It’s common to hear other fitness enthusiasts talk about a grueling leg workout or a biceps/triceps day that had them feeling fantastic. Chest workouts, however, don’t get the same level of acknowledgment that they should. For the upper body, your chest muscles contribute to plenty of movements! Moving your arms up and down, pressing, and pulling are movements that your chest helps facilitate.
Since chest exercises can be beneficial for both men and women, most anyone can find chest workouts incredibly useful, especially for everyday tasks. Chest workouts can be a great deal of fun and provide just as much of a challenge as squats or a bicep circuit. Some of the benefits of chest training might even surprise you!
Chest muscle benefits
With chest workouts, you’ll notice a majority of benefits in your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. These muscles make up your “pecs,” which comprise most of your chest. You’ll work these muscles when performing exercises like push-ups, dips, dumbbell flys, and more. While there are many perks of chest training, one of the most useful benefits for both men and women is building functional strength.1
1. Increases muscle thickness
A recent study investigated the changes in muscle thickness2 and strength with high-intensity bench press training. A group of seven young men engaged in free-weight bench press training three days a week for 24 weeks. Compared to the group’s pectoralis major and triceps measurements before the 24-week training period, researchers found that the thickness of these muscles was significantly increased at the end of the period. As weight is pressed off the chest, the triceps are activated to help propel the weight upwards. When repeatedly used, muscles must adapt to manage the weight being pressed or pulled. In this case, results indicate that the group’s pectoral muscles and triceps grew in size due to the weighted stimulus.
While you may not include free weight bench presses in your chest exercise routine, you can count on your chest workout to help add muscle to your chest (depending on your game plan and workout frequency). Naturally, building strength and muscle in the chest looks different for men and women. In women, breast tissue sits above the pectoralis major muscles. Because of this, they will not see major physical changes in their chests after engaging in regular chest workouts. Although women’s physical appearance won’t drastically shift, they can certainly build strength! For men3, the pectoralis major can become more evident with regular chest training. The lower chest—the pectoralis minor—will also take time to develop with specific movements4, like incline push-ups and parallel dips. Integrating dumbbell presses, dumbbells flys, and other chest-focused exercises into your routine pays off!
How do your triceps come into play during chest workouts? The growth of your triceps5 can contribute to chest strength, allowing you to more effectively manage heavier loads. When contracted, your triceps allow you to straighten your arms at your sides or in front of you. This means that these major upper arm muscles contribute to all pressing movements, aiding the arms in both upward and downward motions. When pressing yourself off the floor or dumbbells away from your chest, your triceps power those movements. Unfortunately, the triceps can sometimes become neglected in favor of the biceps, the all-time-favorite part of the arm muscles. As a bonus, developed triceps can also enhance the appearance of the back of the arms!
2. Contributes to upper-body strength output
Not only do you have the potential to notice changes in your chest and triceps with chest workouts, but you have the opportunity to also become stronger6 in the process. From an adaptational standpoint, our muscles are designed to grow and strengthen to accommodate different environmental situations. To manage the weight you’re pressing or pulling, your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles must adapt to handle the load. This is why it’s best to start with bodyweight or lower free weights (five- to 10-pound dumbbells), depending on the exercise, so you don’t accidentally overload your pectoral muscles. While it’s great to push yourself, it’s wise not to overdo it. If you can’t perform a repetition without breaking form (no lower back or shoulder involvement), then it’s best to drop down to a more manageable weight.
As you master chest exercises, you can gradually increase the weight to keep the movements challenging. Over time, the pectoral muscles will strengthen. For example: Where you struggled to press 10-pound dumbbells a few weeks ago, you may now find this weight much easier to control. If you’re interested in seeing your progress, make a note of the exercises and weight used on your chest workout days. Depending on your workout frequency, you should notice a positive change in your strength output.
3. Improves posture
While many of us are guilty of slouching when relaxed, good posture will do your body good in the long run. Since the pectoralis minor muscles7 connect to the ribs (specifically the third, fourth, and fifth ribs), developing them will help you sit up with the shoulder blades retracted more often. While it won’t happen automatically or without practice, keeping the chest “up” will help keep bad posture at bay.
