Having a strong and massive chest is the ultimate goal for most gym rats. However, most gym-goers limit their chest workout routine to bench press and its variations. But there’s a wide range of exercises that can target all parts of your chest.
The exercises that work different parts of your chest include:
- Dumbbells squeeze press
- Incline barbell bench press
- Incline dumbbell bench press
- Close-grip barbell bench press
- Decline pushup
- Cable chest fly
- Decline barbell bench press
- Staggered press-up
- Chest dips
- Reverse-grip bench press
- Svend press
- Flat bench press
- Cable crossover
- Barbell neck press
Read on to learn more about these chest-building exercises, the muscle groups they target, and how to perform them correctly.
1. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
The primary muscle groups targeted by the dumbbell squeeze press include pectoralis major, deltoids, and triceps. You can work your upper chest and mid to lower chest because the dumbbell squeeze press activates both heads of the pecs. In addition, this exercise targets secondary muscles, including the abs and upper back muscles.
The dumbbell squeeze press is one of the best exercises that give you a defined chest by targeting muscles from different angles. You’ll get the best bang for the buck as you’ll work the maximum number of muscles doing only one exercise.
Depending on the rep scheme you choose, it’ll also help you achieve muscle gains and improve strength.
Here’s a great video to help you see how to do the dumbbell squeeze press correctly.
2. Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press is another great chest workout that targets your upper chest while providing a range of motion. It’s also a safe exercise as it doesn’t need a spotter, and you can learn to perform it properly all by yourself.
It’s also a better alternative to flat press exercises because it strongly activates the shoulder and upper chest muscles. You can adjust the bench’s angle to target different muscle groups. For example, if you go for a 30-degree angle, you can isolate the upper pecs, while a steep angle can target delts more squarely.
3. Incline Dumbbell Press
The incline dumbbell press is another variation of the incline barbell bench press that targets similar muscle groups. It’s also much easier to learn and can be a softer shoulder exercise if you need to shift from barbell bench pressing to a lighter variation.
One of the major benefits of this variation over the incline barbell press is that you can target your weaker sides more squarely. That’s because you hold one dumbbell in each hand, giving you more control over your movements.
If you have shoulder injuries, you can adjust the grip and the arm angle to find a comfortable position. Plus, the two dumbbells give you more stability in your muscles and joints, making them a great alternative to the barbell decline press.
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4. Close-grip Barbell Bench Press
Also known as the triceps bench press, this exercise targets your triceps and shoulders in addition to your chest. The difference between the close-grip bench press and the regular bench press is the narrower grip in the former.
The Close-grip press is particularly helpful for those athletes with shoulder injuries who have difficulty performing the traditional bench press. Since the grip width is lower than the traditional variation, there’s less shoulder abduction, reducing the stress on shoulder joints.
Although the close-grip variation places most of its stress on the triceps, you can reap its benefits in maximizing muscle growth and strength in your chest area, too.
If you’re a beginner, make sure to use a smith machine or a spotter to maximize your safety as the weight loads can do more harm than good if you’re not careful.
5. Decline Pushup
As you know, the basic pushup is a great exercise to target your upper body muscles, glutes, and shoulders. But you can crank things up by doing the decline pushup.
The Decline pushup is a classic exercise to work your upper body, including shoulders, arms, back, and chest muscles. As an advanced variation of the regular pushup, the decline pushup adds to the challenge by putting your feet on a raised platform like a bench.
It’s also a great functional exercise that helps you with your everyday activities. Decline pushups strengthen the stabilizer muscles located around the shoulders, helping prevent injuries while carrying things.
You can add to the challenge with other variations, including:
- One-Arm Decline Push-Up
- Stability Ball Decline Push-Up
- Decline Clap Push-Up
- Single-Leg Decline Push-Up
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6. Cable Chest Fly
The cable fly is a great exercise if you have pain or discomfort in your joints and can’t perform the bench press. It offers the same benefits, most importantly targeting the pec muscles. It works your muscles throughout the whole range of motion, making it a better alternative to bench press or dumbbell fly.
The cable fly targets both pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. Depending on the angle of the movement, you can target different heads of the pectoralis major. For example, you can work the clavicular head through upward movements and work the sternal head through a lower angle.
Check out this video for the difference between the lower and upper angles:
7. Decline Barbell Bench Press
A decline barbell bench press can be performed from beginner to advanced levels. All you need is a barbell, a decline bench, and a spotter to help you stay in good form. The decline barbell chest press is another classic exercise that builds muscles and strength.
The advantage of the decline bench press over the traditional bench press is that it targets the lower pectorals to complement a regular chest routine. This variation changes the movement angles to reduce stress on elbows, shoulders, or wrists. This way, you can continue targeting your chest muscles without reducing the intensity of your workout.
