8 Best Chest Workouts & Exericses [Real Results] - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » 8 Best Chest Workouts & Exercises for Real Results

8 Best Chest Workouts & Exercises for Real Results

August 29, 2019

Key Takeaways

  1. The pectoralis major chest muscle is made up of an upper and lower pec.
  2. Men who suffer from man boobs, or moobs, should focus more on their lower pec to create better chest definition.
  3. You can perform some at home without weights, but you will need some equipment to do the full workout routine.
  4. Add some or all of these best chest workouts and exercises to your routine for maximum muscle gains.

Are you looking to find the best chest workout for strength and mass

Tired of not having the defined pecs that bodybuilders and other people at the gym have?

Not sure what is the best chest workout routine to follow?

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger was among the Golden Era bodybuilders who had the best pecs.

Some of the best chest muscles of the Golden Era of bodybuilding include:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Serge Nubret
  • Sergio Oliva
  • Lou Ferrigno

Each of these Golden Era greats had different methods for building their impressive chest muscles. 

Sergio Oliva
Sergio Oliva is another Golden Era bodybuilder with impressive chest.

Today, we’re bringing you some of the best tried and true chest exercises that you can use to meet your goals. Some can be done at home, but for others, you’ll likely need to go to the gym. 

dumbbells
For this circuit, you’ll need dumbbells among other equipment.

Here’s the equipment you’ll need to perform the entire circuit:

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Flat bench that can incline and decline
  • Cable machine
  • Fly machine

Breaking Down the Chest Muscles

chest muscles

Let’s take a look at the muscles that make up the chest muscles. These are the muscles you’ll be using for today’s chest workouts.

  • Pectoralis major – the largest part of the chest muscle, made up of two heads
    • Clavicular head – the top, smaller portion of the pectoralis major
    • Sternocostal (sternal) head – the lower, larger portion of the pectoralis major
  • Pectoralis minor – located under the pectoralis major, attached to the ribs and scapula (shoulder bone)
  • Serratus anterior – located near the center of the chest wall and attached to the ribs
  • Subclavius – a small muscle located under the clavicle (collar bone) 

Tips for Your Best Chest Workout

Before you get started filling out your pecs using our chest workout plan, check out our tips.

1. Choose your grip wisely

When you’re working with the barbell, you have a choice of grip stance to use. Each one will activate a different part of the chest muscle. 

barbell
Different grips on the barbell will activate different chest muscles.

Choose your grip based on which part of the muscle you want to focus on.

  • Wide grip – focuses on the outer chest and shoulders
  • Close grip – focuses on the inner chest and triceps
  • Narrow grip – focuses on the lower chest pecs
  • Reverse grip – focuses on the upper chest and reduces pressure on the shoulders, also activates the triceps to a greater degree.

As you can see, the grip you use can make a difference when targeting for a specific part of the pec.

2. Talk to Your Muscles

This might seem like a strange tip, but hear us out. The exercises we’re going to show you today include activating other muscles as well. 

But what if we told you that you can instruct which muscles to activate for a particular exercise? Don’t believe us? Well, it’s true.

bench press
Engaging just your chest in a bench press will lead to better activation.

When doing a basic lift like the bench press, 11 men were instructed during each of three sets. Each was instructed to use just their chest muscles to perform a 50 percent max lift. 

After the set, researchers noted a 26 percent increase of pec muscle activation compared to pre-instruction.

So, if you’re looking to target your chest over another muscle group, speak it out loud while setting up. Then, remind yourself before you start which muscles you will be focusing on. Your body might just surprise you by activating the target muscle group.

3. Hold and Pause

Some of the workouts you’ll see today advise you to hold for a specific part of the exercise. Holding on to the weights and squeezing your chest muscles force the muscle fibers to activate longer. 

This is considered an isometric move and can increase muscle mass and strength. Studies show that prolonged muscle activation increases hyperactivity. The muscle fibers continue to fire after the exercise is completed.

chest muscle
Holding & pausing for a specific part of the exercise can increase muscle mass.

What does this mean? Greater gains with less reps and sets. 

So when you see a chest exercise that says to hold your pose, make sure to do it.

incline bench press
For more activation, hold & pause for 10 seconds.

If you want even more muscle fiber activation, hold for longer. See if you can hold for five or 10 seconds before you complete the rep. 

4. Have a Spotter

When you’ve done something time and time again, you may feel you don’t need a spotter. But if you are trying something new, it’s best to have someone there. 

spotter
When trying a new exercise or grip, it is best to have a spotter to help.

