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15 Chest Exercises Ranked from Worst to Best

Find the perfect exercises for your chest workouts.

Find the perfect exercises for your chest workouts.

15 Chest Exercises Ranked from Worst to Best

Tier 1

  • Bench Flys
  • Standing Cable Press
  • 60 Degree Incline Bench Press
  • The WTF Blaster

Tier 2

  • Pushups
  • Floor Flys
  • Underhand DB Bench Press

Tier 3

  • Twisting Pushups
  • Cable Crossovers
  • Bench Cable Press
  • DB Upper Chest Pullovers

Tier 4

  • Dip (weighted optional and twisting optional) step up from pushup
  • Heavy 1-Arm Crossovers
  • 30 Degree Incline Bench Press

Tier 5

  • Barbell Bench Press / DB Bench Press
benefits of dumbbell chest flyes

Video – 15 Chest Exercises Ranked from Worst to Best

See how the exercises have been chosen, ranked and organised in the video below.

What are the Muscles of the Chest?

The chest muscles, also known as the pectoral muscles or “pecs,” are a group of muscles located in the anterior (front) part of the upper body. There are two main muscles that make up the chest:

Pectoralis Major: This is the larger and more superficial of the two chest muscles. It has a fan-shaped appearance and covers much of the upper chest. The pectoralis major has two parts:

Clavicular head: Originates from the medial (inner) half of the clavicle (collarbone).

Sternal head: Originates from the sternum (breastbone) and the cartilage of the upper six ribs.

The pectoralis major muscle is responsible for movements such as flexion, adduction, and medial rotation of the arm at the shoulder joint. It is commonly targeted in exercises like bench presses, push-ups, and chest flies.

Pectoralis Minor: This muscle is smaller and located beneath the pectoralis major. It is a thin, triangular muscle that arises from the third, fourth, and fifth ribs near their cartilage. The pectoralis minor inserts on the coracoid process of the scapula (shoulder blade).

The pectoralis minor muscle is involved in movements of the scapula, such as depression, downward rotation, and stabilization of the scapula. It is less prominent and not as commonly targeted in exercises as the pectoralis major.

Both the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles are important for various upper body movements and contribute to the overall strength and appearance of the chest.

What are the Benefits of Having a Strong Chest?

Having a strong chest and well-developed pectoral muscles offers several benefits, including:

Upper Body Strength: A strong chest contributes to overall upper body strength. The pectoral muscles are involved in various pushing movements, such as pushing heavy objects, performing exercises like push-ups, bench presses, and chest presses. A strong chest enhances your ability to perform these activities with greater force and efficiency.

Alternative Chest ExercisesSource: Domagoj Bregant on Pexels

Improved Posture: Well-developed chest muscles help to support and stabilize the upper body, promoting better posture. Strong pectoral muscles can counterbalance the effects of weak or tight muscles in the upper back and shoulders, reducing the tendency to slouch forward. This can help prevent common postural issues, such as rounded shoulders or a hunched back.

Enhanced Upper Body Aesthetics: A strong, well-defined chest can improve your overall physique and enhance upper body aesthetics. Well-developed pectoral muscles give the chest a fuller and more sculpted appearance. This can contribute to a more balanced and visually appealing physique, especially when combined with a well-rounded exercise routine.

Increased Functional Fitness: The chest muscles play a significant role in various daily activities and sports. Having a strong chest improves your ability to perform tasks that involve pushing, lifting, or carrying objects, such as moving furniture, pushing a car, or participating in sports like basketball, tennis, or swimming. It can also enhance performance in activities that require upper body power and strength.

Injury Prevention: Strong chest muscles can help prevent injuries by providing stability and support to the shoulders and upper body. The pectoral muscles work in conjunction with other muscles around the shoulder joint, contributing to its stability. Strengthening the chest can help reduce the risk of shoulder instability, muscle imbalances, and potential injuries during physical activities.

How do Different Exercises Target Different Parts of the Chest?

Different exercises can target different parts of the chest, primarily due to variations in the movement patterns and muscle recruitment. While all chest exercises engage the pectoral muscles to some extent, here are some examples of how specific exercises target different parts of the chest:

Flat Bench Press: The flat bench press is a compound exercise that primarily targets the central portion of the pectoralis major muscle. It involves lying on a flat bench and pushing a barbell or dumbbells away from the chest. This exercise emphasizes overall chest development and is considered a foundational exercise for building chest strength.

Incline Bench Press: Incline bench press involves lying on a bench set at an inclined angle (typically 30-45 degrees) and pushing the weight away from the chest. This exercise places greater emphasis on the upper portion of the pectoralis major and the clavicular head of the muscle. It helps develop the upper chest, giving it a more rounded and defined appearance.

Decline Bench Press: In contrast to the incline bench press, the decline bench press involves lying on a bench set at a declined angle (typically 15-30 degrees) and pushing the weight away from the chest. This exercise targets the lower portion of the pectoralis major muscle, focusing on the sternal head. It helps develop the lower chest and can contribute to a more chiseled and well-rounded chest appearance.

Dumbbell Flyes: Dumbbell flyes are isolation exercises that primarily target the pectoralis major muscles. They involve lying on a flat bench with dumbbells in hand and performing a wide “fly” motion, lowering the weights out to the sides and then bringing them back together in a controlled manner. Dumbbell flyes emphasize stretching and contracting the chest muscles, targeting both the clavicular and sternal heads.

