The Best Chest Workout Routine For Men (9 Keys To More Mass)

There are plenty of articles out there that will claim to show you the best chest workout routine of all time. Trust me, I’ve seen them, and the vast majority are crap.

That’s why I’ve decided to do something a little different in this article. Actually, I’m going to do three things:

  1. First, I’m going to show you the WORST chest workout routine that men typically use.
  2. Then, I’m going to show you 9 factors that actually make a chest workout effective.
  3. And finally, I’m going to provide you with some example workouts that put it all together.

Let the fun begin…

Here’s The WORST Chest Workout

What better way to show the best version of something than by first showing an example of the worst version… and then laughing at it?

So, without further ado, here’s a slightly exaggerated version of what most intelligent people would consider to be the worst possible way to train for building a bigger chest.

The Typical “Chest Day”

  1. Bench Press
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  2. Incline Bench Press
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  3. Decline Bench
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  4. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  5. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  6. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  7. Flat, Incline and/or Decline Machine Press
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  8. Push-Ups
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  9. Dumbbell Fly
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  10. Pec Deck
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
  11. Cable Crossover
    3-4 sets of 8-10 reps

This is done once per week… typically every Monday.

Behold!

What you see above is a (slightly exaggerated) version of how most men approach their chest workouts.

And that is by doing an excessive amount of sets of an excessive amount of (redundant) exercises to excessively blast their chest from every angle, get a massive pump, and then do it all over again 7 days later.

This, right here, is the WORST WAY to train your chest.

Why Do So Many Men Do This?

This is the point when you’re supposed to be thinking “hmmm, if this is indeed the worst way to train, why the hell do so many people men train this way?”

Good question. And the answer is usually a combination of the following…

  • Bodybuilding Bullshit
    This is the typical high volume, low frequency “blast the crap out of your muscles” bodybuilding nonsense you commonly see being done by steroid-using bodybuilders. Natural guys will then see this and assume “these bodybuilders train this way and they’re huge, so clearly I should train this way to get just as huge!” which unfortunately ignores the fact that their aforementioned steroid use makes everything effective, including things that are ineffective for us natural trainees. Details here: Steroids vs Natural
  • More Is Better
    When it comes to any form of exercise, the natural instinct for most misinformed people is that more is better. So if a little of something is supposed to be good, surely a shitload of it will be even better, right? Which means, if a couple of chest exercises works, adding a few more will work even better, right? Not quite. See, there is a point when the amount of sets and exercises you’re doing switches from beneficial to detrimental. This “more is better” approach to training almost always crosses that line. Details here: Am I Doing Enough In My Workouts?
  • Soreness And Pump
    Another thought misinformed people have when it comes to building muscle is that getting an insane pump during the workout followed by a ton of soreness in the days after is A) a requirement for making progress (and the greater the pump/soreness, the greater the progress), and B) a sure sign that progress is being made. Turns out it’s actually neither of these things. Details here: How Important Are Muscle Soreness And Pump?
  • The Different Parts Of The Chest
    Guys think every individual “part” of their chest needs to be hit directly with its own individual exercise(s). That means AT LEAST one exercise each for the upper chest, lower chest, inner chest, outer chest, south eastern chest, upper areola, outer armpit, middle nipple and on and on and on. This isn’t actually true, of course. Details here: Upper Chest vs Lower Chest

Basically, for any or all of the above reasons, the typical guy looking to build more chest mass will either find or create a workout routine that fits this ineffective mold.

I know this from firsthand experience, as I’ve personally been there and done that in my own misinformed days. If you’re reading this, you probably have as well. It may even be what you still currently do. And you certainly wouldn’t be alone. Walk into any public gym on the planet on any day of the week – especially Monday – and this is the kind of thing you’ll see most men doing.

An example of the WORST chest workout.

And ladies, don’t laugh at us too much. Women are much more likely to bring this same terrible style of training to their leg and glute workouts instead.

