Chest day isn’t really rocket science. If you ask anyone at the gym for a chest day advice, the most common answer would be: Incline bench press for the upper portion of the chest and parallel bar dips for the lower portion of the chest.
This is a good start, but if you want to really emphasize on all of the muscle sectors in the chest department, these two exercises alone would not be enough.
Besides the upper and lower portion of the chest, you have the middle, inner and outer portion of the pectoral muscles.
To target those sectors, you need to include exercises like flat bench flys and crossovers.
If you really want to achieve a thick, bulky, yet shredded chest, you MUST target every part of this muscle group.
So, in this article, we will give you our best picks for chest day exercises.
Note, different exercises have been included for each different portion of the chest, so you can CHOOSE your favorite exercises, that will form a MASSIVE chest workout.
This is usually the hardest part to develop, so it is a good idea to start off with it, unless of course it’s a well-developed part for you and your priorities should be pointed at the lower and outer portions of the chest.
To target the upper portion of the chest, you have to include pushing exercises on an incline bench.
The higher the angle of the bench, the more upper chest engagement there will be.
However, be careful not to go too high, as you will notice significant front shoulder engagement after the 45-degree angle.
Our best picks for upper chest exercises:
- Incline barbell bench press
- Incline bench dumbbell flys
Incline Barbell Bench Press
Lay on the bench and step strongly on the ground. Try not to compensate by lifting your legs off of the ground while doing the exercise. Focus all the tension on the upper chest. Be careful not to lift your head off of the bench, as you put excess tension on the neck muscles when you are doing that.
Let the bar down to your chest, keeping a moderate pace. Don’t try to bounce it off of your chest muscles. Once the bar touches your chest, pause for half a second and push the barbell up to its initial position.
- Many beginners mistakenly let the bar down to the lower portion of the chest. Keep it at the upper part, a couple of centimeters below your collar bone.
- Don’t lock out your elbows, keep them slightly bent to achieve constant tension
Incline Bench Dumbbell Flys
This exercise is one of the most effective, mass-building, isolated chest exercises. It’s a perfect exercise that targets the inner portion of the pectoral muscles, which helps you achieve the desired shape and size of the chest.
The incline flys targets the upper and outer part of the chest.
Take the dumbbells and lay down. Lift the dumbbells up and rotate your wrists inwards, so the sides of the dumbbells are pointing forward. With a slight bent elbow, let the arms go down as shown on the illustration above, and then slowly get them up to the initial position.
- Don’t bash through the movement, keep a moderate pace to maintain tension.
- Don’t let the dumbbells touch, rather than that, contract your chest as much as possible at the end of each repetition.
- While letting the dumbbells down, puff your rib cage to get additional chest stretch and engagement.
Middle Portion Of The Chest
This part of the chest is best engaged through free weight pushing exercises, done on the flat bench press, or certain machine exercises that mimic fly movements.
Our best picks for the middle part of the chest:
- Pec deck
- Flat dumbbell bench press
This is a machine exercise that is the equivalent of a flat bench dumbbell fly movement, with the only difference being the bend in the elbows.
We have picked this exercise, as it offers you a fixed point of movement and therefore a better control.
Adjust the machine according to your height. If you’ve never done this exercise, use a moderate weight at first to test out the movement.
- Sit down, straighten your back and puff your rib cage up, once you’ve got your arms on the handles
- Lift the weight slightly off of the whole stack and stay in that position for a second, so that you feel tension on your chest
- Close in slowly and hold the contraction for a second
- Slowly get back to the initial position
- Don’t let the weight completely down so it touches the whole stack, as this will cause you to lose the tension on your chest.
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
This is the most famous mass building exercise for the middle and lower portions of the chest.
The pushing movement itself is a compound exercise, that involves more than one muscle groups as synergists. These muscle groups are the chest, triceps and front head of the shoulder musculature.
Usually, to achieve greater chest engagement, the grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
The closer you keep the dumbbells to one-another, the more tension will go to the triceps, so try to avoid that when the goal is targeting the chest.
