7 Best Chest Exercises

Exercising the chest is not always about obtaining large muscle mass. Although this can be a result of completing specific exercises, there are some other benefits too. Having a toned, strong and flexible upper body can assist you throughout your daily life: whether sat behind a desk, working on a construction site or simply carrying out household chores, thus it is crucial to have the best chest exercise.

This article will look at the workings of the chest and how the muscle groups function together. Also, it will explore the physiological and lifestyle benefits of a flexible and powerful torso. Furthermore, it includes some of the best exercises for toning, muscle gain, strength, and flexibility.

It does not matter whether you are a serious gym addict or someone who wishes to work out in the privacy of your own home - the list includes exercises for all abilities.

What Are the Chest Muscles?

The chest comes under the category of ‘push muscles.’ These muscles are the group of muscles which contract and feel ‘tight’ when you push something away from your body. Imagine trying to push a heavy piece of furniture across the floor. Your arms extend, and you feel the pressure in your upper chest.

These ‘push muscles’ are the opposite of ‘pull muscles’ which contract when you bring something closer to your body. For example, if you are completing bicep curls with weight - the muscle becomes tighter as you bring your forearm up towards your shoulder.

Exercising the chest muscles, therefore, involves a pushing movement, as opposed to a pulling process. In this way, the muscles work hard and require repair through protein synthesis. As the muscle fibers rebuild, they return larger, stronger and more flexible than before.

The chest contains two main muscles which we will look at below.

Pectoralis Major

As the name suggests, this is the largest muscle on the upper front chest. The pectoralis major looks like a fan, connecting on one side to the sternum and extending up towards the armpit and collarbone.

The pectoralis major is responsible for moving the shoulder joint and allowing the arm to move across and towards the chest itself. Also, it assists with deep breathing as it pulls on the rib cage allowing the lungs to expand. The pectoralis major is more prominent in males than females, as in the latter it is hidden under the breast tissue.

Pectoralis Minor

The pectoralis major, together with the pectoralis minor, make what is commonly known as ‘the pecs.’ The pectoralis minor is located beneath the pectoralis major and attaches the third, fourth and fifth ribs upwards to the shoulder blade. Its function is to pull the shoulder down and forwards.

The best chest exercises work both of these muscles, allowing the upper body to appear toned and firm.

Benefits of Exercising the Chest

best chest exercises: man holding black dumbbell

Assists With Daily Life

It is surprising how often the chest muscles are in need throughout a normal day. Pushing heavy glass doors open on a store, using a vacuum cleaner, turning the mattress and even washing your hair requires the chest to fire into action.

Doing the best chest exercises means that these activities are easy, comfortable and you are not compensating by using other areas such as the spine. In some circumstances, that can create an unhealthy load on the back.

It Looks Impressive

Many men and some women want the appearance of a large, muscular chest. Not only does it appear aesthetically pleasing on the beach or by a swimming pool, but it can also make clothing look more attractive and appear to fit better.

However, do not assume that exercising the chest will result in creating a massive upper body. That comes through choice. For large muscles, use heavy weights and small repetitions. For tone, use less weight and more reps.

Women should not assume they will lose any breast tissue when exercising as it’s not known to happen. Toning and working the pectoral muscles will lift the breasts, making them more prominent.

Improves Posture

Getting the best chest exercises for the muscles can have the effect of pushing the shoulder blades backward.

This forces the upper chest outwards, making you appear taller and more statuesque.

Reduces Calories

All resistance exercise comes with the bonus of burning calories. If losing weight is the target, chest exercises are a perfect way of creating a calorie deficiency while building muscle.

It is a win-win situation. Not only are the muscles growing but by losing fat at the same time, they appear all the more toned and tight.

Now that we have seen the benefits of exercising the chest, it is time to look at the best exercises to gain results. The t exercises below are for people with access to weights as well as those without.

Best Chest Exercises Without Weights

Without weights, you should aim to exercise the chest three times a week but not on consecutive days. In these exercises, it is the weight of the body itself which forms the resistance against the muscles.

Push-Ups - Best All-Around Chest Exercise

The push-up is probably the most popular of all non-weight exercises, being a favorite of school fitness programs and army training.

It is successful not only because it can be completed virtually anywhere, but it also works many muscles. While the majority of stress is placed on the major and minor pectoralis muscles, the biceps, triceps, and deltoids are also involved.

  1. Lie face downwards with palms flat on the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Your arms should be locked and supporting you off the ground. Ensure that your back is completely straight.
  2. Lower yourself down until your arms create a 90-degree angle.
  3. Push yourself back up until your arms are straight again.
  4. This completes one repetition.
  5. Complete as many repetitions as you can and try to increase by one further push up every two sessions.

Once you become more proficient, you can move past the 90-degree angle and work towards getting the chest lower to the floor. Do not try too early though as this can damage the shoulder muscles.

Gorilla Push-Ups - Best Advanced Chest Exercise

There are many variants of the standard push-up, but the gorilla is a personal favorite of mine. It combines explosive power, strength, heavy resistance and, if you are in front of a crowd, appears very impressive too.

  1. Start from the standard push-up position listed above.
  2. Quickly drop down towards the floor, then rapidly propel yourself upwards off the floor.
  3. Slap your chest with both hands (hence the gorilla).
  4. Quickly replace your hands back on the floor.
  5. Repeat until exhaustion.
  6. Increase by one repetition every two days.

