a man in the barbell press bench

How to build the chest muscles

The pectoral muscles are two muscles that connect the front of the chest with the bones of the upper arm and shoulder: the pectoralis major muscle also called the ‘breaststroke muscle’ and the pectoralis minor muscle.

In order to have the best chest workout possible, you need to understand how these chest muscles work.

What is the pectoralis minor?

The pectoralis minor lies under the pectoralis major and both form the anterior wall of the axilla where they can be palpated.

What is the pectoralis major?

The pectoralis major muscle is the most important muscle for the adduction and anteversion of the shoulder joint.

The pectoralis minor has two main functions, it pulls the scapula anterior and inferior towards the ribs, also called abduction and depression respectively.

What are some chest exercises for beginners?

The golden rule on how to exercise the chest muscles is that you need to control the movement.

Whatever weight you choose is going to dictate your rep range, but don’t go too heavy too quickly.

Slow and steady wins the race

Start with a lighter weight and make sure you don’t overstretch at any point throughout the exercise.

Overstretching can cause you problems with your tendons, which are the connecting points of the muscle to the bone.

At the beginning you should try to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps and as you get better and stronger you might go for a 4th set or maybe you want to raise your weight, that’s up to you.

What are some chest exercises with dumbbells?

These are some options of how to exercise your chest with dumbbells.

1. Dumbbell press bench

The press bench, either with dumbbells or barbells, is one of the best chest exercises for growth and mass.

There are three different variations in the dumbbell press bench, horizontal, inclined and declined press bench; is the same for the barbell press bench. But they are all performed in the exact same way.

The best bench inclination is about 30-45 degrees

A bench incline angle of 30° or 45° resulted in greater muscular activation during certain time points, according to a study published in the European Journal of Sports Science.

Lay down on the bench, make sure you have the right dumbbells for you, not to heavy not to light.

The press bench is a must in your routine

Bench press should be the base exercise for your chest workout. The other feature of that exercise is that it will force your organism to produce natural testosterone which will speed up ALL your muscles’ growth.

Bench presses life is up on a horizontal bench, with buttocks on the bench and feet flatten aground. Grasp the barbel with an overhand grip, wider than shoulder-width.

Inhale and lower the bar to the chest with a controlled movement, extend the arms and exhale at the end of the effort.

If you have back problems or want to isolate the pectorals, perform the extension with the legs raised.

man working out chest

Your arms must come down at the same pace

You don’t want an arm to come down faster than the other either.

What you are looking for is to explode in your way up and control your way down.

If you do it right you must feel your chest pumped up and is a very good chest exercise when combined the three variations.

Typical mistakes when doing the bench press

When people decide that they want to bench press, sometimes their approach is a total shot in the dark. They have no idea how to exercise optimally to increase their strength.

The most typical mistake is to use a bodybuilding rep range. When exercising for muscle mass gain, it is very normal to do between 6-12 reps. This is sensible enough, since at this rate one gets the best relationship between muscle tension and time under tension, compared to muscle growth.

1. Number of reps

When deciding to increase one’s strength, there are completely different rules that apply. We will get into that in the next section, but I can reveal that we need to go down below 5 reps if we really want to increase the strength.

2. Bodybuilding split

Another mistake is following a traditional bodybuilding split. In bodybuilding, it is normal to split the muscle groups into different parts, to have time to do more exercises for each muscle. This means that the muscle is hit with less frequency. In most fragmented programs, the muscle is hit only once a week.

Recent research shows that this is too little in relation to muscle growth, but in relation to strength, it has long been shown that the more frequently you do an exercise, the more pronounced the strength gain will be.

Therefore, one should not do many different chest exercises when exercising to increase one’s bench press. One should also step away from the traditional bodybuilding split while exercising to increase one’s bench press.

3. Train too heavy

The last typical mistake people make is simply to exercise too heavily and to push too much. This may sound a little strange when the goal is to get stronger. But when I say that they train too heavily, I do not mean absolutely.

What I mean is that most people train too often. They go the full throttle every time they are in the gym. Of course, they must have respect for their willingness to push themselves each time, but unfortunately, the body does not always respond positively to such a constant level of effort.

In addition, people tend to always take their sets to failure. By failure is meant that you continue to do reps until you can take no more. This is NOT the way to become strong. And forced reps are even worse. Forced reps describe the practice where people get help doing a few extra reps when they can’t take more themselves.

It’s probably the most destructive way to train if you want to be stronger.

What are some chest exercises to perform at home?

Some good ideas on how to exercise your chest at home.

1. Regular push-up

Push-ups are a great exercise to tone your chest and for definition.

