We’re here to pump…you up with the best chest exercises for men. Indeed, no one argues with powerful pectorals and we’re not about to start. With these workouts at your disposal, your chest muscles will be larger than life and harder than a board in no time at all. That said, please remember not to overdo it on the weights, even if you’re performing a chest workout for mass. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say, and you should take those words to heart (literally, in this case).
Here are some other pointers: perform chest workouts 2-3 times a week, find the chest exercises that function best for you, and confine yourself to no more than three of those exercises per workout. Also, stick to a range of 60-140 reps per week, as anything above that officially qualifies as overkill. Last but not least, avoid redundancy when you go to the gym, i.e. don’t perform the same general exercise on or with a variety of different equipment.
On the flip side of that coin, don’t bench press yourself to burliness without mixing things up a little. It’s all about finding and using the right tools for the job, especially when the “job” in this case is your body. Speaking of your body, what are your chest muscles, anyway? We answer that question before diving into the 10 best chest exercises for men.
What are Your Chest Muscles?
Ever wonder why all those dudes at the gym refer to their chest muscles as their “pecs?” Well, some of them are doing it because they picked up the term from their bros, but others are actually aware that the chest is comprised of pectoral muscles.
First and foremost, there’s the pectoralis major, a thick and broad muscle located under the breast that fans out across the chest. It contains at least six separate sets of muscle fibres and receives dual motor innervation from both the medial and lateral pectoral nerves. By pulling on the humerus, the pectoralis major enables lateral, vertical, or rotational motion.
Situated underneath the pectoralis major is a thin and triangular muscle by the name of pectoralis minor (naturally). The smaller of the two, it extends from three origins on the ribcage and assists with movement of the scapula. Together, the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor form your pectoral muscles (aka your “pecs”) and play a significant role in both arm motion and deep inhalation.
10 Best Chest Exercises for Men
When it comes to an effective chest workout, there’s a tendency to push your body to its limits. And while you’re not barking up the wrong tree, a number of experts will iterate that you should stop just short of extremes when performing chest exercises with dumbells or barbells, in particular. It’s an important distinction to address, as it can ultimately make the difference between healthy chest muscles and severe injury. In other words, take a smart and balanced approach when enacting a chest workout routine, even if you’re building mass. With that in mind, here are the 10 best chest exercises for men:
This is a popular chest exercise that can be performed low-to-high or high-to-low. Both versions require a cable pulley machine. To execute low-to-high, set the machine to the lowest setting, attach a D-handle on both sides, and grab each handle with your palms facing up. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, your back straight, your chest up, and your arms down and slightly bent at both sides. Next, bring both handles up and forward to eye level before returning them slowly to the starting position. Stick with lighter weights and lower reps.
If you’re going high-to-low, set the cable pulley machine to the highest setting, and grab each handle using an overhand grip. Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, extend each arm out to the side in a T-like formation, with your elbows slightly bent. Now, bring both handles down toward your gut until they meet in front of your hips. Give your pecs a little squeeze and tighten your core before slowly bringing the handles back up to shoulder level. Repeat.
Believe it or not, push-ups are one of the best chest exercises for men, which is great news because you can do them just about anywhere. We won’t insult your intelligence by explaining how to do a push-up. What we will say is that your hands should be shoulder-width apart and your legs should be hip-width apart. Also, when you’re performing the actual push-up, your elbows should form a complete 90-degree angle. Last but not least, if anything but your palms and the tips of your toes is touching the floor, you’re doing it wrong.
So you’ve mastered the push-up, but can you handle the suspended push-up? If you’re ready to try, you’ll need TRX straps, which put your hands and body in an unstable suspension. Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, grab the handles, extend your arms in front of your chest, and put your body at an angle of 45-90 degrees to the floor. Tighten your core as lower yourself toward the floor, stopping when your hands are just outside your shoulders. Bring yourself back and do it again. Your elbows and head should remain in a neutral position throughout.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Any gym regular can tell you that chest exercises and dumbells go together like peanut butter and jelly, but did you know that performing bench presses at an incline reportedly maximises upper pec activation during contraction? To make it happen, set the incline bench at a 30 to 45-degree angle, grab two dumbbells using an overhand grip, and sit all the way back. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, lift the dumbbells above your face, and extend your arms. Next, lower the dumbbells toward the middle of your chest on either side and then lift them up while drawing them slightly closer to one another. Repeat.
Barbell Bench Press
Studies might say that incline presses are more optimal, but don’t let that stop you from tackling the good old barbell bench press. A true mainstay in gyms across the world, this exercise remains synonymous with strong and healthy pectoral muscles, presuming you don’t overdo it (or underdo it, for that matter). Just remember to have a spotter on hand at all times when performing this chest exercise. Also, try not to arch your back or move your chest during each rep.
Start by lying back on the bench with your feet flat on the ground and your eyes even with the bar. Use an overhand grip to grab the bar, keeping your arms a little more than shoulder-width apart. Next, fully extend your arms and take the bar off the rack so that it’s hovering directly over your chest. Keep your elbows in as you lower the bar, stopping when it touches the tippy-top of your chest (i.e. your nipples), and holding for one second. Now, thrust the bar up with considerable power until your arms are back in the starting position. Repeat.
Close-Grip Bench Press
While standard bench presses are as common as they are effective, some experts suggest that a close-grip bench press is better for your shoulders. The actions are more or less the same with one main exception: your hands and arms are closer toward the middle of the bar, though still just outside of shoulder-width. From there, you raise, lower, hold, raise, lower… you get the drift.
You know you’re making progress when you can implement a mighty dip routine into your chest workout regimen. When ready, head over to the dip machine or parallel bars, standing dead center between both bars. Put one hand on each bar and lift yourself off the floor, leaning forward until your chest is at a slight downward angle. Next, bend your arms and lower yourself while maintaining the lean, before lifting yourself back to the starting position. Not only are you working your pectoralis major, but you’re also strengthening your triceps and shoulder muscles.
Seated Pec Deck Machine
Here’s another ubiquitous chest exercise that never fails to generate results. Sit at the pec deck machine with your elbows at 90 degrees, your forearms on the vertical pads, and your hands on the handles in an overhand grip. Maintaining the 90-degree angle of your elbows, pull the handles backward until you feel the stretch in your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat. Don’t rely on momentum from your hands when performing this exercise, as the energy should be coming from your chest and forearms.
Start this exercise by picking up a plate that weighs between 10 and 45 pounds. Keeping your feet hip-width apart, grip the plate using both hands and put your arms in front of your chest. With your back and arms straight (and your core tight), squeeze your shoulders to draw the plate closer to your chest. When it’s as close as it will go, extend it back out again. Repeat. After 10-15 reps of horizontal plate press-outs, you can mix things up by performing the same exercise in an overhead (i.e. vertical) fashion.
Resistance Band Pull-Apart
Ahh, the trusty old resistance band pull-apart, which makes for a great warm-up or cool-down routine. Keeping your feet even with your shoulders and your arms fully extended, hold a resistance band using an overhand grip. Next, spread your arms wide as you stretch the band while bringing your shoulder blades together. Spread the band until it’s touching your chest, and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat.