Top 5 Free Weight Chest Exercises To Develop Strong Pecs

Strong Shirtless Man Flexing His Chest for top Pectoralis Major Exercises

These are the core chest exercises that you should do at least one if not more, during every chest workout. These exercises have been proven to be the most effective chest exercises and are in the primary chest routine for all professional bodybuilder and weight training athletes. By incorporating the suggestions below for these exercises: incline press, flat press, Incline flies, flat flies, and dips, you will work your all your chest muscles from various angles. As a result, you can achieve outstanding results.

How to Perform the Top 5 Chest Exercises Most Effectively

The following exercises are in order of importance. Though they all are equally beneficial for developing a muscular and massive chest. None of the top 5 lifts should be avoided, and you don’t need to perform all of them during every chest day. For maximum results should do two of them every time, you work your chest. By incorporating a few of these lifts into every chest program, you will target all parts of the chest including the Pectoralis Minor, Pectoralis Major (Clavicular, Sternal) while incorporating secondary muscles of the triceps and deltoids.

Barbell Incline Bench Press

There is a reason the Barbell Incline Bench Press is listed as number 1. By many athletes and bodybuilders, it is merely the superior exercise for targeting your Pectoralis Major, Clavicular. Football players prefer the Incline Bench since it is the most similar exercise for blocking when they are in a proper athletic stance. The Barbell Incline Bench Press works your Deltoid, Anterior and Triceps Brachii as Synergist and your Stabilizers are Biceps Brachii, Short Head.

Procedure for Executing the Proper Barbell Incline Bench Press.

  1. Lie on an incline bench at a 30-40 degree angle. If your seat is adjustable move the seat up or down until you can comfortable unrack the weight. You want to have a full range of motion without obstruction by the pegs.
  2. Grip the barbell slightly wider than your shoulder width.
  3. Keep your feet flat on the floor, butt and shoulders planted firmly on the bench.
  4. Once you have a stable base, you can un-rack the weight.
  5. Having the bar straight over your chest, lower it down to your upper chest. Inhale as you lower the bar and pause briefly at the bottom.
  6. Press the weight straight back up, while exhaling. Focusing on pressing the bar vertically, and don’t lock your arms at the top.
  7. Repeat the lowering and pressing the bar until you have completed your desired number of repetitions.
  8. Rerack the bar once complete


  • Make sure that the bench angle is not less than 30-degrees and not more than 45-degrees.
  • Avoid cheating by not bouncing or jerking the weight. You should instead focus on using a smooth and controlled motion.
  • Avoid locking elbows at the top of the movement. When you lock your elbows, you take the tension off your muscles and place it on your bones and joints.

Barbell Bench Press

The Barbell Bench Press (Bench Press) is the most recognizable and most used chest exercise. Many people gauge upper body strength by the Bench Press. Because it is the primary power lift for competing on upper body strength. If you talk about lifting with anyone, I am sure you have been asked: “how much can you press”. But there is very little relevance in that question unless you’re competing as a powerlifter. Although the Barbell Bench Press is by far the best exercise for targeting the Pectoralis Major, Sternal. Barbell Bench Press uses the Pectoralis Major Clavicular, Deltoid Anterior and Triceps Brachii as a synergist and stabilizer of the Biceps Brachii, Short Head.

Follow this Formula to Perform the Barbell Bench Press Correctly:

  1. Lie on a flat bench with your face directly under the bar, so that after you un-rack, you will have full range of motions without obstruction.
  2. Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width for a standard grip bench press. You can use narrow and wide grip as discussed in tips.
  3. With your feet flat on the floor, plant your butt and shoulders firmly on the bench. After you have established a stable base, you can un-rack the weight.
  4. With the bar straight over your chest, lower the bar, and inhale on the way down. The bar should come down to slightly above your nipples. Your forearms should be verticle in the down position. Pause in the down position briefly.
  5. Drive the bar back up, while exhaling, to the top position.
  6. Repeat until you have completed the desired number of repetitions.
  7. Rerack the bar once complete.


  • Come to a complete stop once the barbell touches your chest. Don’t rest the bar on your chest.
  • You want to avoid bouncing and jerking the weight up using momentum, instead use a smooth and controlled motion. The goal should be to work your muscles not impress yourself or others by throwing around some weight.
  • Avoid locking elbows at the top of the movement. When you lock your arms you take the pressure off your muscles and place it on your joints. Doing this will not make your bones and joints bigger and can lead to injury.
  • Incorporate wide grip on days that you don’t perform flies to work your outer chest. To work your triceps more use a narrow grip.

Flat and Incline Dumbbell Press, the Dumbbell Bench Press

Using dumbbells for exercises that are traditionally done with barbells will incorporate more stabilizing muscles. The Dumbbell Bench Press is no different, it is similar to the Barbell Bench Press, but your arms are utilized independently of each other. With your arms moving together with the barbell, you will find that you can not lift as much weight. Additionally, you may find the Dumbbell press to be more comfortable on the shoulders because your arms are moving independently of one another. Another benefit of a Dumbbell Press is it will allow for a deeper stretch at the bottom of the movement. Since you can drop the weight deeper and push your hands and the dumbbells close together at the top. Because of the freedom of movement of the dumbbells, they may be harder to control, remember always to maintain control of the dumbbells.

