Fitness

The Best Chest Workout That’ll Work Your Shoulders and Arms, Too

The best chest workout will do more than help you push heavier weights at the gym or bang out more push-ups: It’ll also help you perform a whole host of everyday movements more efficiently, while warding off your risk of injury, too.

Strong chest muscles (which include the large muscle called the pectoralis major, and a smaller one underneath called the pectoralis minor) have a huge carryover in non-gym aspects of life, where they help you do everything from push open a heavy door to pushing something back on a high shelf, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, founder of Strong with Sivan in Baltimore, MD, tells SELF.

Strength training your chest is also vital to balancing strength throughout your entire body, which not only improves your posture to help you stand upright, but also helps prevent injuries that can be caused by muscle imbalance.

“Working your chest helps develop muscular balance and symmetry, really focusing on stabilizing the shoulder joints and shoulder blades, which is super important for injury prevention and just for quality of life,” Fagan says.

But that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard with isolated chest exercises to get in a good chest workout. In fact, the best chest workout for anyone interested in getting in a solid workout includes a combination of specific chest exercises as well as supporting “push” movements, which work your muscles like your triceps (the muscle along the back of your upper arm) and shoulders.

The chest workout Fagan created uses two supersets and a tri-set (a superset with three exercises, basically) to challenge your chest muscles, shoulder muscles, and triceps. You’ll start with a superset (two exercises back to back with no rest) of two compound movements—the chest press and the single-arm overhead press—before going into a tri-set and a final superset with push-up variations to work the chest, and isolation exercises to work supporting muscles, like shoulders and triceps.

A happy bonus of this chest workout? You’ll definitely work your abs, too, thanks to the single-arm overhead press and the push-up variations.

“When you are doing one arm at a time, your body is going to want to deviate to the side, but you are going to brace your core and engage all those deep muscles in your obliques to maintain an upright position when you press the dumbbell overhead,” she explains. With a push-up, you work your abs through anti-extension, when your core fires to resist the arching of your lower back.

Want to give this chest workout a try? Here’s how to get started.

The Workout

What you’ll need: One moderate-weight pair of dumbbells for the first superset, and a pair of light dumbbells for the rest.

Exercises

Superset #1

  • Dumbbell chest press
  • Single-arm overhead press

Triset

  • Decline push-up
  • Bent-over fly
  • Lateral raise

Superset #2

  • Diamond push-up
  • Overhead triceps extension

Directions

In the first superset, complete 12-15 reps of each exercise, resting for 60 to 90 seconds after completing both. Do three rounds.

In the triset, complete 8-12 reps of the decline push-up, and 15-20 reps of both the bent-over fly and the lateral raise. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds after the last exercise of the triset. Do two rounds.

In the second superset, complete as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of the diamond push-up, and 8-12 reps of the overhead triceps extension. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds after completing both. Do two rounds.

Demoing the moves are Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records (GIFs 1, 2, and 7); Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies (GIFs 3 and 6); and Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve (GIFs 4 and 5).

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