The 4 Best Chest Exercises for Size

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Sep 5,2023 | 11 min read 167

Skyrocket upper body gains

Well developed pectoral muscles are something that everyone can admire. 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 target this area, but 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

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, triceps

Best Middle Chest Exercise

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. 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, the barbell bench press allows for a good amount of progressive overload. If you look back to the Golden Era of bodybuilding, 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

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. 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

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.

Finding a workout program that suits your needs is something to consider. The Boostcamp App has over fifty free workout programs for different goals, whether that be size, strength, both, or whatever else you want to do, you also can create your own program. A good workout program will help hold you accountable for your progression, as well as allow you to track progress and continue to move forward. 

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)