This exercise provides a large volume of resistance and is a good way to work the pectoral muscles hard. However, do not complete until you can easily do over thirty standard push-ups, as you need the strength for control.

If possible, it’s best to complete this exercise on a floor mat or somewhere where there is little chance of your hands slipping to avoid injury.

Incline Push-Ups - Best Chest Exercise for Beginners or Older Persons

Another variant to the standard push-up, the incline push-up works the pectoralis muscles and does not create as much resistance.

  1. With toes on the floor, lean forwards with locked out arms supporting yourself against a work surface, table, wall or bench. The higher the supporting object, the easier the push-up.
  2. This is the starting position.
  3. Bend your arms, lowering your body as close as possible to the support.
  4. Push your body back to the starting position again until the arms are straight.
  5. Complete as many repetitions until fatigue sets in, and then increase with one further push-up every two sessions.

Easier than push-ups, this exercise is a great way to start exercising the chest. Begin with a higher object such as table and as you progress, work downwards to a chair or bench. Finally, replace with the standard push-up.

Dips - Best Chest Pectoralis Minor Exercise

Push-ups do work the pectoralis minor, but this exercise places more stress on the pectoralis minor and is a good way to ensure it builds as fast as the major.

The dip is typically completed on parallel bars in a gym but can also be used at home too.

  1. Find two strong chairs, face them back to back, shoulder width apart and stand between them.
  2. Place one hand on either chair so that they are straight.
  3. Lift your legs off the floor by bending them at the knee and raising up towards your buttocks.
  4. You are now supporting yourself on just your arms.
  5. This is the starting position.
  6. Lower your body down towards the floor by bending your arms until they are at ninety degrees.
  7. Raise yourself up to the starting position again.
  8. If possible, complete ten repetitions.

Two main warnings come in doing any of these best chest exercises. First, ensure your arms do not go past ninety degrees on the dip as this can cause misalignment in the shoulders. Second, use strong chairs or other pieces of furniture. Not only could the supporting object break, but it could also provide you with an unwanted injury.

Best Chest Exercises With Weights

Using weights during chest exercises can promote a larger muscle build, and quicker. If you are using really heavy weights (190 lbs. or more), work the chest only twice a week. For other days, concentrate on different muscle groups.

The Bench Press - Best Chest Exercise With Weights

When you imagine someone working out in a gym, bench pressing is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It is a chest and power building exercise which works the pectoral muscles, triceps, shoulders and gluteus maximus. This exercise requires a barbell, weights, and bench.

  1. Lay flat on the bench, legs to either side and feet flat on the floor. Your face should be underneath the supported barbell.
  2. Arch the back slightly.
  3. Tightly grip the bar.
  4. The arms should be placed comfortably apart. The longer the arms, the further apart they need to be. Generally, they should be placed wider than your shoulder blades.
  5. Remove the bar from the rack, breathe in and lower to your chest.
  6. Breathe out and push the bar upwards again until arms are extended.
  7. Start with small weights and aim for 10-12 repetitions. Reps and weights can be increased as you advance.

This is an exercise which generally requires ‘spotting’ (assistance from a friend) to ensure that it is completed safely.

Dumbbell Press - Best Chest Exercise with Free Weights

A good free weight exercise without the support of a barbell. This means the body is fighting against gravity on either side of the chest improving stabilizer muscles. This exercise requires two dumbbells with weights and a bench.

  1. Lie with your back flat on a bench.
  2. Have a dumbbell in each hand resting on your upper thighs.
  3. Use the thighs and arms to bring the dumbbells forward and hold just to the side of your chest with your arms at 90-degrees.
  4. Your palms should face away from your body.
  5. This is the starting position.
  6. Breathe out and use the chest muscles to push the weights upwards until arms are straight.
  7. Hold for one second.
  8. Breathe in as you lower back to the starting position.
  9. Weights should be adjusted so that you can complete 10-12 repetitions.

If there is a lot of weight on the dumbbells, it can place a lot of stress on the wrists. Supports are recommended in this scenario.

Lying Fly - Best Chest and Shoulder Exercise

The best chest exercises works the pectoralis major and minor muscles together with benefitting the deltoids. It is completed with a bench and two dumbbells.

  1. Lie back down on a bench, legs to either side and feet firmly on the floor.
  2. It may be best to have someone hand you the dumbbells, otherwise, start as per the dumbbell press with the weights on your thighs.
  3. Raise dumbbells, palms facing inwards towards each other until your arms are straight and above your head. This is the starting position.
  4. Breathe in and lower weights to your sides away from the body. Keep arms straight but with a small bend in the elbow for stability. Bring them down until level with your chest. From above you should now be in a ‘cross’ shape.
  5. Breathe out and raise weights back to the starting position. Again, fairly straight arms with a little elbow flex.
  6. Repeat ten times.

Try to keep both dumbbells mirroring each other. Otherwise, you may be thrown off- balance potentially leading to injury.


Working the chest muscles can improve appearance, increase confidence, raise strength and improve posture.

It does not have to be about creating an enormous bodybuilding physique, although that is possible. The exercises in this article cater from the beginner to the advanced, from the gym addict to the stay-at-home fitness enthusiast.

Find the best chest exercises for you and the ones that will achieve the results you are after. Either light weights or no weights at all will improve tone. The heavier the weights, the more muscle will be built.

The best chest exercises will put you on the road to looking great and feeling good.