Skip to Content

Chest Workout: 11 Resistance-Training Movements to Develop Your Pectoral Muscles

Chest Workout: 11 Resistance-Training Movements to Develop Your Pectoral Muscles

How developed are your chest muscles? The downside to having weak pectorals – for both women and men – is that the chest area of the human body is particularly prone to the ravages of gravity, and without strong chest muscles the area can start to look droopy.

Below is an 11-exercise resistance-training workout to help firm, lift, and build the pectoral muscles of your chest.

It’s helpful to remember that muscles exist for a reason.

Symmetrically developed muscles not only give you a nice shape – they also make you a healthier person:

  • Having some muscle tone in your torso helps keep your metabolism robust. This means you’ll be burning more calories even when you’re not exercising.
  • Chest muscles help you move better and improve your posture and body position.
  • Weak chest muscles tend to leave a torso looking saggy. If you happen to have a higher percentage of body fat, it’s still helpful to have muscles underneath the skin and fat – to help improve the overall texture and keep the area from falling south completely.
exercises firm pectoral muscles

Resistance training is any movement that inspires muscles to contract against the force being applied. That force can be in the form of a dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, resistance band, or even your own body weight.

The following 11 resistance-training movements will help develop your pectoral muscles and are good for both women and men. I’ve included a video so you can see what the movements look like in action.

The Best Year of Your Life Probably Hasn’t Yet Happened

I’m Dane Findley and my message is simple: it’s only in your thriving that you have anything to offer anyone – therefore, the best investment you can ever make is in your own health:

  • my free weekly email update is for those who’ve decided they want to be even healthier than they are right now
  • it includes evidence-based, actionable strategies for a vibrant, fulfilling life
  • if you are kindcurious, and intrigued by personal development, you will likely find the update motivating and helpful
  • there’s nothing wrong with someone being rigid in their beliefs, but if that’s you, you’ll likely not enjoy my newsletter (no hard feelings – I wish you well on your journey)
  • if you go more than 2 months without opening one of my email messages, you will automatically be unsubscribed
  • don’t sign up for my newsletter if you are someone who is not fascinated by human optimization and stellar health

However, if you are someone for whom improved health is becoming a top priority, then I invite you to sign up for my free updates:

Where applicable, I’ve included modifications for beginners. Additionally, you can always increase or decrease the resistance to make the exercise harder or easier.

The result of these movements – when done consistently – is an increase in strength, and improvement in shape, tone, and endurance.

pectoralis major pectoralis minor

Your chest is comprised of two muscles, the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor (see image above). It’s helpful to think of them as the pushing muscles of your torso:

  • Pectoralis Major: the larger muscle that runs from the upper arm bone (humerus) to the upper-center of your front torso (sternum). Fit people with low body fat can actually see the two heads of the pectoralis major when they get a good pump. The top one is the clavicular head and the bottom one is the sternocostal head.
  • Pectoralis Minor: the smaller muscle that runs underneath the pectoralis major, connecting the bottom ribs with the scapula.

The most popular exercise for chest – indeed, the most popular bodybuilding exercise ever – is the barbell bench press.

However, it gets a tad boring doing the barbell bench press twice a week for the rest of your life.


In Silver and Strong: Getting Fit After Age 50, I explain exactly how to craft a Fitness Comeback Plan that specifically meets the needs of your unique body and lifestyle.

  • • Need more info first? Click Here.
  • • Want the course now? Click Here.

  • Also, since the human body adapts to movement patterns quickly, you can sometimes get better results with variation and trying different chest exercises besides just the barbell bench press.

    Best of all, when you try a variety of chest exercises it can have the end result of strengthening your stabilizers and making you more mobile for your barbell chest press – allowing you to increase resistance load for that fundamental exercise.

    woman preparing for beginner chest exercises

    A Pectoral Workout You Can Do Anywhere for a Stronger, Better-Looking Chest

    These 11 exercises will get you started on developing, shaping and defining your chest muscles:

    • Each circuit is done three times.
    • Do each exercise within the circuit consecutively without rest, then take a 2-minute rest before repeating the circuit again.
    • After you complete your third time through a particular circuit, you move on to the next circuit in the series.

