Chest Workouts

Want to create sexy pecs or a stronger upper body?

Regular chest workouts not only mean you’ll look hot in that summer tank top or singlet, but a strong chest is also vital for good posture and overall muscle balance. As an added bonus, chest exercises also help tone your shoulders, triceps and upper back. And since the chest is a fairly large area you’ll also be burning considerable calories.

If weight loss is your main goal, make sure the majority of your workout routines are cardio-based, with resistance training as a secondary focus.

However, if your goal is to build strength, muscle mass, muscle tone or stability, work each muscle group once per week to keep your body balanced – don’t just isolate your chest every time, for example. Concentrating too much or too little on any one area will compromise your performance and could lead to injury.

Your weekly resistance-training schedule could look something like this:

  • Monday: Chest and back
  • Tuesday: Legs and abs
  • Wednesday: Recovery day
  • Thursday: Shoulders and lower back
  • Friday: Biceps and triceps
  • Saturday: Core and shoulders
  • Sunday: Recovery day

For best results and to keep it interesting, train your chest with a combination of barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells and your own body weight.

Effective Chest Exercises

To help tone and strengthen your chest muscles, follow the chest and back workouts below. For a complete chest workout to build muscle mass, follow each circuit through twice. Rest for 60 seconds between sets.

Chest workout: Flat bench press

  • 3 sets
  • 8-12 reps
  • 10-30 kg barbell

Lie down on the bench with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Your feet can either be up on the bench or on the ground – whatever feels best for you. Keeping your abs braced by driving your heels into the ground or bench, inhale as you lower the bar to your chest then exhale as you press back to the starting position.

Start position 

Execution 

Finish position 

Chest workout: Push-ups on toes and knees

  • Do as many push-ups as possible on your toes – even if you can only manage one
  • Then drop to your knees and do as many as you can

Lie on the floor, belly down. Place your hands on the floor at chest height, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, pointing your elbows slightly back and out to the side. Come up to a plank position, chest strong. Keeping your core activated, inhale as you bend your arms and lower your upper body so that your chest is about 10 cm off the floor. Exhale as you straighten your arms to return to the starting position.

When you can’t do any more from your toes, bend your knees to the ground and do as many reps as you can with knees down. This should feel considerably easier than push-ups from the toes.

Start position

Execution

Finish position

Chest workout: Bent over rows

  • 3 sets
  • 8-12 reps
  • 10-20 kg barbell

Stand with soft knees, feet shoulder-width apart and chest lifted. Tip forward from the hips at about 45 degrees and slide the bar down toward the floor, ensuring that your spine remains neutral. Hold the angle and neutral-spine position while you squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar in towards your belly button. Ensure that you are strong across the chest and are not placing stress on your lower back.

Start position 

Execution 

End position 

Chest workout: Reverse flys

  • 3 sets
  • 8-12 reps
  • 1-3kg dumbbells

Start with light dumbbells in each hand. Sit down on a bench and lean forward so your chest is on your knees. Allow each dumbbell to hang directly below your shoulder with your palm facing into your body. Exhale as you lift your elbows towards the ceiling, opening the chest, while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for a few second, controlling the descent to the starting position.

Start position 

Execution 

Finish position 

Chest workout: Incline dumbbell flys

  • 3 sets
  • 8-12 reps
  • 3-6 kg dumbbells

Immediately follow with incline dumbbell presses.

Lie back on a 30-degree incline bench. Have your dumbbells touching, hands facing inwards, directly above your chest line. Bend your elbows as if you were hugging a barrel. Lower your arms in a circular motion until you feel a slight stretch in your chest, then squeeze your chest and return the dumbbells to the starting position.

Start position

Execution 

Finish position 

Chest workout: Incline dumbbell press

  • 3 sets
  • 8-12 reps
  • 5-10kg dumbbells

Rest for 1 minute after each set, then go back to incline flyes.

Start in the same position as for incline dumbbell flys. Keep your midsection braced. Inhale as you lower the dumbbells towards the outside of your chest until your elbows are bent to approximately 90 degrees and your upper arms are slightly below parallel with the floor. Keep the chest raised and exhale as you press the dumbbells back to the top.

After you have worked out your chest muscles, spend five minutes stretching out your chest, shoulders and arms.