All the benches at the gym taken? Don't abandon chest day—hammer your pecs with these moves instead.
Ryan Rodal for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 9
Beyond the Bench
Just because it’s chest day doesn’t mean you're relegated to park your backside on a bench for your session. While the bench is a valuable tool for overall chest strength, it can place excess stress on the delts, which can be tough for those with injured shoulders. For pure pec muscle growth, there are several exercises that will get you off the bench and on your way to chest growth in PECtacular fashion.
Try mixing it up by performing these 8 exercises to hit the chest from all different angles. Once you begin incorporating these movements into your chest workout, you’ll be noticing a thicker, fuller, more developed chest in no time flat.
The landmine press is a simple yet innovative movement designed to mainly target the upper portion of the chest muscles. To set up this exercise, place a standard Olympic barbell in the corner (use a towel so you don't scratch up the walls) or on a landmine attachment. Add the appropriate amount of weight to the other end of the bar.
Grab the weighted end with one hand. From a standing position, push the bar upwards. This will place extra emphasis on growing the upper portion of the chest.
Dips look basic and simple, but these highly effective exercises can be surprisingly challenging. Find the nearest dip station and grip the equipment with both hands slightly further apart than you would in a conventional triceps dip. Concentrate on tilting your body downwards as opposed to upright to fully engage the chest muscles—you'll find your pecs will take some heat from every angle when performing this exercise.
The beauty of cable crossovers is the different variations you can use to hammer the chest muscles from a variety of angles.
The difference between a crossover and a standard flye is the end of the movement. For the cable crossover, bring the arms towards each other forming an “X” shape at the end of each rep to stimulate the inner pectoral portion of the chest.
Probably the most basic bodyweight exercise around, the pushup is a standard fitness test for Navy SEALS, hardcore CrossFitters, and little kids alike. Mix up this gym-class staple by performing the pushup off a medicine ball or elevating your legs by placing feet on steps to hit different portions of the chest.
Start with your arms just slightly wider than shoulder width, and lower yourself until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Keep your body in a plank, and make sure you hold your elbows as close to your body as possible.
If your bench press has hit a plateau, the floor press is a surefire way to completely break down that barrier. Simply lie with your back on the floor and get underneath the bar to perform the pressing movement in the same manner as a conventional bench press. Since the repetition ends once your triceps hit the floor, you'll find you can typically lift more weight with a floor press than you would ordinarily be able to do with a standard bench press. The floor press will greatly help you improve the lockout portion of the press if it’s a weak point for you.
Lots of guys are skeptical of gym machines, but the classic pec flye machine is a great way to hit your pecs from all angles while minimizing stress on your shoulders.
While performing this pec variation, try not to go too heavy. Instead, focus on making that ever-so-important mind/muscle connection. Squeeze at the center of the movement to really activate the inner portion of the chest. To increase the difficulty slightly, try using one arm at a time for a unilateral pec flye variation.
Much like the standard pushup, the BOSU variation is a great finisher that burns out the pectoral muscles while simultaneously engaging various regions of the core.
Set your hands on the sides of a BOSU ball with the rounded side facing the floor. Slowly lower your body towards the base in a 4-second count before bringing it back up again in a slow and controlled manner. This unique variation is a great way to work your abdominals while improving stability and overall functionality.
For a Svend Press, you'll need a plate, but no barbell. From a standing position, hold a 45-pound plate (or, for a greater range of motion, two 25-pound plates) at chest level and begin pushing the weight outwards using two hands, while simultaneously squeezing your chest muscles. Slowly return the weight back to your chest and repeat the movement. This form of the press will help create definition in the inner portion of the pec muscles, as well as challenging your shoulders.