You’re going to be lying on that bench for a long time if you think pushing a barbell over and over on repeat will give you pecs to rival Hercules’. While the barbell chest press has its benefits, such as targeting several muscles in the chest, arm, and shoulders in one exercise, “pressing exercises aren’t everything” when it comes to targeting the chest, says Blake Holman, C.P.T., fitness nutrition consultant, and sports performance specialist.
Specifically, you want to strike the appropriate balance between pushing and pulling movements. “A decent rule of thumb is to have two pull exercises for every pushing movement in your routine,” Holman says. “This will assist in maintaining appropriate posture and preventing injuries.”
Holman claims that the cable chest fly is his holy grail chest exercise since it is the most beneficial for overall chest development. According to Holman, this technique, which uses a dual-cable machine, maintains consistent tension in the active muscles, allows for a full range of motion, and can be adjusted as needed. (Learn how to do a cable chest fly in the video below.)
Variety is important, as it is with any fitness objective. “You’re setting yourself up for failure if you keep doing the same types of activities and don’t change the intensity or volume,” Holman adds. “Your body adjusts to the demands you put on it, so if you’re not exposing it to new stimuli — intensity, volume, or type — you’re not going to reach your full potential.”
With that in mind, Holman offered five of his favorite chest exercises to help you break free from your bench press rut.
5 Chest Exercises That Are Better Than the Bench Press
1- Dumbbell Chest Press
When you use dumbbells instead of a barbell, you get a wider range of motion, which means you can focus more on your chest muscles.
1- Lie down on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Weights should be raised and elbows pointed down at a 45-degree angle, palms directed toward your toes.
2- By extending your elbows until your arms are straight, press the weights above your chest, then slowly lower them. Take the weights down beyond your shoulders and drive them closer together at the top of the exercise to take advantage of the range of motion provided by dumbbells rather than a barbell.
2- Incline Dumbbell Chest Flys
1- Lie down on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Weights will be held up with palms facing each other and elbows pointing down at a 45-degree angle.
2- Slowly lower the dumbbells laterally while keeping a tiny bend in your elbow by slightly retracting your shoulder blades.
3- Reverse the movement by pulling your shoulder blades back and down and returning the weights out wide to the beginning position when the dumbbells are nearly touching at about chest height.
Do 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
3- Forward Leaning Chest Dips
1-Grab each dip bar and lift your body to the point where your arms are straight but not locked. Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and elevate your legs to the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor (almost like a chair). Maintain this position with your lower body for the duration of the workout.
2- Lower yourself slowly by bending your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor, keeping your elbows tucked close to your body. Lean forward with your torso. Push back up to the starting position after a brief pause.
4- Cable Chest Flys
1- Position the pulleys on either side of a dual cable machine so that they are around shoulder-to-chest height.
2- Take one of the handles in each hand, then take a step forward so that your arms are at a 45-degree angle splayed to the sides.
3- Slowly bring both hands together in front of your body, keeping them at around chest height, with your elbows slightly bent. Pause for one second after the hands have come together before carefully returning the arms to the beginning position.
Do 4 sets of 10-15 reps.
5- Plate Press
1- Hold a set of lighter-weight plates in front of your chest with your palms together.
2- Squeeze the plates together, concentrating on your chest muscles, and press the weight out in front of you until your arms are fully extended.
3- Pull the weights back to your chest by engaging your lats.
Related article: The Best Workout to Build a Bigger Chest