So… there. We’re all equally stupid. #equality

The 9 Keys To An Effective Chest Workout

So now that we’ve covered the factors of an ineffective chest workout, it’s time to cover the factors of an effective one. Here are the 9 that are most important…

  1. Train Your Chest 2-3 Times Per Week
    All research looking at training frequency shows that a higher frequency (2-3 times per week) is more effective than a lower frequency (once per week), and real-world experience confirms it. Which means instead of this once-per-week frequency where you only hit your chest every Monday, you should hit your chest 2 or 3 times per week. How do you do this, you ask? Simple. Instead of a low frequency body part split that involves having a single “chest day,” you should use a Full Body split, Upper/Lower split, or Push/Pull/Legs split.
  2. Do 1-3 Chest Exercises Per Workout
    Rather than doing every chest exercise in existence, stick with 1-3 chest exercises per workout. More specifically, 1 exercise if you’re using a full body split, 2 exercises if you’re using an upper/lower split, and 2-3 exercises if you’re using a push/pull/legs split.
  3. Do 60-140 Total Reps For Chest Per Week
    Instead of doing a laughably excessive amount of sets that will only cut into your capacity to recover, aim for 60-140 total reps per week as that tends to be the sweet spot (source) for most people. So, for example, if you’re training your chest twice per week, you should aim to do between 30-70 reps for your chest in each of those two workouts. And no, warm-up sets don’t count toward this total.
  4. Avoid Redundant Exercise Selection
    For example, instead of doing an incline barbell press, incline dumbbell press, incline machine press and incline fly, maybe just do ONE incline exercise per workout.
  5. Use The 5-15 Rep Range Most Of The Time
    Instead of only doing the stereotypical 8-10 reps for every set of every exercise, going as low as 5 and as high as 15 will be ideal for generating the three types of stimuli that signal muscle growth (tension, fatigue and damage… details here: How To Build Muscle Fast). More specifically, use the lower end (5-8 reps) for your primary exercises, the middle (8-12 reps) for your secondary exercises, and the higher end (12-15 reps) for isolation exercises.
  6. Rest 1-4 Minutes Between Sets Most Of The Time
    Instead of resting 1 minute between every set because it’s what leads to the biggest chest pump possible, use longer rest periods (2-4 minutes) between sets of your primary exercises, shorter rest periods (60-90 seconds) between sets of isolation exercises, and something in the middle (2 minutes) for sets of your secondary exercises.
  7. Use Whatever Equipment And Whichever Exercises Suit You Best
    When it comes to building muscle, your body doesn’t give the slightest of shits what type of equipment you’re using when performing an exercise. It only knows the tension, fatigue and damage that exercise is causing. So, for example, if you prefer the barbell version of a chest press, or the dumbbell version, or a machine version, feel free to do that version. And if a certain exercise bothers your shoulders or elbows or whatever else, avoid that exercise in favor of a similar variation that isn’t problematic for you. Basically, do what suits your body best.
  8. Focus Primarily On Progressive Overload
    Frequency, splits, exercises, sets, reps, rest periods and so on are all important factors of an effective workout. But progressive overload – aka increasing the demands being placed on your body by getting stronger over time – is the most important factor of all. So, instead of just going into the gym for the purpose of getting a huge pump and feeling sore the next day, you need to go into the gym with the intent of beating what you did the previous time so that you’re gradually getting stronger. This, above all else, is what makes muscles grow. Details here: The Progressive Overload Principle
  9. Make Sure Your Diet Supports Your Goals
    I know this is an article all about the weight training side of things, but the truth is that the best chest workout routine in the world isn’t going to work if your diet isn’t designed to support it. Above all else, that means eating a sufficient amount of calories (details here: How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Gain Muscle) and protein (details here: How To Calculate Your Macros) to support muscle growth.

Example Chest Workouts

At this point, you know the best (and worst) way to approach chest training, and the 9 factors that need to be in place for it to be as effective as possible.

All that’s left to do now is put it all together. To help, here are a few examples from two of my most popular muscle building workouts…

1. The Muscle Building Workout Routine

First up is a routine of mine called The Muscle Building Workout Routine. You can see the entire program and all of its details for free right here.

However, for the purpose of this article, let’s focus only on the chest training aspect of it.

