5 Best Compound Chest Exercises for Building a Bigger Chest

5 Best Compound Chest Exercises for Building a Bigger Chest

Jan 17, 2024

Man weightlifter at the gym bench press chest exercise ripl fitness

5 Best Compound Chest Exercises for Building a Bigger Chest

Want to build a strong, muscular chest? Compound chest exercises are key. These movements target multiple muscle groups at once, stimulating more overall growth than isolation exercises.

In this article, we list the 5 best compound exercises for sculpting an impressive set of pecs along with tips for incorporating them into your routine. Read on to start training your chest more effectively!

What Are Compound Chest Exercises?

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that engage several muscle groups simultaneously. For chest training, the best ones recruit not just the pectorals but also the shoulders, triceps, and core.

By activating these supporting muscle groups, you can lift heavier weights and put greater tension on the target chest muscles. This leads to increased strength and hypertrophy gains compared to isolation movements.

Some of the top compound exercises for chest are:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dips
  • Push Ups

These stimulate both the upper and lower pectorals along with the front delts, triceps, and other assisting movers.

Let's look at why you should include them in your chest regimen.

Man training in gym. He doing bench press with bar ripl fitness

Benefits of Chest Compound Exercises

Compound chest exercises offer many benefits:

  • Build Bigger Pecs: Hit multiple angles of the chest in one movement to promote significant muscular hypertrophy.

  • Increase Strength: Recruitment of multiple large muscle groups allows you to lift heavier weights.

  • Improve Shoulder Health: Pulling across the body engages the upper back which counters shoulder dysfunction from excessive pressing.

  • Raise Testosterone: Large compound exercises spike production of muscle-building hormones.

  • Boost Metabolism: Involving more muscle mass revs up your resting metabolic rate.

  • Save Time: Reduce workout duration by training multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Now let’s get into the 5 best compound chest exercises for building a bigger set of pecs!

1. Barbell Bench Press

The bench press is one of the best mass and strength builders for the entire upper body. It stimulates both the middle and lower chest while also engaging the shoulders and triceps.

Man during bench press exercise ripl fitness

  • Muscles Worked: Pectorals, Deltoids, Triceps
  • How To: Lie flat on a bench holding the barbell above your chest with an overhand grip wider than shoulder width. Lower it to your sternum, then drive back up. Keep your feet planted and don’t let your back arch off the bench.
  • Benefits: Heavy loading potential builds immense chest and triceps strength and size. Hits all areas of the pectorals.

2. Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press targets the hard-to-reach upper chest along with the front delts and triceps. Performing it at an incline shifts emphasis from the lower to upper pecs.

incline barbell bench press ripl fitness

  • Muscles Worked: Upper Chest, Front Delts, Triceps
  • How To: Set an adjustable bench to a 30-45 degree incline. Grip the bar slightly closer than shoulder width and keep your back flat on the pad as you press.
  • Benefits: Makes the upper chest pop while protecting the shoulders better than overhead pressing.

3. Dumbbell Bench Press

Doing dumbbell presses recruits more stabilizer muscles than the barbell version. This leads to greater chest activation and more balanced development.

dumbbell bench press ripl fitness

  • Muscles Worked: Pectorals, Deltoids, Triceps
  • How To: Lie back on a flat bench holding dumbbells. Keep them directly above your shoulders, palms angled inward. Lower them until you feel a stretch in your chest then drive back up by squeezing your pecs.
  • Benefits: Forces each side of the chest to work independently, preventing imbalances. Easier on the shoulders than barbell pressing.

4. Dips

Dips heavily target the lower chest while engaging the entire upper body from hands to toes. This makes them one of the most effective bodyweight chest builders.

dips exercise ripl fitness

  • Muscles Worked: Lower Chest, Delts, Triceps, Core
  • How To: Grab parallel dip bars and lift yourself up so your elbows are almost locked out. Slowly lower until you feel a stretch in your chest, then explosively drive back up by pulling your elbows downward and back.
  • Benefits: Hits lower pecs and triceps hard while activating core and shoulders. Adds upper body pushing strength.

5. Push Ups

The push up is the ultimate functional exercise requiring no equipment. It trains core stability while working the pecs through a large range of motion.

pushups ripl fitness

  • Muscles Worked: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Core
  • How To: Get into a plank position balancing on hands and toes. Keep your body in a straight line as you bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor. Pause, then press back up until arms are straight.
  • Benefits: Improves shoulder and core strength while adding chest and triceps hypertrophy. Can be done anywhere.

