Building up the muscles in the chest is a common goal in the gym for many men. The strong, curved shape that inevitably comes with a serious chest routine is one that is deemed to be desirable for many men. With a commitment to regular exercise, this shape and this strength is within reach, and can also benefit your health in other ways. For example, When you work hard to improve the muscles in your chest you can enjoy improved posture, enhanced upper body performance and a lowered risk of injury.

Your chest is made up of two muscle groups - the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major has several important functions, such as lifting the arms and enabling you to throw things. The pectoralis minor is primarily concerned with stabilizing the shoulder blades. 

So, what are the best exercises for building up the chest with maximum efficiency?

Barbell Bench Press

Barbell lifts are a great way to generate power and using the bench will support you in your lift. The use of the barbell is beneficial for maintaining control over the weight. Make sure you start with the weight of the barbell on your chest and then extend your arms up without locking your elbows. You can then lower the barbell back down and continue for the pre-determined rep - set pattern that you are working on. 

Mixing up your training with this exercise by varying your grip on the barbell is a good idea. Move out of your comfort zone to try a wide grip and also a shorter grip during a different session. This will help to target different muscles as well as keeping yourself challenged.

Low-Incline Barbell Bench Press

When you lift the barbell at a low-incline you will be targeting the pecs and placing less stress on the delts. The Smith machine comes in very useful here as you can immediately go in for the incline. An additional benefit of the Smith machine is that your lift is semi-supported, so it's more feasible to train alone without a spotter. You may notice that your growth is slightly quicker with the low-incline barbell bench press than if you always stick to a flat bench for this exercise.

Seated Machine Chest Press

Free weights are fantastic for boosting the chest, but complimenting these activities with certain machines will also be very helpful. The seated machine chest press is a perfect example and one of the best machines that you can use for this purpose.

When you use this machine you will observe that it is easier to slow down and control your reps than it is with free weights. This machine is also easy to use when doing dropsets. Use of this machine requires less effort on your part to stabilise the weights and to maintain balance, which then makes it easier for you to target your pecs. This is a good exercise to do at the end of your routine as the machine allows you to build you pecs with minimal shoulder assistance, which is obviously useful if you are exhausted from your session!

Incline Dumbbell Press

When you hit the same muscle with different degrees of incline then you are going to build that muscle more effectively and efficiently.

This is an amazing exercise for your pecs and the sooner up the list you prioritise this exercise, the more weight you will be able to lift. Therefore doing this as the first, second or third exercise during your session is the best idea.

To maximise your efforts with this exercise you should rotate your dumbbells from the palms facing forwards position to your palms facing inwards as you reach the top of the lift.

Lat Pull-Down

Using this machine is great for your chest, as well as your shoulders and general upper body strength. A wide grip is a good position to start in and ensure that you are pulling the bar to the front of your upper chest. Try not to lean too far back and notice how your shoulder blades are retracting to ensure you are hitting the right muscle groups.


Push-ups are a tried and tested favourite for building chest muscles and the strength of the upper body. Varying the position of the hands is a good way to mix up this activity and to maximise the effect of push-ups. Studies suggest that a close grip is best, meaning your hands are positioned closer together than you usually might. As you progress with doing push-ups, and you find it easier to do a large number of them, you can ask your gym buddy to add a weight onto your back. Start with a small weight and see how comfortable you are doing push-ups with a weight before making it slightly heavier over time.