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Best and Worst Chest Exercises to Build Muscle

10 great exercises, and 3 you should avoid.

What are the best and worst chest exercises to build muscle? Check out this list ranking some exercises you are probably doing.

The chest is an area that most people would spend months trying to develop. Perhaps the problem is not that you are not putting in the effort, but rather choosing the wrong movement to build muscle in your upper body. Here is what Jeff Nippard has to say about it.

Jeff Nippard is a natural professional bodybuilder who shares tips and training programs on his YouTube channel. In the following video, Nippard talked about the best and worst chest exercises to build muscle.

Source: Tima Miroschnichenko on Pexels

Before we see the list, Nippard clarifies that he thinks all exercises below are good, but “some have a slight advantage over others and, of course, this is very individual.” In the end, Nippard then exemplifies 3 exercises he believes everyone should avoid if you are looking to build chest muscle.

However, Jeff Nippard can be regarded as a voice of reason and knowledge inside the fitness industry and you should take his advice seriously. So check out his list of the best and worst chest exercises to build muscle.

Best and Worst Chest Exercises to Build Muscle

Each exercise has been ranked from 0 to 5 stars based on:

  • Personal enjoyment – is it fun to do the exercise
  • Tension potential – does the exercise apply tension to the targeted muscle
  • Progressive overload potential – can you keep driving progress easily
  • Convenience – do most gyms have the equipment to do the exercise and can most do it without having to waste a ridiculous amount of time to set it up

Read More: The Best Way to Isolate the Chest for Growth


10. AMRAP Push-Up – 3/5

Push-ups for as many reps as possible, or until failure. The problem with this exercise, for Jeff, is that it takes a high volume of the movement before he begins feeling his chest being challenged.

9. Dumbbell Stretch Iso-Hold – 3/5

In this exercise, you will hold a pair of dumbbells and hold them at the bottom position for 60 seconds. It is recommended to pick a weight around 50% of your 5-rep max.

This may be slightly less effective because the muscle does not go through a full range of motion.

8. Pec Flye Machine – 3.5/5

Nippard believes this exercise is not ranked higher because of the difficulty of progressively overloading it. Yes, you can keep adding weight, but it might get harder to keep feeling your pecs being activated or to keep your technique correct.

7. Cable Crossover Ladder – 3.5/5

This exercise allows you to individually target the upper, mid and lower pec of your chest with just one piece of equipment.

6. The Dip – 4/5

The only reason this exercise is not ranked higher for Nippard is that he doesn’t enjoy it very much. He overloads it by utilising a belt attached to a weight plate and that, in his words, can be annoying.

5. Deficit Push-Up + Resistance Bands – 4/5

The deficit part of the exercise puts extra tension at the bottom, and utilising a resistance band creates extra tension at the top of the movement.

4. Incline Dumbbell Press – 4/5

The reason this exercise does not rank higher is to set up a pair of heavy dumbbells before beginning the exercise, which can exert some form of fatigue before you even begin counting reps.

3. Cable Press-Around – 4.5/5

This looks like a single-arm cable crossover, but the set-up gives more range of motion in the fully contracted position.

2. Machine Chest Press – 4.5/5

“In my experience, a good press machine creates a better mind-muscle connection with the pecs than almost any other movement because you don’t have to worry about stabilising so you can focus all your attention on engaging the pecs.”

  1. Bench Press – 5/5

Of course, it had to be the bench press. This exercise checks all the boxes according to Nippard. As long as you are including another chest exercise, your pecs will get the best out of the bench press with its high overload.

Related: 4 Best Exercises to Improve Your Bench Press

Best and Worse Chest Exercises to Build MuscleSource: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels


  1. Standing Plate Press – 1/5

This is more of a delt exercise rather than a chest exercise due to gravity.

  • Alternating One-Arm Dumbbell Press – 1.5/5

Giving your pec a mini rest between each rep is not detrimental as long as you do the reps to failure, but Nippard does not trust this to be optimal.

  • Dumbbell Pullover – 1.5/5

This targets the lats, triceps and teres muscles of the back and the only chest activation you get is when you squeeze your pec at the top.

VIDEO – Best and Worst Chest Exercises to Build Muscle

Read More: 6 Tough Chest Workouts to Build Strength, Muscle and Mass

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