Exercises to build chest muscles are beyond popular, and who can blame men for trying? Dancing pecs and glistening sweat beads across a perfectly-defined chest are tempting goals you seek. It could be because you want the attention or simply want to look like you have a million-dollar-worth body. Did you know Australian researchers confirmed how a narrower waist and broader chest are the most attractive qualities for men (13)? It’s no surprise why you want a fabulously muscular and well-defined chest. So, let’s get you to that goal in a gym or at home.
What Exercise Is Best For Chest Size?
Exercises to build chest muscles include warm-ups, gym workouts, and at-home exercises, such as the following:
- Bench lat stretch
- Dynamic arm swings
- Dynamic push-ups
- Cable chest flies
- Incline bench press
- Machine flyes
- Cable iron cross
- Narrow-grip chest press
- Svend press
- Inclined dumbbell straight-arm pullover
- Flat dumbbell press
- Dumbbell press to flye
- Dumbbell flex press
- Banded push-ups
- Chest dips
- Scapular push-ups
- Suspended press-ups
However, it’s more complicated than bulking those pecs with relentless workouts. Let’s first see what else you must do to build chest muscles while exercising those pecs.
How Can I Build My Chest Fast?
Exercises to build chest muscles are the primary focus for many. However, there are other aspects you must focus on more than working those pecs. You need four more secrets to build chest muscle fast.
Hypertrophy is when your muscles gain mass, and the muscle protein synthesis beats the breakdown. Polish researchers reviewed the intensity of hypertrophy in resistance training (9). They noted that serious trainers must keep exhausting muscles with higher overloads to sustain hypertrophy.
Progressive overload leads to hypertrophy, especially once you reach a plateau. So in order to sustain hypertrophy, you need to progressively build your workouts, make them more challenging, control your muscles better, and do additional reps.
Canadian researchers found that a protein-rich diet promotes hypertrophy with resistance training (12). Protein intake is directly associated with improved hypertrophy. Use resistance training while eating 1.6-2.2 protein grams per kilogram of body weight daily.
The Canadians also recommend:
- Eating protein-rich meals 3-5 hours apart
- Consuming high-quality protein like casein and whey
The University of Minnesota suggests adding 5-6 grams of complex carbs daily per kilogram of body weight (15). Otherwise, your muscle glycogen used for fuel falls too low, resulting in your muscles not handling the intense workouts.
Some muscle-growing carbs include:
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grains
You must eat to gain muscle mass– but two more secrets unlock success!
Speed And Control
Canadian researchers examined how technique and speed affect muscle growth (11). Slower, well-controlled reps cause more muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy than faster reps with poorer techniques. So remember to control your speed and use proper techniques.
Australian researchers reviewed the effects of upper body warm-ups before exercise (4). Warm-ups promoted explosive power and flexibility. Never skip them if you intend to bulk your pecs. You need all four secrets with training to bulk chest muscles.
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Chest Muscles And Functions
Exercises to build chest muscles are worthwhile if you know what to target. Discover the anatomy to target all three sections.
The National Library of Medicine explains the five main chest muscle types and their functions (3):
- Pectoralis Major: The major upper muscle has a clavicular head that extends your arm outward. It also has a sternocostal head that controls rotations, adduction, and extension to return the arms.
- Pectoralis Minor: The minor pecs lie lower than the major pecs. It stabilizes the bone that connects the humerus and clavicle and keeps the shoulder blades intact.
- Serratus Anterior: This muscle starts in the anterior and extends into the ribs. It’s responsible for upper body anteversion or the pulling forward of your chest.
- Subclavius: This lesser-known part is the innermost muscle that depresses the shoulders and elevates the ribs. It also controls your breathing.
- Deltoids: These muscle fibers form part of the inner chest and are responsible for various functions that support arm movements and grip (7).
The American Sports and Fitness Association says that better chest muscles improve posture, metabolism, and upper body strength (6). Also, it may improve performance and bone health while reducing injury risks.
10 Chest Exercises To Build Muscle In 3 Sections
First, let’s focus on gym exercises. You’ll break your chest into three parts to ensure you bulk the major sections of your upper body. After the 3-exercise warm-up, you’ll work through three upper, two lower, and two inner chest exercises for a complete chest workout.
Chest Warm-Up Exercises
Do the warm-ups to ensure you’re enjoying explosive power. The American Sports and Fitness Association recommends 5-10 minutes of warm-up exercises (6). Please use the warm-ups before home workouts, too.
Bench Lat Stretch
- Sit on your hands and knees in front of a bench.
- Rest your elbows against the bench and hold your hands over your head.
- Let your head align with the bench between your elbows.
- Stretch your body out by moving your hips back.
- Hold the position for two minutes.
Dynamic Arm Swings
- Maintain a straight back and tight core.
- Extend your arms to their fullest range to your sides and return them.
- Repeat the stretch for a minute before reversing the movement for another minute.
- Bend your elbows slightly and spread your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your spine straight as you control your lowering body.