    First Circuit (chest warm-up):

    1. Elbow-Supported Plank
    2. Plank
    3. Plank with Shoulder Touches

    Additional Warm-up:

    • Jogging
    elbow plank chest warm up
    Health writer Dane Findley uses an elbow-supported plank to engage the core muscles and warm-up the pecs.

    Elbow-Supported Plank

    • Assume a perfectly aligned plank position.
    • Pay very close attention to the positioning of your pelvis. Activate your glutes a bit, then scoop your pelvis forward and under just a tad. You accomplish this by pulling your lower abdominal plate – that upside-down triangle of ab muscle located below your navel – toward the sky, with intensity.
    • Continue to breathe smoothly even as you hold the position and it becomes challenging.
    • Beginners hold 30 seconds. Advanced athletes hold 45 seconds.
    planking warm up chest muscles

    Plank

    • The plank is among the best exercises for firming your core. Take pride in doing it as perfectly as you can.
    • Beginners hold 30 seconds. Advanced athletes hold 45 seconds.
    alternating shoulder touch planks pec warm up

    Plank with Shoulder Touches

    • Same as a plank, but you alternate touching each shoulder.
    • 20 times (10 times each side).
    • Maintain a slow yet consistent speed.
    warm up for beginner chest workout

    Run to the End of the Block – or Jog in Place, or Treadmill

    • If you’ve been sitting all day, or if you’re over the age of 50 like me, you might need a little extra warm-up. I do a light 1-minute jog at the end of the first circuit to make absolutely certain that I’ve raised my body temperature, lubricated my joints a bit, and circulated some blood and oxygen into my major muscle groups.

    Second Chest Circuit:

    1. Double-Ball PushUp
    2. Single-Arm Roll-Ball PushUp
    3. Plyometric PushUp with Clap

    Double-Ball PushUp

    • 10 pushups with a weighted ball under each hand.
    • Weak or tender wrists? Do regular pushups instead.
    • Uncomfortable elbows? Keep the hands further apart and come down only half way.
    • Abs getting tired? Separate your feet further apart.
    • Use torque. Press your palms fully and evenly into the floor – pretend you’re trying to push down and twist out, but without actually moving your hands.
    older man doing ball push ups for chest

    Single-Arm Roll Ball Push Up

    • 8 pushups with one arm on a weighted ball.
    • After each repetition, roll the ball across and use the other hand for the next rep.
    single arm ball push up pecs
    • Be mindful of your wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
    • If you need to, limit your range of motion.
    • For beginners, see photo below:
    staggered arm push up chest muscles
    Beginners can do a Staggered-Arm PushUp (instead of a Single-Arm Roll Ball PushUp) with one arm slightly forward and one arm slightly back. Do four reps slowly, then change arms to the opposite position and do four more. If that’s still too hard, do it with your knees resting on a pad.
    • Athletes will often hold their breath when things get hard. Do the opposite: keep your breath flowing freely.
    • The funny thing about pushups is that, sometimes, your abdominal muscles will start to fatigue before your arms do. If that happens, resist the temptation to let your waist sag. Keep your navel pulled up tightly. Be fiercely protective of your lower back.
    plyometric push-up clapping chest

    Plyometric PushUp with Clap

    • Push so hard during your pushup that you become airborne and can sneak in a quick clap.
    • 8 reps.
    • If you’re feeling exhausted, shaky, or your palms are sweating, do not do the plyometric jump. Be certain to do these on a sticky pad. You don’t want to slip.
    • Modifications for beginners (see photo below):
    knee pushups pecs chest
    Beginner-level athletes can do plyometric clapping pushups on their knees, but only if they feel strong enough – otherwise, just do regular push-ups at a higher speed. Use caution and common sense!

