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June 20, 2021

Effective Chest Exercises for Men and Women

When it comes to chest exercises, men and women usually have very different goals. Guys generally are after the biggest, fullest, most are defined pectoral muscles possible. Women, on the other hand are often far more interested in lifting sagging breasts and ending up with a sexier bust. Achieving those two goals requires different types of training. In this article, we present the best exercises for men and women to produce the chest chaining results they desire.

Chest Anatomy

The chest muscles of men and women are similar, except that women also have an additional set of muscles known as cooper’s ligaments. There are two pectoral muscles, the pectoralis major and the pec minor. The pec major is fan shaped and has its muscle fiber origins on the sternum, clavicles and upper ribs. It covers the top third of the upper body. All of the fibers insert at the top of the humerus, or upper arm. The pec minor sits below the pec major and does not require any separate exercise to develop it.

The cooper’s ligaments are a group of muscle tissue that does the job of lifting and supporting the breasts. As women age the cooper’s ligaments begin to loosen and sag This results in the drooping breast look that so many women want to correct. You can think of the cooper’s ligaments a bit like the guide wires that hold up a suspension bridge. When they become loose, the bridge will drop and sag. Doing exercises that target the cooper’s ligaments is like tightening up those guid wires.

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Chest Workout for Women

Gym Beginner Women

Here is a 3 exercise workout for women that will lift drooping breasts while also strengthening and shaping your pectoral muscles.

Plate Squeeze

How To Do It:

(1)   Lie on your back on the floor with a relatively light weight plate held between your palms and resting on your chest. Your knees should be bent .

(2)   Push your arms straight up so that the plate is fully extended above your chest. As you push up, squeeze your palms together.

(3)   Lower and repeat

You can do this exercise at home with a pillow instead of a plate. Concentrate on squeezing your palms as tightly as possible.

One Arm Kneeling Dumbbell Chest Flye

How To Do It:

(1)   Kneel on the floor with your arms on the ground in front of you and a one pound dumbbell in your right hand.

(2)   Extend your slightly bent right arm out to the side and up slightly higher than shoulder width. Feel the stretch in the chest and flex your pecs in the top position.

(3)   Lower and repeat for the desired number of reps on the right side before repeating on the left side.

Slowly add resistance, beginning with a 1 pound dumbbell and progressing from there.

Kneeling Push Up

How To Do It:

(1)   Get down on all four, resting on your palms and knees. Your hands should be just slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Cross over your ankles and keep your feet off the floor.

(2)   Maintaining a natural arch in your spine, lower your body down until your chest is a couple of inches from the floor.

(3)   Push through the chest muscles to come back to the start position.

Once you are able to do 20 kneeling push ups in a row, you will be ready to perform the standard push up, as described in the men’s workout below.

The Workout

  • Plate Squeeze – 4 x 15
  • One Arm Kneeling Flye – 3 x 15 (each arm)
  • Kneeling Push Up – 3 x 15

Gym Intermediate Women

Unilateral Dumbbell Bench Press

How To Do It:

  1. Lie on a flat bench, holding dumbbells with a standard overhand grip. Hold the dumbbells with elbows bent and in line with your shoulders.
  2. With your abs engaged and tension in your triceps and chest. Extend your right arm to press the weight up toward the midline of your body.
  3. Lower under control and then repeat with the other arm.

Machine Chest Fly

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on the machine with your feet fat on the floor and you back flat against the pad. Stretch your arms out to the sides and grasp the handles.
  2. Inhale and activate your abs and upper back muscles. Breathe out as you engage the muscles of your chest and shoulders to drive your upper arms across your chest toad your sternum (your arms will naturally straighten).
  3. Breathe in to engage your abs. As you exhale, engage the muscles of your upper back to aid flying your arm back to the starting position, bending your elbows and keeping the tension in your chest.

Low High Cable Chest Fly

How To Do It:

  1. Stand in the middle of a cable crossover machine with a staggered stance. Set the cable positions at least at hip height or lower. Grab the handles and hold your arms at your sides.
  2. Breathe in to engage your core, then breathe out as you drive your arms up and toward the midline, using the muscles of the upper chest and front delts.
  3. Breathe in to engage your core gain, hold, then breathe out to drive your arms back, engaging the upper back muscles.

