Looking for the best chest exercises to add to your workout? Here are the five best I could find, and I use two in my own workouts. Here they are:
1. The Barbell Bench Press
The bench press is regarded as the undisputed leader among all chest exercises. Amongst the various types and variations of bench presses, the flat barbell bench press has been regarded as the benchmark for the strength or prowess. If a handful of exercises have to be chosen for creating the most effective full body workout or multi workout split, the Flat Barbell Bench Press is regarded as perhaps the best choice. This is why the bench press is recommended as the core exercise for those competing in 3 power-lifting competitions. People tend to use a large number of variations when attempting the flat barbell bench press. Among these, the close-grip barbell bench press is regarded as the ideal exercise for developing your inner chest and the triceps. The same variation done with a wider grip is the chosen exercise for developing chest muscles, i.e. pectoralis range of muscles. The other variation is the middle-grip bench-press is used for simultaneously developing strength of the pectorals, triceps and shoulders and is regarded as the standard for testing ones’ ability to execute bench-press.
Setting-Up: The Bench Press
You should ideally start with finding a location wherein the floor is uniform and flat. The best tool to set-up base for executing the bench press is using the flat Olympic bench. This is the standard bench that is recommended when using the 45-pound barbell. You need to lie down flat on this bench. Your soles should be firmly planted on the floor. The idea is to get a solid base where the legs can be used for driving the body weight upwards. You should ensure that your butt and the upper back along with the head should be pressed against the bench during the movement. Also, ensure that when setting-up the equipment, you start by un-racking the bar so that it drops directly towards the chest. Please note that you don’t have to do a barbell pull-over since this can induce fatigue apart from raising the possibility of incurring shoulder injuries.
The best way to attempt this exercise is to use the medium grip and a flat bench press for which the elbows should be tightly tucked-in. The elbows should be at an angle of 45 degrees, i.e. away from the body, and should be locked against the shoulders for greater stabilization, particularly towards the bottom of the repetitions. When in the unracked position, you need to lower the weights rather slowly—this ensures that the bar just about above the chest area. The bar shouldn’t bounce off the chest. While executing the repetition, you have to use the most explosive kind of chest strength for which you should be driving the loaded bar through mid area of your rep. The midpoint can be understood as the sticking point of the rep or the core positioning of the rep. You should concentrate more on increasing your strength when you are beyond the mid-way point. This will ensure that the triceps are activated to the maximum level and the pressing of the loaded bar is appropriate. Please note that the elbows should not be locked entirely, instead the elbows should be locked at around 95% to ensure straightness of the elbows. The other way of maximizing the triceps is to focus more upon the bar when it is about half away in the upward movement. The best strategy is to hold the bar straight and in front of the body with the palms facing down. When moving the bar, you should snap both the forearms and the wrists away from mid-section of the body.
There are many ways of attempting the Bench-Press. This includes the wide-grip, narrow-grip, medium-grip, board press and floor press apart from the very demanding pin press Bench-Press variations. Most bodybuilders tend to prefer the incline press that is regarded as the best exercise for developing the upper pecs. All these variations promise to develop the overall chest muscles, all the while helping to establish deep cuts among the upper and lower muscles. The idea is to use the Bench-Press as a part of powerful bodybuilding schedule.
Controversial Bench-Press Methods
The least talked about variation in the niche of Bench-Press is the decline bench press that is often looked upon the ideal way of targeting the lower pecs. This is more of a delusion created by some bodybuilding fanatics. The fact is that there are no lower pec muscles. The chest comprises of the pectoralis minor that is the upper pec and the pectoralis major that forms the mid or the lower pec muscle group but actually these two muscle groups are fused together. Thus, there is no way in which the lower pecs can be targeted. Most bench pressing people are stronger when doing the decline benching since the range of motion is shorter and thus, easier. This eliminates the weakness emanating from the bottom end of the benching position that is the bane of most people attempting the press.
2. The Dumbbell Bench Press
This is the easier and core form of Bench Press. Here, doing the flat dumbbell bench press is the easiest, i.e. using two freely held dumbbells that help to raise the core chest mass and strength. This is also the ideal way of correcting any strength imbalances that might have been created between two sides of the body. Dumbbell Bench Press also allows more acute pressing and helps to concentrate the weight towards the mid-section of the body.
Executing: The Dumbbell Bench Press
Setting-up the dumbbell Bench Press is rather easy since the bar is eliminated. Instead, you need to lie on a flat bench wherein your feet our touching the floor. The best way to take-up the dumbbells is to pick them close to the chest and then sit slowly on the bench. You don’t need to master this maneuver since the movement is quite relaxed wherein the weight is raised above your eyes without creating too much pressure on the mid-section. Thus, spotting is not usually needed when attempting this variation. Please note that each rep actually ends when the dumbbells lightly touch the shoulders. Some people don’t usually advocate creating the full range of motion when using heavy dumbbells. However, this is a wrong approach since the dumbbell Bench Press is perfectly suited for testing your benching strength without the risk of being harmed by an injury. The range of variations here include everything from flat and decline to incline dumbbell Bench Presses. Further, variations can be created using different types of grips like close, wide and medium. The medium grip helps to keep intact the integrity of the shoulders and induce sufficient pressure on the rotator cuffs, helping to work-out the shoulder muscles.