    Third Chest Circuit:

    1. Single-Arm Kettlebell Press on Stability Ball
    2. Dumbbell Fly on Stability Ball
    3. Close-Grip Ball PushUp
    single arm kettlebell chest press swiss ball

    Single-Arm Kettlebell Press on Stability Ball

    • 10 reps each side.
    • Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell and press it up over your chest, using a stability ball as your “bench.”
    • Remember to keep your pelvis stable and centered (without arching your lower back).
    dumbbell fly on stability ball chest

    Dumbbell Fly on Stability Ball

    • 14 reps.
    • Open up your arms wide, but with a slight bend in the elbows.
    • Use the strength of your chest to bring the dumbbells together over your upper chest, almost straightening your arms.
    chest workout exercises

    Close-Grip Ball PushUp

    • Close grip push-ups on the weighted ball.
    • 8 reps.
    • Maintain perfect plank positioning.
    • Modification for beginners is close-grip pushups on the ground with hands in a triangle position (see photo below). If your arms are fatiguing and you’re unable to make it to 8 repetitions, then lower your knees to the mat and continue.
    close grip push ups

    Fourth Chest Circuit:

    1. Decline PushUp on Fists
    2. Kettlebell Pullover on Stability Ball
    decline push up pecs

    Decline Chest PushUp on Fists

    • If your hands will allow for it, do pushups on your fists instead of your palms.
    • Raise your feet up on a bench or platform.
    • Keep your elbows closer to your torso as you lower down.
    pec exercises develop chest

    Kettlebell Chest Pullover on Stability Ball

    • Raise your arms back over your head while using a stability ball as your support.
    • Slight bend in the elbows, then straighten your arms a bit more as you bring the kettlebell or dumbbell up over your chest.
    • Initiate the movement from your chest muscles (more than your shoulders or arms).
    • It’s okay to drop your hips a bit – if your lower back will allow it – but keep your abs tight and your glutes active.
    pec exercises develop chest

    Workout Your Chest Muscles for Gravity-Defying Pecs

    When pectoral muscles get weak, they lose the fight with gravity. This 11-exercise chest workout will help you stay fit and keep your torso from looking droopy.

    Tools

    • Towel, kettlebell, stability ball, weighted balls, mat, dumbbells.

    Instructions

    Do these exercises with good form and proper breathing.

    MEN: for adding size, do fewer reps with more weight.

    WOMEN: for increased definition and shape, do more repetitions with less resistance.

    1. Elbow-Supported Plank
    2. Plank
    3. Plank with Shoulder Touches
    4. Double-Ball PushUp
    5. Single-Arm Roll-Ball PushUp
    6. Plyometric PushUp with Clap
    7. Single-Arm Kettlebell Press on Stability Ball
    8. Dumbbell Fly on Stability Ball
    9. Close-Grip Ball PushUp
    10. Decline PushUp on Fists
    11. Kettlebell Pullover on Stability Ball

    Notes

    Err on the side of caution. If your shoulders are feeling particularly tight on chest day, then spend more time warming-up and consider lowering the resistance.

    During chest exercises, it's tempting to let your deltoids and triceps do most of the heavy lifting. Instead, initiate the movement from your pectorals. Visualize the muscle group you're trying to work as you do each exercise.

    Executed properly with good form, the above chest exercises can help to give you beautifully sculpted pectorals and improve your overall physical conditioning.

    The entire chest workout can be done in under 45-minutes.

    As always, ask your medical doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.

    happy couple in bed
    ← Previous
    What to Eat Before Bed (so You Look Great the Next Morning)
    Happy, mature, fit couple gardening together outdoors.
    Next →
    11 of the Most Pivotal Decisions You'll Make During Your Lifetime

    How to Plan and Organize Your Workouts Using Pinterest

    Wednesday 14th of August 2019

    […] supple), flexibility stretches (for shortened muscles), balance training, strength movements to develop muscle, cardiovascular and lung conditioning to better your endurance, and once in a while include an […]

    9 HIIT Outdoor Park Workout Ideas with High Intensity Interval Training

    Monday 29th of July 2019

    […] to alternate arm positioning so that you condition your triceps and pectorals […]

    16 Battle Rope Exercises for a Lean, Powerful Body • Over Fifty and Fit

    Sunday 7th of July 2019

    […] you push up, imagine pushing from your chest muscles especially (instead of initiating from the arms only). Beginners separate your feet wide; […]

    How to Create Your Healthiest Body Yet (Even After Age 50)

    Sunday 16th of June 2019

    […] I’m training with weights, I visualize – in my mind – the muscle group I’m […]

    The 4 Lifestyle Factors that Determine Posture and Weight

    Friday 24th of May 2019

    […] skeletal system and musculature might be weak and even unhealthy. It’s important to make resistance-training a part of any self-care regimen, particularly after the age of […]

    Comments are closed.

    Sharing is Caring

    Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!