HomeFitnessThe BEST Chest Exercises For Building Muscle Mass

The BEST Chest Exercises For Building Muscle Mass

The Quest for a Big Chest

Just about every guy that goes to the gym will tell you one of his goals is to build a bigger chest, these same guys unfortunately are going about their chest workouts in a way that will not allow them to get the results they want.

The decline dumbbell fly, the cable crossover, the plate pinching press…

None of these exercises will develop the full, thick upper chest that so few have, yet many desire.

When it comes to building an impressive chest, or any muscle group for that matter there are a few key points that need to be considered including

The targeted muscle group

The decline fly is an isolation exercise for the chest that works the outside portion of the lower chest. Regardless of how heavy or how many reps you do on an isolation exercise like this you’ll never build the size you’re after because you’re targeting the muscle incorrectly.

The progressive overload

In order to build both size and strength a muscle, in this case the chest, must be subject to progressive overload. Progressive overload (an increase in tension on the muscle) is applied by gradually increasing the weight being lifted.

A push-up and a barbell bench press are both chest exercises, however the bench press is far more effective because more and more weight can be added to the bar, with bodyweight exercises such as the push-up (even when weighted) the same tension can’t be replicated.

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Pull-Ups Alternative: 5 Exercises To Replace Pull-Ups In Your Routine

The rep range utilized (aka. Is it practical to go heavy?)

In order to grow big we need to lift big. Isolation exercises (which we’ve discussed already aren’t particularly effective) can be downright dangerous when performed with heavy weight in the low rep range.

For example, both a weighted dip and an incline dumbbell press can safely be performed in this low rep range with heavy weight, but when compared to a dumbbell fly it’s that much harder to maintain strict form – which in turn leads to potential injury and poor form.

Build Upper Chest Size & Strength with the Incline Barbell Bench Press


The barbell bench press is the ultimate mass builder for the chest, with emphasis placed on the upper chest giving it that 'full' look.

3 Reasons Why the Incline Barbell Bench Press is the Most Effective Chest Exercise

The Incline Barbell Bench Press Targets the Upper Chest

When it comes to building an aesthetic chest the upper portion of the chest, targeted by performing incline presses is king.
A large upper chest gives the full, pumped chest look that most guys are after. Meanwhile too much work on the decline bench can lead to a droopy looking chest due too much lower chest development.

See also
5 Power Tower Workouts For Functional Full-Body Strength

The Incline Barbell Bench Press is Safe For Heavy Lifting

Unlike exercises such as the fly and lateral raise which are downright dangerous to perform at heavy weight as keeping correct form is near impossible the incline barbell bench press is not a problem.
Provided you have good form, a spotter or the rails set up correctly in a power rack you're good to go!

There's Endless Progression With the Incline Barbell Bench Press

6 years ago I struggled to bench press an olympic barbell without any weight on it.
Today my incline barbell bench press is continuing to progress in weight while my chest continues to grow.
This is not an exercise you need to 'cycle in and out of your routine' like fitness magazines and personal trainers tell you - the incline barbell bench press is, in my mind undoubtedly the best bang for your buck chest exercise that you can continue to progress on.


How To Incline Bench Press Correctly


Set up an incline bench in front of a weight rack, making sure you adjust the incline to a comfortable position. The back of the bench should be facing the weight stack.

Sit on the bench placing your back firmly against the backrest.

See also
The Scott Press: The Best Shoulder Exercise You've Never Heard Of

Using an overhand grip, grasp the bar with your hands spaced about twice your shoulder width apart.

Lift the bar from the rack by pushing up with your chest muscles and hold it straight over your chest with your arms fully extended. This is the start position.

As you inhale, lower the barbell slowly until it touches your upper chest.

Hold for a count of one while squeezing your chest muscles.

Return to the start position as you exhale,  pushing the bar using your chest muscles. Hold for a count of one.

But What About Dumbbells?


The incline dumbbell press is another great chest exercise that I'd recommend you add to your arsenal. However, the barbell remains king.
Progressive overload with dumbbells can be quite difficult unless you have a complete array from 40lbs to 140lbs. The range of motion with smaller, lighter dumbbells can be superior to that  of the barbell, however when it comes time to lift heavy the sheer size of the dumbbells can limit your range of motion.

What's your take on the incline barbell bench press? Let me know in the comments below!

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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