Toning your chest won’t just make you stronger—it’ll give you a boost in all the right places. And of course the perks (pun intended) go beyond flattering your figure. “In order to balance out your posture, you must perform chest exercises,” says Jacqueline Kasen, Body Architect at Anatomy at 1220 in Miami. “For every two pulling exercises, you should perform one pushing exercise. People have the intention of performing chest exercises, but due to poor form, place the intention negatively on their back.” That’s why Kasen wants you to keep these three key points in mind: First, retract your scapula throughout; contract first, follow through second; and maintain tension throughout. Sticking to these points will help you develop a strong chest and get the results you want. These chest exercises will give you great definition:
1. Barbell Bench Press
“This is pretty much the mother of all chest exercises,” says Holly Rilinger, Nike Master Trainer, Flywheel Master Instructor and star of Bravo’s “Workout New York.” “You can generate the most power with this move so it’s the best exercise to build pure strength.”
HOW-TO: Position yourself with your eyes directly under the bar, feet flat on the ground and grab the bar just slightly wider than shoulder width. Once the bar is lifted off the rack, squeeze your glutes and crawl your shoulder blades under yourself. Make sure your entire body is engaged. Lower the bar just above your chest and as you exhale press the bar away from you to the starting position.
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2. Modified Lateral Slides
“If you want to make this more challenging, instead of moving your arms laterally, you can also perform the same exercise and move your arms in a clockwise position,” Kasen says.
HOW-TO: Grab two sliders and place one under each elbow. Get into a modified plank position, placing your feet hip width apart. As you open your arms laterally, lower your entire body down towards the ground without touching it. Use momentum to return back to the center plank as you slide your arms back underneath your shoulders simultaneously.
“Nothing like a good old body-weight exercise,” Rilinger says. “No equipment? No problem.”
HOW-TO: Lie on the ground with your hands just outside your shoulders. Thumbs should be close to your shoulders. Press your entire body up while keeping yourself fully aligned. Your toes and hands should be the only point of contact with the ground. Lower yourself until your arms are in 90-degree angles and push up again. Want more of a challenge? Place a weight on your back.
4. Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
“Any time we work one side of the body, we are slightly off balance, which forces us to stabilize by activating our core,” Rilinger says. “So the bonus here is that you are working chest and abs.”
HOW-TO: Lie flat on a bench holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Press the dumbbell directly over your chest until your arm is straight. Slowly lower the dumbbell to the right side of your chest. Finish all the reps on your right side before moving to your left side.
5. Lying Down Medicine Ball Toss
You might be used to adding a medicine ball into abs workouts but it can help you build a stronger chest as well.
HOW-TO: While lying down flat on a mat, grab a medicine ball. Place your elbows roughly at 90-degrees touching the ground. In an explosive movement, push the ball right above you, and then catch it as you draw the ball into your chest. Grab a challenging weight where every rep will be tough to push above your chest.
6. Tri-Level Push-Ups
“This isnt your basic push-up!” Kasen says.
HOW-TO: The tempo is a 3:1 ratio: Three counts on the way down and one second on the way up. However, if you have had a breast augmentation, make sure you consult with your physician before attempting these exercises. If you want to make it more challenging, add a light resistance band. Place the band around your back underneath your shoulder blades and the straps underneath your hand. Make sure you maintain the same tempo.
7. TRX Push-Up
“Take the push-up one step further and use a TRX resistance band,” suggests Kasen.
HOW-TO: Perform a wide grip push-up and come up to full extension. Alternate into a narrow grip push-up where you turn your hands inward. This will access your pectoral minor as well as your triceps. Alternate back and forth between wide grip and narrow grip.
8. Standing Cable Chest Fly
“This is a great way to isolate the pecs after completing your multi-joint exercises,” Rilinger says.
HOW-TO: Grasp two opposing high pulley cables. Stand with pulleys to each side. Bend over slightly and step one foot back into a split stance. Squeeze the glute of the back leg to gain stability. Bend elbows slightly and internally rotate shoulders so elbows are back initially. Bring hands together in hugging motion with elbows in fixed position. Return to starting position until chest muscles are stretched.
9. Band Chest Flies
Even without added weight, this exercise will still build pec strength.
HOW-TO: Secure a band at shoulder height to a stable part, like a post on any piece of equipment, the jungle gym, Smith machine, anything as long as its shoulder height. The exercise is performed standing. Start off standing in a staggered stance position. Maintain pressure on your front leg. Grab the resistance band, one handle in each hand, and walk out to the position where you feel a challenging resistance. In the staggered stance, drop your chest slightly, maintaining an erect spine and neutral head. Have your arms straight with your hands turned inward. Start to open up your arms shoulder height, with your elbows slightly bent to where your hands are even with your shoulders. Make sure you do not move further back because you may hyperextend. Once you reach full extension, squeeze your arms back together to the starting position, and flex your chest when your hands are touching. Make sure not to round your back as you bring your hands together.
10. Chest Press with Plates
When you’re feeing like you’re ready for an addition challenge, try this exercise.
HOW-TO: Grab two 5lb plates or if you are up for a challenge, grab two 10lb plates. Lying flat on your back as if you are performing a chest press, place the plates together where your hands will be vertical on the outside of the plates. Actively push the plates together as you lower the plates to your chest and back above you where your arms will reach full extension. The more active pressure you apply, the more challenging the exercise will be. Perform slow and controlled in the eccentric and concentric phase (in the positive and negative phase of the exercise).