This way, you can try out a new grip stance without worry. Or if you’ve been wanting to try out the decline bench press but aren’t sure if your form is correct.

It’s always a good idea to have someone there when you’re working out with weights. Just in case. You never know what could happen that would make you wish you had a spotter there.

spotter
A spotter can motivate you & make sure everything is safe.

A spotter can also be a workout or training partner. They can help motivate you to meet your goals and keep you accountable during gym time. Having a spotter and training partner in one is really great for people who need the extra push.

Pec Deck

If you want to focus on your pectoralis major and serratus anterior, this is one of the best chest workouts. You’ll need to hit the gym unless you have a pec dec machine at home. 

pec deck
The pec deck exercise works on the pectoralis major and serratus anterior muscles.

How to do it: Once you have your weight set, sit on the machine seat with your feet flat on the floor. Make sure your back is flat against the backrest. Grab a handle in each hand, arms bent at a 90-degree angle, and elbows are chest level.

This is your starting position. Exhale and squeeze your pec muscles as you pull the handles towards the center. Hold for three seconds and then inhale as you slowly move back to the starting position.

Variation: If your gym doesn’t have a pec deck machine, you can use a fly machine instead. Your elbows will be straighter using the fly machine, and you’ll feel more pull from your inner chest. This is due to the wider stance using this machine.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for a total of three sets. If you can’t, then you need to lower the weight down. Your body should stay steady throughout your sets as well. Take up to a 30-second break between sets if needed.

Weighted Dips

This is one of the best chest workouts that focus on the lower pecs. You can use ankle weights or strap a weight plate around your mid-section.

If you go with the weight plate, make sure you have a spotter to avoid injury. Your movements should be controlled so that the plate can’t swing around and throw you off balance.

weighted dips
Weighted dips are one of the chest workouts that focus on the lower pecs.

How to do it: Get your weights attached and stand facing the dip station. Grab the handles and raise yourself up until your arms are straight and locked. Bend your knees slightly so your feet don’t touch the floor until your set is done.

Keep your forearms steady as you lower yourself down until your biceps are parallel to the floor. Engage your chest muscles as you push back up to the starting position.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for a total of three sets. Take up to a 30-second break between sets as needed.

Decline Bench Dumbbell Chest Fly

This is another one of the best chest workouts for the lower pecs. You’ll need a bench that can decline and dumbbells to complete this chest exercise at home or at the gym.

For maximum pec activation, set the decline bench between 30 and 56 degrees.

decline bench dumbbell chest fly
Decline bench dumbbell chest flies will activate your lower pecs.

How to do it: Lay down with your back flat on the bench and your feet flat on the floor. With a dumbbell in each hand, raise them up until your arms are straight over your mid-chest. Keeping your back flat, begin to lower your arms outward with a slight bend in your elbows.

Stop once your elbows reach chest level, or if you start to feel stress in your shoulders. Squeeze your pecs and engage your core, then start to raise the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for a total of three sets. If you need to take a break between sets, take up to 60-seconds.

Wide Push-up

A slight variation on the standard push-up, using a wide stance puts the focus on your chest and anterior deltoids. And you can do this chest workout without weights, so it’s perfect to do at home.

wide push up
Wide push ups work on your chest and anterior deltoids.

How to do it: Get into position like you would perform a standard push-up. The difference here is that your hand placement will be outside of your shoulders. Get into the starting position, raise up until your arms are straight.

When you’re ready, lower yourself down until your torso is just above the floor. Hold for a second, squeezing your chest muscles as you push back up to the starting position.

Variation: Once you’re able to complete all three sets, add in a step to up the challenge. The alternating shuffle push-up has you move to the left or right between each press up. Before you begin the next rep, move one pace to either the left or right.

Complete 12 – 15 reps for a total of three sets. If you can’t do all three sets, start with two and work your way up. Take up to a 60-second break between sets as needed.

Side Push-up

This is another chest workout you can do at home without weights. This one can be pretty challenging, so don’t be surprised if you can’t finish all the sets the first time.

You’ll do one side first and then switch to the other side. The focus will be on the center of the chest and the triceps.

This push-up variation is great for those who have one side of the chest that is larger than the other. It can help even out any irregularities. 

You can switch from one side to the other or just do the side that needs it.

side push up
Side push ups focus on the center of the chest and the triceps.

How to do it: Lay down on one side. Take the arm that is on the floor and wrap it around your midsection. Place the other arm flat on the floor in front of your chest. Your hand should be flat on the floor with your thumb closest to you and fingers facing up. This is your starting position.