The Workout

  • Unilateral Dumbbell Press – 4 x 8-13 each side
  • Machine Chest Fly – 3 x 15
  • Low High Cable Chest Fly – 3 x 12

Home Beginner Chest Workout Women

Modified Push Up

How To Do It:

  • Get down on all fours on an exercise mat. Your points of contact with the floor should be your palms and your knees, with your crossed feet in the air. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Perform a push up by bringing your chest down to the floor. Push through the chest to return to the start position.

Chest Kick

How To Do It:

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and a resistant band looped under your feet. Hold the other end of the band in your hands with an underhand grip, hands at shoulder width in front of your body.
  • Without bending your elbows, raise your arms up to chest level. Lower and repeat.

Pillow Squeeze

How To Do It:

  • Lie on the floor on your back with a pillow in your hands, held between your palms.
  • Hold the pillow on your chest and tightly squeeze your hands together. Now extend your hands to full extension. Continue pushing in as you do so.
  • Lower and repeat.

The Workout

Modified Push Up – 3 x 15

Chest Kick – 3 x 10

Pillow Squeeze – 3 x 12

Home Intermediate Chest Workout Women

Chest Flye

How To Do It:

  • Loop a resistance band around a secure upright at shoulder level. Stand in front of the upright with the ends on the band in your hands in a palms down position.
  • Begin with your hands at shoulder level, but about a foot wider than shoulder width.
  • Extend your arms to bring the ends of the band together in front of your chest. Squeeze your chest muscles in the fully contracted position.

Iso Chest

How To Do It:

  • Attach a loop band to an upright a few inches off the floor. Stand side on to the upright and grab the other end of the band in the hand that is closest to it with the arm at your side.
  • Place the other hand on your hip.
  • Bring the band up and cross your torso in a diagonal until your arm is parallel to the floor. Lower and repeat.

Push Up

How To Do It:

(1) Get down on the floor with your palms on the floor just slightly wider than shoulder distance apart. Your legs should be extended with your feet together. Your floor contact points should be your palms and toes.

(2) Raise up to the top, arms fully extended position. In this position a straight line should form from your head to your toes (do not bend at the hips), Stay tall on your toes and do not sag at the knees. Contract your glutes, quads and core.

(3) Descend down to the floor by bending at the elbows. Go down until your chest is about an inch from the floor.

(4) Push through your hands to return to the start position.

The Workout

Chest Flye – 3 x 15

Iso Chest – 3 x 12 (each arm)

Push Up – 3 x failure

Men’s Chest Workout

Gym Beginner Chest Workout Men

Floor Press

How To Do It:

  • Lie on the floor with your knees bent and a pair of dumbbells in your hands.
  • Start with your elbows bent and out to your sides.
  • Press your arms directly up to full extension.
  • Lower and repeat

Dumbbell Chest Cross

How To Do It:

  • Stand with a pair of dumbbells in your hands by your sides with elbows slightly bent.
  • Bring your right arm up and across your body to contract your pectorals.
  • Lower and repeat with the left hand, going back and forth to complete your rep count.

Push Up

How To Do It:

(1) Get down on the floor with your palms on the floor just slightly wider than shoulder distance apart. Your legs should be extended with your feet together. Your floor contact points should be your palms and toes.

(2) Raise up to the top, arms fully extended position. In this position a straight line should form from your head to your toes (do not bend at the hips), Stay tall on your toes and do not sag at the knees. Contract your glutes, quads and core.

(3) Descend down to the floor by bending at the elbows. Go down until your chest is about an inch from the floor.

(4) Push through your hands to return to the start position.

The Workout

Floor Press – 3 x 12

Dumbbell Chest Cross – 3 x 10

Push Ups – 3 x 15

Gym Intermediate Chest Workout Men

While a lot of guys think they need to be doing the barbell bench press, cable crossovers and incline dumbbell presses, the following three exercises are far superior from both a biomechanical and physiological perspective.

Decline Dumbbell Chest Press

How To Do It:

(1)   Set an adjustable bench to a 30-degree incline.

(2)   Take a pair of dumbbells off the rack and position yourself on the bench.

(3)   Push the dumbbells up to full arms extension above your lower chest in line with the sternum. Touch the ends of the weights together.