So, this program involves training every muscle group twice per week over the course of 4 total workouts (there’s also a 3-day option) using the upper/lower split. In this specific case, the chest is trained on Mondays and Thursdays. Here’s how it breaks down…

Monday

  1. Bench Press
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Thursday

  1. Dumbbell Bench Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Dumbbell Flyes
    2 sets of 10-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

As you can see, all of the weight training factors explained above are in place. All that’s needed is a focus on progression and a proper diet plan. And, optionally, exercise substitutions dependent on each person’s specific needs and preferences (e.g. Hammer Strength incline press instead of incline dumbbell press, cable fly or pec deck instead of dumbbell fly, etc.).

Once again, to see the full version of this program and all of the details that go along with it, go here: The Muscle Building Workout Routine

2. Bodybuilding 2.0

Now for a little peek into my Bodybuilding 2.0 routine, which is NOT available on the website. Rather, it’s a part of my Superior Muscle Growth program.

This routine uses the rotating version of the push/pull/legs split where every muscle group gets trained (about) twice per week. There are a few different versions of this workout in my book, so I’ll show you 3 different examples of how I’ve designed the chest training for each version’s “push” day.

Version 1

  1. Bench Press
    4 sets of 5-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Version 2

  1. Bench Press
    4 sets of 5-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Incline Dumbbell Fly
    3 sets of 10-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

Version 3

  1. Bench Press
    3 sets of 5-7 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Dumbbell Fly
    2 sets of 10-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

Again, the full details of this Bodybuilding 2.0 program and its workouts are included (along with 10+ additional routines) in Superior Muscle Growth. Feel free to check it out.

What’s Next?

There you have it. The worst way to train your chest, the best way to train your chest, and some proven examples of exactly how it’s done. All you need to do now is put it into action.

For more on muscle growth, read this next: How To Build Muscle Fast: The 15 Step Guide

37 thoughts on “The Best Chest Workout Routine For Men (9 Keys To More Mass)”

37 Comments

  1. Hey Jay, I just want to say that I enjoy a lot your articles and your no-nonsense approach always cracks me up. Thanks for all this good stuff!

  2. what about doing reverse pyramid style using a wider rep range to hit heavy and light in one exercise?
    say, 5-7-12-14 for example. or 5-10-15?
    im cutting volume way down at my age, doing 1 exercise per, upper/lower/upper… mon.wed.fri. 4 sets per exercise.
    or 2 exercises using 5-10-15 on the first, 8-10-14 or something on the second. long as i progress i think it can work but you’re my new guru so i figured i’d ask.
    and i know doing reverse p on both may be too intense, but again, low volume plus me being used to doing it and loving it….i can handle it and i’m on prescribed trt too!

    • Yup, that’s fine, too. You could also do an exercise for a few sets of lower reps, and then end with one higher rep back-off set.

      Personally, though, I like to to use separate exercises for this purpose rather than using the same one to train in multiple rep ranges. I also think it’s better for strength progression. But it can all work.

  3. This WOMAN can attest to what Jay presents here with regards to intelligent chest workout design. I’ve been working his Body Building 2.0 Workout from his incredible e-book “Superior Muscle Growth” (I love the workouts in his ‘The Best Workout Routines” that come with the Main Tome) and my chest has truly ‘blown up”. In fact, a mammogram from last year showed what a staggering amount of muscle I’ve gained from a previous one from 2014! Simply incredible! At 55 years old, my breasts have excellent muscle mass underneath them which gives them added support. Something must woman would gladly welcome at my age! Thanks Jay for the ‘Boob Job’ without having to undergo the knife!!! LOL!!!

    • HA! In the 15 or whatever years that I’ve been doing this, that is the very first time I’ve ever heard anyone reference their mammogram results in the context of tracking chest gainz. That’s fan-effing-tastic!

      Thanks May!

  4. Awesome article as usual. When I feel the broscience sneaking in, your bring me back to down to earth. It can be easy to get lost in some of the stuff you read or hear.

  5. Hi Jay,

    Awesome article! It was a really good read while on the train to work. Just wondering if you will ever consider doing an article like this but for training legs?

    Thanks.

  6. Would cluster set training work with your upper lower system and do you recommend this type of training.. Thank

  7. Hey Jay,
    First off I must say, fabulous work on your programming and website! You have dramatically changed how I view 90% of the fitness industry. Now, I have heard fitness experts say that we must periodize our workout programs. For example, focusing on hypertrophy stages, then strength periods (central nervous system adaptations) and so forth. Is this really necessary? Or can I simply focus on progressive overload (increase/improvement in volume, weight, form, frequency) and change up my movements from now and then?
    Thank you so much.

