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Top 3 Best Chest Exercises for Building Muscle

December 13, 2012


The top 3 best chest exercises are chest dips, bench press and dumbbell incline bench press. Hands down. These exercises, when done with proper form and a progressive weight increase, will elicit the greatest effect on muscle growth.

best chest exercises to build a muscular chest

That’s not to say they are the only good chest exercises out there. Variety is the key to overall development of any muscle group, especially when you are in the intermediate to advanced stages of weight training.

However, you gotta walk before you can fly. Case in point, you gotta learn the bread and butter exercises before you do the more intricate, isolation exercises. It just so happens these bread and butter exercises are the best out there anyway. They should be at the core of any good chest routine.

1. Chest Dips

How to do chest dips:

  • If your dip bars allow for a variable grip width, use a wide grip.
  • Hold onto the handles and lift your body up by straightening your elbows until they’re almost locked.
  • Cross your legs at the ankles and flex your glutes (pause). This makes your body more stable and protects your lower back.
  • Keep your head in line with your spine for the duration of the exercise.
  • Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows while leaning your torso forward. Stop when your elbows are 90°.
  • Lift your body up by straightening your elbows and extending your shoulders, while contracting your chest muscles.
  • Stop just before locking out.
  • Repeat until your set is finished.

Why are chest dips one of the best chest exercises?

Chest dips are a top-notch exercise choice because:

  • They make it easy to engage the pecs, which is essential in building a big chest.
  • It’s compound movement, meaning it recruits more than one muscle group.
  • It’s easy to learn.

If you’re new to the gym flow, you may not be able to do more than a few reps in a row. However, after the learning curve kicks in and you add progressive weight with a dip belt, the strength and muscle gains are rapid.

Remember: the ability to continuously add weight means virtually unlimited potential for strength and muscle gains.

2. Barbell Bench Press

How to bench press:

barbell bench press

  • Lie down on a flat bench with bar supports (or a flat bench inside a power rack).
  • Use a wider than shoulder width grip to hold the bar. Do not use a thumbless (suicide) grip.
  • Plant your feet on the floor so that your heels are behind your knees.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Push through your heels and tighten your glutes (pause) to push your shoulder blades into the backrest.
    • This creates a strong and tight arch in your back, which you should keep intact during the lift.
  • Never let your ass raise off the bench at any point.
  • Unrack the barbell off the pins (it’s best to have a spotter help you with this part).
  • Tuck your elbows close to your body during the bench press movement.
  • Lower the barbell until it touches the bottom of your chest.
  • Press the barbell back up until your elbows are locked and the weight is over the middle of your chest.
  • Repeat until your set is finished.

Why is the bench press one of the best chest exercises?

Just because the bench press is thought of as a classic “ego lift,” where f*ckboys will attempt to max out with horrible form to boost their confidence, does not mean it is anything less than superior.

The bench press is a classic example of a bread and butter exercise. It’s functional, easy to learn and a go-to test of upper body pushing strength.

Matter of fact, you can lift more weight horizontally with the barbell bench press than you can with any other exercise. Period. Being able to lift this kind of heavy-ass weight will translate into massive muscle and strength gains in your chest, as well as your shoulders and triceps.

3. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

How to do the dumbbell incline bench press:

dumbbell incline bench press

  • Find an adjustable incline weight bench and adjust it to a low incline of 20-40° (20° is optimal). Adjust the seat accordingly.
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit down on the bench, holding the dumbbells on your knees.
  • Use your knees to kick the dumbbells up to your shoulders as you lie down onto the backrest.
  • Firmly plant your feet on the floor.
  • Bring your shoulder blades together and make a slight arch in your back.
  • Position your arms so the elbows are bent at 90°.
  • Keep your elbows tucked in slightly to avoid shoulder strain; but not so much that you remove the tension from the upper pecs.
  • Hold the dumbbells in your hand, rotating your wrist slightly outward.
  • Press dumbbells up and together until your arms are perpendicular (vertical) to the floor and your elbows are just shy of locking out.
  • Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position (elbows bent at 90°).
  • Repeat until your set is finished.

Why is the dumbbell incline bench press one of the best chest exercises?

The dumbbell incline bench press is a prime chest exercise because:

  • It involves dumbbells, which give you much greater control in your range of motion. You’re able to modify your wrist and elbow positions, and press the dumbbells up and together. These minor modifications enable you to target the pecs while minimizing shoulder and triceps involvement. Also, using dumbbells trains your left and right sides independently, which helps correct muscle imbalances.
  • It’s done on an incline, which puts an emphasis on the upper pec fibers. The upper pecs are often underdeveloped compared to the lower pecs – it just so happens upper pec development is what separates the Big Dogs from the little pups.
  • It’s featured on ‘Nuff said.

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