Push-Ups: Push-ups are a bodyweight exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Depending on hand placement and variations, push-ups can target different areas of the chest. A wider hand placement emphasizes the outer portions of the chest, while a narrower hand placement emphasizes the inner chest.

Cable Crossovers: Cable crossovers are performed using a cable machine and are effective for targeting the outer portion of the chest. By pulling the cables across the body in a crossover motion, the exercise provides constant tension on the pectoral muscles, particularly the outer fibres of the pectoralis major.

It’s worth noting that the specific muscle activation and emphasis may vary among individuals due to factors such as individual anatomy and biomechanics. Incorporating a variety of exercises that target different parts of the chest can help ensure balanced development and overall chest strength.

How Do Muscle Fibres Work?

Muscle fibres are the individual cells that make up muscles, and they work together to produce muscular contractions. Here’s a simplified explanation of how muscle fibres work:

Motor Neuron Stimulation: Muscle fibres are innervated by motor neurons, which transmit electrical signals from the brain or spinal cord to the muscle fibres. When the brain sends a signal to contract a specific muscle, the corresponding motor neuron stimulates the muscle fibres it connects to.

Sliding Filament Theory: The contraction of muscle fibres is governed by the sliding filament theory. Each muscle fibre contains myofibrils, which are composed of smaller units called sarcomeres. Sarcomeres contain two types of protein filaments: thin filaments made of actin and thick filaments made of myosin.

Cross-Bridge Formation: When a muscle fibre is stimulated by a motor neuron, calcium ions are released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, a specialized structure within the muscle fibre. The calcium ions bind to proteins on the thin filaments, exposing binding sites for the myosin heads.

Muscle Contraction: The myosin heads form cross-bridges with the actin filaments. This allows the myosin heads to attach to the actin filaments and then pull them toward the centre of the sarcomere. As the myosin heads swivel and detach, the actin filaments slide over the myosin filaments, resulting in a contraction of the muscle fibre.

ATP and Energy Supply: Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) provides the necessary energy for muscle contractions. ATP binds to the myosin heads, allowing them to detach from the actin filaments and reset for another cycle of cross-bridge formation. The process of ATP regeneration and breakdown provides the energy needed for sustained muscle contractions.

Relaxation and Return to Resting Length: When the stimulation from the motor neuron stops, the calcium ions are actively pumped back into the sarcoplasmic reticulum. As the calcium levels decrease, the binding sites on the actin filaments are covered, preventing further cross-bridge formation. The muscle fibre relaxes and returns to its resting length.

This process of muscle fibre contraction and relaxation occurs in a coordinated manner within a muscle, allowing for controlled movements and various levels of force production. The number of muscle fibres recruited and the frequency of motor neuron stimulation determine the overall strength and intensity of muscle contractions.

How Does the Muscular System Move the Skeleton and Human Body?

The muscular system plays a crucial role in moving the skeleton and the human body as a whole. It achieves this through the interaction between muscles, bones, and joints.

Here’s an overview of how the muscular system facilitates movement:

Muscle Contraction: Muscles generate force and produce movement through the process of muscle contraction. When a muscle receives a signal from a motor neuron, it contracts, which leads to the shortening of its fibres. This contraction is brought about by the sliding of protein filaments (actin and myosin) within the muscle fibres, as described in the sliding filament theory.

Muscle Groups and Antagonistic Pairs: Most movements involve the coordinated action of multiple muscles working in groups or pairs. Muscles are often categorized into agonist (prime mover) and antagonist muscles. The agonist muscle contracts and creates the desired movement, while the antagonist muscle relaxes and lengthens to allow for the movement. For example, when you flex your elbow, the biceps brachii acts as the agonist muscle, while the triceps brachii acts as the antagonist muscle.

Tendons and Skeletal Attachment: Muscles are connected to bones via tendons. Tendons are strong, fibrous connective tissues that transmit the force generated by muscle contractions to the bones, allowing for movement. When a muscle contracts, it pulls on the tendon, which, in turn, moves the bone to which it is attached.

Joint Movement: Joints serve as the meeting points between bones and facilitate movement. Different types of joints allow for various ranges of motion, from hinge joints (e.g., elbow joint) that permit flexion and extension, to ball-and-socket joints (e.g., shoulder joint) that allow for a wide range of movements, including rotation and circumduction. Muscles act on joints to create the desired movements by applying force to the bones involved in the joint.

Muscle Synergies and Stabilization: In addition to agonist and antagonist muscles, other muscles in the body also contribute to movement. Synergistic muscles work together to assist the prime movers in generating the desired movement. Stabilizer muscles provide stability and support to the joints involved, preventing unwanted movements or excessive joint stress during complex movements.

Integration of Muscular and Nervous Systems: The muscular system works in close coordination with the nervous system to control and coordinate movement. Motor neurons transmit signals from the brain or spinal cord to the muscles, initiating muscle contractions. The nervous system also receives feedback from sensory receptors in muscles, tendons, and joints, allowing for adjustments in muscle activity and movement control.

By contracting and relaxing muscles, coordinating muscle groups, and working in conjunction with the skeletal and nervous systems, the muscular system enables a wide range of movements, from simple tasks like walking and grasping objects to complex athletic movements and fine motor skills.

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