Exercises for Chest Muscles the Top 10 with bonus stretches

In this blog post, we will discuss the anatomy of the chest muscles, exercises for chest muscles, stretch for improved flexibility and range of motion, and causes of injuries to this area.

The chest muscles, also known as the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, are located in the front of the body. They attach to the breastbone (sternum) and ribs and help you move your arms forward and sideways.

The primary function of the chest muscles is to bring your arm down from an overhead position or push something away from your body.

Chest Bones and Connections

The chest comprises two bones: the breastbone (sternum) and the ribcage. The breastbone is a long, flat bone that lies in the middle of the chest. It attaches to the ribs on either side and helps protect the heart and lungs.

The ribcage is a series of 12 pairs of curved bones that form the sides and back of the chest. The ribcage protects the heart, lungs, liver and other organs.

Chest Muscles Anatomy

The chest muscles are attached to both bones in this area: the breastbone (sternum) and ribs (the collar bone). These muscles help you move your arms forward and sideways.

The main muscles in the chest are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle that lies on top of the pectoralis minor.

It attaches to the breastbone (sternum) and ribs and helps you move your arm down from an overhead position or push something away from your body.

The pectoralis minor is a small, triangular muscle that lies underneath the pectoralis major. It attaches to the ribs and helps you move your arm sideways.

Range of Motion

The chest muscles have a wide range of motion. They can move your arm forward, backward, and sideways. They can also bring your arm down from an overhead position.

They can also push something away from your body and pull it back toward you again. This makes the chest muscles very important for throwing a ball or lifting boxes off shelves.

Exercises for Chest muscles and stretches

Below you will find the top 10 Exercises for chest muscles. These are the best chest exercises for building muscle and strength in this area of your body. Some of these require dumbbells or a barbell, but many can be done using only your body weight

#1 – Bench press

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Grasp the barbell with both hands and push up until elbows are straight but not locked out.
  • Lower weight slowly until elbows touch or come close to touching your chest (not stomach).
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Notes: Keep your back pressed against the bench and your feet flat on the floor.

Variation 1: Dumbbell bench press

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and push up until elbows are straight but not locked out.
  • Lower weight slowly until elbows touch or come close to touching your chest (not stomach).
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Notes: Keep your back pressed against the bench and your feet flat on the floor.

Variation 2: Incline bench press

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Lie on an incline bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Grasp the barbell or dumbbells with both hands and push up until elbows are straight but not locked out.
  • Lower weight slowly until elbows touch or come close to touching your chest (not stomach).
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variation 3: Decline bench press

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Lie on a decline bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Grasp the barbell or dumbbells with both hands and push up until elbows are straight but not locked out.
  • Lower weight slowly until elbows touch or come close to touching your chest (not stomach).
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

#2 – Dumbbell flyes

Target muscles: chest

How to:

  • Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms straight above your chest, palms facing forward.
  • Bend your elbows and slowly lower the weights out to the sides until they are level with your shoulders.
  • Pause and then raise them back to the starting position.

Notes: Don’t let your back come off the bench, and don’t swing the weights.

#3 – Pec deck machine

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Sit on the machine and adjust it so that your elbows are slightly lower than your shoulders.
  • Place your forearms against the pads and squeeze them together as you exhale.
  • Hold for a second before returning slowly to the starting position.

Notes: Don’t lean back or arch your back.

#4 – Cable crossover

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Stand in the middle of a cable crossover machine and grasp the handles.
  • Bring your hands together in front of your chest, then slowly separate them until they’re extended to the sides.
  • Pause and then bring them back together.

Notes: Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement.

Variation 1: Cable crossover (low pulley)

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Stand in front of a low pulley and grasp the handles.
  • Bring your hands together in front of your chest, then slowly separate them until they’re extended out to the sides.
  • Pause and then bring them back together.

Notes: Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement.

Variation 2: Cable crossover (high pulley)

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Stand in front of a high pulley with a handle attached to each side.
  •  Bend forward at the waist and grasp the handles so that your palms face each other.
  •  Bring your hands together in front of your chest, then slowly separate them until they’re extended to the sides.
  • Pause and then bring them back together.

Notes: Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement.

#5 – Pushups

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Get into a pushup position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body toward the floor until your chest nearly touches it
  • Press yourself back up to the starting position.

I prefer lowering to the floor completely and releasing both hands off the floor and then pushing up – This makes me certain of a rep when no one else is with me- All I have to be aware of is keeping my core tight.

#6 – Decline pushups

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Get into a pushup position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body toward the floor until your chest nearly touches it,
  • Press yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Place your feet on a raised surface (like a bench or box) to make the exercise more challenging.

Notes: Try these variations if you find the regular pushup too easy.