    • With all else being equal, both of the approaches you described work. So no, I wouldn’t consider the type of periodization you described as being necessary, though it can certainly be a useful tool and potentially may be more ideal for certain people or in certain scenarios.

      A future article will cover all of this in detail.

  8. “your body doesn’t give the slightest of shits” haha
    nice to see that my programme come close to your recommendations.
    Oddly – I bought all your materials but never ended up reading them all beyond using them to build the programme I’m doing now.

    This has reminded me that I need to go back to them again – your stuff is great – thanks!

  9. Thanks for your information once again. I read both SFL and SMG and love both. I understand reason why you suggest rep range for 6-8 and 8-10 reps. No need to explain. My question is what if I prefer to do heavy and low reps for both? for example I will do 5-7 for bench press and 5-7 for incline dumbbell press. I asked because since I followed you years ago, I changed from bodybuilding style (pump) to lift heavy and I love it.

    Thanks for your information. My body progress very well since I read your books 🙂

    • It can certainly work, though I wouldn’t consider it ideal for any goal… including strength. The central nervous system, joints, tendons, etc. can only take so much exclusively heavy/high intensity work.

  10. Thanks a lot for a great article once again, covering a very challenging issue these days! I was wondering about necessary adjustments for the workouts when it comes to ENDOMORPHS (aka slow-metabolism people). There are some articles out there on the web that point towards ENDURANCE style of training instead of strenght oriented workouts. Wanted to know your opinion in this regard.
    Thank you again

    • I think it’s all a bunch of stupid nonsense. 🙂

      Endurance style training is ideal based on goals (e.g. someone who wants to improve endurance, someone who wants to burn a few extra calories, etc.), not body type.

  11. Hi Jay, thanks for this. I have both your books but if I’m honest they are waiting for me to read them. I have been weight training for just over a year – age 44. I have been jumping from plan to plan for a while I admit – mainly to chase more weight but this has resulted in me injuring my left shoulder 8 months ago. My progress has been great in squats, deadlifts and pulling things (growth and strength) but my press and bench press are poor. I’ve finally realised my goal has to be safe training not max weight but I’d like to develop my chest to some extent. I can’t bench press pain free with a barbell and close-ish elbows but I can bench press/flye with light dumbells and hope to make progress. My barbell press has to be a supinated close grip to avoid pain. I’m doing your beginners full body split. Just wondered if you had any pearls of wisdom for to help me find a safe way to progress pushing movements and chest development.

    Great site and thanks,
    Huw.

    • The only real advice here would be to simply figure out what chest exercises you can do safely, and do them while avoiding the ones you can’t. There are tons of chest pressing exercises (barbell, dumbbell, machine, bodyweight, etc.) and tons of variations of each. Find the ones you can do without problem, and do them exclusively.

  12. First thank you very much for your effort and we are waiting for the remaing muscles, second i wanna ask about the decline exercises flyes or bench press is this include in this workout ?

    • Someone recently asked me about decline exercises. Here’s what I told them…

      I view decline movements on par with flat movements that don’t hit the upper chest as well. So, to me, they’re inferior to a flat movement in most cases, which is why I don’t usually recommend them. However, a huge exception to this would be people who have injury/pain issues during flat exercises, but decline exercises are fine. In that case, go with a decline exercise. The only other exception I can think of would be if a person just happened to really prefer decline exercises for whatever reason. In that case, they can work them in somewhere. Otherwise… I don’t really see a need for them.

  13. I currently follow the guidelines in your muscle building routine and was wondering if adding 1 or 2 sets to certain exercises may be too much volume in your opinion. For example, if I was to do the flat barbell bench press for 4 sets of 8 and the incline dumbbell press for 4 sets of 10 would you say this is too much volume?
    Thank you.

    • Volume tolerance can vary quite a bit from one person to the next based on all kinds of factors (genetics, age, sleep/stress levels, etc.), so the only real way to know for sure is to experiment and find out.

      My recommendations are always based on what tends to be ideal for MOST people.

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