The bench press is one of the most recognizable exercises as a potent chest builder, but many lifters still struggle to gain size and strength in the chest with that lift alone.
Building a bigger chest isn’t as simple as aimlessly cranking out some bench presses and push ups, and here’s why…
When looking to gain chest mass during a bulking process, it is recommended to include a variety of movements spanning across several rep ranges. Your training should come from a combination of compound movements like flat and incline bench pressing, dips, dumbbell training, and more isolated movements like flyes.
The addition of higher rep training using machines is also helpful as they allow you to train the chest more frequently and at higher intensities without being limited by other muscle groups.
In short, the more you can train your chest (up to 2-3 times per week), and recover from that training properly (smart programming and eating enough food), the more you can repeat this muscle-building process.
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7 Must-Do Chest Exercises for Building a Bigger Chest
Below are seven of the best chest exercises to build a bigger chest for any level of lifter.
I recommend training chest 2-3 times a week max, with each session lasting 4-8 total sets (no more than 20 sets per week for most people).
For best results, start training these movements in the full range of motion and track your progress. More training volume does not alway equate to more muscle growth.
Be sure to refer to the chest workouts below to learn more about how to grow a bigger chest by training multiple times a week.
The 7 best bulking chest exercises are:
- Flat Barbell Bench Press
- Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Floor Press
- Dumbbell Bench Press (Incline or Flat)
- Dumbbell Flye (Flat or Incline)
- Deficit Push Ups
1. Flat Barbell Bench Press
The flat barbell bench press is an iconic chest exercise done for strength and muscle growth. This movement is great for developing the chest and triceps. It is important to set your upper back, maintain some arch and retract your scapulae to anchor the shoulders and expose the chest.
If you are someone who cannot perform the barbell bench press, for whatever reason, you can opt to try the dumbbell bench press or the floor press (with dumbbells or a barbell).
Related Article: The Best Bulking Back Workouts: 8 Must-Do Exercises
2. Incline Barbell Bench Press
The incline barbell bench press is a great movement to increase upper pec muscle growth and add diversity to your chest training program.
I find these are great for increasing upper chest size for some lifters who have issues with flat bench presses.
Related Article: The Best Bulking Arm Workouts: 13 Must-Do Exercises
3. Floor Press
The floor press can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, and is a great way to progress a beginner or lifter rehabbing their shoulders or pecs into fuller ranges of motion bench pressing.
By lying on the floor, you can decrease some of the stress placed on the shoulders and shift more on the chest and triceps.
4. Dumbbell Bench Press (Incline or Flat)
The dumbbell bench press is a barbell alternative that can be done to address unilateral strength differences and even increase the range of motion of the bench press.
You can progress these exactly the same as the barbell flat and incline bench press. You still want to be sure to set you back and feel the stretch in the pecs as you descend to minimize shoulder stress and strain.
5. Dumbbell Flye (Flat or Incline)
The dumbbell fly is an isolation chest exercise that can be done from a flat or incline bench position.
This can be a tricky exercise to master, as many lifters fail to place the stress on the chest muscles and more on the shoulder joints. Be sure to watch this video on how to master the dumbbell fly.
Dips are a great chest and triceps exercise that can be trained for heavy, medium, and light rep ranges.
These are great for developing the lower regions of the chest, and can often be supersets with isolation exercises like flyes to further increase the muscle building effects.
7. Deficit Push Ups
Deficit push ups, like push ups, are great chest exercises, however by doing them on a deficit you increase the range of motion and can increase muscle damage and growth.
Like dips, these are a great way to progress from bodyweight movements into harder variations or pair them with other chest exercises in supersets to further muscle growth.
Machine or Cable Flyes
Using machines is also a great way to extend sets with drop sets, giant sets, or rest pause sets to further stimulate new muscle and bust through muscle growth plateaus.
Are you training from home with limited equipment? Try these at-home upper body workouts to build muscle now!
4 Training Techniques to Maximize Chest Growth
Below are four training tips and techniques you can use with the above exercises to maximize your muscle growth during your bulk and minimize injury.
Train in a Variety of Rep Ranges
When looking to build muscle, most lifters lock in on one rep range, typically the 8-12 rep range.
While this is a good place to start when looking to build muscle, it can lead to massive gains being left behind. Instead of performing the same rep ranges, every session, you can add variety into your training to push the muscles harder, force adaptations, and stay one step ahead of the body’s innate ability to adapt to stress.
In the chest growth program below, you will be training your chest multiple times per week, using a variety of rep ranges (5-10, 10-20, and 20-30 reps) to increase chest strength and size.
Emphasize the Full Range of Motion
Training in the fullest range of motion one can do is key for maximizing muscular stress and tension.
By training in the fullest ranges of motion you are able to load the muscle fibers and place the greatest amount of stress on them while also minimising the need for excessive loading (which may actually contribute to joint pain or nervous system fatigue in more extreme cases).
When doing movements like dips, bench pressing, and flyes, be sure to go into a deep stretch. You can also increase the tension during movements by placing isometric holds at the end of the range of motion and holding at the top for peak muscular contraction.
The key with finding the full range of motion during movements like the flye and dip is to perform the eccentric slowing and focus on feeling the stretch in the chest muscles. If you do not get a good pec stretch during those movements (let’s say you feel it in the shoulder), you need to either restrict ranges of motion briefly or reassess your technique (as the majority of the muscular tension and stress should be placed on the pecs).
