Want to pump up your chest? Here are the top 8 chest workouts for men, along with instructions and variations, plus additional tips to help you get the most of your workout.
Pushups are definitely one of the best chest workouts for men and for a good reason – they don’t require any equipment and can be done almost anywhere.
Instructions: Lie on the floor facing downwards. Position your hands just outside the chest (about 36 in. apart), making sure your body forms a straight line head to heels. Lift your torso up while squeezing the chest. Pause for a second, then lower yourself until you almost touch the floor with your chest.
Variations: If you’re a beginner, you can try performing the exercise against the wall or bending your legs at the knees.
More advanced lifters can place their feet at a higher surface to increase the resistance or add additional weight to force the muscles to work harder. This extra load can be in the form of a sandbag, a plate, or a weight vest.
2. Barbell Bench Press
Since barbells are more stable than dumbbells, they allow you to lift more weight with easy control. If you are new at this workout, use a spotter. If using a spotter isn’t possible, make sure to start with low weight.
Instructions: Lie down on a bench and position your hands a little over shoulder-width apart.
Pinch your shoulder blades together and drive them into the bench. Lift the bar with the help of your spotter, making sure your upper back remains tight. Inhale and slowly lower the bar until it touches your chest. Hold for a second, then push the bar up again.
Variations: To protect your shoulders, you can do the close grip bench press with the hands placed just outside of shoulder width.
You can also add bands or chains to the barbell’s ends for extra weight. This will make the bar less stable, which will give your chest extra stimulus and promote strength.
If your goal is to work the upper pec major, then try the inclined barbell bench press. To target the lower pec major, perform the declined version of the exercise.
3. Dumbbell Press
Using dumbbells instead of a barbell requires a greater range of motion and greater muscle stability.
Instructions: Lie down on a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand, with the palms turned towards your feet. Lift the dumbbells above your chest at shoulder width. Briefly pause at the top, squeezing your chest, then slowly lower the dumbbells to chest level.
Variations: You can also perform this exercise at an incline to work the clavicular head (placed high on the chest) or at a decline to work the lower chest.
Another variation is to perform this exercise with the palms facing together to shift the stress onto the pectorals and maximize muscle growth.
4. Machine Bench Press
This chest workout allows you to focus on the weight and do fewer reps.
Instructions: Sit down on the machine press and grab the handles with the palms facing downwards. Lift the elbows to the sides so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push the handles forward by fully extending your arms. Flex the chest muscles for a moment, then bring the handles back towards you while breathing in.
Variations: This workout can also be performed on a bench using dumbbells or barbells (see no.2 and 3 above).
5. Cable Flyes
Besides pumping up the chest muscles, this exercise also strengthens the triceps and shoulders.
Instructions: Set two pulley-cables at shoulder height (or slightly above). Grab the handles and stand in a staggered stance. Outstretch your arms making sure they’re slightly bent. Lean forward at your hips without rounding your back. Bring the hands together. Stop for a second, then reverse slowly.
Variation: Try the low-to-high cable flyes to work the upper chest. Set the two pulleys at the bottom position. Grab the handles with your palms facing forward and your upper arms positioned at a 30-degree angle away from your sides. Raise the handles so that they come together at shoulder height or a bit higher. Reverse slowly.
6. Dumbbell Flyes
This exercise is great for the delts and pecs, but it also involves back and arm muscles.
Instructions: Lie down on a bench holding the dumbbells above your chest, with the palms facing each other. Then, with the elbows slightly bent, start lowering the weights to the sides in a wide arc. Return the arms back to the start while squeezing your chest muscles. Pause for a second, then repeat.
Variations: You can try the incline dumbbell flyes to target the top of the pecs.
If you want to make the dumbbell flye harder and involve other muscles, try performing it with your back resting on a gym ball rather than on a bench.
7. Dumbbell Around the World
This workout involves the upper chest muscles, as well as the shoulder and triceps muscles. If you’re a beginner, make sure to use low weight to avoid injuries.
Instructions: Lie down on a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand with the palms facing up. Move the dumbbells over your head creating a semi-circle. Make sure your arms stay parallel to the floor at all times. Return the weight to the starting position.
This workout is known to work the triceps, but it can be varied to target the chest as well.
Instructions: Grab the parallel bars and jump up. Hold your body above the bars, with the arms straightened. Lower your body slowly by bending your arms, while leaning slightly forward. Once you feel a stretch in the chest, pause for a second, then lift your body back up by straightening your arms.
Variations: Beginners can use a dip assist machine instead of parallel bars. More advanced lifters, on the other hand, can make the workout harder by using a weight belt.
Here are 6 tips that will help you make the most of your chest workout.
1. Train your chest two to three times a week
Research has shown that high-frequency training (two to three times a week) is much more effective than high-volume, low-frequency training, which consists of a large number of workouts performed in an excessive number of sets once a week.
2. Choose two to four chest exercises per workout
Instead of going through every single chest workout on the list, choose two to four exercises per workout.
Here are two example combos:
Barbell Bench Press 3 sets, 8 reps + Dumbbell Flyes 3 sets, 10-12 reps.
Flat Barbell Bench Press 3 sets, 2 – 3 reps + Incline Bench Press 2 sets, 4 – 6 reps, Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 2 sets, 4 – 6 reps, Dips 2 sets, 4 – 6 reps.
3. Do up to 120 reps a week
Doing too many reps can reduce your muscles capacity to recover, resulting in soreness and fatigue. For an effective chest workout, the number of reps should fall within the range of 60 to 120 reps a week. For instance, if you’re training twice a week, aim for 30 to 60 repetitions in each workout.
4. Rest for one to four minutes between each set of exercises
Forget about resting for only a minute between each set of exercises to maximize chest pump. Instead, go for slightly longer rests: 3 to 4 minutes between sets of primary exercises, about two minutes between sets of secondary exercises, and 1 to 2 minutes between sets of isolation exercises.
5. Complete your chest workout routine with a proper diet
No chest workout plan is complete without proper nutrition. To pump up your pecs, you’ll need extra calories, combined with the right amounts of proteins, carbs, and fats.
More specifically, to build a pound of muscle mass per week, you’ll need to consume 3,500 calories a day. The protein intake should be 1-1.5 per pound of body weight, whereas the amount of carbs required to build mass and strength should be 150-200 grams a day.
6. Wear proper workout clothing
When it comes to chest workouts, your clothes should primarily speak to comfort. However, it doesn’t hurt if they also look good. Who knows, great workout clothes may even motivate you to hit the gym more often!