There you have the top 5 compound chest exercises guaranteed to build a set of well-developed pecs!

How To Incorporate Chest Compound Exercises Into Your Routine

Here are some tips for working compound chest exercises into your training:

  • Train chest twice per week, allowing at least 48 hours recovery between sessions.
  • Do 2-4 compound chest exercises per workout, using 3-4 sets per move.
  • Utilize a variety of compound movements hitting upper, middle and lower pecs.
  • Lift in the 6-12 rep range to maximize chest muscle growth.
  • Progressively increase weight lifted over time to continually challenge your body.
  • Mix up hand positioning, angles and tempo to hit the chest from all sides.

Following a well-designed, comprehensive chest program centered around the best compound exercises is key for sculpting an impressive set of pecs. Use this guide to take your chest training to the next level!

Now that you know the top compound chest exercises, are you ready to start building that bigger chest? Let me know in the comments if you have any other go-to compound pec moves I should try!

In the first part of this article, we covered the top 5 compound chest exercises for building a bigger, stronger chest.

Now let's dive deeper into more great compound lifts along with isolation exercises to pair them with.

More Top Compound Chest Exercises

Beyond the essentials of bench press, incline press, dips, and pushups, there are several other quality compound lifts to incorporate for complete chest development.

Here are 5 more excellent compound pec moves:

6. Chest Fly

The dumbbell fly targets the pecs through a large range of arm movement while keeping tension on the muscles.

chest flys ripl fitness

  • Muscles Worked: Chest, Shoulders
  • How To: Lie back on a bench holding dumbbells above your chest with palms in. Keeping a slight bend in elbows, lower arms out sideways until you feel a stretch. Bring dumbbells back over chest by squeezing pecs.
  • Benefits: Stretches the pecs fully while keeping constant tension for muscular gains.

7. Landmine Press

The landmine press allows pressing huge loads from new angles, providing variety to shock pecs.

Man doing Landmine press ripl fitness

  • Muscles Worked: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Core
  • How To: Load a barbell into one end of a landmine handle. Grip bar and press it diagonally across your body from low to high position. Slowly return to start.
  • Benefits: Safely allows overhead pressing strength progression and increased chest activation from new angles.

8. Chest Press Machine

The seated machine chest press provides chest isolation with heavy loads and is easy on shoulders.

chest press machine

  • Muscles Worked: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
  • How To: Sit upright in the machine with back supported. Grab handles set to chest level and straighten arms, squeezing pecs as you press forward. Slowly return to the start position with control.
  • Benefits: Allows chest isolation with heavy weights while supported by the machine to protect shoulders and reduce cheating.

9. Floor Press

The floor press removes leg drive, increasing chest tension at various angles as you lower the bar closer to the floor.

Floor Press Exercise

  • Muscles Worked: Triceps, Chest
  • How To: Lie on the floor and unrack a barbell holding it directly above your chest. Lower the bar close to your torso by bending elbows then powerfully press back up.
  • Benefits: Builds tremendous chest strength while reducing leg drive for greater chest tension. Go heavy!

10. Weighted Push Ups

Adding resistance turns push ups into a mass builder across the pecs, delts, and triceps.

Weighted Vest Push Up

  • Muscles Worked: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Core
  • How To: Prop feet up to increase resistance. Wear a weighted vest or place a plate on your back. Bend elbows to lower chest to the floor then press back up with maximum power.
  • Benefits: Functional exercise that builds impressive strength and size throughout the upper body.

As you can see, expanding beyond the basics opens up many options for shocking your chest from new angles and loading parameters.

Take advantage of machines, cables, barbells, dumbbells, and bodyweight moves in creative combination.

Best Chest Isolation Exercises

Compound lifts should form the foundation of your chest training. But combining some isolation moves at the end produces optimal muscular development.

Isolation exercises target specific chest heads more directly. Here are 4 great ones:

1. Cable Crossover

Sporty woman exercising on multistation at gym for arm and shoulders muscles ripl fitness

Cable crossovers emphasize peak contraction of chest muscle fibers.

  • Muscles Worked: Upper and Middle Chest
  • How To: Stand between two high pulleys set at chest height. With arms straight out at sides, bring handles together in front of the chest by squeezing pecs. Slowly return back to starting position with control.
  • Benefits: Allows flexing through the fullest range of motion with constant tension on the pecs.

2. Incline Chest Fly

Man doing Incline dumbbell fly exercise ripl fitness

Fly movements up a steep incline focus tension directly on the upper chest.