When you are ready, begin to push up with the weight on your arm in front of you. Hinge at the hip as you pull your shoulder and torso off the floor. If you are able to, push your hips up off the floor.

If not, then stop once our torso is off the floor and your arm is straight. Hold for a second, engage your pecs and core, and then come back down to the starting position.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for a total of three sets. Take up to a 45-second break between sets if needed.

Cable Chest Fly

You’ll need a fly machine to perform this chest exercise, best for the lower pecs. We’re adding in a move that will really focus the tension on the chest, providing greater muscle gains.

You don’t want to go too heavy with the weights for this one. The stance and cables will provide stretch and tension, so you’ll want to reduce the weight limit.

cable chest fly
The cable chest fly is another exercise that focuses on the lower pecs.

How to do it: Get your weight and cables set, with the cables at chest level. Stand in the center of the racks and grab a cable handle in each hand. Maintaining a straight back and engaged core, raise your arms to the side with forward-facing palms.

Take up to two steps forward to put tension on the cables and have one foot more forward than the other. This is your starting position. With a slight bend to the elbow and using a wide arc, pull your hands together until they touch.

Then, hold for two seconds with your chest and core engaged, before you slowly move back to the starting position. Before you begin the next set, move the opposite foot forward.

Variation: If you are ready to amp up the challenge, here’s something you can add to the cable chest fly. Before you move back to the starting position at the end of the fly, do this. \Go back halfway, then pull your hands back together again. Squeeze your chest muscles as hard as you can while you do this halfway motion. Then, move back to the starting position.

Complete 10 – 12 reps for a total of three sets. Take up to a 60-second break if needed between sets.

Guillotine Press

This bench press is named for the Iron Guru Vince Gironda, also called the Gironda neck press. It’s similar to the standard bench press but has some key differences in stance and barbell placement.

This is the perfect chest workout for men who have a barbell setup at home. It focuses on the upper pecs with greater activation of the major and minor muscles

You’ll definitely want to have a spotter for this one when you try it for the first time. It can be very dangerous if not performed correctly, so go with a low weight until you perfect your form.

Guillotine Press
The guillotine press focuses on the upper pecs with greater activation of the major and minor muscles. 

How to do it: Lay flat on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. Use a wide grip past your shoulders. Grasp the bar and raise it above your neck until your arms are straight. Begin to lower the bar from the starting position until it is just over your Adam’s apple. Squeeze your pecs as you begin to raise the bar back up to the starting position.

Complete 6 -8 reps and do a total of three sets. Take up to a 60-second break between sets as needed.

Barbell Bench Press

The barbell bench press is the number one best chest workouts for men looking to increase their pec size. There are several variations of the bench press you can do which will help isolate specific chest muscles.

To activate the sternal head, use either a flat bench or a decline bench set at -18 degrees using a wide grip. If you want to focus on the clavicle head, use an incline bench between 30 and 56 degrees. You can use your preferred grip method for the clavicle head.

If you have a bench and barbell, you can do this chest workout at home. If not, then you’ll need to hit the gym.

bench press
The bench press is one of the most famous exercises that activates the sternal head.

How to do it: Get your bench set up for your preferred isolation. Sit on the bench with your back against the pad. Grab the barbell using your preferred grip. Lift the barbell and raise it up until your arms are straight and the barbell is over your nipples.

This is the starting position. Slowly and evenly lower the bar down until it almost touches your chest. Hold for a second while you squeeze your chest muscles, then push back up to the starting position.

Variation: Want to do the bench press but you’ve had some shoulder issues? Then you can try the reverse grip bench press. You’ll use the same sequence as above, but grab the bar using a reverse grip instead. Try it out and let us know what you think!

Complete 6 – 8 reps for a total of three sets. If you need a break between sets, take up to 45-seconds.

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose focused muscle groups or full-body workouts, you can’t go wrong incorporating these chest workout routines. You can pick and choose which chest exercises you use to get the pecs you desire. 

If you are looking to increase your chest strength and mass, work these into your routine over the next eight weeks. Let us know about your progress and get support in the comment section.

And if you haven’t already, make sure you check out some of our other best of articles for other muscle groups:

If you have any more tips or chest exercises that work for you, we hope you’ll share them with other readers as well. 

Do you have the defined chest muscles that bodybuilders crave? What chest exercises did you use to get you there? Let us and other readers know all about it in the comments below!

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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