Control the Eccentric Phase
Controlling the lowering phase (eccentric) is a great way to increase tension on the muscle.
Increased tension often leads to greater muscle breakdown and ultimately growth.
By emphasizing the eccentric phase, you also help to maintain proper control throughout the full range of motion which can help minimize injury risks and keep you training (and recovering properly), both of which are key to long term leg growth.
You can do this by taking your time lowering the weight during the bench press (instead of bouncing it off the body) or feeling the active stretch on the pecs during deficit push ups and flyes.
Pause at Full Range of Motion
You can also use pauses throughout the range of motion to place extra loading demands and tension on the muscle fibers, you call when in the deepest ranges of motion.
It is important to maintain control and postural strength (flat back, for example) when pausing, rather than allow the body and muscles to relax and shoulders hunched forwards (especially in movements like the bench press and flye).
One great way to do this is to pause briefly when doing incline bench presses, dips, or flyers in the fully stretch position.
3 Chest Workouts to Build a Bigger Chest While Bulking
Below are three chest workouts you can do while bulking to build strength, size, and set the groundwork for a successful strength cycle to come.
The below workouts can be done in the same week if you are looking for a complete chest training routine to do during your bulk. The total training volume per week is roughly 16 total work sets, which falls within the normal effective training volume ranges for most individuals looking to maximize muscle growth while still being able to recover properly.
To progress this over the course of 4 weeks, you could simply add one or two work sets per week (choose one exercise from the entire week and add another set). This could look like the below work sets per week progression:
- Week 1 = 16 work sets
- Week 2 = 17-18 work sets
- Week 3 = 18-20 work sets
- Week 4 = 16 work sets (deload)
Note: that the movements may not change as frequently as people may think, as the key variable here is to select a few compound movements and do them using a variety of rep ranges to stimulate chest growth..
Bulking Chest Workout #1: “Heavy” Chest Day Workout
- Pause Incline Barbell Bench Press: 4 sets of 5-10 sets. Adding a pause on the chest will ensure no bouncing or momentum will be used, and should also result in the lifter maximizing tension throughout the movement.
- Dumbbell Bench Press: 4 sets of 5-10 reps. Do these with a slow lowering phase and a brief stretch and hold with the dumbbells touching the outside of your chest/armpits.
This workout primarily focuses on training in the 5-10 rep range to develop chest and pressing strength and stress that overload the muscles with heavier loads. This workout is first in the training week to allow for the lifter to attack loads in the recovered state (assuming they are doing this early in the training week).
This is best paired with the “medium” and/or “light” chest day workouts, as adding those in later during the week can really diversify training and stimulate new muscle growth, not just increase strength (but also increase muscle size, correct asymmetries, and increase back activation).
This workout is 8 total work sets. While it may not be a full on chest day that some people are used to, these 8 sets should be done with perfect form and intensity. Paired with another workout from below (or both), and you have a complete chest growth program you can do for weeks, if not months.
Bulking Chest Workout #2: “Medium” Chest Day Workout
- Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 10-20 reps. These can be done like the heavy day incline presses, however without the pause to allow you to keep the weight moving in a controlled manner.
- Weighted or Machine Assisted Dip: 3 sets of 10-20 reps. You can do these with weight, with bodyweight, or with assistance. The key is to maintain good positioning and feel the chest stretch at the bottom and contract at the top. Be sure to fully extend the elbows at the top.
This workout primarily focuses on training in the 10-20 rep range to develop chest growth.
This workout should be done after the heavier chest day as it can create a good amount of soreness and muscle fatigue.
The focus here should always be on feeling the muscle, the stretch, and the contraction. At the end of every set, the muscle should feel beat up and weak, maybe even already sore. I find it best to perform the first set with a weight I can get close to 20 reps.
As the sets go on and fatigue sets in, I often will struggle to perform 10-12 good reps with the same starting weight. That is an effective way to add rep diversity to your overall training program.
You will notice that this workout incorporates some machine work. Using machines or supported variations allow a lifter to attack the chest muscles without having to worry about form breakdown or fatigue in other muscles that will impact training.
Bulking Chest Workout #3: “Light” Chest Day Workout
- Machine or Cable Flye: 2 sets of 20-30 reps. Do these with slow eccentrics and hold briefly at the top for a maximal muscle contraction.
- Deficit or Regular Push Up: 2 sets of 20-30 reps. Superset these with the flyes for a massive chest pump.
This workout is only 4 total work sets, however each set takes the muscle to true muscle fatigue, and quickly, so make the sets count. The emphasis should be on accumulating as many metabolites as you can within the muscle and get a huge muscle pump.
This is best done at the end of the week or at least after the main heavy chest day workout is completed.
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Check Out Our Other Bulking Workout Guides
- The Best Bulking Leg Workouts: 10 Must-Do Exercises
- How To Bulk Up Fast: 10 Tips For Maximizing Muscle Growth
- One Hour Muscle Building Routines For Maximum Results
- Can You Build Muscle With Resistance Bands? (Yes, Here’s How)
Building a bigger chest takes smart programming, hard training, heavy lifting, and eating a lot of food.
Once you have your bulking meal plan figured out, be sure to maximize chest growth with the above workouts and exercises.
Remember, growing mass and size doesn’t always need to come from lifting heavier loads, so be sure to lift heavy for the rep range you are training in, and always chase the muscle pump and muscle stretch and contraction.
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About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.