If I Had One Chest Exercise To Do It Would Be...

muscular and chiseled chest

What exactly is the best chest exercise to develop power and muscle size for the pectoral muscles? I've been thinking about this question for awhile and my answer is always somewhat conflicted.

However, I can say that I now lean towards an exercise that I have stuck with for the last 10 years as my main chest builder. First, let me say that it's not the bench press. I know, there a lot of you out there who would argue that the bench press is the king of chest exercises. I would have agreed up until about 1994.

You see, it was around that time that I hurt myself doing the bench press. To this day, I simply can't use heavy weight for the bench press. Every time I've tried using heavy weight for the bench press, it seems that old injury comes up and makes a surprise appearance. These days, for some reason, the bench press movement seems like an unnatural movement for me.

It's funny because I vividly remember having a discussion with a body builder back in 1990 and I couldn't fathom what he was saying to me.

I remember him saying to me that he simply couldn't do the bench press movement anymore.

After years of benching and injuries, he actually couldn't do the bench press. At that time, I lived to do the bench press and couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to do the bench press.

He actually warned me that if I kept on benching the way I did, I would injure myself, it was only a matter of how severe.

Today, I understand what he was saying to me. He warned me, but I didn't listen. Anyways, after years of heavy benching and injuries, I can't do heavy bench's anymore. I've come to the conclusion that the bench press is not the best chest exercise. The exercise itself isn't bad but it's the mentality of the trainer that makes it bad.

However, with that being said, it is an effective chest builder, provided it is done properly. The thing about the bench press is that it must be done in a very strict and proper manner because the movement itself puts your upper body in a very vulnerable position. It's simply way to easy to cheat when you are performing the bench press, which leads to injuries. Anyways, I'm not going to get into all of that because I want to let you know what I think is the best chest exercise.

If I was only allowed to perform one chest exercise, what would it be? Personally, I feel it would be a toss up between the incline dumbbell press or incline barbell press. It may sound funny but I feel the incline takes off some of the pressure from the connective joints of the biceps and pectoral muscles, which is where most injuries happen with the bench press.

To me, the movement seems to be more natural in it's motion than the bench press. I also feel that it is harder to cheat at this exercise than it is for the bench press. The set up for the movement makes it more difficult to really cheat at the incline press (although you still can!)

Although you may not be able to handle the same weight as you do with the bench press, the incline press simply offers more benefits in terms of costs (injuries), than the bench press.

For one, I feel more of the chest is hit by doing the incline press. Some may argue that you use more shoulders than anything with an incline exercise but that depends on the incline. I would say that a 30 degree angle is about right, and anything more that 40 degrees is bordering on too much.

However, it the angle is correct, I personally feel that you train the overall pectoral muscle, and specifically the upper chest, in a much more effective manner. The upper chest? Yes, the upper chest is trained in a much more effective manner with the incline press than the flat bench press.

incline barbell press

Try this simple experiment. Take one hand and hold it straight out in front of you and really extend like you're doing a standing, one armed bench press. Feel your chest. You'll feel most of the tension is in your mid chest area. Now, move your arm upwards at about 30 degrees or about 5 to 6 inches upwards. Where do you feel most of the tension? I'm going to bet it is around the upper chest area.

The debate between what is the best chest exercise has been going on for years. I've just told you what I personally think is the best chest exercise, for me. However, no two people are exactly the same. My best advice to you is to experiment.

You can visit all kinds of message boards on the internet and you'll find 20 different answers from 20 different “experts”. The best thing you can do is to incorporate a variety of exercise into your chest training program and decide which ones are best for you.

For example, take 3 simple exercises and perform them in your chest training program. You may want to do the bench press first, followed by a dumbbell press, and maybe a fly. Follow this for about 6 weeks and monitor your progress.

After you've done this, try doing an incline barbell press first and follow that for about 6 weeks. Or, you may want to incorporate the two of them into your training routine such as doing a flat bench press first and than doing an incline dumbbell press or the incline first followed by a flat press.

Who knows, maybe you'll respond best to flat bench fly's or another exercise. Whatever it is, my point is to experiment to find out which chest exercise works best for you. This really is the only way to find out which is the best chest exercise for you.

All the best,


As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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