11 of the Best Chest Exercises for Mass

chest-workout-for-mass

Let’s admit something: everyone wants to look like a fitness model.

It may not be your number one priority; you may not be able to put in the hours, suffer the deprivation, and endure the pain it takes to develop a world-class physique. But let’s face it, if exercise was great for us but didn’t influence the way we looked, we probably wouldn’t do it. We exercise, in large part, to look awesome. And if looking good is the goal, chest workouts for mass should be a priority.

And there’s no more exhaustive a compilation of moves for your chest than the workouts of Beachbody On Demand, where you’ll find hundreds of chest-building moves. First, some background on the muscles of the chest.

Anatomy of the chest

Few parts of the body scream fitness louder than the pectoral muscles, the twin slabs of sinew that cover your chest from your sternum to your shoulder joints like a pair of fan-shaped flagstones.

The larger pectoral muscle — the pectorals major — has two heads, one attaching to the sternum, the other to the collarbone. Both heads fuse together and attach to the upper arm, just below your shoulder. The smaller pectoral muscle — the pectorals minor — lies beneath the pec major, and attaches at the upper ribs and the anterior side of the shoulder blade.

The function of these muscles is straightforward: “The chest muscles pull your arm to the midline of your body from various angles,” explains Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun.

Though it’s impossible to “isolate” part of a muscle, you can emphasize certain fibers of the pectoral muscle group with different movements and angles: press your arm forward and up, you’ll hit mostly the upper chest; forward and down, the lower chest. In life and sport, the pecs allow you to push, squeeze, hug, crush, and carry. Aesthetically, they’re the centerpiece of your physique, connoting strength, power, and courage.

11 Chest Exercises to Build Muscle Mass

Because the pecs are so large, you have to be thorough to build them, and for that, we’ve got you covered. Below are some of the best mass-building chest exercises known to humankind, all pulled from Beachbody On Demand’s extensive library of fitness and bodybuilding workouts. Work a few of them into your workout two to three times a week.

Decline dumbbell press


Appears in: Body Beast – Beast Up: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps

Benefits: This exercise works the entire chest, with special emphasis on the lower chest muscles. This is also one of the safer pressing angles for your shoulders.

• Keeping your core braced, lie back on a decline bench, holding a pair of medium-to-heavy dumbbells at arm’s length over your chest, with your palms facing your feet.

• With your feet flat on the floor, slowly lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest.

• Pause and then push the weights back up to the starting position.

Power push-up


Appears in: INSANITY – Max Interval Plyo

Benefits: This move forces the chest muscles to perform explosively — helping to stimulate your biggest, strongest muscle fibers — while also targeting your abs, and building full-body power and athleticism.

• From a standing position, bend your knees slightly, and fold forward at the hip joints. This is your starting position.

• Place your hands on the floor as you jump your feet back into a push-up position.

• Keeping your core braced and your body straight from head to heels, lower your chest as close to the floor as possible.

• Push yourself back up explosively so your hands come off the floor, and simultaneously jump your feet forward, returning to the starting position.

Floor fly


Appears in: P90X3 – Incinerator

Benefits: This more limited variation on the movement forces the pecs to start from a fully stretched position, placing a fuller range of tension on the muscles while minimizing work performed by the triceps and deltoids.

• Lie back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat, holding a pair of medium-weight dumbbells directly over your chest with your palms facing each other. Make sure not to lock your elbows.

• Keeping your arms slightly bent, slowly lower the dumbbells out to the sides until your upper arms lightly touch the floor.

• Pause and return to the starting position.

Spiderman push-up


Appears in: Autumn’s BOD Exclusives – Kill Cupcake

Benefits: The unusual positioning of this move places the “forward” hand in a mechanically adverse position, which sears the upper head of the pectoralis major. As a bonus, the stepping component helps improve hip mobility and core strength.

• Assume a push-up position: arms straight, hands slightly wider than your shoulders, core braced, and body straight from head to heels.

• As you lower your chest to the floor, swing your right foot out and forward, bringing your right knee as close to your right elbow as possible, and place your foot on the floor, while simultaneously walking your left hand forward six to 12 inches.

• Return to the starting position and alternate the movement, stepping your left foot and right hand forward. Perform equal reps on both sides.

Dumbbell bench press


Appears in: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel – Max Hammer Strength

Benefits: This variation on the classic bench press forces your two sides to work equally, thus ensuring that your weaker side pulls its share of the weight.

• Lie back on a sturdy, padded bench, feet flat on the floor, holding two heavy dumbbells at arm’s length over your chest, palms facing forward.

• Slowly lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest.

• Pause and push the weights to the starting position.

Bear stance sandbag slide push-up


Appears in: Shift Shop – Super Strength :50 (as “Sticky Bear”)

Benefits: This push-up variation employs extends the pectoral muscles’ time under tension, a proven factor in muscle growth.