- Raise yourself before touching the ground and repeat for two minutes.
Exercises To Build Upper Chest Muscle
The best exercises to build chest muscle in the upper body means that you must target the major pecs. The upper body exercises build muscle by doing just that (3). Many exercises target multiple upper body muscles but start with the major pecs.
Cable Chest Flies
Forbes recommends cable chest flies to target the lower and upper pecs (1). It’s an upper and lower chest workout to strengthen the muscles.
- Grip the cable handles while standing with your back to the machine.
- Slightly lean forward while placing one foot in front of the other.
- Bend your elbows and pull the handles toward each other in front of your chest.
- Let your hands meet before releasing slowly to control the end position of both arms.
- Tighten your core throughout the flies, and change your feet to complete a set.
Incline Bench Press
Forbes experts confirm the incline bench press works the upper chest or major pecs (1). A 30° incline creates the perfect form for this exercise.
- Lie on a weighted bench at the perfect angle.
- Place your hands, palms up, on the barbell.
- Slowly control the lift to get the bar over your shoulders.
- Bring the bar back at a steady pace.
Livestrong recommends the machine flyes exercise to work the pectoralis major and minor and serratus anterior muscles (17). So, it works all three parts of your chest to end the upper workouts and move into the lower and inner chest exercises.
- Sit tall and relax your neck and shoulders.
- Grab the handles with your palms facing outward.
- Breathe as you control the slow pull to bring the handles in front of your chest.
- Keep your wrists relaxed with a soft bend in your elbows.
- Breathe out as you slowly return your arms to the starting position.
Workouts To Build Upper Chest Muscle
Use ten-second rests between sets for this workout:
- Incline dumbbell press: 3 sets and 12-15 reps
- Cable chest flies: 2 sets and 10-15 reps
- Machine flyes: 2 sets and 7-10 reps
Exercises To Build Lower Chest Muscle
Workouts to build lower chest muscle target different muscles in your chest. Lower chest exercises target the minor pecs (3). Many workouts target multiple muscles, but this focus on minor pecs.
Cable Iron Cross
The cable iron cross bulks the pectoralis minor muscles to enhance abductor movements or push strength (3). It offers a more extensive range of motion than the dumbbell version.
- Set the cable machine’s handles at the highest level.
- Use a staggered stance in the center and grab both handles.
- Keep your spine neutral as you lean your torso forward, slightly bending your elbows.
- Tighten your core as you pull the handles down and across your body.
- Squeeze your pecs and jam your upper arms toward your torso to end the movement.
Narrow-Grip Chest Press
Forbes recommends a narrow-grip chest press to target the lower pecs (1). You must keep your hands shoulder-width apart to avoid doing the wide-grip version.
- Lie on a weighted bench with your feet flat and knees bent.
- Hold dumbbells in each hand and keep them shoulder-width apart over your chest.
- Exhale as you push the dumbbells up over your chest.
- Inhale as you bring them down in a controlled manner.
Workouts To Build Lower Chest Muscle
Use ten-second rests between sets for this workout:
- Cable iron cross: 3 sets and 12-15 reps
- Narrow-grip chest press: 3 sets of 10 reps
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Inner Chest Exercises
Inner chest exercises focus on workouts that target the serratus anterior, subclavius, or deltoid muscles (3). Indeed, exercises may target more muscles but keep in mind that they must include inner work.
- Use two five or ten-pound weighted plates to press together between your hands.
- Extend your arms outward in front of you as you stand tall.
- Constantly pinch them together and avoid letting them slip.
- Keep your chest and shoulders up as you bring them toward your sternum.
- Flex your pecs as you push them outward again.
Incline Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullover
Healthline suggests that dumbbell pullovers work those deltoids in your inner chest while targeting the lats and triceps (14). Let’s customize it slightly to make them work harder.
- Lie on an incline bench with your hands around one dumbbell.
- Extend your arms straight up to hover over your chest.
- Keep your pelvis and lower back neutral while reaching overhead.
- Breathe deeply before lowering your arms overhead as far as possible.
- Breathe out as you bring the arms back to hover over your chest.
Inner Chest Workout
Use ten-second rests between sets for this workout:
- Svend press: 3 sets and 12-15 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullover: 2 sets and 8 reps
How Can I Build A Big Chest At Home?
Exercises to build chest muscles at home differ. Let’s see how to use simple equipment or do resistance training without weights at home.
3 Chest Exercises With Dumbbells At Home
Dumbbells are excellent for home workouts. Progressive and gradually more difficult resistance movements continue building mass. Harvard suggests adding weights to increase resistance (2). You can use weights to tire your chest muscles in two sets before increasing them.
Flat Dumbbell Press
According to Live Science, the traditional bench press works the upper and lower pecs and deltoids for an all-around workout (5). Use dumbbells and start with two sets and 12 reps.
- Lie flat on the floor or a bench-like surface with your feet flat.
- Hold dumbbells in both hands with your palms facing upward.
- Your elbows are pointing outward as you hold them over your chest.