- Sit down on the bench and keep your dumbbells on your legs
- Lay down and keep the dumbbells up with their sides pointing at each other
- Refrain from locking your elbows- keep them slightly bent
- Let the dumbbells down so they go slightly below your chest
- Keep the dumbbells at the level of the lower portion of the chest
- Push the dumbbells up and slowly get them closer together, as shown on the illustration
The exercise can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, however, using the dumbbells, you will be able to achieve a greater range of motion and therefore tension upon the chest musculature.
The flat bench press is usually done as the first exercise in each chest workout, unless you have a weak upper chest and put a priority on it by starting off with an incline movement. This is a good exercise for beginners, as well as advanced and elite athletes.
Alternating between dumbbells and barbells is a good idea if you want to have diversity in your workouts. So, for example, one exercise can be done with a barbell, followed by an exercise with dumbbells. You can even do a full chest workout using either dumbbells or a barbell.
Lower Portion Of The Chest
Our best picks for exercises that target this portion of the chest are:
- Parallel bar dips
- Cable crossovers
Parallel Bar Dips
This is an exercise mainly used when the goal is chest and triceps development.
To best engage the chest musculature, we need to have a wide grip and keep our elbows slightly open, as the triceps gets involved more if the elbows are closer to the body.
- Get up on the parallel bar and keep your body straight
- You can slightly bend your knees and keep the legs together, as shown on the illustration
- Let your body down, and then push yourself up to the initial position, without locking out the elbows
- Neck reflexes- When trying to target the chest, keep your head down.
- If you look up, you will cause the triceps musculature to engage more in the movement.
- Try not to swing your body during the movement and keep a moderate pace.
This is an exercise mostly used to shape up the already developed muscle mass of the chest, as it is a simple, isolating chest exercise that targets the lower and outer portion of the chest musculature.
To do this exercise, you will need a two-way pulley machine.
- Grab the pulleys and place one of your legs forward for more balance
- Slightly bend your elbows, and keep them static without any further extension during the movement
- Push down in a fly-movement fashion, then get back up to the initial position
At the end of the repetition, you can touch your hands or even cross them to emphasize on the inner part of the chest musculature.
Keep a moderate pace and constant tension on the chest.
Outer Portion Of The Chest
Our top pick for an exercise that emphasizes on this portion of the chest musculature is the wide grip flat barbell bench press.
Reverse Grip Flat Bench
The flat barbell bench press is one of the most basic compound movements for overall chest development, and usually it is included in every chest workout.
However, here we will give you a fancy variation of this exercise, done with reverse grip.
The wide reverse grip limits the range of motion; hence, more tension goes to the chest, with an accent on the outer portion.
The execution is pretty much the same as the incline barbell bench press, with the only difference being the reverse grip and the fact that you have to let the barbell down to the lower portion of the chest.
Inner Portion Of The Chest
The best exercises for this portion of the chest are:
- The flat bench press cable flys
- And again- The crossovers
Flat Bench Cable Flys
To execute this exercise, place a flat bench in the middle of the two-way cable machine.
- Grab the pulleys and lay down
- Simply mimic a fly movement
Doing flys with a cable rather than dumbbells, allows you to control the movement and therefore achieve greater contraction.
Building The Optimal Chest Workout
To have an effective chest workout, try to include at least one exercise for each portion of the chest.
Choose two pushing movements on a bench, done with either a barbell or dumbbells and do them as first exercises in the workout, as it is a good idea to start with the compound movements first, where you can apply maximum effort and load up on weights.
Choose the exercises accordingly, so that you prioritize your weak parts.
So, if you really love going all in on the flat bench press, but your upper chest is lacking, start with an incline movement and avoid ego lifting.
Keep the sets in the 8~12 rep range until failure if your goal is muscle mass, and under 5 repetitions if your goal is strength.
After you are done with these movements, include isolated exercises like fly movements and crossovers to stretch the already loaded up chest musculature.
There is no unified chest workout for everyone, which is the main reason we’re giving you a variety of exercises from which you can choose, and shape up the most optimal chest workout for yourself.
If you need further personal attention, feel free to visit our individual training section, where our team of professional personal trainers will take care of you and your goals.