Nothing in your cart

Uh oh! Your cart is empty 😢

One of these products might be what you're after...

No recent items

What’s the Best Exercise for Chest Growth?

What’s the best exercise for chest growth?

Science: The best exercise for chest growth

A recent study examined 10 resistance-trained males with an average age of 22, having them perform 5 chest exercises and comparing them to how the barbell bench press fared. The exercises we're talking about are:

  1. Cable cross over.
  2. Dumbbell bench press.
  3. Pec-deck fly (machine).
  4. Dumbbell fly.
  5. Pullovers.

And the researchers subsequently ranked them as follows:

  1. Barbell Bench Press.
  2. Cable Cross Overs.
  3. Pec-deck machine.
  4. Bench Press (Dumbbell).
  5. Dumbbell Fly.
  6. Pullover.

One finding that interested gym-goers everywhere was that the pec-deck machine turned out to be better than the classical dumbbell bench press. But wait for a second! This doesn't mean you should ditch the bench and go with the machine flies; what was actually discovered is that on an individual level, their technique was better on the machine pec deck flys and so more muscles were recruited.

It simply means that beginners may get more from the pec-deck than a barbell bench press because having good form is a difficult thing to grasp in the early stages.

The other findings of the research pertained to what part of the chest was recruited the most during which exercise. And before we dive into these findings, it's important that we understand there are no "upper" and "lower" muscles to our chest -- it's all one big muscle.

The chest is all one big muscle -- you can't 'isolate' parts of it during lifts.
The chest is all one big muscle -- you can't 'isolate' parts of it during lifts.

So whilst you can stress the "upper", "middle" or "lower" part of your chest, honing in on one from the start and finish of a set is impossible. They are all recruited at some point. But to keep things easy moving forward, we'll still refer to them as the "lower" and "upper" chest for simplicity.

Ok, so whilst you're yelling at the screen now wanting us to tell you which exercise recruited all three parts of the chest the most...the answer was...

...the decline barbell bench press!

So why was this the case? Because it was the exercise in which subjects could lift the MOST. Therefore, the electromyography readings came out the highest. We've spoken about electromyography in other Bulk Nutrients blogs before, but for those of you that are unaware, it involves putting electrodes on muscles and measuring the activity within them during a given exercise.

But hold on! Before you rush off to start doing countless reps of decline barbell bench presses...

When the fact they could lift more during the decline barbell press was factored into the data, a new winner emerged; the 45-degree incline bench press. This is because it was found to activate the "middle" and "lower" chest more, whilst increasing the "upper" chest activation by 69%.

Decline and incline bench presses spell a brilliant workout for your chest.
Decline and incline bench presses spell a brilliant workout for your chest.

But when answering the question of what activates the chest more as a whole, the decline bench press is still the winner, despite the advantage of more being able to be lifted during them. And the incline bench is the winner when it comes to activating the "upper" chest (no surprises there, but it's nice to have our educated guesses confirmed).

So for a bigger chest, the incline bench press should be prioritised, as it will ensure our chests get a "fuller" look.

But here's the good news, we don't go to the gym and do just one exercise for the chest and go home. So, we can utilise both the decline and incline presses to get the biggest chest possible.

Bodybuilding: Flat bench press versus incline bench press for muscle growth

Additional research looked at another age-old gym question: are incline presses or flat presses better? The researchers wanted to learn how best to target the "lower" and "upper" chest. They reported that both "the flat and incline chest press exercises is necessary."

Read more: Why leg drive is vital to hit bench press PBs.

So once we've looked at the relevant data, we learn that decline, incline, and flat bench presses are all important. It's funny because that's what most people do instinctively anyway! But the point is the aforementioned information reveals why.

And, the findings can still pave the way for a science-based chest workout that can give us our best shot at growing the biggest, thickest chest we can.

When all data is considered, the decline, incline, and flat bench presses are all important approaches.
When all data is considered, the decline, incline, and flat bench presses are all important approaches.

Maximum muscle growth: The science-based chest workout

We will state the obvious: there are no "perfect" chest workouts. But mixing up the following exercises is a great place to start!

  • 4 x decline barbell bench press (5-10 reps).
  • 4 x incline bench press (45-degree angle) (6-12 reps).
  • 4 x cable crossovers (12-25 reps).

You can also try:

  • 3 x incline bench press (45-degree angle) (4-10 reps).
  • 3 x flat dumbbell bench press (4-10 reps).
  • 3 x decline barbell bench press (6-10 reps).
  • 2 x cable crossovers (12-25 reps).
  • 2 x bodyweight dips (to failure).

These workouts are based on the summary of the aforementioned science: the decline bench press works the overall chest the most, whilst a thick and full chest is achieved by working the "upper" chest (in which the incline barbell bench press is best). Chest workouts that include both these exercises ensure you're on your way to building your biggest chest possible.

Bulk Nutrients Expert Dayne Hudson

Dayne Hudson

Like many, Dayne was once desperate to lose weight and get into shape. But everyone he asked, everything he read, lead to the same place... nowhere.

His journey started there - researching science journals and completing a Sports Nutrition Specialist qualification so he could make weight loss easier.

More about Dayne Hudson


  1. Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies. 2000.
  2. Lauver JD, Cayot TE, Scheuermann BW. Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise. Eur J Sport Sci. 2016;16(3):309-16. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2015.1022605. Epub 2015 Mar 23. PMID: 25799093.
  3. Trebs AA, Brandenburg JP, Pitney WA. An electromyography analysis of 3 muscles surrounding the shoulder joint during the performance of a chest press exercise at several angles. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jul;24(7):1925-30. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181ddfae7. PMID: 20512064.
group of product images for proteins
group of product images for proteins

Popular Posts from the Bulk Blog

With over 700 recipes and articles, the Bulk Nutrients Blog has something for everyone! Find a new workout, meet our ambassadors or take a deep dive into our products today.

Compare all Bulk Nutrients proteins

Popular Proteins

Popular Products

Popular Categories

About Bulk Nutrients

We're an Australian manufacturer and supplier of high quality sports supplements.

Operating since 2008, Bulk Nutrients has become one of the premier Australian brands to supply nutritional products to top level athletes, competitors and those on a journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Find out more about Bulk.

Contact Bulk Nutrients

One thing that sets Bulk Nutrients apart is that we love to talk to our customers!

Whether you need product advice, help with the website or need a change made to your order... call us on +61 3 6266 4725.

If you prefer email you can email us day or night at

For online chat, hit the 'Chat' button in the bottom right hand corner of your screen and you'll be connected to one of our lovely customer service team.

Or if you'd like to get in touch through our online contact form, that's cool too!

Follow us on Social Media

Bulk Nutrients on FacebookCheck out Bulk Nutrients' Instagram postsView Bulk Nutrients' TikTok contentView Bulk Nutrients' YouTube Channel



We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which our organisation operates, the Melukerdee People of the South East Nation and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.

Bulk Nutrients is proudly
Australian owned and operated.

7 Crabtree Road, Grove, Tasmania, 7109.
ABN: 17 158 981 447

Terms & ConditionsSustainability StrategyPrivacy PolicyPayment InformationSitemap

All prices are in Australian dollars (AUD) and include GST unless otherwise stated.
All content copyright © Bulk Nutrients 2008 - 2024