Classic chest exercises

People who are heavily into weight training spend a lot of time focusing on chest strength, because the chest is a pivotal part of the anatomy that links to other areas and makes a big difference to how your body looks and performs.

One of the big mistakes people make with chest exercises is to try to do too much, too soon. As with most types of exercise, a steadily building routine is the best approach.

Here are some of the most well-known and proven chest exercises, and how to get started in them.


Do not underestimate or overlook the simple pushup. Many of the world’s top athletes stand by the efficiency and effectiveness of pushups, and some even use them exclusively as a chest workout.

When performed properly, the pushup works the pectoral muscles, but requires stabilization through the back and core. This means it is very much a functional strength exercise.

Position yourself with your hands flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart, fingers spread. Place your feet not far apart from each other. Keeping your body as flat and straight as possible, lower yourself to an inch off the ground slowly, then return to the starting position. Keep your gaze firmly between your hands, and your neck comfortable.

Aim for three sets of ten (beginner), three sets of twenty (intermediate), or three sets of thirty (advanced).

Dumbbell press

Although plenty of people stand by the bench press, the dumbbell press is probably a better all round exercise and it is less likely to injure you. You will need a Swiss ball and some appropriate dumbbell weights. Remember to start light, you can always go heavy later. You also need someone to spot you.

Position the centre of your shoulder blades in the middle of the ball. Steady your feet a little wider than shoulder width, and ensure they are firmly planted. Get the spotter to pass you the weights.

Extend your arms directly towards the ceiling, and you should be able to imagine a straight line traveling from the centre of your chest, through the extended dumbbells and to the ceiling. This means you have got the dumbbells in the correct position. As you lower the dumbbells, don’t lower too far, because you could risk shoulder damage.

Aim for three sets of eight, ensuring that the weight is sufficient so that the eighth rep is almost too hard to complete.

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