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Best Chest Exercises: Get a Stronger Upper Body With These Top Chest Exercises

The chest muscles are an important component of strength anatomy. They help you breathe, open a door, use pruners to snip off a branch – all actions we take for granted and rely on our chest muscles to help us with. These make up the primary muscles people refer to when it comes to upper body strength (“how much can you lift at the gym?”)

In short, the chest muscles are key to muscle mass. Bodybuilders rely on them, sure, but they’re also important in terms of functionality because they provide support for arm movement. Studies show that a low waist-to-chest ratio is the most attractive physical feature on males, meaning they have a narrow waist offset by a broad chest.

But appearance aside, there are many advantages to strengthening your chest muscles, whether your goal is to throw the ball to your kid outside or become the top lifter in the gym.

The Muscles of the Chest: Defined

The three primary muscles of the chest include:

  1. Pectoralis major
  2. Pectoralis minor
  3. Serratus anterior

There’s also the subclavius, which is a small accessory muscle that helps you breathe.

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The pectoralis major has two heads: the clavicular head and the sternocostal head. When one contracts, the other will relax. The clavicular head flexes the upper arm bone, or the humerus, when you raise your arm in front of yourself. In addition, it also adducts the humerus, bringing the arm inward toward your midline, helping with internal rotation of that bone.

The sternocostal head helps bring your arm down from a flexed or forward position, responsible for movements such as horizontal adduction and internal humerus rotation.

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The pectoralis minor stabilizes your shoulder blade by bringing it forward and then down against the rib cage (AKA, shoulder blade protraction). It also helps with respiration and shoulder stability.

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The serratus anterior pulls your shoulder blade around your ribs, ensuring shoulder stability when pushing.

Top Tips For Achieving Defined Chest Muscles

So what does “muscle definition” really mean? Muscles must increase their size in order to see their shape. This is known as hypertrophy, whereby you progressively stress the muscle past its resting state to encourage growth. Put another way, it’s when the amount of protein used to build the muscle is more than the amount of protein breakdown.

But at the same time, you also have to decrease body fat. If you have breasts, it’s more difficult to see muscular definition in your chest. In the end, to achieve muscle definition, you will need to work the chest muscles while decreasing calories.

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Eating For Chest Definition

Muscles are made of protein. The more you eat, the better you will be able to build muscle. This is known as muscle protein synthesis. In contrast, muscle protein breakdown can happen at the same time.

To reduce body fat, you should eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, a variety of proteins, and whole grains. When you eat a larger amount of protein, you achieve muscle protein synthesis, which makes your muscles grow bigger. Space your protein-rich meals three to five hours apart.

The American Dietetic Association recommends .8 grams of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight a day. But other recommendations for those performing resistance training is 1.6–2.2 g/kg of body weight a day.

A 150-pound person who works out regularly and wants to achieve muscular hypertrophy should be consuming between 109–150 grams of protein a day. Research also shows that consuming high-quality forms of protein, such as whey and casein protein powder, can help greatly with appetite control.

Other supplements such as creatine, caffeine & vitamins can also help accelerate your gains.

Now we will discuss the top eight chest exercises:

8 Best Chest Exercises

1. Incline push up

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This warmup will prepare the chest for work and help prevent injury. Try these lower resistance movements:

  1. Put your hands on the wall or a countertop-height surface. Position your feet back in order to achieve a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  2. Keep your spine neutral and your body straight, lowering your chest to the surface.
  3. Stop for a moment, then return to start.
  4. Do up to 20 repetitions.

2. Flat bench press

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For this exercise, you will need a barbell or dumbbells and a flat bench.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Hold the barbell by wrapping your thumb around it with palms facing your feet. Press your arms toward the ceiling to get the weight off the rack.
  2. Move the barbell over your chest.
  3. Lower the barbell to your chest slowly, bending the elbows at a 45-degree angle. Keep the barbell aligned with your nipples.
  4. Stop for a moment, then put the weight back to start.
  5. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Keep your back flat and your neck neutral so you don’t strain yourself.

3. Incline bench press

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For this exercise, you will need a barbell or dumbbells, but this time you will need an incline bench.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Grab the barbell as before to get it off the rack.
  2. Align the barbell above your collarbone.
  3. Lower the weight down to your chest slowly, keeping it just above your nipples.
  4. Stop for a moment, then put the barbell back in the starting position.
  5. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

4. Decline bench press

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For this exercise, you will need a barbell or dumbbells, as well as a decline bench.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and ankles behind the ankle rests. Grasp the barbell to lift it off the rack as above.
  2. Place the weight between your lower chest and upper abdomen region.
  3. Bend your elbows to slowly lower the weight to your chest, in line with the nipples.
  4. Pause, then put the weight back to start.
  5. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

5. Pushup

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  1. Start on your hands and knees, stepping back into a high plank. Place your hands wider than your shoulders, with your legs straight with your quads. Engage your hamstrings and keep your spine neutral.
  2. Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle, while keeping your core tight, and lower your chest to the floor. Keep a straight line from your head to your heels.
  3. Go as low as you are able without losing core support or spinal alignment.
  4. Press your chest from the ground until your elbows become straight.
  5. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Make sure your hips are aligned with your shoulders and ankles.

