1. Barbell Bench Press
You can generate the most power with barbell lifts, so the standard barbell bench allows you to move the most weight. It’s also an easier lift to control than pressing with heavy dumbbells. The exercise is easy to spot and relatively easy to learn (if not master), There are plenty of bench-press programs you can follow to increase your strength.
2. Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
With dumbbells, each side of your body must work independently, which recruits more stabilizer muscles; dumbbells are harder to control than a barbell. Dumbbells also allow for a longer range of motion than the barbell bench press, both at the bottom and top of the movement. Flat dumbbell presses allow you to hoist a fairly heavy weight, and they make for a good alternative if you’ve been stuck on the barbell bench for ages.
Do flat dumbbell presses toward the start of your chest workout for heavy sets in lower rep ranges. We don’t typically recommend doing dumbbell presses in addition to the barbell bench press, because both moves are so similar.
3. Low-Incline Barbell Bench Press
Many benches are fixed at a very steep angle, which requires a larger contribution from the front delts than the chest to move the weight. If possible, go for a less-steep incline to hit the upper pecs without as much stress on the delts. You can also easily do low-incline benches with an adjustable bench on the Smith machine.
If you’re really looking to build that shelf of an upper chest, EMG results have suggested that bringing your grip in a bit closer may hammer upper-chest fibers significantly more.
4. Seated Machine Chest Press
Free-weight pressing moves on a flat bench are great, but the machine press has some unique benefits. For one, it’s easier to slow down the repetition, both in the concentric and eccentric phases. Stack-loaded machines are also great for quickly doing dropsets.
EMG research demonstrates that the machine bench press recruits much less of the three heads of the deltoid (anterior, middle, and posterior) than free-weight variations because of a decreased need for humeral stabilization. This allows you to really target your pecs.
5. Incline Dumbbell Press
This is an occasional first movement, but it can easily go anywhere from first to third in your routine. Keep in mind, though, that the later you do this movement, the less weight you’ll likely be able to push.
Dumbbell presses make everybody’s top 10 list, but with an adjustable bench you can do a number of things you can’t with a fixed bench. Our favorite: changing the angle of the incline from one set to the next, or from one workout to the next. Hitting a muscle from varying degrees of incline angles builds it more thoroughly.
6. Dips For Chest
First off, make sure you’re doing dips that emphasize the pecs: Put your feet up behind you, lean forward as far as possible, and allow your elbows to flare out as you dip. Chest dips are a great spotter-free alternative to the decline press.
7. Incline Bench Cable Fly
Not many single-joint exercises made the list, but this is one of our favorites. It’s an effective move to isolate the pecs after completing your multi-joint exercises. Cables allow for continuous tension throughout the exercise’s full range of motion. If you’ve got a good chest pump going, nothing beats looking back at yourself in the mirror as you squeeze out a few more reps.