9 Best Chest Exercises for Thick and Diced Pecs
So you religiously go to the gym every Monday to train chest, right? You hit the flat bench, hit the pec deck, and smash a few sets out on the cable cross machine.
So why isn’t your chest growing?
While progressively overloading with weight or reps, chest growth could be slow due to genetics, poor quality contractions, or you simply aren’t doing enough. Below are 9 different chest exercise variations you should try if you want to build a shredded chest.
Related – The Only Chest Workout You’ll Ever Need
Before we get started, a question. High volume or high intensity?
In the case of building your chest, you cannot choose one or the other. Including both high-volume and high-intensity training into your chest workout will elicit a growth and testosterone response.
9 Best Chest Exercises
#1 – Weighted Chest Dips
When done properly, weighted chest dips really puts some great tension on the pecs and they also develop huge arms at the same time.
Can’t do weighted dips?
Find a hammer strength machine or an assisted dip machine and work your way heavier. The goal is to maintain proper form, increase intensity, and
#2 – Incline Dumbbell Pullovers
A variation of one of Arnold’s favorite chest moves, incline dumbbell pullovers are a great way to expand your rib cage, maintain a constant squeeze, and they will help your posture improve.
Anywhere from a slight angle, up to 45 degrees will be sufficient to increase the range of motion and it will annihilate your chest. Start with a lower weight until you are used to the movement and focus on strong contractions.
#3 – Paused Bench Press
While the barbell bench press is hands down the best exercise for chest development, adding a pause in your reps adds a completely different variable to the equation.
Start with your warm-up weight and perform the bench as normal, except pause on your chest for one to three seconds. This added pause increases your time under tension, strengthens your lats and upper back, and will shock your chest for some new growth.
If you’re stuck at a certain weight on benching, paused reps will carry over to a bigger bench.
#4 – Cable Flyes Without Handles
Cable flyes are great, but ditching the handles adds a new level of muscle recruitment.
When going handless, grab the cables just before the attachment so you have a good grip. Perform the flyes in a slow and controlled manner.
You’ll notice an increased pump due to the fact you are squeezing the cable hard for grip.
#5 – Incline Bench Cable Flyes
Another incline variation, incline bench cable flyes allow the free-moving motion of using dumbbells but with a more consistent resistance throughout the movement.
A common flaw in dumbbell cable flyes is cheating and bending the elbows so that you can look like you are lifting more. Using the cable cross machine and laying on an inclined bench will hit the pecs hard and keeps you from doing cheat reps.
#6 – Isometric Contractions
Arnold the “Austrian Oak” Schwarzenegger loves isometric contractions. Isometric contractions are a vital component of training, especially if you want to get on stage.
Isometric contractions allow you to practice posing while making gains; it’s convenient, takes no equipment, and you get to check yourself out in the mirror.
In fact, I don’t think you can win a championship without practicing isotension… It isn’t enough to have big muscles, you have to be able to control them as well.
#7 – Heavy Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
While there are studies that prove and deny the fact that an incline press is any better than flat bench, incline dumbbell bench press carries over to a bigger bench. Remember, a bigger bench generally means a bigger chest.
A slight incline on your bench will increase the amount of stabilizing muscles recruited and allows you to get one hell of a pump. Use these after any heavy compound lift and you will notice your bench slowly get heavier.
#8 – Chest Press Machine
While most of the time we recommend free weights as a way to build muscle, machine chest presses have a few unique benefits.
One major benefit is the ability to increase time under tension without compromising other muscles. Another benefit to using a chest press machine is the ability to easily do drop sets.
EMG research shows that using a machine bench press removes recruitment from the three heads of the deltoid because of a decreased need for humeral stabilization. While working stabilizer muscles are important to growth and staying structurally sound, you are able to isolate the pecs and pound them hard.
Why it’s on the list: Free-weight pressing moves on a flat bench are great, but the machine press has some unique benefits. For one, it’s easier to slow down the repetition, both in the concentric and eccentric phases. Stack-loaded machines are also great for quickly doing drop sets.
#9 – Push-ups
Push-ups are an exercise you can do anywhere, anytime, and anyplace. They don’t need any equipment, and there are so many variations of push-ups that you can use.
If you already incorporate push-ups into your current routine, try some of these push-up variations out instead.
Great push-up Variations
- Close-grip push-up
- Wide-grip push-up
- Incline push-up
- Decline push-up
- Clapping push-up
- One arm push-up
- One leg push-up
- Paused push-up
- Spiderman push-up
All push-ups were not created equally, so add a few of these to each of your workouts for some shredded pecs.
Getting the Most out of Your Chest Workout
Getting the most out of your chest workout is important. You spend all of this time in the gym and you don’t have much to show for it, right?
Do Flat Bench First
Since the flat bench press is hands down the best exercise for chest development, do this exercise first. Be fresh, use as much energy as you can, and do work.
Using resistance bands in your chest training adds a new level of intensity. Use them with your pushup variations if you dare.
Chase the Pump
Chasing the pump on your chest isolation movements helps shuttle vital muscle-building nutrients to your muscles.
Quit Maxing Out
Look, everyone wants to bench 315 and everyone wants to throw up big numbers but testing your max doesn’t do anything for muscle development. In fact, it can hinder gains due to never fully recovering. Quit trying to be a big bencher and put in your time.
Bringing It All Together
If you’re going to the gym consistently, performing the exercises properly, and actually putting in the work it takes to build some shredded pecs, the next thing is to look at your nutrition.
Your diet should be filled with quality protein, some complex carbs, and some nutritious fats. Eat for fuel and stop pigging out on foods that don’t get you the body you’re looking for. Remember, the leaner you get, the more shredded you look. Add in a good supplement stack of whey protein, some creatine, a muti-vitamin, and some testosterone booster, and you have the recipe for success.
Junior, V., Gentil, P., Oliveira, E., & Carmo, J. (2007). Comparison among the EMG activity of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoidis and triceps brachii during the bench press and pec deck exercises. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte, 13(1).