear, “Want to get shredded? Focus on your core strength, and your chest”. So how important are chest exercises and what are the best chest exercises for men? Working out the chest means working out the pectoral muscles, better known as the “pecs.”

While the pecs are the largest muscles in the chest, there are actually several smaller muscles that support the pectoral muscles, including the latissimus dorsi muscles (or “lats”) on the sides of the chest and the trapezius muscle around the shoulders. So proper chest exercise suggests working out all these muscles and in the right way. We show how…

chest exercises
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Here’s a quick guide to your major chest muscles:

  • Pectoralis Major: The pectoralis major makes up most of your chest muscle mass. It is large and fan-shaped and is composed of a sternal head and a clavicular head.
  • Pectoralis Minor: The pectoralis minor lies underneath the pectoralis major. Its job is to help pull the shoulder forward and down.
  • Serratus Anterior: Located at the side of the chest wall, you’ll notice the serratus anterior in action when you lift weights overhead.

Pumping out fast reps is unlikely to be giving your chest the muscle-building stimulus it needs. A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that slow, controlled lifts performed to fatigue produced greater rates of muscle growth than the same movement performed rapidly.

Similarly, the British Journal of Sports Medicine proved, across 31 studies, that high-load dynamic warm-ups greatly enhanced power and strength performance, as ‘warm’ muscles have greater flexibility and are more conditioned to generate explosive power.

For well-defined pecs, you obviously need a workout that’ll add inches to your chest, and this routine is the perfect starting point. This workout will hit your chest from every angle to increase strength and muscle size, King says. You have to remember, Every Herculean physique achieved had to start from nothing. So go slow on yourself, especially if you are a beginner.

As a beginner, your main focus has to be lifting safely with proper form and light weight. Once you nail that down, you can start implementing varying sets and reps.

Directions

  • For muscle strength: Complete 1-6 reps with 3-5 sets resting somewhere between 2-5 minutes between sets.
  • For muscle hypertrophy: Complete 7-12 reps with 3-4 sets resting somewhere between 1-2 minutes between sets.
  • If you’re a novice, aim for 3 sets of 8 reps with 90 seconds rest to stimulate strength and muscle gains.

Barbell bench press

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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.

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. 

Horizontal cable/Band crossovers

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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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

High to low 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

So, that was our list guys where we listed the best chest exercises for men. Hope this was of help to you!