Best Workouts to build muscle
There are dozens of exercises you can do on chest day. In fact, the Bodybuilding.com Exercise Database lists at least 84, but you probably don't want to spend a Monday afternoon—or several Mondays—trying them all. You just want to know the best exercises for building a muscular chest, no questions asked. We've done the work for you, and found the top 10.
Mind you, this list doesn't correlate to the hardest chest exercises. It's focused on the best-of-the-best mass builders, with a little bit of instruction and explanation to complement each choice. You can swap exercises in your current routine for these choices, build your own chest workout with a handful of them, or just try one when your standard chest workout gets stale.
Without further ado, here are our top 10 chest-building exercises, ranked in no particular order.1
Why it's on the list: You can generate the most power with barbell lifts, so the standard barbell bench allows you to move the most weight. It's also an easier lift to control than pressing with heavy dumbbells. The exercise is easy to spot and relatively easy to learn (if not master), There are plenty of bench-press programs you can follow to increase your strength.
Barbell Bench Press
In your workout: Do it toward the start of your chest workout for heavy sets in lower rep ranges. Consider varying your grip width for more complete chest development.2
Why it's on the list: With dumbbells, each side of your body must work independently, which recruits more stabilizer muscles; dumbbells are harder to control than a barbell. Dumbbells also allow for a longer range of motion than the barbell bench press, both at the bottom and top of the movement. Flat dumbbell presses allow you to hoist a fairly heavy weight, and they make for a good alternative if you've been stuck on the barbell bench for ages.
Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press
In your workout: Do flat dumbbell presses toward the start of your chest workout for heavy sets in lower rep ranges. We don't typically recommend doing dumbbell presses in addition to the barbell bench press, because both moves are so similar.
In fact, the similar nature of these movements was confirmed via electromyography (EMG) analysis, which demonstrated no significant differences between flat-bench dumbbell and barbell in regard to muscle activation.13
Why it's on the list: Many benches are fixed at a very steep angle, which requires a larger contribution from the front delts than the chest to move the weight.2 If possible, go for a less-steep incline to hit the upper pecs without as much stress on the delts. You can also easily do low-incline benches with an adjustable bench on the Smith machine.
If you're really looking to build that shelf of an upper chest, EMG results have suggested that bringing your grip in a bit closer may hammer upper-chest fibers significantly more.2
Low-Incline Barbell Bench Press
In your workout: Many chest workouts start with flat-bench movements first, then progress to inclines, but it's time to get out of that bad habit. Every so often, start with inclines. The benefit is that you'll be fresher and can lift more weight, which puts a greater amount of stress on the upper pec fibers and could lead to more growth.4