How to Performing the Dumbbell Press for Maximum Effect:

  1. Sit down on a bench with dumbbells resting on lower thigh. Place the dumbbells verticle on their legs with your thumbs up. Then kick weights to your shoulders one at a time and lie back while controlling the weight. Option two is to lie back before bouncing the weight up off your leg. A third option and the safest is to have a spotter who will place each weight in your hand after you have got into the correct position on the bench.
  2. Now that you have achieved the desire down position press weights overhead to up position. The up position is the standard starting position for the barbell press, but not the dumbbell press.
  3. With your feet planted firmly on the floor for stability lower the dumbbells with your arms beside your chest. Lower the dumbbells as far as possible while maintaining your forearms verticle.
  4. Pause briefly before you push up and return to up position, using a slight arch of a movement to maintain your forearms verticle.
  5. Remember to breath in on the way down and out on the way up. Pause slightly at both the top and bottom position without locking your arms.
  6. Repeat until you have completed the desired number of reps.
  7. Returning the weight to the floor or rack can be challenging. If you have a spotter they can grab the weight from you. You can also bring your elbows into your side, turning the dumbbell so that it is in line with your leg. Lift one leg at a time too near the dumbbell, touch the dumbbell to that leg. Lower your leg and the dumbbell back to the bench. Do this for the other dumbbell, now you should be able to sit up and pick the dumbbells off your legs. Some gyms may let you drop the dumbbells, you shouldn’t do this on purpose, but don’t hesitate to drop the weights to the side instead of on you.


  • You can vary the angle between your shoulders and elbows to take the pressure off the shoulders.
  • Always incorporate dumbbell bench and incline after you have performed the barbell incline or flat press. You want to work the stabilizer more after you have worked the primary muscle, in this case, the Pectoralis Major.

Incline and flat Dumbbell Flies

The Dumbbell Fly is an excellent isolation exercise for your Pectoralis Major, Sternal. When you perform the Dumbbell Fly correctly, your chest will be doing all the work. Both Flat and Incline Flies are performed similarly by incorporating your chest at slightly different angles. For optimum results, you want to alternate between flat and incline flies.

How to Perform Dumbbells Flies Safely and Effectively

  1. You should be using less weight than you did for dumbbell press, but if the weight is heavy you can use a similar method as described above to get the weight in position. Or you can simply raise the dumbbells to your chest prior to lying back on the bench.
  2. Once you have the weight lie on a bench and press the weight straight up with your triceps to get to the starting position. With the dumbbells at arm’s length and a slight bend in your elbows.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells with palms facing in keep your elbow in the slightly bent position, so your arms are nearly straight the entire time. Inhale until you feel a comfortable stretch and pull in your chest.
  4. Bring the dumbbells back up together utilizing the pull in your chest and exhale on the way up. Proper form will look like you are hugging a barrel.
  5. Repeat, the flies until you have completed your desired number of repetitions.
  6. You can return the weight by using the same procedures as described in dumbbell press, though you will be using lighter weights and this should be easier.


  • Make sure you are not to bending your arms too much. If you bend your arms to a 90-degree angle to complete the rep, the weight is too heavy and you are performing a press not flies.

Chest Dips

Chest Dips are similar to the triceps dips, it is only a change in your body position that changes the target muscles. Chest Dips can closely resemble what you would be trying to target with a decline press. You probably noticed that we didn’t include decline press with barbells or dumbbells in this list for good reason. Chest dips can work the phantom ‘lower Pecs’ as good or better than the decline press.  You will want to use a wide dip bar so you will be targeting the Pectoralis Major, Sternal and not your Triceps Brachii. Chest dips are a great finishing lift to strengthen your triceps and chest for other pressing exercises. To place the effort on your chest and not so your triceps, lean slightly forward. You will want to lean slightly forward anyway since your triceps will tire much more quickly than your chest. As your strength increases, you should add a weight belt and some plates. You can also hold a dumbbell in between your feet or use a weighted dip machine.

Perform Chest Dips as Follows:

  1. Start in the up position with your arms almost fully extended with your shoulders above your hands.
  2. Next, lean slightly forward to keep tension on your Pecs and off your triceps as much as possible.
  3. Lower your body by bending your arms and allowing elbows to flare out to sides.
  4. When you feel the stretch in the chest, pause and squeeze your Pecs then push your body up back to starting position.
  5. Repeat reps to failure.


  • To work your chest and not your triceps, lean slightly forward.
  • Never lock your elbows, this takes the pressure off your muscles.
  • Bend your legs or crossing your feet can shift the center of gravity to aid you in leaning forward. Changing your center of gravity can allowing more of the chest muscles to get involved.
  • If you have shoulder problems, you may want to consider skipping this exercise and instead consider decline press.

Honorable Mention: Incline Smith Machine Press, Decline Barbell Fly, Pec Dec Fly, Cable Cross Over would be mention if doing top 10 chest exercises.

Note: Decline Bench Press is left out of the list of the most effective chest exercises because the decline bench press is reported to work the lower chest. However, there are no lower chest muscles; therefore, there is no need to perform an exercise like the decline bench press. However, if you are a big fan of this movement, feel free to work in the Decline Bench Press to change up your routine a bit. I will reiterate, however, that there are better chest exercises to spend your time doing that will work your chest more completely. If you love being an upside, then my suggestion is to work in decline flies. At least with a fly movement, you will use less triceps than you would be doing the decline press.

Additional Training Articles

For more great bodybuilding and fitness articles, check out Exercises.

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