The question of how to get a big chest is relevant amongst treasure-seeking pirates, but mostly, your regular gym Joes who are looking to improve the appearance of their pecs.

Well, we don’t have a secret map, but trust us here – We do have a treasure for you.

In this article, we’ll enlighten you on how to grow your chest to the best extent possible.

To do so, we will go over the following:

  1. Most common chest training mistakes that hinder your growth
  2. The best exercise selection for massive gains

Before we jump directly into the workout and tell you the common mistakes for each exercise, let’s go over some actionable tips.

Chest training tips

#1 Proper form

One of the biggest mistakes that nearly everyone in the gym makes is not using proper form on many of the exercises.

Proper form takes away from the activation of the trained muscle group and hence, hinders growth potential.

This is exactly what we will emphasize on in this article – Listing out the best chest exercises, the most common mistakes linked to them and the proper, step-by-step execution.

#2 Pre-Exhaustion

Synergistic muscle groups (Muscles working for the same function) can sometimes ruin a chest workout .

In this specific case, the groups synergistic to the chest are the triceps and the shoulders, all 3 of which are engaged during pushing movements.

If you reach failure on a pushing movement for the chest, it will more than likely be the triceps and shoulders giving out first, rather than the chest.

This takes away from the work of the chest, hence hindering its growth.

To counter this, we can pre-exhaust the chest prior to the heavy compound movements and allow it to reach failure first, before the triceps or shoulders do so.

For this purpose, it is best to use isolated or machine pressing exercises, where the shoulders and triceps are not engaged all that much.

Here are our top pre-exhaustion picks for the chest:

  1. Cable flys
  2. Dumbbell flys to hex press
  3. Machine flys

#3 Hypertrophy rep range

If your main goal is gaining quality muscle mass, you must know one thing: Heavy weights are a must.

However, lifting too heavily (Below 5 reps), is only possible through an increased frequency of the brain to muscle signals.

Primarily doing sets of 5 or less repetitions will optimize the development of the nerve paths and bulk muscle growth will be a secondary adaptation, as opposed to strength.

On the flipside,  doing 6 or more reps will grant more metabolic stress due to the higher amounts of energy substances used and hence, the bulk muscle growth will be greater.

Bottom line: The best way to grow your chest is by utilizing proper form, pre-exhaustion & sets of 6+ repetitions.

Big Chest Workout

Now let’s go through the workout, analyze the common mistakes to give you the proper execution of each movement.

#1 Exercise – Pre-Exhaustion – Seated Chest Press

Machine chest press

Sets: 2

Reps: 35 seconds time under tension

Rest times: Move on directly to the compound exercise

Mistake: Elbows flared

This first exercise, we will use as a pre-exhaustion movement to fatigue the chest prior to the next, heavy movement.

One of the common mistakes here is elbow position – If you flare the elbows, you will place too much tension on the shoulders and take away from chest activation.

Execution:

  1. Sit down on the machine and rest your back comfortably
  2. Grab the handles and slightly push the weight to place tension on the chest
  3. Look forward and slightly down to the chest
  4. Push Forward, keeping the elbows closer to the body, in a diagonal angle from the shoulder joint
  5. Contract the chest, without locking out the elbow
  6. Return back to the original position slowly, without letting the weight rest completely

#2 Exercise – Compound – Smith Machine Flat Bench

Smith machine bench press

Sets: 4

Reps: 8-10

Rest times: 90 seconds

Mistakes: Too quick eccentric portion, lifting the butt off of the bench, internal shoulder rotation

After we’re done pre-exhausting the chet with the first exercise, we can move on to the heavy, compound movement which will stimulate hypertrophy.

In this case, that is the flat bench press which can be done with a barbell or on a smith machine.

Most trainees go too quickly on the way down in an attempt to bounce a bigger weight off of their chest.

However, the goal here will be to use a moderate weight and maximize tension by using proper form

Execution:

  1. Lay down on the bench comfortably
  2. Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width
  3. Un-rack the bar and bend elbows slightly, out of lockout
  4. Keep head rested to avoid excessive neck tension
  5. Let the bar go down to the lower portion of your chest, keeping the elbows at a diagonal angle from the shoulder
  6. Once the bar slightly touches the chest, push up explosively on the concentric part
  7. Contract the chest up top without locking out the elbow

Note: Do NOT lift your butt off of the bench

#3 Exercise – High To Low Cable Fly

Cable fly partial range of motion

Sets: 

Reps: 35 seconds time under tension

Rest times: 60 seconds between sets

Mistake: Too long range of motion, no adduction

This workout is classically done via the balloon method – First we pre-exhaust and activate with a machine chest exercise, then we move on to the compound lift and then we focus on time under tension.

If you have been in the game for a while you probably know how well cables activate the chest. We will utilize just that.

On top, we will add the “Partial repetitions principle” which will allow us to realize more tension on the chest musculature.

Execution:

  1. Grab both upper pulleys
  2. Take a step forward to lift the weight off of the stack
  3. Keep torso straight and look forward
  4. Push down, contracting the chest
  5. Go back up a couple of inches, shortening the range of motion
  6. Repeat

Note: To further optimize activation during this movement, consider criss-crossing your arms, to activate the inner chest.

#4 Exercise – Low To High Cable Fly

Low to high cable fly

Sets: 3

Reps: 15

Rest times: 60 seconds between supersets

We all know the good ‘ol flat bench press, but one of the BIGGEST mistakes in chest training is neglecting the upper portion of the pectoral muscles.

Without a good upper chest, your chest will look saggy and underdeveloped.

This is exactly why including upper chest movements is of prime importance.

Execution:

  1. Grab both lower cables and step forward to lift the weight off of the stack
  2. Keep torso straight, chest puffed up slightly and head looking forward
  3. Bend elbows slightly and keep them in that static position
  4. Lift up, criss-crossing the hands and contracting the chest when your arms are parallel to the ground
  5. Hold peak flexion briefly and return down slowly, maintaining eccentric tension

NOTE: This exercise is combined in a SUPERSET with the next one.

#5 Exercise – Diamond Push-Ups

Diamond push ups

Sets: 3

Reps: To failure

Rest times: 60 seconds

This last exercise is used in a superset with exercise number 4, to squeeze out the last bits of the chest.

Note that this exercise will target the triceps, front delts and inner chest.

Execution:

  1. Kneel down on the ground
  2. Place your hands close to one another, so that the fingers point at each other diagonally and touch
  3. Lift your knees off of the ground, keep torso straight and look down
  4. Go down slowly, keeping the elbows relatively close to the body
  5. Without resting at the bottom, push up explosively and contract the chest up top

NOTE: After completing this superset, rest for 60-75 seconds and do 2 more supersets

Bottom Line

The chest is one of the best-looking superficial muscle groups of the upper body.

Many people however, get it all wrong – Not using proper form, not bringing the arms closer to the midline of the body and not working in the rep range needed for growth stimulus.

For this workout, we utilized the 6+ rep range and combined that with pre-exhaustion, time under tension and supersets to completely realize the balloon method.

If you are looking to further improve your training, check out our exercises section, where we have a variety of exercises for each and every muscle group.

In case you do not know where to start or how to continue with your training, feel free to do our QUIZ, which will give you good insight on your current fitness level.

Now that you have the perfect chest workout to build up those pecs, feel free to go ahead and apply it in your training split!