What are the Best Chest Exercises?

best-chest-exercisesIf you want to learn which are the best chest exercises to build muscle mass and strength, then this is the article you need.

I found a great study that reveals which are the most efficient exercises for chest based on various factors. In this study bodyweight, free weight and machine movements were tested by the scientists at the University of Wisconsin.

They analyzed the following 9 exercises:

  • Barbell bench press
  • Pec deck machine
  • Cable crossover
  • Chest press machine
  • Incline dumbbell flys
  • Dips
  • Suspended press ups
  • Stability ball push-ups.
  • Standard push-ups.

(I neglect dumbbell bench press and incline barbell pressing.)

The research was made on males between the age of 19-30 who are familiar with lifting weights and they understand how to perform the various moves correctly. They did the same amount of reps and sets.

They placed Electromyography (EMG) electrodes on the pectoralis major muscles. This test shows the level of muscle activation during the various activities.

What do you think which was the most efficient?

Of course, the barbell bench press. Because of this all the other exercises were compared to it.

The study revealed that pec deck machine and cable crossover activated muscles almost at the same level (about over 90%). The other exercises stimulated the pecs between 80%-60%.

Which was the biggest loser? Standard push-ups with only 61%.

Check the details of the study below.

The Study

Source: acefitness.org


In case you want to stimulate just your chest muscles and get the best results in the shortest time, then do the three winners. They will help to gain mass and strength in less time considering that you need to do almost twice as many press ups to get the same results.

Related: Guide to Barbell Chest Exercises

What do I think?

70% of my workout routine contains bodyweight activities, and the other 30% is free weight. My chest workout consists mainly different push up variations but sometimes I do flat bench presses.

I still believe, push ups are the best compound exercises to train the upper body even if chest muscles are not engaged so much. They are beneficial for the arms, core and shoulders as well.

On the other hand, there are variations such as one arm press ups or moves with weights that develop the pecs even better.

Related: 100+ Push Up Variations

Another good news for bodyweight training lovers is that dips are pretty efficient as well and if they are done by weights to add extra resistance they are killer.

Even if the study above suggest to turn to free weight and machine exercises for chest, I will not change my routine. I’m going to stick to calisthenics. For me, that works the best, and most importantly I love doing it.


What are the best chest exercises for women?

Girls like to neglect to train their pecs, but it is as important as other parts of the body. For them, almost the same moves are recommended, but you can learn more about their chest training here.

Is decline bench press necessary?

It is an interesting question. I do it since I feel that it does good for the upper part of my pecks and I like attacking the muscles from different angles. On the other hand, I read it many times that is not beneficial at all. Personally, I recommend it, and you can learn more about these types of exercises here.

How to train my inner chest?

It is another question that generates debate everywhere. someone say there is no such thing that inner chest so there is no training for that. Others say there are moves for that part. I shared my thoughts on this topic here.

Don’t you have time to go to the gym? Do bench press at home!
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