It is considered a part of a workout known as calisthenics, which are exercises to develop strength and flexibility that are done without any special equipment.

Place your hands in a slightly wider position than your shoulders apart, your feet together and keep your body straight.

Lower your body so that your chest is about to touch the floor and then return to the starting position by pushing your body up.

man performing a push-up on kettlebell

2. Wide push-up

Wide push-ups are a great chest workout for skinny guys.

They are like regular push-ups with the only difference that you place your hands a little bit wider.

Try to open your arms as much as you are able to perform this exercise.

Push-ups are a very good exercise since you don’t need a bench or weights in order to perform it.

3. Diamond push-up

Diamond push-ups are going to help you to get a bigger chest.

Again, they are like regular push-ups but instead of having your hands shoulder-width you are going to place them together under your chest in a triangle position.

Use resistance bands for extra resistance

If you want to add some extra resistance try to use resistance bands, that are going to get your chest pumping so much!

4. Incline push-up

For the incline push-up, lie with your face down, place your hands on a secure bench, chair or desk.

Your hands must be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your feet hip-width apart and the toes on the floor.

Now you must lower your body so that your chest is about 4-8 inches from the bench. Return to the starting position by extending at the elbows and pushing your body up.

As always explode on your way up, control on your way down.

This is a great chest workout routine for both men and women when performed with the other three push-ups.

What are the best lower chest exercises?

1. Bodyweight dips

The bodyweight dips are one of the best chest exercises to build strength.

Since in this variation of the dip you want to work out your chest, one thing you must do is lean forward otherwise you would be working your triceps.

Lean forward, but just enough

But you don’t want that lean so much so you start bringing the load onto the shoulders, so one solution to this is to bring your feet forwards as well.

Go up onto the parallel bars, lean your chest forward and also your feet, from there you come down until your upper arm is in horizontal position and explode up again squeezing your chest muscles.

Keep your shoulders back and engaged all the time. If you feel it in your shoulders it might be because you are going too deep or not keeping them in play by maintaining the scapular position.

woman doing push-ups with a band

What are the best upper chest exercises?

1. Landmine chest press

The landmine chest press is a great exercise to work out your chest as well as your triceps and shoulders, while also incorporating the core for balance and stabilization.

Simple but not easy

The only thing you need is a barbell and some weights.

All you need to do is to lift up the barbell with both hands clasped together to make a nice solid base until reaches your chest level, Your torso must be straight, so squeeze your abs to keep an upright posture with a little bit of leaning forward, just a few degrees.

Chest up, rhomboids back and elbows tucked in. Now push the barbell up above your head level, get full extension of the arms, squeezing the chest the whole way and keep it explosive.

On your way down remember to control the weight, come down nice and easy contracting your chest muscles and your core.


2. Dumbbell pullover

is the dumbbell pullover an exercise for the chest or back? It is a chest exercise but the lats would be a good accessory mover here.

They’re gonna get a good stretch.

you’re not so much gonna be working your lats, as much as you would with a lat pull-down or a cable road.

They are just kind of stretching and they’re there to assist with weight.

The key is to control the expansion and contraction of the muscle

The key here is to get an expansion of the chest and a huge contraction alongside that while getting a nice big drag and really feeling it out.

Do a triangle grip to grab the dumbbell on the head-up of the dumbbell.

You’re gonna lift the dumbbell up, kick it back to your chest, grab the top as we mentioned before and push it upwards.

From here you want to extend nice and far back, being in control. So your range of motion is going to be from full chest extension to full chest contraction.

Do not engage the lats

You keep a strong posture back, go as far back as your chest expands, if you go back any further you will be putting too much tension on the lats and that can become a back exercise.

So just extend the chest muscles, come up and when you notice the full contraction of the chest muscles, that the end of the movement.

You want to make sure you have a slight bend in the elbow at all times, your arms aren’t fully straight but they’re also not bending throughout the movement.

A common mistake you should avoid

A common mistake many people do is bending at the elbows and turning this into a skull crusher, a triceps extension.

They are not contracting the chest which is what they are trying to do.

What are the best inner and outer chest exercises?

1. Cable chest flyes

The cable chest flyes are one of the best workouts for shape and size.

Again there are the three different variations in this butterfly exercise, top, middle and bottom of a cable machine.

working the three positions will bring the best results

What you are going to be looking to do is to come from the sides to the chest keeping the underhand grip or just a regular grip if you prefer.

This exercise will bring in the chest all the way to the contraction point in the center then you must squeeze which will activate the upper, middle or lower part of the chest, depending on which variation you are performing.

Remember to control the speed at all times, explode on your way to the chest and slow down on your way back.

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