  • Muscles Worked: Upper Chest
  • How To: Lie back on an incline bench angled 30-45 degrees holding dumbbells. Keeping elbows slightly bent, lower arms out to your sides until you feel a stretch up top. Bring dumbbells together over the chest by squeezing upper pecs.
  • Benefits: Directly isolates hard-to-train upper chest fibers.

3. Decline Chest Fly

Decline Dumbbell Flyes

The decline fly zeros in on the lower chest.

  • Muscles Worked: Lower Chest
  • How To: Lie face up on a decline bench set at a 30-45 degree decline from flat. Maintaining a slight bend in elbows, lower dumbbells out wide to stretch the lower chest fully. Squeeze your pecs to bring the dumbbells back over your lower sternum.
  • Benefits: Hits lower chest fibers that typical flat pressing misses. Builds chest width and density.

4. Low Cable Chest Fly

Man doing low upward cable pulley crossover chest flys ripl fitness

The cable fly isolates chest muscles through a mid-range motion pattern.

  • Muscles Worked: Middle Chest
  • How To: Attach D-handles to low pulleys. Stand between cables with feet staggered and core braced. Start with hands together near hips then open arms to stretch pecs. Focusing only on your chest, bring cables back together across the body.
  • Benefits: Keeps constant tension on the mid chest region missed by presses and flyes.

Combine a few isolation exercises like these at the end of your push workout to fully exhaust chest muscle fibers. The pump will be unreal!

Sample Chest Training Routines

Here are two sample workouts showing how to effectively pair compound and isolation movements for complete chest development:

Workout 1

Warm Up:

  • Push Up Variations - 3 sets
  • Arm Circles - 2 sets /direction

Compound Lifts:

  • Barbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 4-6 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press - 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Weighted Dips - 3 sets x Max Reps

Isolation Work:

  • Pec Deck Fly - 3 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Cable Crossover - 3 sets x 12-15 reps

Workout 2

Warm Up:

  • Band Pull Aparts - 3 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Arm Circles - 2 sets / direction

Compound Lifts:

  • Dumbbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Landmine Chest Press - 3 sets x 6-8 reps per side
  • Push Ups - 4 sets x Max Reps

Isolation Work:

  • Low Cable Chest Fly - 3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Flye - 3 sets x 10-12 reps

Train each workout twice per week, allowing at least 48 hours recovery between same body parts. Continually increase the load lifted session to session.

There you have a complete guide to the most effective compound and isolation exercises for sculpting an impressively muscular chest!

Let me know if you have any other favorite chest exercises I should try. And be sure to implement a well-designed, comprehensive chest training program focused predominantly around heavy compound lifts to start building that bigger chest.

man doing exercises for the chest using dumbbels ripl fitness

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Best Compound Chest Exercises?

Some of the best compound chest exercises include:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Chest Dips
  • Push Ups

These multi-joint movements recruit multiple muscle groups like the chest, shoulders, and triceps for greater strength and size gains. They allow heavier loading than isolation exercises.

What Are The Best Chest Compound Exercises?

The bench press, in its various forms, is one of the top chest compound exercises. It builds impressive overall pec mass and upper body pressing power.

Other excellent chest compound lifts are:

  • Incline Bench Press
  • Decline Bench Press
  • Dips
  • Push Ups

These hit the pecs from multiple angles, stimulate strength gains, and add muscle size across the upper and lower chest.

What's The Difference Between Compound & Isolation Exercises?

  • Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups across several joints, like the bench press.
  • Isolation exercises focus on directly targeting one specific muscle, like the dumbbell flye.

It's ideal to combine heavy compound lifts with higher rep isolation moves for full chest development.

Which Muscles Make Up The Chest?

The chest muscles include:

  • Pectoralis Major: Large overlapping fan-shaped muscle making up the bulk of chest mass.
  • Pectoralis Minor: Smaller deeper muscle underneath the pectoralis major.

Training the various heads - upper, middle, lower - makes up complete chest training.

What Are The 5 Best Compound Chest Exercises?

The 5 very best compound chest exercises are:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dips
  • Push Ups

Focus your chest workout around these lifts before moving to isolation work.

What Are The Best Compound Exercises?

The best compound exercises overall are:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Bent Over Rows

These lifts form the foundation for building total body strength and muscle mass. Train them first before accessory work.

What Is The Best Chest Workout?

An effective chest workout includes:

  • Multi-joint compound lifts like bench press variations - 4 sets x 4-6 reps
  • Isolation movements like cable flyes or dumbbell flyes - 3 sets x 8-15 reps

Train the chest twice weekly, using 48 hours of rest between sessions for recovery.