- Inhale, as you push the dumbbells until your arms straighten.
- Exhale as you bring them back.
Dumbbell Press To Flye
Dumbell presses are excellent but add the flye benefits. Livestrong states that machine flyers work the entire chest (17). So, add the flye movement with two sets and 10-15 reps.
- Bend your knees as you lay on a flat surface with your feet on the floor.
- Lock your elbows out while pushing the dumbbells forward over your chest.
- Lower your dumbbells outward while keeping your elbows locked.
- Pause when you feel a stretch and bring them back explosively.
Dumbbell Flex Press
WebMD recommends flexing your pecs to improve blood circulation (18). Flex those muscles while you complete two sets and 10-12 reps.
- Hold one dumbbell between both hands while lying on a flat surface.
- Slowly move the dumbbell over your chest to complete the lockout.
- Grip the dumbbell harder as it rises and lowers while flexing your pecs.
4 Exercises To Build Chest Muscles Without Weights
Use Harvard’s suggestion to increase resistance by progressively challenging yourself with more reps and sets (2). Start with two sets until your muscles stop tiring before adding more sets to each exercise.
Spanish researchers found that banded push-ups activated the pecs and deltoids (10). Use a simple resistance band to complete two sets and 8-10 reps.
- Strap a band behind your shoulders while holding the ends in both hands.
- Get into a high plank position and start your push-ups.
- Inhale as you lower, releasing the band’s tension.
- Exhale as you rise, increasing the band’s tension.
Livestrong recommends chest or parallel dips to strengthen and build the pectoralis major muscle (16). Use equal-height supports as parallel bars at home to complete 15 reps and two sets.
- Keep your arms straight and your knees off the ground as you support yourself.
- Bend your arms slowly as you lower until your elbows reach 90°.
- Squeeze your arms and pecs as you raise yourself.
- Start with your hands shoulder-width and feet a few inches apart in a high plank.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades gently toward each other while staying dead straight.
- Release your shoulder blades before moving your body slightly down and back up.
Spanish researchers found that suspension during press-ups increases muscle activation in the pecs and deltoids (10). Complete two sets and 8-10 reps.
- Use two solid blocks to incline your upper body and rest your hands.
- Keep your spine erect as you press your body upward.
- Inhale on the rise and exhale on the decline.
Is 7 Chest Exercises Enough To Build Muscle At Home?
Seven chest exercises at home are enough if you continue causing progressive overload and follow the four secrets to add muscle growth. Poland’s research shows how progressive overload causes hypertrophy (9). Make it more challenging with each workout to make seven exercises work.
How Do I Get A Bigger Chest?
There are four essential techniques to build chest muscle. First is progressive overload causing hypertrophy (9). Secondly, you need a protein-rich diet and enough carbs to fuel your workouts (12, 15). Thirdly, focus on technique and speed (11). Finally, a good chest muscle warm-up causes more explosive power (4).
How To Build Upper Chest Exercises?
Use exercises that target the upper chest muscles. The National Library of Medicine shows the upper chest as the pectoralis major muscles (3). It helps focus on your subclavius and serratus anterior muscles to get the right shoulder and ribcage shape.
What Are Some Good Exercises To Build Up Your Chest?
The Bottom Line
Building chest muscles at home or in the gym requires following all four techniques consistently. Whether you use the classic machines at the gym or work all the chest muscles at home for a complete workout is truly up to your preference.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Best Chest Exercises, According to Fitness Experts (2023, forbes.com)
- 7 Tips for a Successful Strength Training Program (2015, health.harvard.edu)
- Anatomy, Shoulder, and Upper Limb: Pectoral Muscles Stats Pearls | NCBI Bookshelf (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A Systematic Review of the Effects of Upper Body Warm-Up on Performance and Injury (2015, bjsm.bmj.com)
- Bench Press Muscles Worked: Here’s What Happens When You Lift That Barbell (2022, livescience.com)
- Carve Your Abs and Chest: The Top 10 Benefits of Chest Presses (n.d., americansportsandfitness.com)
- Deltoid Muscles: What Are They, Anatomy, Location, and Function (2021, my.clevelandclinic.org)
- High-Protein Diets in Trained Individuals (2018, tandonline.com)
- Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Muscle Activation During Push-Ups With Different Suspension Training Systems (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Muscle Time Under Tension During Resistance Exercise Stimulates Differential Muscle Protein Sub-Fractional Synthesis Responses in Men (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy With Resistance Exercise Training (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Body and the Beautiful: Health, Attractiveness, and Body Composition in Men’s and Women’s Bodies (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Dumbbell Pullover: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To (2022, healthline.com)
- The Role of Protein and Carbohydrates in Gaining Body Mass (2014, cehsp.d.umn.edu)
- What Muscles Do Dips Work Out? | Livestrong (2019, livestrong.com)
- What Muscles Does the Pec Fly Machine Work? |Livestrong (2019, livestrong.com)
- What to Know About Flexing Muscles (2021, webmd.com)