Chest Exercises for a Sample Workout

Sample chest workouts to maintain and build strength

Why is it important to exercise your chest muscles and what chest exercises are best? Let's take a look at the different types of chest exercises, what you need to get started, and how you can create your own chest workout.

Importance of Chest Exercises

You probably know how important it is to work your chest, not just for strong muscles but to keep your upper body from losing muscle as you age. That is something that happens to all of us if we don't keep lifting weights.

We often take for granted what our chest muscles do for us. They allow us to do the dishes and wash our hair. They are important when we get down or rise up from the floor. They are important even for such taken-for-granted activities as opening a door. In addition to strengthening your chest as part of your fitness program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends older adults should perform chest exercises at least twice weekly.

The good news is that your chest muscles are some of the biggest in your upper body and, therefore, they're often nice and strong. Even better news is that there are a ton of great chest exercises to keep them that way. Below we will share a sample of this multitude of exercises that target your chest muscles.

Creating Your Own Chest Workout 

How should you build a basic chest exercise workout routine? You can mix and match these exercises to create a routine that you enjoy and that challenges your chest muscles to grow stronger. You typically want to choose from three to five different exercises depending on your fitness level and goals, and you want to choose exercises that will target your chest from every angle.

Your choice of chest exercises will depend on your activity level:

  • Beginners should choose one to two exercises from the chest presses and pushups lists and do one to two sets of 12-16 reps.
  • Intermediate to advanced exercisers should choose one to two exercises from each of the three lists for two to three sets of 8-12 reps, resting between sets.

Use enough weight that you can only complete the desired number of reps. You want to work yourself to fatigue in the listed number of repetitions for each set. If you choose too light of a weight and have strength leftover by the end, do it with heavier weights next time. It is by overloading the muscle that you are stimulating it to repair and grow more muscle.

What You'll Need for Your Chest Workout

The equipment needed varies, but the complete list includes:

You can do this workout at the gym or at home if you have the equipment.

If you have any health conditions or an injury, talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise program. Ask about any restrictions or modifications you might need.

Let's take a look at the three major categories of exercises designed to build your chest muscles.

Chest Presses

Young woman with barbells bench pressing weights

The chest press works the major muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. To perform a basic press, lie on a bench and hold weights over the chest, elbows bent at 90-degree angles.  Press arms straight up, then lower back to starting position.

Variations of chest presses may include the barbell bench press, the dumbbell chest press, the incline chest press, and the chest press with a resistance band.


woman doing push ups
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Pushups work almost every muscle in the body with an emphasis on the chest and arms. It's no surprise that they have been included in workout programs for ages.

For a basic pushup, place hands shoulder-width apart, bend arms and lower down as far as you can.  Straighten arms and push up without locking elbows.

Variation of pushups may include pushups on the knees, pushups on the toes, pushups on the ball, and pushups with resistance.

Chest Flies

Chest Flies
Assembly/Getty Images

The chest fly also works the major muscles of the chest with a focus on the outer portion. For a fly, lie on a bench with palms facing in.  Lower weights out to sides, elbows slightly bent. Stop at shoulder level, then bring weights back up over chest.

Variations may include the dumbbell chest fly, the chest fly on the ball, the incline chest fly, and the one-armed fly with a band.

How to Get Started/Instructions

You may or not be familiar with the exercises mentioned here. To get started, check out our step-by-step guide to pushups and chest presses, including several of the variations mentioned here, as well as incline variations of chest presses, pushups, and chest flies.

On the other hand, if you're not feeling challenged enough, check out these advanced chest, shoulders, and triceps workouts.

Bottom Line on Chest Exercises

Chest exercises are essential to maintaining the muscles that allow you to do everything from comb your hair to open a door. Keeping these muscles active with a combination of exercises can help maintain your chest strength as you age.

View Article Sources