All roads lead to Rome, they say. But some roads do it in half the time, because they were actually meant to get you to Rome. Likewise, that "everything but the kitchen sink" chest workout might boost your pec size eventually, but there's a smarter way: Commit to a chest specialization routine designed to achieve your specific goals.

Below are six chest workouts, each with a different focus. Pick one and use it as your chest day for the next 4-8 weeks. After that, go back to what you're used to—or even better, switch to one of the others.

If bigger pecs were on your New Year's resolution list, consider yourself now on the right road!

Note: These workout charts do not contain warm-up sets. Perform as many as you need, but never take your warm-ups to failure.

Goal 1: Overall Chest Mass

Training for mass is predicated on a few important principles. These include:

  • Beginning your workout with heavy multijoint movements
  • Hitting the muscle from a variety of angles
  • A high amount of overall volume (number of exercise, sets, reps)

The workout here follows a reverse-pyramid protocol, which allows you to take more total sets to muscle failure. It also starts with the dumbbell bench press rather than the barbell, because dumbbells are more difficult to control—extra difficulty is a good thing in this case—and allow for a greater range of motion. Many people find that just making that switch is enough to spur new growth.

Notes

  • Choose a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed.
  • Lighten the weight for slightly higher reps on each set after your first 1-2 sets of each movement.
  • If you have a spotter, do a few forced reps on your heaviest set of each exercise, which should be your first or second set. If you don't have a partner, train as close to muscle failure as possible, and perform a dropset on your last set of each exercise.
Workout For Mass
1
Dumbbell Bench Press
4 sets, 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
2
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
3 sets, 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
3
Leverage Decline Chest Press
3 sets, 8-10, 8-10, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
4
Incline Dumbbell Flyes
3 sets, 10, 10, 12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
5
Butterfly
3 sets, 12 reps (several partial reps after reaching failure on last set, rest 60-90 sec.)

Goal 2: Greater Chest Definition

Simply hammering light weights for high reps is no longer considered the best approach to helping you lean out. Instead, the approach here is all about boosting calories burned and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the number of calories you burn after your workout is over. This routine combines multijoint exercises, supersets, reduced rest periods, and high volume to burn off the soft stuff and reveal what you've been working so hard to build.

Notes

  • Choose a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed.
  • The first exercise is done with relatively heavier weights, which is key for maintaining muscle tissue and keeping your metabolism high during periods of dieting.
  • Strive to keep rest periods short and your heart rate up, making this as much a cardio activity as a muscle-building one.
Routine To Get Ripped
1
Superset
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets, 8 reps (no rest)
Dumbbell Flyes
3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest only as needed)
2
Superset
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
3 sets, 10 reps (no rest)
Incline Dumbbell Flyes
3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest only as needed)
3
Superset
Leverage Decline Chest Press
3 sets, 10 reps (no rest)
Pushups
3 sets, to failure (rest only as needed)

Goal 3: Starting Out Right

For beginners, it's all about learning movement patterns and repeating them until they become second nature. Lifting heavy weights isn't part of the formula, especially at first. This workout is largely machine-based, which allows for a more controlled introduction to weight training. After you get the feel for the movement, jump over to its free weight counterpart, which will initially be a challenge for your coordination, but a smarter choice in the long run for building muscle.

Notes

  • Choose a weight at which you almost reach muscle failure, but don't go to failure except where noted.
  • The first two movements are done pyramid-style. Increase the weight after the first set and perform fewer reps.
Chest Workouts For Men: The 6 Best Routines For A Bigger Chest

Push-up

Beginner's Routine
1
Machine Bench Press
3 sets, 15, 12, 10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
2
Leverage Incline Chest Press
3 sets, 15, 12, 10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
3
Butterfly
3 sets, 15, 12, 10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
4
Pushups
2 sets, to failure (rest 60-90 sec.)
MuscleTech NITRO-TECH 100% Whey Gold
MuscleTech NITRO-TECH 100% Whey Gold
Each Scoop Serves Up 24G Of Ultra-Premium Micro-Filtered Protein. Incredible Pure Protein Powder Featuring Whey Protein Peptides And Whey Protein Isolate

Goal 4: Upper-chest Emphasis

This workout hits the incline bench movement not once, but twice. However, the manner in which you work it changes. For one, the angle of the incline bench for barbells is much steeper than the low incline you use with dumbbells, so your upper pecs get a slightly different stimulus. Second, you'll work a different intensity and rep range at each angle.

