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The best chest exercises that build new muscle

By September 29, 2010January 13th, 20178 Comments

How to get your chest to start growing again

Everyone has their goto bunch of exercises that they use when they KNOW they’ve hit a wall. Sure-fire workout routines that build muscle are a MUST HAVE in anyones box of training tricks.

What should you do when your chest has stopped growing?

I can’t stress enough that gains, no matter how small, are fricken GAINS! A ‘gain’ is adding 1.25kg’s to your bench press, or its adding a single rep to a set that you normally couldn’t do the last time you did exactly the same exercise.

If you can’t seem to add 5kg’s to your bench-press each and every week, remember—not even Superman can. That’s largely because he’s fictional.

So how does one get their chest to grow week after week?

You need to eat more, get a decent amount of sleep and use a method called progressive overload or ramping. Each week you want to be increasing your weights or be adding a rep to each set without going to failure.

If that isn’t happening within your current training regimin, you need to re-assess the eat & sleep requirements you are currently adhering to.

Why no training to failure?

Like I’ve said before, failure (all the time) is bad mmkay. It sends negative feedback to your central nervous system telling it you suck, and can’t lift the weight. Your CNS will learn from this and won’t allow you to progress. Cheeky huh?

All that is fine, but what are the best chest exercises?

Every man and his dog has their own theory as to which exercises grow the most muscle. Ones that cause a serious ‘burn’ or ones which leave your chest aching for days afterwards. These are all great, but are largely hit-and-miss.

I’ve decided to concentrate on specific exercises which I highly rate and have used in my OWN personal development.

Barbell Guillotine Press

This is a genius exercise which takes the deltoids out of the movement allowing you really isolate the chest

Lower weight to neck. Upper arms will be perpendicular to torso. Press bar until arms are extended.

Dumbbell Incline Press

This is the mother of all chest building exercises! It directly ignites the fire of your upper-pectorals. If your upper chest is a bit of a weak spot, I’d definitely add some of these into the mix. If you don’t have dumb bells, substitute with a bar.

Press dumbbells up with elbows to sides until arms are extended. Lower weight to sides of upper chest until slight stretch is felt in chest.

Weighted Chest Dips

I use this as more of a finishing exercise, but can be added to any stage of your chest workout. Use a weightbelt or dumbbells to increase the weight from set to set.

Lower body by bending arms allowing elbows to flare out to sides. When slight stretch is felt in chest or shoulders push body up until arms are straight. Added weight can be placed on dip belt or dumbbell can be placed between ankles.

Example chest workout structure

Below is a sample structure that you can use as a guide for the above mentioned exercises. It uses a 5×5 principle with progressive overload. Rep ranges can vary depending on your goals (higher reps for muscle mass, and lower reps for strength). Add this format into your current regimen, remember to remove the warmup sets for each subsequent new exercise.

SetExerciseWeight liftedComments
1Barbell Guillotine Press75kg x 5First warmup set we start at 60% 1RM
2Barbell Guillotine Press85kg x 5Second set we add 10kg
3Barbell Guillotine Press95kg x 5Third set we add another 10kg and keep the rep range the same
4Barbell Guillotine Press100kg x 4Set 4 we go heavier again but this time reduce the number of reps
5Barbell Guillotine Press105kg x 3The last set our nervous system is ready for the onslaught due to the progression, therefore lift more weight and reduce the number of reps once more.

To wrap it up

By the end of a month, you should notice a significant increase in size and/or strength. Just make sure that you are eating and sleeping properly during this time to maximise your gains.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

More posts by Clint Nielsen

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • JAMA says:

    as someone who totally struggles to put muscle on the chest area, this is rad advise, nice to have some video too.. cheers

  • I’m fortunate in that my chest development has come pretty easily. That said, I like to force feed it a healthy dose of DB incline press, pushups,and dips.

  • Clint,

    I’m a big fan of the guillotine press and incline dumbbell press because they target the upper chest which is an area I’ve always struggled to develop in the past. Great post!


  • Hey Clint,

    I agree you need to eat and sleep enough to make steady progress in the gym. Eating enough of the right foods along with quality sleep can only help you make small and big gains in the gym.

    Best – Mike

  • Hey Clint,

    Those are some great exercises for building your chest and I certainly agree with your sample workout schdule. Here is some additonal advice from my 25 years of lifting experience…
    You can also try doing the Barbell Guillotine Press using a Smith Machine. This is good for beginner’s and when you don’t have a spotter or training parter because using the rack increases the safety of the move. But best of all, it allows you to use much heavier weights because you can set the bar to stop right at your neck/upper chest and not have to worry about a freak accident causing a major injury (like the one that happended to that US college football player at the University of Southern California). Now for one of my favorite chest building exercises…
    I don’t share this with many people. I only reserve this move for my private coaching clients and my good friends (shows you how much I admire your site)!!! Instead of the weighted dips which many people cannot do properly to target the chest (they don’t flare out arms and instead keep them tight to the body shifting the focus to their triceps), try doing a reverse grip dip. It’s hard to explain, but you reverse your hands so that your thumbs are facing backwards not forwards. You also have to have your feet out in front of you, not behind you. It feels a little awkward at first, but if you do it correctly you will really feel how awesome this exercise is for your chest. It is especially effective for building your inner-chest, helping to eliminate some of the “hollow chest” look so many people have. Try it out and let me know what you think.


    ~ Pete

  • Clint Nielsen says:

    No problem Pager, there will be more techniques coming soon as I too need to mix it up a lot for my chest (due to a former shoulder impingement injury which set me back).

    You’re a lucky man my friend. My easy-grow muscle area is my back, which takes little effort to keep in decent shape.

    I did both of those exercises this morning. You can feel a GREAT stretch especially from the guillotines. Might be my new personal fave.

    Exactly right. Growing doesn’t happen at the gym, it happens whilst we are at rest (read: asleep :))

    Great tip with the Smith-machine Pete! I’d only use a smith when ABSOLUTELY necessary, and not all the time as it limits range of motion along with various stabilising muscles, but yes— when there is a danger of hurting ones self (especially at a beginner level) you just gotta put safety first.
    I tried one of those reverse-dips that you just mentioned today… i felt a bit awkward on the first rep so have decided to try again some other day when the gym is a little less full ;)
    Nice one!

  • @ Clint

    LOL. Yeah…sometimes you just gotta put ego and shame aside! You should definitely give it another shot…I lOVE those reverse grip dips!

  • yeah sleep 6-8 hrs will help alot but who has the time to get 6-8 hrs sleep? Weight training and the right food is a must, but getting consistant 6-8 hrs of sleep is just not possible for many of us due to our very busy lives. Unless we were all millionaires that had plenty of down time lol!!

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