Most Effective Chest Exercises (According To Science)

If you’re trying to build strong and well-defined chest without having any clue about the science behind chest exercises, as well as chest anatomy and function, good luck with that. Though you should be prepared to go through plenty of ineffective workouts and hit more training walls than you thought possible!

It’s no secret that the biceps and the chest are the two ‘favorite’ body parts of bodybuilding enthusiasts all over the world, often seen like the definitive symbols of masculinity and physical power. Let’s be honest – the average lifter will gladly neglect his calves, quads and posterior chain muscles to focus on building a gigantic chest! Although this is kind of wrong, it happens all the time and we get it.

But if you’re a proud chest freak, you should at least learn how to train your chest in the most effective way by optimally activating all areas of it. Read all about it in the text below!

The Basics

To make noticeable gains, you need to get a clear picture of which movements involve the chest and how, so that you can choose the right exercises for complete chest growth. Here are the two major types of movements that involve your chest muscles and should be a staple of your chest training:

  • Presses
    Pressing movements are the backbone of any decent chest routine, since they allow you to hit your chest fibers from all angles possible. Compound presses include all the movements where you’re pushing a heavy load away from your upper body.
  • Flies
    Flies involve horizontal adduction, a fancy term for drawing the arm across the body, which is a movement that targets the entire pectoralis major to a significant degree. As you separate your arms and extend them away from the body during the fly motion, your chest fibers are elongating and then contracting at the top of the motion as you bring your arms back in.

All of your chest muscles and how to target them

Your chest is a part of a larger group of “pushing muscles” found in your upper body, and as such it enables you to perform a variety of daily activities and functional movements at the gym. To fully develop this muscle group, you need to target it with relatively heavy weights and wisely chosen exercises. In the text below we’ll discuss each part of your chest and how to properly exercise it to inspire substantial growth.


Being the chest muscle that most guys are mostly interested in developing, the pectoralis major is a celebrity muscle in its own right. This large, fan-shaped muscle originates at the clavicle, ribs and sternum, and inserts into the upper portion of your humerus (upper arm bone from elbow to shoulder), and its main job is to help flex the shoulder joint and move your arm toward and across your chest.

The pectoralis major is composed of three segments – the clavicular head, the sternal head and the abdominal head – which require different motions to be fully activated.

As a whole (all heads working together), the pectoralis major assists adduction (lowering upper arm from side raise position to the midline of the body), medial rotation (rotating upper arm forward or inward to the midline of the body) and horizontal flexion (moving the upper arm from a side raise position to the front of the body).

Clavicular Head

The clavicular head is located in the upper region of the chest and runs from the clavicle down and across the upper part of the chest before inserting at the humerus. In other words, it’s what bro’s at the gym refer to as the “upper pecs” – when properly developed, the clavicular head promotes optimal chest fullness and roundness.

Unfortunately, this portion of the chest is the most underdeveloped and most bodybuilders find it very difficult to make it grow. Still, since the clavicular head originates from the clavicle, it is possible to effectively isolate it while the neighboring sternal head, which originates from the sternum, remains muted. Being close to the deltoid muscle, the clavicular head significantly contributes to flexion, horizontal adduction and inward rotation of the humerus, and is best engaged with exercises which involve shoulder flexion and movements that end with your elbows above your clavicle.

Here are some key exercises for clavicular head development:

Incline Dumbbell/Barbell Bench Press

The bench press is the classic chest exercise for prompting massive chest growth and choosing to make it a key component of your routine is the first step towards success. However, in order to make the most out of it, you need to perform different versions of the bench press with proper form and technique, thus allowing for optimal muscle fiber recruitment and overload. The incline bench press, for example, is one of the best ways to increase clavicular head activation.

Furthermore, replacing your beloved barbell with a pair of dumbbells from time to time will unlock a whole new level of growth potential. The dumbbell press will make each side do equal work and develop equally, increase your range of motion and help you keep more concentrated tension on your chest muscles for a longer period of time, thereby maximizing your results.

Incline Guillotine Dumbbell Chest Flies

The main differences between regular chest flies and guillotine chest flies is the angle of the bench and the direction the palms face during the movement. This variant is performed on an incline bench and with your palms facing forward as if you were going to perform a bench press. From this position, lower the weight like you would during a normal chest fly, but keep your palms facing forward all through the movement. This position of the palms enables greater stimulation of the upper portion of the chest than the typical, neutral one.

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