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Chest Exercises Ranked Best to Worst

Change up your chest workout based on this list.

Some exercises are better than others for different reasons. If today is chest day, or it is coming up and you want to make sure you got the best movements down in your training program, check out the best chest exercises ranked best to worst.

Jeff Cavaliere, renowned for his tenure as the head physical therapist of the New York Mets and now a YouTube sensation with his ATHLEAN-X channel, cuts through the noise to provide clear insights regarding the best and worst chest exercises.

In a video, Cavaliere meticulously ranked 15 chest exercises, unveiling a hierarchy of efficacy. At the bottom of the list sits the dumbbell fly, labelled as the worst choice, signalling potential drawbacks and risks. Surprisingly, the push-up, a staple for many gym-goers, doesn’t clinch the top spot as the best chest exercise according to Cavaliere’s discerning analysis.

If you are striving to build a bigger chest and enhance strength, one must navigate through numerous chest exercises. The focus shifts to discerning the most effective ones. The following video presents a ranking of popular chest exercises, from least to most favourable, aiding viewers in making informed choices.

The video outlines criteria for selecting chest exercises, detailed within its content. Emphasis is placed on factors such as a steep learning curve or heavy equipment reliance, which may impact the ranking of certain exercises.

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Chest Exercises Ranked Best to Worst

Commencing with the least preferable, the list progresses from the best to worst chest exercises:

BEST:

  • Barbell Bench Press / DB Bench Press

Undoubtedly, the Barbell Bench Press and DB Bench Press claim the top spot as the ultimate chest exercises. Despite some limitations in adduction, they allow for lifting the most weight and facilitate progressive overload, making them supreme choices.

For an added boost, the video suggests incorporating the 1-Arm Crossover as a drop set after a set of either bench press version, elevating chest gains to new heights.

barbell bench press vs dumbbell bench pressSource: RP Strength / CrossFit Inc.

However, that is NOT the best chest exercise according to Mike Israetel, another renowned fitness coach in the bodybuilding community. You can find out which one is the best exercise and, to be honest, you probably have never done it before.

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ALMOST BEST:

  • Dip (weighted optional and twisting optional) step up from push-up
  • Heavy 1-Arm Crossovers
  • 30-Degree / 45-Degree Incline Bench Press

The 1-arm crossover allows you to go heavy and makes your core not activate as much, compared to doing a crossover with two arms. Get full abduction across the midline.

BETTER STILL:

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

Twisting Pushups elevate the challenge, enhancing chest growth. Cable Crossovers are praised for superior resistance through adduction, with the caveat of balance considerations. The Bench Cable Press is a favored method for stimulating chest muscle growth, though not optimal for maximal bench press strength. Dumbbell Upper Chest Pullovers offer a unique approach for upper chest fiber recruitment.

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BETTER:

  • Pushups
  • Floor Flys
  • Underhand Dumbbell Bench Press

Standard pushups may be too basic for significant growth stimulus, but they serve their purpose in certain contexts. Floor Flys offer improvement but are constrained by limited resisted adduction. The Underhand dumbbell Bench Press caters to those without an incline bench, emphasizing the importance of proper shoulder mobility.

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WORST:

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

Bench Flys occupy the lowest rank due to heightened risk to the shoulder joint and the existence of safer alternatives. The Standing Cable Press, despite favoring exercises on feet, is criticized for weak core engagement. The incline bench press, when too steep, shifts focus to the front deltoid rather than the chest. The WTF Blaster is a dig at another fitness influencer who Cavaliere does not take seriously.

These exercises are recognized as top-tier choices for building a substantial chest. Specific reasons for their effectiveness are detailed in the video.

For a full explanation of each of them and why Cavaliere thinks they are ranked in each position, watch the video below.

VIDEO – Chest Exercises Ranked Best to Worst

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Training your chest can have a number of benefits for your overall fitness and physical health. Here are some reasons why you might want to train your chest:

  1. Strengthening your chest muscles: Chest exercises like bench press, push-ups, and dumbbell flyes can help you build stronger chest muscles. This can improve your overall upper body strength and make it easier to perform daily activities that require pushing or pulling.
  2. Aesthetics: A well-developed chest can enhance the appearance of your upper body, giving you a more balanced and proportional physique.
  3. Improved posture: A strong chest can also help improve your posture by pulling your shoulders back and helping you maintain a more upright position.
  4. Increased metabolism: Chest exercises can also help boost your metabolism, which can help you burn more calories throughout the day.
  5. Improved athletic performance: A strong chest can improve your performance in a variety of sports and activities that require upper body strength, such as basketball, football, and rock climbing.
crossfit womenSource: Photos Courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Overall, training your chest can have numerous benefits for your physical health, appearance, and athletic performance. It’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises into your chest workout routine to ensure that you’re targeting all the muscles in your chest, as well as other muscles in your upper body.

How Often Should You Train the Chest?

The frequency at which you should train your chest depends on several factors such as your fitness goals, overall fitness level, and your training program.

In general, it is recommended that you train your chest muscles at least once per week to see improvements in strength and muscle growth. However, some individuals may benefit from training their chest more frequently, such as 2-3 times per week, especially if they are more experienced lifters and are looking to target specific areas of the chest.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t train your chest muscles on consecutive days as this can lead to overtraining and increase the risk of injury. Additionally, it’s important to allow your muscles to rest and recover between workouts, so that they have time to repair and grow.

Overall, the frequency at which you should train your chest will depend on your individual goals and fitness level, so it’s best to consult with a certified fitness professional who can help you design a personalized workout plan that meets your needs.

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How Heavy Should you Lift When Training for Muscle Growth?

When training for muscle growth (hypertrophy), the weight you lift, often referred to as the training load or intensity, is an important factor to consider. Here are some guidelines to help determine how heavy you should lift:

Use a weight that challenges you: To promote muscle growth, it’s important to use a weight that challenges your muscles. This means selecting a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions within the hypertrophy rep range (generally 8 to 12 reps) with proper form, while also feeling challenging towards the end of each set.

Choose a weight that elicits fatigue: The weight you select should cause fatigue in the target muscles by the end of each set. You should feel a sense of muscular burn or fatigue during the final few reps, indicating that the weight is appropriately challenging.

Progressive overload: To continue building muscle, it’s crucial to gradually increase the demands on your muscles over time. This can be achieved through progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the weight you lift as your muscles adapt and grow stronger. Aim to progressively increase the weight as you become more comfortable with a certain weight range to continue stimulating muscle growth.

Form and technique: While it’s important to challenge yourself with heavier weights, it’s equally important to prioritize proper form and technique. Lifting weights that are too heavy and compromise your form can increase the risk of injury and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Focus on maintaining good form throughout each repetition, even when using challenging weights.

Individual capabilities: The appropriate weight will vary depending on your individual capabilities, strength level, and experience. What may be heavy for one person might be light for another. It’s important to listen to your body and select weights that are appropriate for your current fitness level.

Variation in training: Incorporating a variety of rep ranges and training modalities can be beneficial for overall muscle development. While the hypertrophy rep range (8-12 reps) is commonly associated with muscle growth, including both higher rep ranges (12-15+) and lower rep ranges (6-8) in your training can provide different stimuli and promote well-rounded muscle development.

Remember, finding the right weight is a process of trial and error. Start with a weight that challenges you within the recommended rep range, and adjust as needed based on your individual capabilities and progression. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can also provide guidance and help you determine the appropriate weight selection for your specific goals and needs.

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