Optimize your chest day. How many chest-focused exercises are enough to grow your muscles but not tire you out?
Put your workout to the CHEST.
How many chest moves are too many when it comes to training these major muscles? Let’s take a look at what the optimal number of chest exercises is when you’re training.
We’ll review a few top chest exercises you can incorporate into your routine.
Plus, learn which chest moves are redundant and overtrain the same muscle groups.
Best Chest Exercises
The chest is one of the most important areas to train. Especially for men, getting a strong chest provides a key area of power for your body. It also, you know, looks pretty darn good as well.
But when we talk about “training chest,” there are a few different muscles at work. The chest muscles include the pectoralis major and minor muscles (pecs), serratus anterior, and front deltoid muscles.
These are the key workouts you should be focused on targeting during chest exercise.
The pectoralis major and minor muscles (pecs), serratus interior and front deltoid muscles go to work when you train your chest.
Both chest isolation moves and using the chest for total-body exercises can be killer steps in building your chest workout routine.
Here are some major moves you should be trying out for chest day.
If you’ve ever stepped foot in a gym, you’ve likely heard someone asking “How much do you bench?” The bench press is pretty much the king of chest moves. Flat barbell bench presses in particular are a great compound move that puts high strain on your chest to build muscle.
Incline Bench Press
Instead of a traditional bench press, lying flat on your back, this one puts you at an angle. An inclined position helps you activate the upper pecs. Research from the European Journal of Sports Science shows that a 30- 45-degree angle is best for activating the upper pec muscles of the chest when doing an inclined press.
On an incline, the movement focuses on the upper portion of your chest, like the upper pecs (pectoralis major). Because of the incline, you’ll want to use dumbbells rather than a barbell for this move since you don’t have gravity working in your favor.
Crush your chest and work the core at the same time. Push-ups are a no-brainer when adding some bodyweight exercise to your workout. They help you target chest muscles and get some abdominal engagement in for an added challenge.
This compound exercise is also great at keeping your shoulders healthy since it works your stability and rotation. Many of us don’t have mobile shoulder blades, so push-ups help work both scapular and retraction to keep the scapulae gliding.
If you’re new to push-ups, try a variation on your knees.
You can also try a decline push-up. Elevate the upper body by using a box or bench at the gym to bring your arms up and reduce the load.
Once you feel comfortable with the basic motion of a push-up and supporting your body weight, you’re ready to try push-ups in full form.
How Many Chest Exercises Per Workout
With so many great chest exercises to choose from, how do you pick?
And what is the ideal number of chest exercises in a chest day workout?
Anywhere from 1-4 exercises to train the chest is ideal. To optimize training the chest muscles without overdoing it, you want to pick about 2 to 3 chest moves as a sweet spot. Picking the right moves will help you hit multiple areas of your chest. This way, you don’t have to do as much and use up valuable energy.
- A pressing move. Like bench presses or incline bench presses. Although these are still compound movements bench presses will help you get familiar with putting more workload into your chest muscles.
- An isolation move. Try something like a dumbbell fly to isolate one muscle group. Although they work the deltoids (and biceps and triceps through the activating motion), dumbbell flys are focused on your pecs.
- A whole body moves. Using a movement to work the full body helps you think about using your chest to send power through your arms and core. This will help work your alignment and get you focused on how your body parts work all together. Try push-ups for full-body activation.
The Best Chest Workout Routine
So what does a great chest day look like?
If you’re a beginner, take a look through this quick and easy chest workout plan.
Chest Day Cheat Sheet
- Barbell bench press: 3 sets X 10 reps.
- Incline dumbbell press: 3 sets X 10 reps.
- Decline push-ups: 3-4 sets X 10 reps.
- Overhead press: 3 sets X 12 reps.
Snap a pic on your phone and carry this along with you as a cheat sheet for your next chest day! Once you’ve mastered the basic moves like the chest press, push-up, and chest fly, you may want to incorporate secondary movements into your chest workouts.
Training tip: Always make sure you’re warmed out before training a major muscle group like the chest. If you feel any pinching or tightness, it can be easy to pull muscles or injure yourself.
For a light warm-up, take a light dumbbell of no more than 5 pounds. At the shoulder, rotate your arm, making circles clockwise and counterclockwise.
You can also swing the arm across the body, or perform light, swinging lateral raises to engage the shoulders. Repeat these movements on the other side. By starting to work your range of motion and create some heat in your body using lighter weights, you’ll reduce the risk of injury with heavier weights.
Plus, using smaller weights won’t tire you out before the big lifts.
Chest day is more fun than leg day (for most of us at least). It can be easy to get carried away, overworking the chest muscles. Overtraining in general is something a lot of us fall victim to in the fitness community. But beyond simple muscle pain, it can have dangerous consequences, like strains, sprains, or injuries. Overtraining can even lead to illness, decreased immune function or extreme fatigue.
But here you are either A) doing more harm than good. Overloading the muscles without enough rest will only fatigue you and cause a longer wait time for your next chest day.
And B) getting redundant. Are you including an exercise that works the same muscles as another one?
Doubling up may seem like a good way to build strength. But it’s better to focus on different muscle groups for more complete chest work.
For instance, doing moves on an incline targets the upper chest. This can be helpful if you’re concerned with growing this area.
But it’s probably not necessary to do an inclined bench press AND inclined chest fly. This would be very upper-pec dominant. For more balanced work, try one of your moves from a declined or flat position instead.
Overtraining can also cause you to feel tired, or slack in your progress.
If you went too hard on your chest training day, take a step back. Assess and reflect on the moves you’re performing. If your muscles are fatiguing quickly or you’re failing on your sets, it may be necessary to try longer rest breaks or reduce your load.
Nutrition can also be a factor in why your workouts aren’t working. Making sure to balance protein and carbs will fuel your workouts. Supplements can help, too, if you’re needing an energy boost.
Plus, the chest is one of the sexiest body parts to develop. Find out how your chest training could make you look like a god: Greek God Workout.
Whether you’re hitting the chest, legs, core, or more, we’ve got you. Flex AI offers an all-in-one workout platform to help you learn new exercises, visualize your fitness journey, and keep all your PRs in one place.
We’ve made it simple to work on customized fitness plans or to introduce a little friendly competition to your fitness community by sharing exercises with your friends. Get started for free through the Flex fitness app.