Struggling to add mass, width, and stunning HD resolution to your chest? Crank up the poundage and start pushing weight.
An iron-clad, barrel chest immediately projects Hulk-like strength and screams masculinity. It’s one of the most immediately noticeable muscle groups, regardless of whether you’re rendezvousing on a beach or suited up and dressed to impress — both in a positive and negative way.
And if you’re a lady, chest moves are absolutely essential. They’re the single best way to develop complete upper body strength, and they help build a sheath of muscle tone across the triceps and shoulders.
In short, work your chest; gender notwithstanding.
The strategy: first blow up your pecs with a stable of powerful compound exercises; second, chisel out definition and striations with targeted isolation moves. That 1-2 punch allows the chest to handle massive weight and volume—an essential for building overall mass and size—but simultaneously sculpts out a separated mid-line, strong definition along the perimeter, and a deep chest that spans from ribs to clavicle.
We’ve pulled together 13 of the most effective chest exercises to absolutely pummel your pecs and construct a powerful, hulking chest. Combine various moves using the blueprint below to form an unbelievably killer, comprehensive chest workout gauntlet.
The 13 Best Chest Exercises To Pummel Your Pecs
We’ve split up chest exercises into tiers based on priority and overall effectiveness. While you should leverage everything (especially to emphasize weak points), tiers 1 & 2 should always form the foundation of your routine.
- Tier 1: The Essentials — Dumbbell Chest Press, Barbell Bench Press, Swiss Ball Chest Press, Dips, Push Ups
- Tier 2: Targeted Power Moves — Incl. Dumbbell Press, Incl. Bench Press, 1-Arm Incl. Press, Decl. Bench Press, Closed Grip Bench Press
- Tier 3: Shaping Accessories — Dumbbell Flies, Cable Crossovers, Pullovers
Tier 1 is stuffed with all-around compound moves that slap on mass and size across the entire chest. They’re your hard-hitting anchor exercises. Tier 2 consists of targeted compound moves that leverage a variety of angles and arm positions to hammer the upper and lower chest. Tier 3 is made up of accessorizing isolation moves that mainly contribute aesthetics and bring up specific areas of focus (lower chest, mid-line, outer line).
As a general blueprint (think of it as a LEGO project), use the following format to construct an effective chest workout on the fly:
- Tier 1 (1-3): Pick 2 — 1 press and 1 bodyweight exercise. Press for 4 sets x 12 reps; do 3 sets of either dips or push ups to finish the workout.
- Tier 2 (4-8): Pick 2 — 1 incline move and 1 additional move. Do 3 sets x 12 reps of both.
- Tier 3 (9-11): Pick 1. Do 3 sets x 12 reps.
*Click each exercise name for a pop-up video demo. Use your ← → arrow keys or swipe left/right on your phone to move from page to page.
Primary Target(s): Chest (All), Triceps
The dumbbell chest press is the most important move for comprehensive chest development, especially if you’re new to the lifting game. Some people swear by the traditional bench press, but the dumbbell version requires massive single-arm stabilization, which helps actively shape the pecs.
It’s also considerably more difficult, especially as the weight starts to skyrocket. Because of that, you won’t be able to handle as much weight as you would with a barbell.
- (1) Lie on a flat bench with two dumbbells straight above your chest. Draw your shoulder blades back and place a slight arch in your back.
- (2) Slowly lower until the dumbbells are parallel with your chest. Your arms should be at a 45° angle with your torso — not 90º.
- (3) Powerfully contract your chest and press the dumbbells straight up. Squeeze your inner chest at the top.
Primary Target(s): Chest (All), Triceps
Like the dumbbell chest press, the barbell bench press blasts the entirety of the pecs. It’s a great way to overload the chest, slap on muscle mass, and build major strength. The barbell variant allows the body to handle a much heavier load—and a higher upper limit—than it can with dumbbells.
- (1) Lie on a flat bench with a loaded barbell. Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Draw your shoulder blades back and place a slight arch in your back.
- (2) Slowly lower until the barbell is right above your chest (the bar can touch, but don’t bounce it). Your arms should stay at a 45° angle with your torso — not 90º.
- (3) Powerfully contract your chest and press the barbell straight up.