T Nation

Best Chest Exercises

The thread about overhead pressing and lateral raises had a ton of great insight, so I was curious about chest too.
What exercises you prefer (and why) for hypertrophy? How do they compliment the eventual strength training and how do they impact on joints health?
Share your thoughts.
I personally like to do cable crosses - one side at a time, with an underhand grip. It keeps the shoulder pulled back the whole time and I only have to bring the elbow towards the sternum to squeeze the pec. Focuses more on the lower pec, which is something I desperately need lol.
As a generic rule, I pick my chest stuff to be as easy as possible on my shoulders

Tagging @BrickHead because yes and feel free to tag other people

Flat paused pressing for a lot of reps.

Since I’ve been pausing flat db bench, my chest has grown tremendously.

Hard one…lel

Flat BB Bench. Bet no one saw that coming. Easy to microload, micromanage and progress on.

Highly specific to Powerlifting obviously and variations such as Pause Bench and Pin Presses can be easily set up. Accumulation phases just drop intensity up volume and intensification phases drive intensity up while hammering assistance (variations of flat BB so still flat bench). Every rep of every set is specific technique practice so works well.

Personally have had few shoulder issues with barbell tho I know many have had different experiences. I put that down to mostly luck lol but also probably relatively low percentage sub max work making up the bulk of my volume and attention to rep quality / maintaining technique.

Joints and related structures have an SRA curve like other tissues tho I’m under the impression that they neither recovery or adapt as fast as muscle. Throw in a bit of AAS and reckless lifting and shoulders are kaput

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Slight incline DB press for sure. I like to slowly ramp up weight to a top set. You can alternate DB position depending on preference. Much easier on the joints than a barbell.

Slight decline dumbbell presses.

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No love for dips?

Dips are #2. I do dips by running 2x6 boards across my power rack. It allows a lot of hand positions and angles including inclining or declining the boards to get more chest or triceps. Also dips, starting at the top are better for layers than dumb bells because they lend themselves more to a max 1-3 rep set, and they work better for overload eccentrics.

Where is the shoulder exercise thread?

Do you pause at the top or at the bottom?
I usually do DB on a flat bench or slightly inclined, always use a neutral (parallel) grip, it reinforces the habit of tucking the elbows when benching, then when I press them up I close the dumbbells together towards the inside. Pausing at the top does add a lot of squeeze.

Definitely love for them lol, but I restrict them a bit to since they bug my shoulders. I don’t have much choice of parallel bars in my gym and have yet to find the right hand positioning and angle.
Mind it, they do not HURT my shoulders, they just give me a ton of doms and for 1-2 days after I feel like my shoulders mobility is limited, like the whole shoulder area is tight. I don’t know how to describe it better.

This one:

Specifically for hypertrophy, I benefit a lot from slight-incline smith machine press, especially with higher reps (15-20). This exercise creates a bunch of TUT, an enormous amount of blood-flow, and it’s healthier for your joints and stabilizers.

And…because it needs to be done:

That’s what she said…
= )

I get a ton of mmc when, this is going to sound so westside, I do paused football bar bench with medium grip and chains. But you go heavier than you would for DE work. I did them during some mountain dog training and throw them in whenever I need extra chest work. Easy on the elbows and shoulders too. Usually like 4-6 sets of 6-8, fast and hard reps

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Everything everyone has already said and also pec deck (horrible name but great machine).

I feel chest the most with deadstop dips, starting each rep from the bottom stretch. Basically this, but being tall enough to not need a box:

I accidentally discovered these when I realized there’s a dip bar at my gym that’s the perfect height for them. I walked over, grabbed the bar, and was automatically in bottom position standing flat-footed on the ground. Little fellas (I think the kids call them “manlets”) can use a step or some plates to get the same effect.

The shoulder stress is increased, but the chest activation is great enough to not need a ton of reps or a bunch of added load, especially if done later in the routine.

Also standing cable chest presses (I think doing them on a bench is too much time/energy setting up). All the benefits of dumbbells but a greater peak contraction and less shoulder stress since less weight is needed. Lastly, pec-deck flyes with 1-and-a-half reps, adding an extra half-ROM from mid-point to peak contraction for more chest work and less shoulder stress.

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^This. Not the typical 45 degree decline bench you see in most commercial gyms, but closer to 15. I used to stack 3 Olympic plates under the far end of a flat bench and create my ideal angle. Great to circumvent any problems for delay dominant pressers not feeling flat work in their pecs enough.


Not that it matters …any pressing movement with a DB or Barbell deepening on the experience level and development of the individual.

Incline Bench Cable Flyes.

I wouldn’t be caught dead doing them nowadays but they were awesome back in the day haha

Dumbbell pullovers and squeeze presses really flood my chest and give me the most pump. I also like a slight decline for barbell bench press (I don’t have a decline bench but I put a 2x4 under one end) that seems to really target my chest the most. I feel 45° incline in my front delts way too much so really don’t do them anymore.

Bottom mostly, it’s where the stretch is. But, pausing and squeezing at the top certainly won’t hurt either.

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Declines, but just a slight angle.

Guillotine presses work great though I don’t recommend them. I did them heavy when I was young and they really fill out the upper chest.

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When I was training for bodybuilding my chest workout went like this:

  1. Hammer Strength machine bench press
  2. Incline flyes
  3. Flat dumbbell bench press
  4. Dips

Obviously this is quite a bit of work, but for pure bodybuilding purposes, I go for the traditional body part split in which chest gets three to four exercises of three to four sets. I do not respond well to barbell bench press variations considering I am arms dominant and narrow. I think arms-dominant people respond better to dumbbell bench press, all sorts of flyes, and dips, all exercises that involve a decent stretch and/or the arms coming towards each other.

Obviously if one does a full body program or upper-lower split, only one or two chest exercises can be done.

Barbell bench pressing can be hard on some people’s shoulders and I don’t think its a great chest builder for many. I also preferred to pre-fatigue the pecs with machine presses and flies, as I preferred to pre-fatigue my other weak point, my hamstrings, which I brought up significantly in half a year’s time.

Thanks for the tag.