The 3 Pillars of Health: Fitness, Food, Sleep

5 Key Chest Workouts that You’ve Been Missing

5 Key Chest Workouts that You’ve Been Missing

If you idolize professional athletes with a buff, cut chest, this article is for you. If you’re looking for efficient and effective workouts that will make your chest muscles look bigger and stronger, the exercises we compiled here are the ones you should be doing. We made sure these exercises are backed by science. We even put together a full chest workout. You’ll be equipped for your next chest day! Don’t forget to see our “Quick Tips” section, because there are several easy things you can do to make your chest look bigger today!

You may think that chest exercises are only for men. Many women tend to shy away from such exercises. Women fear chest exercises will give them a manly or masculine chest, but regardless if you are a male or female, chest exercises can always improve the appearance of your chest! One thing to note: These chest workouts may be more challenging for females since women hold most of their strength in their lower body. Research shows that women’s relative force in the upper body varies greatly from that of men (1). Don’t be discouraged! If you’re a female wishing you had bigger breasts, these chest workouts will be great for you too. Accept the challenge to reap the reward.

You may have your go-to chest exercises already, but with this article we want you to take a step back and make sure you are doing the most efficient chest workouts that benefit your entire chest. We’ll take a look at the anatomy of the chest so we understand the science and mechanics of the best chest workouts (2).

Anatomy Lesson: Chest Muscles 101

What muscles should I focus on for my chest workouts?

Muscleman Showing His Fit Chest MusclesThe main muscles in your chest are the pectoralis muscles. They connect from the sternum in the front of your chest all the way to your shoulder. Think of the pectoralis muscles as the muscular hub in the front of your body. These muscles connect several joints and bones for proper power and kinetic functionality. There are two pectoralis muscles: the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.

The pectoralis major extends from the collarbone to the sternum, ribs, and even our abdominal muscles. Just lateral to the collarbone, the pectoralis major also connects to the humerus in the upper arm. This is an expansive and huge muscle across the chest. The main function of the pectoralis major is to rotate the arms inward as well as help the back muscles to stabilize the trunk during exercises like pushups and planks.

You may be thinking that as long as I focus on the pectoralis major, my chest will look great and be stronger. Don’t forget about the pectoralis minor! A comprehensive chest workout works all muscles of the chest (and even the surrounding muscles).  The pectoralis minor is a super tiny muscle relative to the pectoralis major. It extends from the inside of the shoulder blade to the centermost ribs. The pectoralis minor’s primary function is to rotate the shoulders inward and down. The pectoralis minor lies beneath the pectoralis major. Whatever exercises can bulk up the pectoralis minor will likewise make the pectoralis major appear larger.

Are there other muscles I should work on if I want a bigger chest?

If you want a bigger or more toned chest, you may only be looking at chest-specific exercises. While some of these are highly effective, there are really efficient ways to make your chest look bigger without doing thousands of bench presses or pushups. Jump to the “Quick Tips” section below if you want to know the secrets now.

Aside from your pectoral muscles, you want to make sure you are slimming down your abdominal area. Research shows that activation of the abdominal muscles during exercise can increase the activation of muscles attached to the shoulder, making the workout more effective. Visually, excess weight on your abdomen can make your chest look smaller if you’ve got belly fat that extends further than your chest! Really strive to make your chest (or breasts) stick out further than your belly. Make sure you are actively trying to improve your belly area all the time!

You will also want to make sure you are working your back muscles. It is extremely important to work opposing muscle groups, otherwise you will look disproportionate (and your muscles may not function correctly). In fact, one study found that working opposing muscle groups improved repetition ability and activation of the muscle groups individually. So, not only will too many chest exercises make you look unbalanced, you probably won’t be able to tolerate as much weight or do as many repetitions. Make sure you pair your chest workouts with back workouts.

We wanted to give you a list of good chest day workouts that are comprehensive and complete. These chest exercises target the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. Some of the exercises promote stimulation of the back and abdominal muscles as well. These exercises are backed by research, so you can be sure they are efficient and effective.

Exercise 1: Press Up Slider

Man Doing A Press Up Slider ExerciseYou can choose to start your workout with this or finish with this. Even though the press up slider is usually done as a just body weight exercise, this one will rip your chest to shreds. The press up slider is both an upper chest workout and a lower chest workout, so you definitely want to try this. This is an exercise that works several muscles all over your body. Exercises like this one challenge your body to maintain its performance and fight peripheral fatigue (3).

Main Area Targeted: Upper Chest + Lower Chest

Secondary Muscles Used: Abs + Back + Triceps

 Strengths of this Exercise: The press up slider combines a pushup with other movement that puts a strain on the upper and lower chest. While you get the classic pushup benefits, you also work the edges of the chest with quick, effective motions (see the How-To for this exercise). This exercise should also activate your back muscles. Don’t forget to actively engage the core with this one!