Variation Level 1 – Pushups with hand release

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Get into a pushup position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor,
  • Then press back up to the starting position.
  • As you reach the top of the movement, lift your hands off of the floor and clap them together.
  • Place them back on the floor and lower yourself again.
  • Repeat

Variation Level 2 – Pushups with feet elevated

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Get into a pushup position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Place your feet on a raised surface (like a bench or box) and lower your body toward the floor until your chest nearly touches it,
  • Pause
  • Press yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat

#7 – Incline pushups

Target muscles: chest, shoulders

How to:

  • Get into a pushup position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet on a raised surface (like a bench or box).
  • Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor,
  • Pause
  • Press yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat

#8 – Dips

Target muscles: chest, triceps(upper arm)

How to:

  • Sit on the edge of a bench or chair with your hands next to your hips, legs bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Lean forward slightly and lift your body off the bench by straightening your arms.
  • Lower yourself until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle.
  • Press back up until your arms are straight again.
  • Repeat

Notes: Try these variations if you find the regular dip too easy.

Variation 1 – Dips with feet elevated

Target muscles: chest, triceps (upper arm)

How to:

  • Sit on the edge of a bench or chair with your hands next to your hips and legs bent in front of you so that your feet are elevated.
  • Lean forward slightly and lift your body off the bench by straightening your arms.
  • Lower yourself until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle,
  • Press back up until your arms are straight again.
  • Repeat

#9 – Wide grip pull-ups

Target muscles: back, biceps (upper arm), chest

How to:

  • Grasp a pull-up bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Hang from the bar with your arms straight and pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar.
  • Lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended.

Notes: Try these variations if you find the regular pull-up too easy.

Variation Level 1: Chinups

Target muscles: back, biceps (upper arm), chest

How to:

  • Grasp a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Hang from the bar with your arms straight and pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar.
  • Lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended and repeat.

Variation Level 2: Pull-ups with pause

Target muscles: back, biceps (upper arm), chest

How to:

  • Grasp a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Hang from the bar with your arms straight and pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar.
  • Pause for two seconds at the top of the movement, then lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended.

Variation Level 3: Pull-ups with weight

Target muscles: back, biceps (upper arm), chest

How to:

  • Grasp a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Hang from the bar with your arms straight and pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar.
  • Lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended,
  • repeat.

Variation Level 4: Muscle-up

Target muscles: back, biceps (Upper arm), chest

How to:

  • Grasp a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Hang from the bar with your arms straight and pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar.
  • Lower yourself back down until your arms are fully extended,
  • repeat.

#10 – Seated row

Target muscles: back, biceps (upper arm)

How to:

  • Sit at the end of a bench or chair with your feet flat on the floor and lean forward slightly.
  • Grasp a weight (or use a resistance band) with your hands and pull it toward your chest,
  • keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Pause for two seconds and slowly release the weight back to the starting position.

Chest stretches to improve range of motion.

To improve flexibility and range of motion, perform stretches for the chest muscles as per the below

#1 – Chest stretch against wall

How to:

  • Step close to a wall and press your palms flat against the surface.
  • Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
  • Hold for 30 seconds

#2 – Seated chest stretch:

How to:

  • Sit with your feet flat on the ground and pull your shoulders back.
  • Reach out your arms and clasp your hands together.
  • Stretch until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
  • Hold for 30 seconds

#3 – Chest stretch with band

How to:

  • Sit on the ground, wrap a resistance band around your feet and pull it up to shoulder height.
  • Extend arms straight out from shoulders, keeping elbows slightly bent until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
  •  Hold for 30 seconds

#4 – Doorway chest stretch

How to :

  • Stand in a doorway with your arms at shoulder height.
  • Step through the opening and press your palms against the door frame.
  • Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
  • Hold for 30 seconds

#5 – Superman

How to:

  • Lie face down on the ground and extend your arms and legs straight out.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Notes: Try these variations if you find the regular superman stretch too easy.

Variation:

Superman with arms up

How to:

  • Lie face down on the ground and extend your arms straight out in front of you above your head.
  • Stretch until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Causes of chest Injuries

The leading causes of chest injuries are listed below however if you wish to read more head on over to MSDManuals for a great article 

– Improper technique.

Poor form during exercise can lead to chest injuries – especially when using heavyweights.

– Overuse of Chest Muscles:-

Focusing on the same exercises and muscles repeatedly without giving them enough recovery time can cause injury over time. This is more likely if you focus solely on one muscle group while neglecting the rest of your body.

– Lack of stretching and warming up properly:-

Many people try to save time by skipping these essential pre-workout activities, leading to injuries. Muscles need to be warmed up properly before any kind of strenuous activity to reduce the risk of strains or tears.

– Poor posture:-

If you’re sitting in front of a computer all day with poor posture, it can cause chest muscles to tighten and shorten over time. This will limit the range of motion and flexibility over time – making it harder to exercise effectively.

– Overuse or excessive use:-

This can happen if you focus solely on chest workouts and do not give other muscle groups enough attention. This is more likely during isolation exercises (like the bench press) which work just one area of the body instead of several at once.

– Trauma (such as a fall)

Conclusion

What are your thoughts on the exercises above? Did you learn anything new about chest muscles, bones and connection to a range of motion that will help you work out smarter in the future? Not sure where to start with these stretches or how they apply to injury prevention. Rest assured, we’ve got you covered there too! You can find more information within our Yoga area. Now go get working your chest like a champ. We’re rooting for ya!

 

Leave a comment