The 4 Best Chest Exercises for Size

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Feb 26,2024|13 min| 2899

Skyrocket upper body gains with the best chest exercises

Well developed pectoral muscles are something that everyone can admire, whether you are a bodybuilder or powerlifter or your average gym goer. No superhero or action movie star has ever been depicted with a small chest. A well developed and full chest helps to complete the upper body, and there are so many different exercises to throw in on your push day and target this area, but many people just focus on the bench press and think that is enough to really grow your pecs. However that is not all there is, so what are the best chest exercises for size?

Let’s break down the best chest exercises. 

Chest Muscles Overview

To lay it out as simply as possible, the chest is broken down into two major parts which are the upper (pectoralis major), mid (pectoralis minor). However, we like to split it up into three parts, which includes the lower pectorals, also technically a part of the pectoralis minor. That being said, you do not want to train one of these parts more than the other, as it will leave your physique looking unbalanced and disproportionate. Imagine walking around with a bulky lower chest, but no upper chest to match it. 

For that reason we have put together the best chest exercises for each part of the pectorals.

Best Upper Chest Exercise: Incline Dumbbell Press

Starting from the highest point on the pecs, or the pectoralis major, the best chest exercise for the upper chest in our opinion, would have to be dumbbell incline bench press. With a 45 degree incline, you are able to isolate the upper part of the chest.

The dumbbells allow for a deeper stretch than you would get with a barbell, and you also can switch up the movement. For example, you can angle your palms to get a better squeeze on the inner part of the upper chest, almost like a dumbbell flye into a press. You also can rotate your wrists as you are pressing the dumbbells up, activating different muscle fibers within the upper part of the chest. 

Dumbbell Incline Press Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles: Upper chest (pectoralis major)

Secondary Muscles: Front deltoids (shoulders), triceps

Best Middle Chest Exercise: Barbell Bench Press

Moving on to the middle part of the chest, also known as the pectoralis minor, we would have to go with the classic, barbell bench press, one of the big three compound movements, with the squat and deadlift being the other two major ones. The barbell bench press is a staple chest exercise that has been included in bodybuilding and strength training programs alike, for its ability to pack on dense muscle mass and increase strength

Though you are on more of a fixed bar path with a more limited range of motion than you would have with dumbbells or a machine, the barbell bench press allows for a good amount of progressive overload. If you look back to the Golden Era of bodybuilding when bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger dominated the stage, or even current powerbuilding programs, there usually is a heavy bench day loaded into that type of training. 

Barbell Bench Press Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles: Middle Chest (pectoralis minor)

Secondary Muscles: Front deltoids, triceps

Best Lower Chest Exercise: Bodyweight Chest Dips

The lower chest is part of the pectoralis minor, meaning you technically are activating the fibers with exercises such as the barbell bench press. However, in terms of isolating that portion of the chest, it can be done, and should be done, and the exercise of choice is bodyweight chest dips. 

Bodyweight chest dips have been around forever, utilized by some of the greatest bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and are a great way to finish off a chest workout, taking the sets to muscular failure. Too often are bodyweight exercises overlooked, and dips are to the chest what pull-ups are to the back. Dips help to build strength in the pushing muscles and develop the lower pectorals more than a standard bench press would. They also help you to learn your body a bit more, and develop a good mind-muscle connection

Bodyweight Chest Dips Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles: Lower chest (pectoralis minor)

Secondary Muscles: Front deltoids, triceps

Don’t Forget the Inner Chest: Cable Flyes

Now that you have seen the best chest exercises for each part of the chest, let’s not forget the inner chest. The inner chest muscles are technically hit during your standard chest exercises, but isolating the inner chest is the icing on the cake for developing a good chest. The best exercise for developing the inner chest has to be cable flyes, as they are able to be used to isolate each portion of the chest, developing the inner chest and overall striations. Check it out:

High to Low Flyes: Done on a cable stack where the lifter performs a pectoral flye from a higher point, going down to a lower point. This will help to develop the lower pecs.

Cable Crossovers: Also can be done on a cable stack where the lifter performs a standard pectoral flye in front of them to work the middle part of the chest. 

Low to High Flyes: Low to high flyes are quite literally the opposite of high to low, and will work the upper chest. 

Now, the key to developing the inner chest with the flye movement is to get a good squeeze at the end. Doing things like touching your wrists together, or getting them closer together can help to get that contraction and really develop the inner chest. 

How to Train the Chest

Now, finding the best chest exercises is a start, but how do you even put them to good use? A common problem amongst gym goers is not training properly to begin with, and then they wonder why they will not grow. For example, many people will go into the gym and think that 4 sets of 8-12 is the key to training for hypertrophy, and that may not be the case, as sometimes that is not enough. The body adapts to what you throw at it, so if you continue to go in and not make steps towards progressing, then you will not grow or get stronger. You have to shock the muscle with multiple different methods such as deload weeks, progressive overloads, 5x5s, and training to failure to name a few.

Boostcamp Programs

Finding a workout program that suits your needs is something to consider. The Boostcamp App is home to over 50 FREE workout programs that consist of strength, hypertrophy, or functional fitness, or both, from the push pull legs program all the way to the upper lower split. However, with Boostcamp, you don’t have to just follow a pre-written program, you also can create your own program as well, and track your progress to make sure you are on the right track. That being said, when you are looking to incorporate some arm training to further your powerlifting progress, then check out Boostcamp.

Best Chest Exercises Wrap Up

Overall, the chest can truly be broken up into three different sections, and in order to develop a full, well rounded chest, you want to hit each of those sections. You also do not want to do the same things every chest day, so finding a good workout program can really help you.

Check out the Boostcamp App for some great programs. Also, be sure to follow Boostcamp on Instagram and subscribe on YouTube!

Images courtesy of Instagram (@aesthetic_proo)