Can CrossFit Build Chest Muscle Mass?

Includes an effective workout from Marcus Filly.

Developing the chest muscles is a priority for many athletes going to the gym these days, but do you require all chest machines or can a training style like CrossFit build chest muscle mass?

Whether you find chest routines in the gym boring or simply like the CrossFit training style, Functional Bodybuilding founder Marcus Filly goes over his thoughts and experience building chest muscle mass with CrossFit.

“I’ll show you how training as fun and varied as CrossFit can still be super effective for muscle development when used correctly,” he says.

While going through ten different machines for three sets every time you train your chest is an effective way to build muscle, the training can get boring if you’re training to be fit for life. Therefore, a routine that you enjoy while being effective is key, says Filly.

Can CrossFit build chest muscle mass?

Filly’s experience with developing his chest muscles was that people commented and asked about the topic more during his CrossFit career than when he was training in a traditional bodybuilding style before.

crossfit games individuals day 1 recap

After years of training and competing, he came up with an understanding of the way the different methodologies impact chest development. This is what he learnt:

Aerobic push and pull chest development

Workouts with a lot of upper body pushing while being slightly aerobically fatigued seem to be incredibly effective. For example a combination of rowing with upper body pushing exercises.

This aerobic exercise fatigues some of the stabiliser muscles that you use for pushing, says Filly. “When you row a bunch, we get our upper back more fatigued and when we go to push, those muscles don’t do as good at stabilising for the bench press or dips.

“As a result, the pushing muscles in the pushing segments of this training format are going to have to work that much harder.”

Dips are king

Dips train your shoulder muscles to such a deep range of motion that your chest muscles get stretched massively too.

With CrossFit training involving countless muscle-ups and ring dips, these were some of the only chest-focused exercise Filly did for years.

Burpees are powerful

Burpees are like the ultimate plyometric push-up, says Filly. The exercise allows you to throw your entire bodyweight from a standing position onto the floor with a lot of speed, “what you get is a massive eccentric or negative contraction on the chest when you catch yourself,” he says.

“Follow that up with an explosive push-up so that you can jump back onto your feet and burpees are the ultimate plyo push-up.

How to develop the chest?

To train chest you have to perform pushing exercises with the upper body. Mostly in the horizontal plane but there are a couple of adjustments and variations you can make.

“Going back to my CrossFit sport experience, I found that when we performed moderate to high reps muscle contractions under some aerobic fatigue, I would always get this massive pump in the local muscles,” says Filly. More so than when he’d do the bodybuilding exercises by themselves.

Sample workout

Athletic Muscle Chest SuperSet

Slow + Fast

4 Sets

  • A1. Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press; 41X0 x 6 reps

Rest 15sec

  • A2. Burpees As Fast As Possible; x 12reps

Rest 2mins and repeat from A1

Aerobic Bodybuilding

4 Rounds:

  • Row 20/16 Cals
  • 20 Alternating Incline DB Chest Press

Followed by 4 Rounds:

  • Row 20/16 Cals
  • 15 Dips

This session should take around 30 minutes.

Learn why this workout is so effective by watching the video below. The include:

  • Wide and narrow grip
  • Slow followed by fast
  • Unilateral training
  • Incline and decline angles
  • Bodyweight resistance training to full range of motion
  • Opposing muscle groups and cardio

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