young man doing a chest press in the gym with a friend spotting him

When working on improving your upper body, the chest is one of the first things people notice. So it's inevitable that when it comes to training, you want to get it right.

However, discussing the ins and outs of how to get the perfect pecs is a discussion that could probably go on forever.

But with a set of weights and a good quality weight bench, there's nothing holding you back from achieving your goals.

To help, we've put together the best exercises you should be doing to build and strengthen your chest.

The bench press

Points to remember:

  • To get the most out of your bench press workout, you want to make sure your chest is fully extended when you work out. To do this, you need to:
  • Have your feet flat with a firm grip on the ground to push up from.
  • Keep your hips down and make sure you don't lift them off the bench at any point during this exercise.
  • Curve your spine and bring your elbows down, past the weight bench when in their lowest position, around 45 degrees away from your body.
  • Keep your wrists as straight as possible to ensure a solid grip and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Remember the bar path shouldn't be vertical. It starts at the top at around eye level. You then bring the bar down so that it's over your chest, and push back up again following a steep diagonal gradient.

Take it to the next level:

Bench pressing on a flat weight bench allows you a good amount of stability – especially when pressing a heavy weight load. However, by using an adjustable weight bench, you can angle your bench presses which will allow you to target different areas around the chest. Just remember to keep your chest fully extended. Also, to do this you're more likely going to be using dumbbells rather than a barbell. Drop the weight down a little so that you're able to maintain your control.

young man doing a bench press using olympic weights on an olympic bar

The push up

Points to remember:

  • Push ups are so common, most of us don't take the time to think about the details when doing them. There are however, a few things to remember when performing this classic exercise:
  • Keep your hands in line with your shoulders and tuck your arms in as you go down – like the bench press, sticking your elbows out will only put you at risk of injuring your shoulders.
  • Keep your core tight and your glutes clenched – this helps you keep your body locked in place so that you maintain a straight spine and consistent weight load over your arms.
  • Inhale as you go down and exhale as you go back up again. This helps you to push back up again as your core tightens to breathe out.
  • Move as one solid unit and make sure your back doesn't arch or drop.

Take it to the next level:

There's lots to be said for keeping things simple and doing them right. The classic push up is really great for working both your chest and triceps. Take things up a notch by narrowing your hand position and adding in Spiderman push ups, clap push ups and pause push ups.

Increase the weight load over your chest by doing decline push ups. Place your feet on a weight bench with your hands on the floor, and follow the same core principles as you would for the classic push up. Because of the angle, it's easy to let your core drop while doing decline push ups. So, it's a good idea to ask a friend to watch your form when you first start out.

young man doing a decline push up

Dumbbell flies

Dumbbell flies are great for helping you isolate and target your pecs.

Points to remember:

  • Like when you do a bench press, you want to make sure you adopt a similar position with your feet flat on the ground, your hips down and your back arched.
  • Take your arms out at a 90 degree angle to your body while maintaining a slight bend in your elbow.
  • Raise the dumbbells up until they're directly above your shoulders. Keep your shoulders down and your back arched. 
  • Breathe out as you move your arms up and out as you move them back down again. 
  • Remember to focus on working your chest, not your arms.

Take it to the next level:

This exercises is great for isolating your chest muscles. Target the full chest area by varying your bench and hand position. You may want to perform this exercise lying down, but with your palms facing forward rather than upwards.

Or, sit upright and perform the same exercise to do butterflies.

And, if you have the equipment or are a member of a gym, you can use the cables to do cable crossover flies – also known as standing cable crossovers. These require a good amount of control to make sure your arms move back into position slowly and carefully on each rep.

young man doing dumbbell flies on a mirafit weight bench

Looking for a balanced workout? Work your back as well as your chest to ensure a good posture and avoid injury. Check out our feature on best back exercises to find out how you can complement your chest routine.

Any questions? Find us on Instagram and Facebook @MirafitOfficial.