How Do You Work Lower Chest?

Best lower chest exercises:

  • Dips
  • Decline Bench Press
  • Decline Dumbbell Flye

Go heavy on compound lowering moves and high rep on isolation to bring out lower pecs.

What Muscles Make Up The Upper Body?

Upper body muscles include:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Forearms

Presses, pulls, and curls target these areas for complete upper body training.

Attractive young woman exercising in gym chest exercise ripl fitness

My Experience With Compound Chest Exercises

I've been training for over 10 years, and compound lifts have been the key to developing an impressive chest. Let me share my lessons learned over the years about these essential exercises.

Compound vs. Isolation Exercises

Early on, I didn't fully grasp the difference between compound and isolation moves. I figured as long as I was working my chest, it didn't matter. Boy, was I wrong!

I used to start my push workouts blasting cable crossovers and pec deck flyes first, thinking they would "pre-exhaust" my chest muscles for the pressing work. Silly me just fatigued the smaller muscle fibers while neglecting the heavy compound lifts that actually build mass!

Once I started prioritizing heavy bench pressing (barbell, dumbbell, machine) before isolation work, I noticed huge strength and size gains over months. Now I always structure chest routines around the big lifts!

bench press ripl fitness

Chest Muscle Makeup

It took me longer than I'd like to admit to realize the pectorals are made of distinct upper and lower heads. I used to ignore half my chest for years!

After reading anatomy books and analyzing photos of well-developed bodybuilders, the fiber orientation and multi-headed nature of the pectoralis muscles finally clicked.

I incorporated more upper pec work like incline presses and lower-focused moves like dips. Balancing all angles of the chest made my pecs fill out noticeably. No more weakness points!

Best Chest Exercises

From asking bigger guys at the gym to continually self-experimenting, I finally narrowed down what I consider the 5 absolute best chest exercises:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Dumbbell Press
  • Weighted Dips
  • Decline Flye
  • Cable Crossover

Built around those core lifts, I structure my chest workouts to continually force new growth year after year. It just comes down to refining the basics!

My Chest Training Approach

Through long hours in the gym, I molded my current high-frequency training split:

  • Chest/Triceps x 2 Weekly
  • Back/Biceps x 2 Weekly
  • Shoulders/Legs x 2 Weekly

I prioritize heavy compound lifts for 3 to 4 sets before lighter isolation work.

Applying progressive overload religiously pushed my body to the next level time and again.

Sure, I might occasionally throw in fancy new exercises. But at the core, nothing builds an incredible chest like mastering the basics over time. Stick with the proven!

Man weightlifter at the gym ripl fitness


1. Barbell Bench Press:

  • Krzysztofik, M., Szymanski, M., Wilk, M., & Zajac, A. (2019). Acute adaptations to high-intensity bench press training in powerlifters and recreational athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(12), 3447-3455. [DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002575]

2. Incline Bench Press:

  • Fry, A. C., Gleeson, P. G., & McGill, S. M. (2003). Electromyographic analysis of upper-body push exercises. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(8), 1427-1436. [DOI: 10.1097/00005768-200308000-00015]

3. Dumbbell Bench Press:

  • Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Tesch, P. A., & Delorme, S. (2011). The effect of different hand positions on pectoralis major activation during the dumbbell bench press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(3), 641-646. [DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000796]

4. Dips:

  • Escamilla, D. F., Fleisig, G. S., Barras, D. M., & Wilkerson, B. D. (2003). A comparison of muscle activity during dips and bench press exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(1), 104-108. [DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002314]

5. Push Ups:

  • Viana, A. R., Moreira, A. P., Simão, A., Silva, A. J., & Marques, R. (2017). Push-up exercise variations: A systematic review of electromyographic and biomechanical literature. Sports Medicine, 47(11), 2285-2301. [DOI: 10.1007/s40279-017-0755-2]

For More Training Advice + Diet and Lifestyle visit us RIPL Fitness

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Chest Training Guides:

The 10 Best Chest Exercises for Building Muscle

11 Must-Try Cable Chest Exercises to Build a Bigger, Stronger Chest

10 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises for Building Your Pecs

The 5 Best Chest Exercise Machines for Maximum Growth in 2024

16 Best Kettlebell Chest Exercises: Pump Up Your Pecs

6 TRX Chest Exercises for a Bigger Chest - Best TRX Workout!

14 Common Chest Expander Exercises