Now that you know there’s a difference between increasing pec muscle size and breast size, do you still want to strength train your chest? Cool.
Read on for seven of the best movements you can do to boost strength and fulness in your chest muscles.
1. Dumbbell chest press
A home and gym-friendly exercise, the dumbbell chest press targets the pectorals as well as your shoulders, and triceps. Woot!
If you don’t have a set of dumbbells (or a set of dumbbells that’s light enough!) you can also use two soup cans or water bottles.
if you have access to a flat bench, you’ll lie on that. If not, you can do the exercise from the ground.
- Grab a set of dumbbells and hold one in each hand. Choose a weight that you can press at least 8 times.
- Lie with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and slightly apart.
- Keeping your head on the floor or bench, begin the press by extending your arms over your chest, palms facing away from your face.
- Brace your midline by thinking about drawing your belly button into your spine.
- Slowly bend both elbows until they are parallel with the ground.
- Pause. Then repeat, pressing the weight overhead until both arms are fully extended.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
2. Dumbbell pec fly
Tell your ego to take a seat. The pec fly is *not* a movement that should be performed with heavy weight.
Unlike the chest press, which is primarily a strength movement, the pec fly is more of a stretch. When you try this exercise you’ll feel exactly what we mean.
With every rep, you’ll help ease the tightness in your pecs and front shoulder muscles.
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Oh, and yes, you can do this move at home or the gym. All you need is some very lightweight dumbbells (or cans).
- Grab a set of light dumbbells and hold one in each hand.
- Lie on the floor or bench with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and slightly apart.
- Begin the fly by pressing your arms over your chest, palms facing each other, elbows slightly bent.
- Engage the core muscles by drawing your ribs down the body.
- Keeping elbows stiff, slowly lower the dumbbells in an arc motion to nipple height. You should feel a stretch in the chest muscles.
- Pause, then reverse the movement until your arms are extended. Squeeze the chest at the top of the movement.
- Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
3. Alternating dumbbell press
As you might guess, the alternating dumbbell press is the same as the dumbbell press except for the fact that you’re only moving one dumbbell at a time.
Single-limb movements like this, which call on one side to work at a time, require a tremendous amount of stability (read: midline engagement). As a result, in addition to working your chest, shoulders, and triceps, this movement also works your core.
In other words, you get a tremendous amount of bang for your buck.
You can do alternating dumbbell chest press move at home or in the gym. But if you’re doing it at the gym, use a bench for extra support.
- Grab a set of dumbbells and hold one in each hand, palms facing one another. Choose a weight that you can press at least 8 times.
- Lay with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor at hips width. Engage your midline.
- Extending your arms over your chest. Keeping the left dumbbell where it is, slowly lower the right dumbbell toward the chest until your elbow is at or just below parallel with the ground.
- Pause, then press the weight overhead until the right arm is fully extended and the right palm is facing the left palm.
- Repeat, this time moving your left time.
- Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, on each side.
Push-ups may be an easy exercise to hate, but they are one of the most versatile chest exercises out there. Not only can you perform them anywhere, but you can scale them to any strength level.
Plus, they strengthen your entire body all at once — with a special focus on your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core.
You can also modify this move to better suit your current fitness level.
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Rather than starting from a high plank position, try it on your knees. Just don’t forget to maintain that straight line from knee to head as you do. Or, start with pushups on the wall.
- Start on the floor in a high plank position, wrists stacked under shoulders.
- Press the ground away with your palms and brace your midline. Pull your shoulder blades away from your neck and down your back.
- Squeeze your quads, glutes, and core. Then lower yourself toward the floor by bending at elbows along your body.
- Lower down until your chest hovers about one to two inches from the floor. Pause, and exhale as you press your body back to the starting position.
- Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
5. Stability ball chest press
Ready to level up the dumbbell chest press with a challenging twist? Consider performing it on an exercise or stability ball.
In addition to targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps, the stability ball chest press also recruits your abdominal and gluteal muscles.
Important: Make sure to choose a stability ball that is appropriate for your height and provides enough support for your shoulders and upper back.
- Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Sit on the exercise ball and slowly walk your feet out in front of you. Keep walking until your upper back is in contact with the ball. Your arms should be at your sides and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Straighten your arms until the dumbbells are above the chest, palms facing forward.
- Tighten your core and glutes and slowly lower the dumbbells until they are about chest level. Stop lowering before your arms touch the ball.
- Pause, then press the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended.
- Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
6. Up-down plank
Try some up-down planks for an equipment-free chest pump.
This body-weight exercise is an excellent pec-pumper. If you do it long enough, it should also jack up your heart rate. Win-win.
Note: You can also do this exercise from your knees, like the aforementioned modified pushup position.
- Get into a forearm plank position, making sure you could make a straight line from heel to head.
- Tighten your core, look down, and slightly ahead. Lift your right arm to place the hand directly under the shoulder and straighten the right arm. Then do the same with your left hand until you are in a high plank position.
- Squeeze core and legs at the top. Then, reverse the movement by lowering the right elbow to the floor.
- Repeat on the left side until you are in the starting position.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 20 to 30 seconds, resting as needed between rounds.
7. Dumbbell pullover
The lying dumbbell pullover is an intermediate exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, back, and triceps. Quadruple win? Not too shabby.
In the top position of this move, you should feel a nice stretch in your upper back and chest.
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- Grab a dumbbell with both hands, with your palms up like you’re cradling the head with both hands.
- Lie down on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Fully extend your arms to the ceiling.
- Keeping the elbows stiff, lower the dumbbell behind your head.
- Pause, then reverse the movement by contracting your core and triceps and pull the dumbbell over your head to the starting position.
- Do 2 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.