How To Perform this Exercise:

*In summary, this is a pushup where you keep your elbows at your side, and then you rock backwards and forwards while hovering over the ground. Finally, you return to the start by pushing yourself up. See the step-by-step for more details.

  1. In a pushup position, determine if you want both feet on the floor in a classic pushup or if you want to cross your ankles so that you are only on one foot at a time. One foot at a time is more challenging.
  2. For the first part of the move, lower down with your elbows close to your side. This is similar to a pushup where you are trying to activate the triceps. Keeping your elbows close to your side the entire time, hover as close to the ground as possible without touching your knees or stomach to the ground.
  3. Once in the lowered position, slide yourself backward so that your nose is in line between your hands. You should still be hovering!
  4. Slide yourself forward so that your lower chest is in line between your hands.
  5. Slide yourself back to center and then lift yourself up as you would when finishing a pushup. Repeat this exercise to complete the set.

Exercise 2: Cross Pushup

Man Doing A Cross Push Up For ChestThe cross pushup is a cousin of the classic pushup. While the pushup may not be statistically better than other chest exercises in the research, this 2018 systematic review states that pushups and pushup variations are simple and popular exercises. They are frequently used in athletic training and injury rehabilitation. It is a tried and true body weight chest workout. The cross pushup is great for someone who wants an inner chest workout.

Main Area Targeted: Inner Chest + Outer Chest

Secondary Muscles Used: Abs + Back + Triceps

Strengths of this Exercise: While you may have tried several variations of the pushup, the cross pushup intensifies the effects of the diamond pushup. Instead of just having a narrow hand position, this extra cross increases the angle at which your arms must bend, making you do extra work for a better chest workout.

How To Perform this Exercise:

  1. Start in a normal pushup position. For the correct hand placement, move your hands so that your wrists cross on the ground in front of your chest. With your wrists crossed, your fingers should be facing outward. For example, your right hand should be crossed over the left and your fingers should be pointed towards the left.
  2. Once in the correct position, lower yourself as you would in a pushup. Make sure your elbows point directly out to the side when you are lowered in the pushup.
  3. Push yourself back up to the start. Repeat this exercise to complete the set. Make sure you alternate which wrist crosses in front.

Exercise 3: Dumbbell Chest Roll

Man Using Dumbbell Chest Roll PushupThis is a great dumbbell chest workout for people who want a mix of body weight exercise and added free weight. As seen in this study, dumbbells typically activate the pectoralis major muscle better than other types of resistance such as resistance bands, so it’s important to include added weight in your workout. The dumbbell chest roll combines the classic pushup benefits with stability training and coordination to maneuver moving free weights.

Main Area Targeted: Inner Chest

Secondary Muscles Used: Abs + Back + Arms

Strengths of this Exercise: This exercise works both sides of your chest while also working one side at the same time. How can that happen? The dumbbell chest roll is a highly dynamic exercise that uses a combination of several movements to tone or bulk the chest. While you engage your muscles in a pushup position, you also have to balance yourself as you extend your arms away from your center axis. With a dumbbell rolling from side to side, you have to be able to maneuver the weight and really refine your muscle movements to make this move go smoothly. See the “How-To” section for details.

 How To Perform this Exercise:

  1. Start in a pushup position with one hand on the ground and one hand on the shaft of a dumbbell. The dumbbell should have both ends on the ground. Keep in mind: The dumbbell needs to roll easily, so make sure your dumbbell has circular ends. Hexagonal ends would not work with this exercise. You may feel uneven since one hand is on the ground and the other is propped up on the dumbbell. Once you start doing the exercise, you will even out!
  2. From your starting position, lower yourself as you would in a normal pushup. With the hand that is on the dumbbell, however, roll the dumbbell outward as you lower yourself towards the ground. When you hit the lowest point of the pushup, your arm that’s rolling the dumbbell should be fully extended to the side. So again, one arm is in a pushup position and one arm is rolling the dumbbell all the way out to the side.
  3. To switch sides, push yourself back up while simultaneously rolling the dumbbell to the other hand. You many need quite the push to get the dumbbell over! As the dumbbell is rolling underneath you to the other side, straighten your arms all the way back up to your starting position. You should now have your opposite hand ready for the pushup while the other hand grabs the dumbbell.
  4. Really try to make your movements coordinated and fluid from one side to the other. Repeat the exercise so that each arm serves as both the pushup arm and the dumbbell-rolling arm.

