7 Chest Exercises for More Defined Muscles: Tips to Increase Your Chest Workout

Published May 12th, 2022 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley

When you work out your chest muscles, you not only make them stronger but you can also do exercises to help define their shape.

There are many different chest exercises that you can do, but not all of them are effective.

In this article, we will discuss 7 chest exercises that will help give you more defined muscles.

We will also provide some tips on how to make your chest workout more effective.

What muscles are in your chest?

When you work out your chest, there are three main muscles involved and they are the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and serratus anterior muscles.

There is a fourth muscle called the subclavius muscle, which is a small triangular muscle that primarily aids in breathing and protecting the vessels underneath it from a broken clavicle but we will not focus on this muscle.

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Both pectoralis muscles are also called "pecs" for short and they aid in the movement of your shoulder joints and shoulder stability.

The pectoralis major is the larger muscle and covers most of the chest while the pectoralis minor is a small triangular muscle located under the pectoralis major.

Your serratus anterior muscle runs along your sides and is attached to your ribs. The function of each is as follows:

Pectoralis major muscle

The pectoralis major muscle is responsible for horizontal chest movements, such as when you do a push-up or bench press and it constitutes the majority of the muscle in your chest.

It is unique in its structure because it has two heads, the clavicular head, and the sternocostal head.

The clavicular head is the upper part of the muscle and attaches to your collarbone while the sternocostal head is the lower part of the muscle and attaches to your breastbone.

These two points never work in concert with each other, meaning when one is flexing the other is resting. There are four major functions of the pectoralis major muscle and they include:

  • Keeping your arm attached to your torso
  • Flexion of the humerus, with the humerus being your upper arm bone and the flexion of it is used when lifting something from below your chest while standing to eye level or above
  • Adduction of the humerus, such as when you flap your arms
  • Rotates the humerus medially, an example of which is when you arm wrestle

Pectoralis minor muscle

The pectoralis minor muscle is responsible for stabilizing your shoulder blades.

It also aids in chest movements, but to a lesser extent than the pectoralis major muscle and it also helps with respiration too.

Serratus anterior muscle

Your serratus anterior muscle runs up and down both sides of your chest attaching to your rib cage and its Latin name references its sawtooth-like appearance.

The muscle runs from your first rib down to your 8th rib and sometimes the 9th rib. It is responsible for keeping your shoulder blades from winging out and also helps with chest movements.

Why work out your chest muscles?

Aside from the fact that having strong chest muscles is usually considered aesthetically pleasing, working out this muscle group has functional benefits as well.

For example, if you play a lot of sports that require overhead motions or if you have to do a lot of pushing motions at work, then having strong chest muscles will help prevent injuries.

Additionally, if you have good chest muscle definition, it can help improve your posture.

Lastly, many athletes and bodybuilders define their chest strength by how much they can bench press and these are the muscles used to perform that action.

What are 7 exercises to help build your chest muscles?

There are a variety of chest exercises that you can do to build strength in your pectoral muscles and they are as follows:

Push-ups

To perform a push-up, also called a press-up, start in a plank position with your hands placed shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart.

Lower your body down until your chest is about an inch from the ground and then push back up to the starting position.

You can modify the push-up exercise by doing it on your knees instead of keeping your legs extended.

Flat Bench press

The bench press is a weightlifting exercise that you can do with either a barbell or dumbbells.

To set up for the exercise, lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet flat and planted firmly on the ground, and then grip the barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip.

Lower the weight down to your chest and then press it back up until your arms are extended.

Incline bench press

The incline bench press is similar to the flat bench press but the difference is that you are positioned at an incline.

To set up for this exercise, lie on your back on an adjustable weight bench set to 45-degree angle incline, and then grip the barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip.

Lower the weight down to your chest and then press it back up until your arms are extended.

Decline bench press

The decline bench press is similar to the flat bench press but the difference is that you are positioned at a decline.

To perform this exercise, lie on your back on an adjustable weight bench set to a decline of 30 degrees, and then grip the barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip.

Just as with the incline or flat bench press, lower the weight down to your chest and then press it back up until your arms are extended.

Dumbbell fly

To do a dumbbell fly, also called a dumbbell flye, start by lying on your back on a flat bench with a dumbbell weight in each hand and your palms facing each other.

Then, press the weights up above your chest and keep a slight bend in your elbows.

From there, lower the weights out to your sides in a wide arc until your chest muscles are stretched.

Return to the starting position by reversing the motion and bringing the weights back up above your chest.

You can also perform an incline dumbbell fly by inclining an adjustable bench 45 degrees.

Cable crossover

The cable crossover is a chest exercise that you can do with a cable pulley machine at the gym.

You begin by standing in the middle of the cable machine with the pulleys set at shoulder height and then attach the D-handles to the low pulleys with your feet shoulder width apart.

Grab the handles with your palms facing each other and then step forward so that there is tension on the cables.

From there, bring your hands together in front of your chest and then return to the starting position. You can also place the D-handles in the highest position to work the lowest part of your pecs too.

Chest dip

The chest dip is an exercise that you can do with a dip station.

Chest dips begin with you gripping the dipping bars and then jumping up so that your chin is above the bar. Lower your body down by bending your elbows until your chest is about an inch from the bars.

Press back up from the dip position to the starting position by extending your elbows. You can modify chest dips by placing your feet on a bench in front of you.

From around the web: chest workouts

Reddit - Tell me about your chest day please

Reddit - Chest building routines

Pinterest - Chest exercises

What are some tips for more defined muscles?

Now that you know what chest exercises to do, you may want some tips to have more defined pecs. Here are some tips:

  • Using a heavy weight is not always best as you need a weight that is challenging but not too heavy to be able to do 10-12 reps with good form before your muscles start to fatigue
  • Incorporate chest exercises into your exercise routine two to three times per week
  • Make sure you are eating a balanced diet that includes protein to help build muscle while also monitoring your calorie intake
  • Add chest exercises to your routine that focus on different parts of the chest, such as the upper chest and lower chest for an effective chest workout
  • Use a variety of grips, such as an overhand grip, reverse grip, or neutral grip, to work different muscle groups in the chest
  • Try supersets, which is when you do two chest exercises back-to-back with no rest in between, to really fatigue the chest muscles

Doing chest exercises with a partner can help you push yourself harder and also spot you if needed. Please note that if you have breasts it will be more difficult to see definition or an increased chest size in your chest muscles, if at all.

Summary

While you may not have thought about working out your chest muscles before, doing chest exercises can help improve your posture and also make your chest and upper body look more defined while also adding muscle mass.

Use the chest exercises and tips above to help get started. Remember to focus on using a challenging weight, different grips, and incorporating chest workouts into your routine 2-3 times per week for the best results.

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to speak with a certified personal trainer who can help create a chest workout routine that is tailored specifically for you.

References and sources:

30 Best Chest Workouts & Exercises to Build Muscle | Men's Journal

The Ultimate Chest Workout: Build A Big Chest In Just 28 Days

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545241/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892674/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29282529/

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