3. Explosive Push Ups
This is the most useful exercise for developing more explosive power across the chest area along with working-out the shoulders and triceps. The two most used methods in this include the clapping push-ups and plyometric push-ups. These methods include jumping with hands onto an object when doing a rep. however, plyopush-ups are regarded as the most accepted and admired variation in this segment. Get started by testing whether you are stronger in the knuckles or palms, i.e. since these are the two choices for executing the push-ups and also the points that would set-up a push-up. When lying down on a flat floor, your body should be positioned in a straight line where it should be touching the floor only along the toes and hands.
Executing: Explosive Push Ups
There are many opinions regarding how to position the head when executing pushups. During explosive pushups, you are essentially jumping up an object and thus, you don’t need to look down but ideally, you should be ready to look upwards or forwards when attempting push-ups. Ideally, your hands should not be placed more than 3 inches further away from the realm of your shoulder’s width. Remember, the closer are your hands, more likely are you to turn your triceps into strapping muscular sections. When attempting explosive push-ups for the first time, you can use a slightly wider positioning of the hands. For placing your hands, you can use anything ranging from hardcover books to weighted plates or wooden block where you can find similarly-sized two pieces of the same object. Place either of these objects besides each of the hands. You can raise the height of these supporting objects once you gain some level of control over your bodily movement and your body becomes accustomed to the effort involved in squeezing reps.
The starting position should be as low as possible. This means as close to the ground as possible but without allowing the chest to touch the floor. The floor should be minimally in contact with the chin, legs and belly. The maximum force is required in raising the body upwards, i.e. towards the roof and the movement exudes lots of pressure when making a slower rep since the elbows are extended fully and this requires 100% force that is required for propelling the body into the air. This helps to execute a clap that is the most usual method for attempting an explosive push-up. The clap should be quick so that you land on the floor without much delay. This also means that you have sufficient to prepare for the next rep. After each pylo-pushup, you can either move your hands back along the starting position and prepare in a more relaxed manner for the next rep or descend straight into another rep without resting at all. Apart from clapping, other variations include hopping or using your palms and knuckles for punching them together instead of the clap. You can alternate the height of the descent by using boxes of different heights, use alternating arms and alternate between the incline & decline format apart from using the super-wide, narrow and the elevated-leg variation.
4. Chest Dips
This exercise can be understood as the triceps-heavy version of all the chest-centric exercises. The chest dips resemble what can be accomplished with the decline bench pressing but here you are more focused on building triceps rather than focusing upon the chest muscles or the pecs. You should consider your inherent shoulder strength for attempting Chest Dips since it induces a great deal of exertion along the entire shoulder area.
Executing Chest Dips
For setting up the Chest Dips, you need to get started with a dip station. You need to grab a weighted belt and heavy plates for this although you can also use a dumbbell. You need to start at the very top wherein your arms are fully extended. The objective here is to lean a bit forward so that the tension is maintained along the pecs rather than the triceps. You need to dip or descend until the upper arms are almost parallel to the floor. You can go even lower if your shoulders don’t hurt. Don’t try to bounce off your shoulders or create a thrust using your hips. Just pause for a second when rising again for which you need to squeeze your pecs along with extending your triceps to the maximum.
Chest Dips Variations
Variations in this niche include assisted and bodyweight-based Chest Dips apart from weighted dips. You can use dipping stations of different kinds since each has different types of handles that helps to either narrow or widen your hands along with raising your body in an upright position either by focusing upon the chest or the triceps.
5. Dumbbell Flyes
Dumbbell Flyes are perhaps the most effective form of chest exercises. It fills every requirement that is expected from a chest workout and is in fact, the key to sustaining growth of the pecs along with combining greater flexibility that is an essential requirement of bodybuilding. Variations in this niche include flyes with dumbbells or those that are done with cables apart from other variations that change the angular position and some people even do it on an incline bench. Dumbbell Flyes can also be executed in the standing or leaning position, using the cables. Dumbbell Flyes should be done towards the end of your chest workout rather than at the start. This is because when done with heavily weighted dumbbells, it can seriously lengthen the recovery period that might eat into your remaining chest exercises. This is also the best way to use your already sore pecs into a growth-inducing, free-weight exercise.
Executing: Dumbbell Flyes
Setting-up Dumbbell Flyes is not really difficult since you need to assume a position that is quite similar to the flat or inclined version of the dumbbell bench press, i.e. you need to hold one dumbbell, slightly curved towards each other, in each hand and ensure that the dumbbells are raised at the very top position—above your chest, a bit close to the base of the chin. The movement includes pressing the weights towards each other, i.e. in an overhead manner. When the weights are extended fully overhead, try to keep your arms straight. You can allow some room for a rather small bend along the elbow. Lower the dumbbells out to the sides using each arm, simultaneously, ensuring that there are no sudden movements or jerks. When you are at the bottom position with your arms, the arms should be almost parallel to the floor. Here, you need to pause for just a second or two to allow yourself enough recovery to pull the weights back into the overhead position. Throughout this movement, your elbows shouldn’t move much. At the peak of the overhead position, your arms should be almost straight, i.e. as close as being to perpendicular with just a few degrees of relaxation allowed.
Use at least two to three of the above chest exercises in your routine.