Best Chest Exercises For Muscle Growth: Our Ultimate List

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If you're looking for the best chest exercises to build muscle, we've got you covered with some expert insight and straight-talking advice designed to cut through the noise.

First and foremost, developing your chest can be achieved in almost countless ways, from volume training, powerlifting, callisthenics and high-intensity training too.

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But ultimately, it's about your own structure which, spoiler alert, is different with everyone. Some exercises will 'feel' better than others and more often than not, that's because the way your body is designed works well with them.

Here we'll demystify a few things around certain exercises and give what we think are the best exercises for the chest.

Incline Dumbbell Press

Credit: Body Power

Why it's good: A must-have to develop your upper chest, the incline dumbbell press allows for a fantastic range of motion and will require more control from your pecs, shoulders and triceps to prevent any shaking.

What this means is that you won't be able to go quite as heavy as if you were on a machine or using a barbell, so it's something to use more as a middle part to your workout, rather than aiming for pure personal bests.

Pro Tip: When it comes to elbow placement, there is quite a lot of debate there, but to be on the safe side we'd say don't let your elbows flare out too much. The key here is to feel comfortable in the movement.

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Aim for comfort and you'll find far more force generation too.

See More: Best Weight Benches - Our Top Picks

Dip / Assisted Dip

Credit: Ainfox

Why it's good: Most gyms nowadays have an assisted dip machine and they are fantastic for developing the lower portion of your chest (which makes up the majority of your pecs).

This is one exercise that won't get you anywhere if you let ego step in, as when a dip is done properly it is one of the hardest bodyweight exercises in the world...in fact they all when done correctly.

Pro Tip: This exercise can place some stressful demands on shoulders, so ensure you're either warmed up or putting this towards the middle of the workout again.

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Key things to remember here for the chest is to lean 'slightly forward' on the machine and aim to prevent your elbows flaring out to the sides too much. Many machines now have more of an angled-inward grip which makes this a little easier.

Go easy with how deep you go too...work with your own body mechanics and avoid any ballistic bouncing at the bottom of the movement.

Press Up On Handles/ Dumbells

Credit: Pull Up & Dip

Why it's good: Press-ups or pushups are incredible for building the chest, especially when you can find the right depth to go to and the correct hand placement for your physique.

And if you do it on handles, you can also align your wrist and hand much better, which can save you some wrist related issues later down the line.

Pro Tip: Here are two BIG mistakes people make...I'd say 90% of people in my experience as a trainer.

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Firstly, they sag down in their lower back. To achieve stability and force, it's important to 'crunch' your abs through the movement. It may feel somewhat unnatural, but mimicking a 'hollow body' position adopted by gymnasts, in particular, is the real way to do the pushup...

Secondly, neck tilting. It's only natural to try and 'reach the floor' but some people end up doing it with their face and not their chest.

To get the most out of the move, aim to slightly graze the floor with your chest. If that's not happening, then you're not working the full range...and with press-ups, they benefit vastly from a full range of motion.

And there's one more thing...slow it down! A tempo of 1 second up, 0.5-second pause, 3 seconds down is a very respectable pace. Don't get discouraged either...10 reps like this is actually pretty darn good.

Chest Press Machine

Credit: Iron Company

Why it's good: Safety, comfort, and a high maximum weight make chest press machines very appealing when it comes to building muscle.

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Unlike a bench press, you don't really need a spotter and you can adjust the weight without having to even get up in most cases.

Pro Tip: Positioning is important here as always. You'll want to aim for the handles to be under your armpit, not above, so adjust the seat accordingly.

This tends to be the most comfortable and puts the most emphasis on your chest.

You'll also want to make sure that you start the movement from your pecs, not your arms.

Now that sounds weird, but here's a good way to do it. Try to forget about your arms and aim to push the handles away using your chest only. Keep that in mind through your set and you're well on the way to developing more mind-muscle connections.

Cable Fly

Credit: FIT4HOME

Why it's good: Cables are a great way of adding tension onto parts of the movement where your muscles usually lax off a little.

Take the dumbbell fly. You'll find that the top of the movement when the two dumbbells touch is the easiest, but it's most difficult at the bottom of the movement.

With a cable fly, you can keep the tension even when the cable handles are touching, allowing you to really contract the pecs hard throughout the whole movement.

Pro Tip: While it's not 100% the 'middle chest' builder that many think it is (that actually comes from overall growth) it is a great way to ensure your whole chest is getting worked and that you're not accidentally neglecting the peak contraction strength curve of your pecs.

And what's more...it's a little safer than a dumbbell fly which is great for attacking the exercise with confidence.

Opinion: How Often Should You Train Chest?

Phew...the age-old question! Many of my past clients were looking to build a bigger chest and it's really a question of recovery, experience and intensity.

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While there are two (actually more) schools of thought with how to build muscle, generally speaking, you can train more if you're not going to failure as recovery will be easier.

If you are going to failure, then once a week is a good place to start, but with less intense training you could perhaps do twice a week...depending on what supplements you're taking and what your natural recovery levels are.

For my own workouts, I tend to go higher intensity and longer recovery time and I can tell you that doing those workouts twice a week would be very counter-productive.

Work to your own recovery capacity, not someone else's...that's the key!

If you're looking to upgrade your home gym, we've got our top dumbbell picks, weight benches, and even the best power racks (some of which can be used for bench press), so be sure to check them out for some inspiration.

Read More: Best Adjustable Dumbbells - Our Top Picks Of The Year