Chest exercises work the pectoral muscle, the large fan-shaped muscle on the front of the chest. Exercises that work the chest can be broken into two basic motions: the press and the fly. The bench press is a classic chest exercise that utilizes the pressing motion. The dumbbell fly is a classic chest exercise that utlizes the fly motion.
Within each major motion, the chest exercises can be altered to better work either the upper, middle, or lower chest. For example, the incline bench press best works the upper chest. The flat bench press best works the middle chest. The decline bench press best works the lower chest. The push ups are the best bodyweight chest exercise.
Chest exercises with a pressing motion:
- Upper Chest: Incline barbell bench press, incline dumbbell press, and smith machine incline bench press
- Middle Chest: Bench press, dumbbell press, smith machine bench press, machine chest press, and push ups.
- Lower Chest: Decline barbell bench press, decline dumbbell press, and smith machine decline bench press
Chest exercises with a fly motion:
- Upper Chest: Incline dumbbell fly
- Middle Chest: Dumbbell fly, cable crossover, flat bench cable crossover, and machine fly
- Lower Chest: Decline dumbbell fly
- Lie on a flat bench with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back flat on the bench throughout the exercise.
- Grip the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. [Note: While the this exercise is most often performed with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, it can be varied by changing the grip position. A wider grip will work the outer part of the middle chest and a closer grip will work the inner part of the middle chest.]
- Unrack the barbell and lower the barbell until it gently touches your chest.
- Push the barbell up. Also, press through your feet to engage your quads, glutes, and stomach, while keeping your lower back on the bench.
- Rerack the weight once you have performed all of your repetitions.
Steps to perform the dumbbell fly:
- Pickup a dumbbell in each hand and sit down on a flat bench.
- Then, lie down on the bench with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle and your feet flat on the floor and simultaneously raise the dumbbells straight out above you at arms length. Your palms should be facing each other.
- Spread and lower your arms out to your sides, bending the elbows slightly as you go.
- Stop the motion when your elbows are level with the bench.
- Raise the dumbbells back up, straightening your arms as you go and squeeze the weight at the top of the motion. Ideally, the dumbbells should not touch at the top of the motion.