Exercise 4: Low Incline Chest Press

Man Using Dumbbell In Low Incline Chest PressThis chest dumbbell workout is similar to other chest presses on a weight bench or chest machine. The key here is that this exercise targets the upper chest specifically. You may be thinking that you can just do this type of exercise with barbell. According to one study however, it may be more beneficial to opt for chest exercises that use dumbbells because barbell chest exercises can lead to higher rates of elbow soreness. Stick to the dumbbell exercises to prevent soreness!

Main Area Targeted: Upper Chest

Strengths of this Exercise: This is a great exercise where you can add as much weight as needed while targeting the upper chest. Having the incline weight bench on the lowest incline targets the upper half of the pectoralis major. As with any dumbbell exercise, you are also working on your stability. You can also make sure both sides of your chest are equally as strong.

How To Perform this Exercise:

  1. Set the incline weight bench to the lowest incline setting.
  2. Press your back against the backrest of the bench and grab your dumbbells.
  3. Keep your elbows out to the side and hold the dumbbells in line with your shoulders.
  4. Push the dumbbells straight up to the full extension of your arms. Return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise to complete the set. Insider tip: If you are trying to max out, studies show you should wait at least 2 minutes between sets so that you can effectively perform the next max out set (4).

Exercise 5: Low Incline Chest Fly

Man Doing A Low Incline Chest Fly ExerciseWhile you may want to alternate this exercise with the low incline chest press, consider spreading these 2 exercises out in your chest workout routine. Make sure you have ample rest time in between these sets. A 2015 study showed that both chest press and chest fly exercises have similar muscular repetition and rate of perceived exertion, so you may want to do other exercises in between. This will help you effectively complete both of these workouts in one day. This exercise is similar to other chest fly exercises in that it works the inner chest. The advantage to this one, however, is that is works multiple areas of the chest.

Main Area Targeted: Inner Chest + Upper Chest 

Strengths of this Exercise: The low incline chest fly is a higher intensity workout than a normal chest fly. While this exercise targets the inner chest, the incline takes it one step further and targets the upper chest as well.

How To Perform this Exercise:

  1. Set the incline weight bench to the lowest incline setting.
  2. Press your back against the backrest of the bench and grab your dumbbells.
  3. With the dumbbells in hand, extend your arms out to the side with a slight bend in the elbows.
  4. Bring your arms inward over your body, making sure to maintain the slight bend in the elbows. Your arms should move from your sides and up like a bird flapping its wings. Repeat this exercise to complete the set. Remember to do at least 2 minutes of rest if you’re maxing out.

Complete Chest Workout: Your Next Chest Day Routine

Regardless if you are looking for a chest workout for mass or are just interested in trying some at-home chest workouts, any of these exercises can work. While some of the exercises are chest workouts with dumbbells and weight benches, you may be able to modify these for your chest workout at home. Try adding a little weight with water bottles and soup cans if you do not own weights. Several of the other chest workouts we discussed use only bodyweight, so you can start doing those immediately.

Remember: If you are looking for toning rather than bulking up, you can do these exercises with lower weight and longer sets. If you are looking to really increase muscle mass, try these exercises with lots of weight and shorter sets. Check out our “Quick Tips” section below to individualize your workout (and get a bigger chest without doing exercises).

Here is a chest workout you can do on your next chest day. Use this breakdown chart to help you determine how many repetitions you need in each set:

Workout Number of Sets Lower Weight or Bodyweight (if applicable) Heavy Weight
Press Up Slider 3 10 reps 6 reps
Cross Pushup 3 10-12 reps 8 reps
Dumbbell Chest Roll 3 8-10 reps 6-8 reps
Low Incline Chest Press 3 10-12 reps 6-8 reps
Low Incline Chest Fly 3 10-12 reps 6-8 reps

 

Quick Tips for Getting the Chest You Want Faster:

  • Posture: Want to skip a workout and get a bigger chest instantly? Stand up straighter! Make sure your spine is straight and gently roll your shoulders back slightly. You will look taller, perkier, and your chest will puff out. Working on your posture is beneficial to looking good all around, so make it a habit to stand straight. One other thing: don’t make your posture look forced.
  • Activate your Core: Suck it in! Get yourself into a habit of keeping your abs activated both during working out and during daily activities. Not only will this give you tighter abs, this will help with posture and making your chest appear bigger.
  • Add weight to Bodyweight Exercises: If you want to bulk up your chest, consider adding weight to the bodyweight exercises we listed above. One way to add weight to a pushup position is to place a weight plate on your back or shoulders. This will really make your chest and abdominal muscles work!

Use this workout and the quick tips we offered to start reaching your chest goals as soon as possible. By using the sample exercise routine above and tailoring the amount of weight and number of repetitions, you can have the chest (or breasts) you have been hoping to achieve in no time.

Which exercise above do you think gives you the biggest chest? Does using dumbbells mean bigger gains? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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