We haven't abandoned the other angles completely; there are heavy decline presses in there, as well. After you finish the multijoint movements, you'll jump right into a single-joint exercise that focuses on the upper pecs.

Notes

  • Choose a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed.
  • This scheme follows a reverse pyramid, meaning you lighten the weight for slightly higher reps on each set after your first 1-2 sets.
  • If you can, use an altogether different bench angle for the incline cable fly. Just don't go too steep. You can also substitute low-pulley cable crossovers or incline dumbbell flyes here.
  • If you have a spotter, do a few forced reps on your heaviest set of each exercise, which should be your first or second set. If you don't have a partner, train as close to muscle failure as possible.
Chest Workouts For Men: The 6 Best Routines For A Bigger Chest

Barbell Incline Bench Press

Emphasis on Upper Chest
1
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
4 sets, 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 8-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
2
Smith Machine Decline Press
3 sets, 8-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
3
Incline Dumbbell Press
low angle
4 sets, 8-10, 8-10, 10-12, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
4
Superset
Incline Cable Flye
3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
Decline Push-Up
3 sets, to failure (rest 60-90 sec.)

Goal 5: Lower-chest Emphasis

The recipe here is similar to the upper-chest-focused routine, but flipped. You're doing a greater number of movements targeting the lower chest region from different decline angles. You'll still be hitting the upper chest as well, though. It concludes with a powerful pec-pumping superset: multijoint dips with cable crossovers. Get ready to feel it!

Notes

  • Choose a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed.
  • This scheme follows a reverse pyramid, meaning you lighten the weight for slightly higher reps on each set after your first 1-2 sets.
  • On the decline press, sit at a slight sideways angle on the bench. Bracing yourself with your free hand, press across your body with one arm at a time.
  • If you have a spotter, do a few forced reps on your heaviest set of each exercise, which should be your first or second set. If you don't have a partner, train as close to muscle failure as possible.
  • To emphasize the chest during dips, lean forward by bringing your feet up behind you, and allow your elbows to flare out as you descend.
Emphasis on Lower Chest
1
Decline Barbell Bench Press
4 sets, 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 8-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
2
Incline Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 8-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
3
Leverage Decline Chest Press
crossbody, unilateral
4 sets, 8-10, 8-10, 10-12, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
4
Superset
Dips - Chest Version
3 sets, to failure (rest 60-90 sec.)
Cable Crossover
3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)

Goal 6: Pre-exhaust The Chest

If your triceps are especially sore after a hard chest workout, chances are they're working harder than your pecs. One answer is to try and minimize their involvement by following a pre-exhaust workout.

With this technique, you isolate your pecs with a single-joint move in which the triceps aren't actively engaged, like a fly variation or cable crossover. With your chest fatigued from the isolation exercises, you then perform your multijoint moves with your triceps fresh, meaning they'll be less likely to give out first before your pecs.

This style of training is great for overcoming chest growth plateaus. However, you'll still want to keep your reps on the higher end for single-joint movements so as to not overtax the joints.

Notes

  • Choose a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed.
  • By flip-flopping the exercises, you'll be a little stronger on your flyes but a bit weaker on your presses, so adjust your weights accordingly.
Pre-Exhaust Routine
1
Incline Dumbbell Flyes
3 sets, 10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
2
Butterfly
4 sets, 8, 8, 12, 12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
3
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets, 8-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
4
Incline Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)
5
Smith Machine Decline Press
3 sets, 10-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.)

About the Author

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger, MA, has served as a senior content editor for Bodybuilding.com and group editorial director with MuscleMag and Reps magazines.

View all articles by this author

Chest Workout