(4)   Lower the dumbbells down and out to the sides. Stop when your upper arms are in line with your torso. In this position, your elbows should be bent at a 45 degree angle.

(5)   Push the dumbbells back to the start position and squeeze the pecs tightly in the top contracted position.

Seated Decline Cable Press

How To Do It:

(1)   Place an adjustable bench about three feet in front of a double pulley cable machine. Adjust the bench to a 75-degree angle. Set the cables to just above shoulder level when you are seated on the bench.

(2)   Grab the handles and sit on the bench.

(3)   Reposition the bench so that the cables are taut when you have the arms out to the sides with a 45 degree angle bend at the elbow.

(4)   Push the cables forward and down so that they meet at full arm extension in line with your navel.

(5)   Return to the start position.

Push Up

How To Do It:

(1) Get down on the floor with your palms on the floor just slightly wider than shoulder distance apart. Your legs should be extended with your feet together. Your floor contact points should be your palms and toes.

(2) Raise up to the top, arms fully extended position. In this position a straight line should form from your head to your toes (do not bend at the hips), Stay tall on your toes and do not sag at the knees. Contract your glutes, quads and core.

(3) Descend down to the floor by bending at the elbows. Go down until your chest is about an inch from the floor.

(4) Push through your hands to return to the start position.

The Workout

  • Decline Dumbbell Press – 5 x 20/15/10/8/6
  • Seated Decline Dumbbell Press – 5 x 20/15/10/8/6
  • Push Ups – 3 x failure (keep going until you fall flat on your face!)

Home Beginner Chest Workout Men

Push Ups

How To Do It:

This is detailed above in the previous section

Banded Chest Press

How To Do It:

  1. Anchor a resistance band to the top of a door. Stand three feet in front of the anchor point, facing away from it. Adopt a staggered stance with the band in your hands and your elbows flexed.
  2. Take a breath in and engage your abs. Activate your upper back muscle to pull your arms back, bending at the elbows, and resisting the band.
  3. Place tension in your triceps and chest, and then extend your arms to press away toward the midline, breathing out as you do so.

High Low Banded Chest Fly

How To Do It:

  1. Secure two bands on top of a door or other anchor. Adopt a staggered position and hold the band with a neutral grip, elbows bent and hands held at shoulder level.
  2. Breathe in and engage your core. Breathe out as you drive your arms down and toward the midline, following the path of the bands. Hold for a second.
  3. Breathe in to engage your core, then breathe out to drive your arms back and away from the midline, using the upper back muscles.

The Workout

Push Ups – 3 x 15 reps

Banded Chest Press – 3 x 10-12

High Low Band Press – 3 x 12

Home Intermediate Chest Workout Men

Ball Push Up

How To Do It:

(1) Get down on the floor with your palms on the floor just slightly wider than shoulder distance apart and a medicine ball under your right hand. Your legs should be extended with your feet together. Your floor contact points should be your palms and toes.

(2) Raise up to the top, arms fully extended position. In this position a straight line should form from your head to your toes (do not bend at the hips), Stay tall on your toes and do not sag at the knees. Contract your glutes, quads and core.

(3) Descend down to the floor by bending at the elbows. Go down until your chest is about an inch from the floor.

(4) Push through the ball to return to the start position.

(5) Do the same number of reps on both sides.

Chair Dips

How To Do It:

  • Set up two chairs facing each other and bout 18 inches between them. Weight the chairs down if needed.
  • Position yourself between the chairs with your hands near the each of them and push up to a top dip position, with your knees bent and feet crossed.
  • Dip down to full arm contraction.
  • Push back to the start position.

Banded Chest Press

How To Do It:

This is outlined in the earlier section

The Workout

Ball Push Up – 4 x 15 reps each side

Chair Dips – 3 x 12 reps

Banded Chest Press – 3 x 12 reps

Wrap Up

Both men and women should train their chest once every 5 days. This will provide just the right amount of time for the pectoral muscles (and the cooper’s ligaments in women) to recover and develop in preparation for the next session. Train consistently, progressively increasing the resistance as you are able, and you will get the chest results that you’re after!

You have the chest exercises for women and chest exercises for men to follow based on a personal trainers knowledge. Do these workouts and let us know how you do !

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Steve (Qualfied Personal Trainer and Nutritionist)


Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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