5 Best Chest Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of

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As possibly the most popular training subject, building a bigger, stronger chest has been the focus of most lifters at some point along their road to a better physique. Relegated as a mirror muscle by functional training supporters the chest is actually an integral part of a properly working, balanced body. As a supportive player in many practical functions the chest can be somewhat of an enigma of sorts.

On any given Monday you will find countless lifters piling on plate after plate to the bench press bar desperately trying to gain just a little bit of an edge on their chest development. Walking in on said scene would have you believe everyone was aspiring to become powerlifters – everyone watching and competing about who is bigger and stronger. A real bro-fest of sorts.

Related: 4 Chest Workouts for Muscle Mass and Strength

Despite improper training practices, egos and chest-thumping attempts at more-than-you-should-lift amounts of weight you may be the type who gets it right and still needs a trick or two to spur chest gains once again. You may have exhausted your well thought out plans and techniques and are still coming up a little short on the gains train.

Below are five chest exercises may have never heard of. Try one, two or all five out for your next chest training day and turn a few heads for all of the right reasons this time.

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5 Best Chest Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of

#1 – Dumbbell floor press

You’re already familiar with dumbbell pressing but floor pressing puts a whole new stress on your pecs. To start, using dumbbells allows for each pec to work independently so each will perform similar amounts of work. This decreases the chance of one side helping the other as with barbell or machine work.

The floor press specifically stops the weight when the elbows become in line with your body preventing your shoulders from moving back any further. This is advantageous in several ways. One, floor presses create less stress on the shoulder joint because of the limited range of motion and two, you will be working the toughest part of the range of motion getting you stronger in the process.

Lie down on the floor with two dumbbells of moderate weight. Start in the top position. Lower the weight toward the floor in a slow and controlled manner while avoiding banging your elbows to the ground.

Touch your upper arms to the ground without resting and reverse the motion while squeezing your pecs together. Again, use a moderate amount of weight since the strength curve will be very different than what you are used to.

#2 – Reverse-grip incline bench dumbbell press

One of the roles of the upper pec area is to assist in shoulder flexion – raising your arm out in front of you. So, if you were regularly performing front lateral raises you are essentially helping to build upper pecs. The reverse-grip bench press also replicates this movement by placing your upper arms in the optimal spot in order to activate your upper pecs – elbows by your sides.

So, we’ve established that reverse-grips are great for targeting upper pecs. Now, let’s go a step or two further and add an inclined state along with dumbbells. This will target the upper pecs even further while the dumbbells will give you independence and less wrist strain.

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Choose a low inclined bench – around 15 to 20 degrees is plenty. Grab a pair of dumbbells of moderate weight and lie back starting in the top position. Rotate the dumbbells so that your palms are facing behind you or as if you were about to curl a straight bar.

You will have a slight angle with your hands if you have limited flexibility in your wrists, shoulders or elbows. Keeping this wrist angle lower the weight down toward the bottom of your chest slowly. Reverse direction and press back up. Be sure to maintain that angle of your wrists for the entire range of motion.

#3 – Kettlebell chest fly

Chest flys are a great pec developer. They hone in on specific areas of the pecs depending on how they’re performed and isolate each pec with minimal help from your shoulders and triceps. Free weight flys have their pros and cons as do machine flys. But what if you have no access to any machines and still want to include a fly motion on your routine?

If you happen to have a pair of kettlebells they would make a great addition to your pec arsenal believe it or not. They will provide a unique instability effect that is significantly different than what you’re used to. This instability factor will have your pecs working overtime to steady the weight.

Grasp a pair of kettlebells and lie down on a flat bench as of you were about to perform a set of dumbbell flys. With a slight bend in your elbows and the weights about six to 10 inches apart at the top lower the kettlebells in a wide arc down and out to your sides. Depending on your natural range of motion do not lower the weight further than shoulder level.

Once at the bottom reverse direction in the same wide arc back up stopping before touching the weights. Stay controlled for the entire duration of the set and pay particular attention to stabilizing the kettlebells.

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#4 – Feet-elevated, raised push-up

Once the staple of fitness the push-up has been relegated to being a “finisher” in most chest routines. Most pec programs are full of barbell, dumbbells and machine work with little-to-no attention paid to bodyweight exercises. The push-up still has plenty to offer – you just have to be creative and challenge yourself in new and different ways. It can be one powerful ally in your tool bag.

Elevating your feet during a push-up not only increases resistance on your pecs it also refocuses the stress to your upper pecs specifically. Going a step further by adding in a depth factor to your range of motion and you’ll have one kick-butt pec pounder.

Assuming a push-up position place your feet on a weight bench around knee height. Place your hands on two low boxes or several stacked weight plates on the floor around the level of your shoulders. Make sure your hands are lower than your feet so more weight is distributed to your chest versus your feet. Lower your body keeping a straight line with your body by stabilizing your abdominal wall the entire time.

Lower so that your upper body passes past the boxes or weight plates to give your pecs an intense stretch. Pause for a moment before reversing direction. Make sure you are practicing a full range of motion. Avoid bouncing or rapidly kipping your body for the sake of completing reps.

#5 – Suspension trainer plyo push-up

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It’s no surprise that suspension trainers have boomed in the last few years. Developed to be convenient and highly effective they are transportable, light weight and versatile. So, there’s really no excuse not to add them into your existing training program. Basic chest presses done with a suspension trainer is a great way to add an instability element.

But combine this with plyometrics and you have one awesome chest strength and muscle builder. Plyometric exercise harnesses the principle of power. It harnesses your ability to take full advantage of muscle potentiation allowing you utilize explosive power. This adds a brand new factor into your training differing from the old slow and controlled practice that you’re used to.

Take the handles of a suspension trainer and get yourself into a push-up position. Your feet should be stable on the floor and your body forming a straight line. The further your feet are behind you, decreasing the angle your body is to the floor, the more challenging the exercise becomes. Lower your body between the handles as if performing a push-up.

From the bottom position reverse the direction and use as much power as you can by propelling your body up. The tension on the suspension trainer straps should go from taught to loose – your body should be thrust into the air for a brief second (holding onto the handles the entire time) before returning to the descending portion of the exercise.

Continue to perform these explosive reps with consistency and control. Once you become proficient and gain more explosive strength adjust the angle to make them more challenging.

The Unheard of Chest Program

  • Dumbbell floor press, 4 x 6-12
  • Kettlebell chest fly, 4 x 10-12
  • Reverse-grip incline bench dumbbell press, 3 x 6-12
  • Feet-elevated, raised push-up or Suspension trainer plyo push-up, 3 x as many as possible
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Name: Brad Borland

Bio: Starting out as a scrawny 125 pound kid at 6’ 2” I took up weight training at the tender age of 14 and ended up a 220 pound competitive drug-free, natural bodybuilder several years later. Now armed with both knowledge and muscle I have helped countless individuals domestically and abroad.