Posture is also a significant factor in working out.8 Form is the key to two essential things: safety and exercise performance. No matter which chest exercise or other movements you do, safety must be a top priority. Otherwise, you could pull a muscle or develop a more serious injury. While many chest workouts are done lying on your back, other bodily exercises are performed while sitting or standing up. In these instances, posture must be examined before getting into the movement. This goes for barbell squats, standing bicep curls, lateral raises, overhead presses, and so many other exercises.
Did you know that chest exercises can strengthen your entire upper body?9 We tend to overlook just how crucial our chest muscles are for everyday movements. Think about everything you do: reaching into high cabinets, pushing off the floor, and opening doors. During each action, you engage your chest muscles.
1. Offers greater caloric expenditure
As one of the upper body’s biggest muscle groups, your chest muscles are large enough to handle a great deal of weight. Depending on your workout intensity, you can build progressive strength and add muscle to your chest. As the Mayo Clinic10 notes, building muscle tissue through strength training contributes to calorie expenditure.
Since your arms and shoulders are innately brought into the mix during chest workouts, you can reap more benefits at one time! During a push-up, your chest, arms, and shoulders must work together for a smooth repetition. When properly executed, movements like push-ups can increase your heart rate and make you break a sweat!
2. Makes everyday tasks more efficient
After getting into the groove of chest workouts, you may notice that tasks that were once challenging now require less effort. From hoisting boxes and lifting pets to rearranging furniture and holding an armful of groceries, strengthened chest muscles can make these much easier to manage. As they become stronger, your chest muscles can become more efficient. The stronger your chest muscles become, the stronger your entire upper body can be!
Not only is this safer for you, but it may also give you a boost of confidence knowing that you’re becoming stronger! As you feel your strength increase, it could make all the difference in your daily life. After a few months of chest workouts, you may find you no longer have trouble opening tightly sealed jars or bottles.
You may find that engaging with your kids feels taxing after holding them or getting back up from playing on their level. Working on your chest muscles can help with both of these movements: holding and pushing. The chest has a huge part to play in your life, and training it can make tasks feel easier.
3. Helps maintain muscular balance
Muscular balance is crucial to both appearing symmetrical and avoiding muscle overcompensation. A good example of a muscular imbalance11 would be very developed arms and underdeveloped leg muscles. While it may not seem like a problem, this imbalance could cause overcompensation during exercise or in daily lifting tasks. When the body overcompensates with other muscle groups, like the shoulders or lower back, it creates the potential for injury. For instance, your lower back may come into play during a barbell squat if you have weaker legs. The issue? A lower back injury could be looming, as your back should not be activated in a leg-dominated movement like a squat.
How can this be avoided? Muscular balance is the best way to ensure your muscle groups are, to some degree, balanced. This means that you should try to work out every major muscle group, including the chest, as a part of your workout routine. That way, your body will be less dependent on dominant muscle groups.
Get started with this chest exercise: push-ups
Not quite ready to use weights or machines? It’s easy to get going on building strength in your chest with bodyweight! There are many different types of bodyweight exercises that emphasize the chest muscles and you can try them out in the comfort of your own home. One of these is push-ups, calling your pectoral muscles into action. You’ll also work your shoulders and triceps in this exercise, which makes it incredibly powerful. Here’s how to perform the ideal push-up.
- Get into a plank position. Place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, so your hands, elbows, and shoulders are stacked above each other.
- Next, with your weight on your arms, lower your body in a straight line until your chest almost touches the floor. (Make sure that everything from your hips to your shoulders drops down as one solid, straight unit).
- To avoid putting additional stress on your neck, be sure to look forward in front of your fingertips to help keep your neck aligned with your back.
- Hold, then push yourself back up to your original position.
