The 10 Best Exercises for Pecs, Plus Tips for Better Results

May 20, 2024

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Having strong chest muscles is an important part of functional fitness. It’s also hard to deny the aesthetic appeal of big, well-defined pecs. Regardless of why you want to work your chest, you’ll want to incorporate the best exercises for pecs into your routine.

While cardio may be the best way to get rid of man boobs, chest workouts have a lot of benefits, even beyond sculpting your upper body. Here are some movements to try to make your pecs bigger and stronger.

Woman helping man do push-ups

1. Push-Ups

If we asked you to name the best exercise for pecs off the top of your head, you’d likely mention the bench press. While bench presses are great — more on that later — we’d list the humble push-up above them. Why? You don’t need any equipment.

Push-ups are an excellent strength-building exercise you can perform anywhere. They also work multiple muscle groups, but you can target your pecs by switching up your hand placement. Try bringing your hands closer together or lower along your torso to get a better chest workout.

2. Deficit Push-Ups

Once you’ve mastered the standard push-up, you can try a harder variation. Deficit push-ups are a great way to amplify the difficulty for more gains.

To do these, place your hands on a raised surface — a pair of kettlebells works well. Then, do a pushup, dipping past your hands to get your chest to the floor before pushing back up. You’ll notice this entails a longer range of motion, which is great for building muscle.

3. Flat Bench Press

This one may be obvious, but it’s that way for a reason. The standard bench press directly targets your pecs and is easy to ramp up as you get stronger. You can also do it with some heavy dumbbells or kettlebells if you don’t have a barbell. Don’t have a bench? Try lying down on the floor.

While the bench press is one of the best exercises for pecs, it’s also more associated with injuries than any other free-weight movement. Always lift with a spotter and follow good form to stay safe.

An empty weight bench in a gym

4. Incline Bench Press

For a variation on the classic bench press, try adjusting your weight bench to a 45-degree angle. This incline activates your upper chest more and won’t strain your joints quite as much. As with the flat bench press, remember to keep your feet flat, use an appropriate weight and always have a spotter for safety.

5. Cable Flys

The cable fly is another one of the best exercises for pecs. This movement targets your chest harder than a lot of others, but it does require specialized equipment, so it’s not accessible for those who like to work out at home.

To do a cable fly, grab the handles on a cable machine, one in each hand. Stand with your back to the machine in a staggered stance and a slight forward lean. Your arms should be stretched out at your sides and slightly behind you. Bring your hands together, then back to the original position slowly.

6. Dumbbell Flys

Alternatively, you could perform the same movement with dumbbells. Unlike a cable fly, you’ll want to do a dumbbell fly lying on your back on a weight bench. Apart from that, though, it’s largely the same motion.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand with slightly bent arms, open your arms wide, then bring them together above you. Be careful not to let your elbows go below your chest. Rotator cuff injuries affect more than 2 million Americans every year, but you don’t want to be one of them if you can avoid it.

7. Tricep Dips

Despite what their name may lead you to believe, tricep dips are another great exercise for your pecs. It’s a simple motion — holding yourself up between two surfaces and dipping yourself up and down — but an effective one.

Use a closer hand placement to put less emphasis on your shoulders and more on your chest. You can add weight to a belt or a vest for an extra challenge.

8. Landmine Press

One of the best exercises for pecs you may overlook is the landmine press. While it may not be as strenuous as some others, it’s a great way to work your chest without putting too much stress on your shoulders.

Landmine presses involve little more than standing a barbell on one end and pressing the other end up with one arm. Use as little or as much weight as you need for a good workout, and remember to do the same number of reps with each arm.

9. Dumbbell Pullovers

Another simple but effective chest exercise is the dumbbell pullover. Lie on your back on a bench, grab a dumbbell in both hands, lower the dumbbell behind your head, then bring it back up. It’s not an ordinary range of motion, so you’ll find you get a good workout without needing much weight.

10. Pull-Ups

Ending this list of the best pec exercises is another oldie but a goodie: the pull-up. You can make a pull-up bar at home if you don’t have one already, and that’s all the equipment you need.

While pull-ups are primarily a shoulder workout, you can target your pecs through different hand placements. Use a close-hand grip or a neutral grip — where your palms face each other — to get more chest activation. 

Tips for Maximum Gains with the Best Pec Exercises

While these 10 movements are some of the best exercises for pec size and strength, you don’t have to stick to only these. In fact, some variation is ideal for muscle development and strength training, as it keeps you from plateauing. Start with this list, try a few variants of some of the movements and find what fits into your routine.

For maximum gains, you’ll also need to address your diet, hydration and sleep. Use our guide on gaining muscle fast to see the best results.

Another thing to keep in mind is the principle of progressive overload. You’ll quickly hit a wall if you do the same reps of the same exercise every time. Regularly increase the difficulty of your movements through more reps, added weight or harder variations to sustain muscle growth.

Try These Best Exercises for Pecs Today

A good chest workout is a crucial part of any fitness routine. These 10 movements aren’t the only things you can try, but they’re some of the best exercises for pecs you’ll find. Incorporate them into your workout today if you want a stronger or bigger chest.

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Author

Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.