• Assume an all-fours “bear” position — hands under shoulders, knees under hips, back straight — with a sandbag or weight plate on the floor between your knees.

• Lift your knees off the floor a couple of inches, then grab the bag/plate with your right hand and slide it forward along the floor until it’s below your head.

• Keeping your knees off the floor, walk your hands forward until you assume a push-up position — hands slightly wider than your shoulders, core braced, body straight from head to heels — and perform a push-up.

• With your right hand, return the bag/plate to its starting position, and walk your hands back to the bear position.

• Repeat the movement, this time using your left hand to move the bag/plate. Do equal reps on both sides.

Staggered push-up


Appears in: P90X3 – The Challenge

Benefits: This variation offers another way to hit the pecs in a mechanically disadvantageous position, allowing you to work your chest harder with fewer reps.

• Start in a push-up position: arms straight, hands slightly wider than your shoulders, core braced, and body straight from head to heels.

• Keeping the fingers of both hands pointing forward, step your right hand directly back and your left hand forward six inches each. This is your starting position.

• Lower yourself to the floor as far as you can, pause, and push yourself back up to the starting position.

• Repeat, switching the position of your hands on the next set.

Make it easier: Perform the move on your knees.

Cable chest fly


Appears in: Sagi’s BOD Exclusives — The Equipment Room: Chest and Tris

Benefits: This machine version of the classic chest exercise maintains tension on the muscle fibers through their entire range of motion, from a stretched to a fully contracted position.

• With the pulleys on a dual cable machine set to chest height, stand between the two stacks and grab the handles.

• Keeping your back straight and core engaged, raise your arms directly out to your sides with your palms facing forward, and walk forward to create tension on the cables.

• Bend your elbows slightly, making sure not to let them travel behind your shoulders, and stand with one foot in front of the other. This is your starting position.

• Pull your hands toward each other in wide arcs in front of you, pausing when your knuckles touch before slowly returning to the starting position.

Plyometric push-up


Appears in: P90X3 – Complex Upper (as “X Plyo Push-Up”)

Benefits: This full-body athletic movement trains the pectoral muscles to fire explosively, stimulating your type-II fibers (the ones with the biggest potential for mass).

• Assume a push-up position: arms straight, hands slightly wider than your shoulders, core braced, and body straight from head to heels.

• Keeping your core engaged, lower your chest as far as possible toward the floor, then explosively push your entire body upward — hands and feet — off the floor as high as possible.

• While in midair, rotate your body to the right (like the clockwise rotation of a spinner on a dial), and land again in the push-up position.

• Repeat the move, this time rotating your body in the other direction. Do equal reps in each direction.

Tricep push-up


Appears in: Joel’s BOD Exclusives: Lift & HIIT – Full Body X Press

Benefits: Requiring hand positioning that’s closer to midline and slightly lower than usual, this push-up variation emphasizes the lower chest without overtaxing the shoulder joints.

• Assume a close-grip push-up position: arms straight, hands slightly narrower than shoulder width, core braced, and body straight from head to heels. This is your starting position.

• Keeping your body straight, and your elbows close to your sides, lower your chest as far as possible toward the floor.

• Push yourself back up to the starting position.

Decline push-up


Appears in: Body Beast – Beast Up: Chest, Shoulders, & Tris

Benefits: This challenging variation on the classic push-up gives beginners a level to shoot for after they’ve mastered the flat version, and allows advanced trainees to work the muscles harder with fewer reps.

• With your hands on the floor and your feet elevated on a sturdy bench or box, assume a standard push-up position: arms straight, hands slightly wider than your shoulders, core braced, and body straight from head to heels. This is your starting position.

• Keeping your body straight and core engaged, lower your chest as far as possible toward the floor.

• Slowly return to the starting position.

Make it easier: Try the move with your hands elevated on a sturdy bench or box.

Eating for Mass

If you truly want to build chest muscles, you’ll also need to pay attention to your diet, particularly your protein intake, which should average about 1.2–2 grams per kilogram of desired lean bodyweight. So if you currently weigh a lean 190 and you’re hoping to slap on 15 pounds of mass, you need to take in about 104–173 grams of protein per day. That’s a lot of beef — probably more than you’re used to getting, which is where science swoops in with supplementation and nutrients to support your muscle-building efforts.

Protein: A great tool for supplementing this building block of muscle tissue is a post-workout shake. Just make sure it contains 20 grams of protein per serving — the amount found in Beachbody Performance Recover.

You can further capitalize on the muscle repair that takes place during sleep with a supplement like Beachbody Performance Recharge, which contains the slow-release protein casein, as well as tart cherry powder, which has been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Creatine: One of few proven performance-enhancing supplements, creatine has been shown to help boost power, and — most relevantly — give you added strength to push further into your workouts, ultimately accelerating muscle growth. You’ll want to ensure it takes the form of creatine monohydrate, the safest, least expensive, and most effective version of the supplement, found in Beachbody Performance Creatine.