There is a variety of exercises out there that can help you build great pecs but which ones are the must dos and which are the ones you can neglect? Push ups, dips, flys, bench press, incline, decline, pec dec are all great exercises but in this article I’ll show you my personal favorites that helped me build a solid foundation.
1. FLAT BARBELL BENCH PRESS
The bench press is the mother of all chest exercises. It is a compound movement that works not only your chest but also your entire body including your shoulders, triceps, forearms, lats, rhomboids and traps. It has been the universal lift for any guy at the gym who wants to determine their strength. How much do you bench? Does that sound familiar? But that’s not the only reason why I believe it’s the number one exercise to build a strong chest.
When performed correctly, the bench press is a safe exercise that allows you to use higher weights. Now you might ask yourself, why don’t you use a Chest Press machine instead? It looks like the safer way to work with heavy weights, right? Yes, you’re partially right. The main reason why a flat bench press is superior over any machine is that not only do you have to press the weight up but you also have to balance the weight above your body while performing the exercise. This is crucial to develop a strong chest. After a solid workout including bench press I love to finish the workout with a couple sets on a chest press machine to get the last reps out of my chest. That way I can safely push myself to the limit without worrying about dropping the weight on my body in case there is nobody to spot me.
2. FLAT DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS
Similar to the barbell bench press, flat dumbbell bench press is a great exercise to engage your entire body while also recruiting even more stabilizer muscles. Now that each arm has to work independently you’ll immediately find out which of your arms is the dominant one. When working with dumbbells please make sure that you slowly increase the weight to make sure your stabilizers are ready to work with a certain weight. There’s a difference between the weight you use for barbell bench press and dumbbell bench press.
3. INCLINE BARBELL BENCH PRESS
All the reasons to why the barbell bench press is such an amazing exercise works for the incline barbell bench press as well. Additionally with a slight incline you’ll activate your chest from a different angle which serves your muscles with a new stimulus. Different muscle fibers have to work more than others which will lead to a well rounded chest.
4. INCLINE DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS
Now guess what. Yes same benefits as the flat dumbbell bench press but with the additional bonus of hitting the muscle from a different angle which leads to a better and stronger chest.
Another great exercise but rarely done by beginners is the dip. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about dips being bad for your shoulders and won’t help you develop a great chest. Both of these statements are wrong under the premise that you’re doing dips correctly. If you want to get a bigger chest make sure to include dips in your workout routine and focus on the correct technique. You want to lean forward as much as you can and lift your legs back and up. That way you engage your chest more than your triceps or your shoulders.
6. PEC DECK MACHINE
The next exercise on my list is the pec deck machine. It is one of my favorite exercises to finish off a workout. You don’t need a lot of weight to feel the muscle engagement in this exercise. I love this exercise because there is constant tension on your muscle from beginning to the end. Even in the final position when your hands meet in front of you, you can squeeze as hard as you can before releasing it to go into a great stretch. It’s also very easy to focus on good form since you’re seated and there’s usually a mirror right in front of the machine.
7. STANDING CABLE FLYS
Cable flys are similar to the pec deck machine with the difference that you have to engage your entire body to perform the exercise. One enormous benefit with this exercise is that you have an incredible range of motion. If you’re flexible enough you can go into a really deep stretch before contracting your muscles to finish the exercise.
8. DUMBBELL FLYS
Although I’m personally not the biggest fan of dumbbell flys I cannot ignore them in this article. Dumbbell flys also allow you to go into a deep stretch before coming up all the way. You can do them on a flat or incline bench to change it up. The reason I don’t like it too much is because on the top there’s no tension unless I press the two dumbbells against each other. Another alternative is to stop the range of motion at a point where you don’t feel any tension on your chest anymore.
9. INCLINE DUMBBELL PULL OVER
I used to do flat bench dumbbell pull overs for the longest time but I never felt a good pump / exhaustion in my chest until I changed to an incline bench pull over. The incline allows you to put your muscle under tension way longer. Since this exercise isn’t the best to perform with high weights I put it pretty far to the back of the list. This exercises is more of a finisher than a muscle builder exercise.
10. PUSH UPS
Last but not least – push ups! There’s multiple ways to do push ups which is why it’s such a great exercise. You can do them as warm ups before a heavy bench press session or you use them as your main workout. Don’t underestimate a bodyweight exercise! By changing up the angle you can make a push up extremely difficult where you can only do 8-12 reps.
If there is an exercise on this list you haven’t done in a while or is not in your workout regime make sure to incorporate it for the your future sessions. The key is to keep your body guessing to what’s coming next. By simply switching up one or two exercises you can see an amazing change in your physique without rearranging the entire plan.