6. Cable crossover

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For this exercise, you will need a cable machine or resistance band.

  1. Stand away from your high pulley cable machine or band that has been anchored overhead. Grab a light to moderate weight.
  2. Grasp the hands or band ends while stepping forward with one foot.
  3. Contract your chest muscles, bringing the handles down and then forward across your body at your belly button. You can cross your hands to work the serratus anterior muscles.
  4. Pause for a beat or two, slowly returning to the start. Repeat.
  5. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

7. Chest dip

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You will need a dip station for this exercise.

  1. Grab the two parallel bars with palms facing in.
  2. Straighten your elbows, pressing into your hands and lifting your body up to align with your hands.
  3. Bend your elbows, lowering the chest toward your hands.
  4. Pause briefly, then go back to the start position. Repeat.
  5. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

8. Resistance band pullover

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You will need a resistance band for this one.

  1. Anchor the band on a stable surface. Lie on your back, positioning your head toward the anchor. Make sure the band is one to two feet higher than your head.
  2. Hold the band overhead and maintain a slight tension. Your thumbs should be pointing up and your palms facing away from one other.
  3. Pull the band toward your hips while maintaining straight elbows and a tight core. Return to the starting position slowly.
  4. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Lower Chest Exercises for Defined Pecs

Now let’s go over some lower chest exercises for more defined pecs. But first, what exactly are pectoral muscles, or pecs? We will define them here, going into detail on some ideal exercises to try to enhance them.

The Pectoral Muscles

Having well-defined pectoral muscles can lead to a more balanced body, key to becoming a stronger athlete and key to being able to perform many everyday tasks. The pectoral muscles comprise three separate sections: upper, mid, and lower.

Sure, having strong, defined pecs looks great, but there are far greater benefits. Your pectoralis muscles help move your arms and are responsible for vertical, lateral, and rotational shoulder joint movements.

They are essential to ensuring shoulder strength and mobility. To create balance and shape, try these proven exercises. Get regular workouts, get plenty of sleep, and eat plenty of protein.

Bodyweight hanging dips
  1. Prop yourself up between two bars, wider than hip-width apart. Keep your arms straight but don’t lock them. Your feet should be off the floor.
  2. Bend the elbows to lower yourself, pausing at a 90-degree angle in the elbows while maintaining a tight core.
  3. Press down through your hands and raise yourself up to the start position. Be sure not to swing.
  4. Complete two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Decline bench dumbbell chest flies
  1. Lie down on a decline bench, grasping one medium to heavy dumbbell in each hand and raising them over your chest.
  2. Lower your arms to the sides. Go as wide as you can comfortably, but don’t put too much stress on the shoulders. Your elbows should not go lower than your chest. Squeeze your pecs.
  3. Press the dumbbells over the chest back to the starting position.
  4. Do two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Decline dumbbell bench press w/ rotation
  1. Lie flat on a decline bench with dumbbells over your chest. Your hands should be rotated out in a “V” formation.
  2. Lower the weights toward your armpits, rotating the elbows inward to form an “A.” Bring each weight above the space between your shoulder and pec.
  3. Press both arms back up and slowly rotate both arms outward.
  4. Do four to five sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Cable chest fly pulsar 100s
  1. Start with one foot forward and one foot back. Hold one cable in each hand. Use medium weights.
  2. Bring your arms together with a soft bend in the elbows, and lightly touch your fingertips.
  3. At this time, squeeze your pecs together, alternating the opening and closing of your arms using a pulsing motion.
  4. Do 20 reps of squeezes.
  5. Release the arms out wide and rest.
  6. Complete five sets of 20 reps.

What to Know

The above four exercises help build defined pecs. Add these exercises to your standard chest workout to achieve the size and shape you desire. Always be conscious of maintaining a high-quality form, progressing as you feel comfortable.

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In Conclusion

Whether you’re working toward a sculpted chest to show off at the beach or a strong upper body to play on your adult softball team, enhancing your chest muscles will only serve to boost your quality of life. Use the above exercises, in conjunction with a high-protein diet, to increase the size and strength of your chest muscles.

Always remember to start with a warm up session using low-stress movement. Exercises such as the incline push can prepare your body for heavier loads while decreasing the risk of injury. Remain consistent as you go, adjusting the workload in accordance with that makes you feel good. You will soon be on your way to longer planks and stronger presses!

ALSO READ: Ranking the Best Bodybuilding Supplements for Muscle Growth

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