8. Staggered Press-up
The primary muscles emphasized in the staggered press-up are the chest muscles. In addition, you target secondary muscles, including shoulders, arms, triceps, and biceps. The best thing about this exercise is that you don’t need any equipment, just like the regular pushups.
You can start by doing the staggered arm knee pushup and when you build strength, move on to the staggered pushups. This advanced exercise builds strength and stability in your delts, rotator cuffs, pecs, and glutes.
It also helps you strengthen your weaker side by working one side of your chest, doing one hand at a time.
9. Chest Dips
Some athletes believe the chest dip is the best exercise for the chest, and for a good reason. Unlike bench press, which tires the shoulders without working the chest if done incorrectly, the chest dip can be highly effective in working the chest muscles.
Plus, dips activate more muscles than the bench press because there’s no bench to support your upper body. And since your feet aren’t on the ground, you need more stabilization, leading to more activated muscles.
Another advantage of the chest dips is that they target your outer chest in addition to the higher and lower muscles. This way, you can get a wider chest with toned muscles.
10. Reverse-grip Bench Press
The reverse-grip bench press activates the same muscles as the regular bench press but to a greater extent.
In the reverse-grip bench press, you add to the challenge by gripping the barbells in a nonconventional way.
By pointing your knuckles towards your feet, you tuck your elbow further, emphasizing the upper chest more than the standard-grip bench press. In addition, you’ll work the front delts, triceps, wrist extensors, and biceps.
Although this variation seems easy, it requires more wrist mobility and strength in addition to increased body awareness and mind-muscle connection. It’s particularly useful if you have an injury or want to add variety to your chest workout routine.
11. Svend Press
The Svend press involves pressing two plates tightly with your hands. Then, you lift your arms while extending them out to put maximum stress on your chest muscles.
The Svend press is a specialized chest workout that works your chest muscles without making your shoulder muscles or triceps fatigued.
It’s also easy on your joints, especially the rotator cuffs and the shoulder joint, which get strained the most in the bench press. But most importantly, it can prepare the pecs for bench press and prevent you from over-emphasizing the shoulders and lats.
12. Flat Bench Presses
The classic bench press is the first exercise that comes to mind when talking about building chest muscles. It serves many purposes, from building strength and gaining muscles to getting explosive pushing power.
It targets the pecs, triceps, and shoulders, but you need a spotter to prevent injuries. Plus, you should make sure to maintain an even grip and avoid tilting towards your dominant side.
13. Cable Crossover
The cable crossover is the staple of every chest workout routine. Although the bench press is the first go-to exercise for working the chest, the cable crossover can help you get a more defined chest faster and more effectively.
The classic cable crossover, known as the standing cable crossover, primarily targets your pectoralis major. Other muscles activated include pectoralis minor, delts, lats, and rhomboids.
There are different variations of this exercise that target different parts of your chest. They include:
- High cable fly
- Single-arm cable fly
- Cable crossover with resistance bands
- Decline cable crossover
- Single-arm low cable fly
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14. Barbell Neck Press
The barbell neck press is a compound exercise that targets your upper chest and biceps. This advanced strength-building movement involves lowering the barbell over the neck instead of the chest. It’s considered one of the ultimate chest-building movements because of the way it targets chest muscles.
The barbell weight gets distributed among the chest, shoulders, and triceps when performing a bench press. But in doing the neck press, all the stress will focus on your chest, helping build stronger chest muscles.
To put even more stress on your chest, take the barbell with a wider grip, perform it with the legs lifted, and flare out the elbows.
Frequently Asked Questions about Chest Exercises
How do you target every part of your chest?
Pressing at different angles is one of the best ways to target every part of your chest. By lowering the angle, you can work your upper chest and vice versa. The incline barbell chest, flat bench press, and decline bench press target the upper, mid, and lower chest.
How do you target the middle of your chest?
The best exercise for targeting the middle chest is the classic flat bench press. It targets the pectoralis major, the anterior delts, and triceps. However, you should be careful to maintain proper form and use a spotter to avoid injury.
What are the parts of the chest?
The chest consists of two major parts: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The upper chest includes the clavicular head, the mid chest involves the sternal head, and the lower chest involves the abdominal head of these pectoral muscles.
What are the 5 best chest exercises?
The best chest exercises are different variations of bench press, Svend press, barbell neck press, pushups, and chest flyes. They target different parts of the chest and prevent shoulder fatigue. Some of them have incline and decline variations to target different muscle heads in the chest.
How do you work different chest muscles?
You can work different chest muscles by altering your grip. Activate the lower heads of the pectoralis major with a wide grip and emphasize the pecs’ inner parts by maintaining a close grip. A reverse grip also targets more muscles by creating more tucked elbows.
Having a well-rounded chest workout routine can help you develop a stronger and wider chest by targeting different muscle groups. You don’t need to limit yourself to the traditional bench press, leading to unfavorable results and even injuries if done incorrectly.