3 Chest Exercises That Will Make You Feel Stronger

Chest exercises range from bodyweight to barbells and everything in between – so you can make a choice that feels best for your body and your workout routine.

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3 Chest Exercises That Will Make You Feel Stronger

Unless you are a power lifter or body builder, the chest is a group of muscles that can often be overlooked in a typical workout routine. However, exercises that build strength in the chest muscles (pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior, and the subclavius) are important for not only aesthetic reasons, but for functional purposes as well.

We typically think of the back muscles as being responsible for posture, but your chest also plays a role in creating a more supported spine. What’s more, any action that requires you to push or do work in front of your body – opening a door, driving, cooking, pushing a grocery cart, etc. – requires a certain amount to upper body and chest strength. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, having a strong chest can aid in more stable shoulders and effectively reduce the risk of shoulder injury, when paired with an efficient shoulder prehab routine.

So, where should you start? Luckily there are plenty of options! Chest exercises range from bodyweight to barbells and everything in between – so you can make a choice that feels best for your body and your workout routine. Here are 3 great options (with lots of variations!) to get you started.

 

1. Chest Press

Man demonstrating chest press exercise

The chest press is a pushing motion that can be completed with many modalities. This is the type of exercise that probably comes to mind when you think of a chest exercise.

 

With a Barbell

Lay on your back on a bench under a racked barbell. Lift the bar off the rack and start with the bar directly over your chest with your arms extended (soft bend in the elbows). Slowly lower the bar towards your chest until it is hovering an inch or two above you. Push the bar back up to your starting position as you squeeze your chest. Repeat for desired number of reps.

This is a great option if you are looking to push some serious weight!

 

With Dumbbells

The method with this exercise is the same as the barbell, but you are using dumbbells for a weight instead of the bar.

This is a great option if you want to work unilaterally, try different press variations, or are interested in improving shoulder stability.

 

Standing with Resistance Bands

If you want to remain standing for your workout, try using a resistance band. The Sunny Resistance Tube Set can be anchored into any door in your home and will allow you to get an excellent workout that does not require you to lay on your back. Stand facing away from the anchor with both resistance band handles in your hands. Start far enough away from the anchor so that there is tension on the bands with your hands at chest height, elbows bent. Press your hands forward as you squeeze your chest, and slowly return to your starting position. Repeat for as many reps as desired.

This is a great option if getting up and down from a bench is challenging or if you want to work on core stability and full body activation.

 

2. Push-Ups

Woman demonstrating Push-Ups exercise

An exercise classic! Push-ups are a nice option if you have minimal equipment. In these variations you will need a bench or a resistance band, but you can also use your bodyweight and still build quality strength.

 

Incline Using Bench or Bar

This push-up variation is the perfect way to build up to doing a traditional push-up. Start in a plank position with your hands on a bench or on a barbell that is racked on the bottom half of your set up (the lower it is, the more challenging this will be). Bend your elbows as you lower your chest to hover an inch or two above the bar then push yourself back up to your starting position as you squeeze your chest. Repeat for as many reps as desired.

This is a great option if you are trying to build up to more challenging push-up variations or if you want to place more emphasis on the lower portion of your chest and your back.

 

Decline Using Bench

In this variation, you will start with your feet elevated on a bench and your hands on the ground (essentially a reversed incline push-up). You will complete the movement with the same technique as above.

This is a great option if you are looking to pump up the intensity of a traditional push-up or if you want to place more emphasis on your upper chest and shoulders.

 

With Resistance Bands

This is your traditional push-up with some added spice! Start in a push-up position on the floor with a large resistance band looped behind you from one hand to the other. When you push up from the ground, you will experience additional resistance to pump up the challenge.

This is a great option if you want to increase your push-up intensity and have minimal equipment available.

 

3. Chest Fly

Man demonstrating Chest Fly exercise

The chest fly is good for when you really want to isolate your chest muscles. Here are two different options!

 

Dumbbell Fly

Start laying on your back with your arms extended above you (soft bend in the elbows) and your palms facing towards each other. Start to open your arms (keeping that soft bend in the elbow) until you feel a stretch in your pecs. Pause for a moment then squeeze your chest and return to your starting position and repeat for desired number of reps.

This is a great option if you want an exercise that isolates your chest muscles and works on opening/stretching through the chest as you build strength.

 

Standing with Resistance Bands

In this alternative, you will start in the same position as a standing chest press. However, you will start with your arms open wide enough to feel a stretch through your chest. Squeeze your chest muscles to bring your hands closer together, arms out in front of you. Slowly return to your starting position and repeat for desired number of reps.

This is a great option if you want to remain standing for your workout and build full body strength in addition to working your chest.

 

Programming Exercises

There are countless ways to plug these exercises in to your workout routine. As a general rule, try to work each muscle group about 2-3 times per week. If your goal is to build overall, well-rounded strength this should be more than enough to achieve your goal. Pick any of the above exercises and try to gradually progress the intensity of each as you become stronger.

If your goal is to hit a bench press PR, then specifically targeting the bench press exercise (with the bar) is going to be more important for you. You may choose to incorporate more bench press accessory exercises throughout your week, as well.

There isn’t really a wrong way to do it! As long as you aren’t over-training, any amount of chest work is going to improve your strength. Get clear on your goals and go from there!

 

Round it Out

Implementing chest exercises into your routine is an important aspect of any strength training program. Whatever your goals may be, prioritize building strength throughout your entire body – including your chest – so that it can serve you well throughout life. Happy lifting!

 

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