Modification: knee push-up
Knee push-ups are a great way to ease into this exercise. If you’re a beginner or can’t quite perform a push-up without dipping your back, try these. They’ll reinforce your form and help build the strength needed for a regular push-up!
- Get into a kneeling position, placing your hands below your shoulders, and knees behind your hips. Your back should be tilted at about a 45-degree angle.
- Next, curl your toes under, and, with your weight on your hands, lower your chest until it almost touches the floor.
- Hold, then push yourself back up to your original position.
Over time, you can modify push-ups to make them more challenging. Perform them at an incline or decline, or change your hand positioning for wide push-ups or diamond push-ups. You can even add claps to your push-ups, making the movement more difficult by bringing core and shoulder stability into the exercise. There are many other ways to modify push-ups, which makes them interesting and keeps boredom at bay. When you feel ready to integrate dumbbells or other equipment into your chest workouts, bodyweight push-ups can still be useful as a warm-up movement or as a part of your main workout routine!
iFIT chest workouts
Ready to start working on your chest with a personal trainer? With iFIT, you get all of the benefits of a traditional gym right at home. With our easy-to-use fitness app, you can log a challenging chest workout with bodyweight movements or with weights and bands. In your home gym with iFIT, there are so many possibilities! Sign up for an iFIT account today to get full access to our massive workout Library. Here, you’ll find all kinds of chest workouts that will provide the challenge you’re looking for. In any workout you choose, your on-demand personal trainer will guide you through muscle-building exercises that will help you become a stronger version of yourself!
Not sure where to start? Try these strength workouts, which feature some awesome chest exercises:
- Strength Training 101 Series with iFIT Trainer Gideon Akande
- Resistance Band Miniseries with iFIT Trainer John Peel
- Functional HIIT Series with iFIT Trainer Paulo Barreto
These strength workouts range in intensity, so select one you feel most comfortable with. If you’re just starting, we recommend Gideon’s Strength Training 101 Series. This series will help you acclimate to strength training, including a chest class introducing those must-have exercises in your routine. More advanced in your fitness journey? Paulo’s HIIT Series will build onto your established strength foundation and, more specifically, help develop your chest muscles! iFIT’s strength training workout series offer chest classes that will push your limits and help you reach your fitness goals!
Own an iFIT-enabled elliptical? You can also try one of our elliptical workout series, as these machines are perfect for training the upper body! As you push and pull the machine’s handles, your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor will be in full force! Your chest muscles can get a great workout along with the rest of your body, depending on your workout routine and effort. Best of all, you can do these series as your daily home workout or even in your local gym. Here are 10 of our most popular workout series for ellipticals!
Start your fitness journey now and sign up for your free iFIT 30-day trial to start a chest workout today!
1. Waehner, P. (2020, December 23). Why you need to work your chest muscles. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/your-best-chest-1229817.
2. Ogasawara, R., Thiebaud, R. S., Loenneke, J. P., Loftin, M., & Abe, T. (2012). Time course for arm and chest muscle thickness changes following bench press training. Interventional Medicine & Applied Science. https://doi.org/10.1556/IMAS.4.2012.4.7.
3. Healthline Editorial Team. (2018, January 23). Pectoralis major. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/pectoralis-major-muscle#1.
4. Eske, J. (2019, February 19). What are the best lower chest exercises? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324490.
5. Healthline Editorial Team. (2018, January 21). Triceps brachii. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/triceps#1.
6. Waehner, P. (2020, December 23). Why you need to work your chest muscles. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/your-best-chest-1229817.
7. Healthline Editorial Team. (2018, January 19). Pectoralis minor. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/pectoralis-minor#1.
8. Rellinger, D. (2016, December 22). Regular breathing and proper posture when exercising is important. MSU Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/regular_breathing_and_proper_posture_when_exercising_is_important.
9. Waehner, P. (2020, December 23). Why you need to work your chest muscles. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/your-best-chest-1229817.
10. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, November 10). Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508.
11. Frothingham, S. (2020, February 27). What causes muscle imbalances and how to fix them. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/muscle-imbalance.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFIT assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment.