Two essential exercises to grow a bigger chest – according to an expert

Spoiler alert: it doesn't involve doing barbell bench press or push ups

Woman doing dumbbell chest press
(Image credit: Getty)

Struggling to get bigger pecs? When it comes to chest exercises there’s plenty that can make this happen. But if you’re still not seeing the results with your current home workout or gym routine, then you need to add these two exercises into the mix as, according to a fitness expert, you’ll struggle to build a bigger chest without them. 

The barbell bench press is often hailed as one of the best chest exercises – maybe because it was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's favourites for his ginormous pecs. Although, this compound exercise does kill a three birds with one stone as it also targets your arm and shoulder muscles. Then there’s the bodyweight chest exercises, like the push up. But this is a bit of a mixed bag, as some struggle with the arm strength to even do it, while those who don’t, feel it doesn't provide enough resistance. So what are these two magic exercises? 

Both of these movements are ‘adductor exercises’ (where you bring your arms towards the midline of your body) they target the inner chest muscle, and, according to Jeff Cavaliere from Athlean-X, you can’t build a bigger chest without them. The good news is both can be done at home; you’re just going to need a pair of dumbbells and a resistance band.

1. Dumbbell chest press

Why dumbbells over a barbell? Well, as Cavaliere points out, the barbell can present some issues for starters, especially if you struggle with any pains in your shoulders, elbow or wrist due to the fixed hand placement on the barbell. Plus, the movement of the press (straight up and down) doesn’t focus on bringing your hands to the midline of your body, so it’s not an adductor movement.

With a pair of dumbbells, you're also able to position your hands where it is comfortable for you; plus, it will help you target any muscular imbalances with your chest that can go unnoticed with the barbell. Cavaliere’s other favourite tip here is that if you perform this exercise on a weight bench, you can target different muscles in the chest, depending on the bench angle – if you want to focus on the lower part of the pec, you can put it on a decline, if you want to focus on the upper area you can put it on an incline. Overall, it’s a simple movement that offers a lot of flexibility.

2. Banded chest cross-overs

Another adductor exercise that develops the inner chest. If you’re in a gym setting, you can perform this with a cable machine, but a piece of home gym equipment you can use is some resistance bands – tube ones with handles will be easier, but a pull-up resistance band is also fine. The key thing Cavaliere says here is to “drive your shoulders and head back as you bring your arms forward” this is so your chest does the majority of the work, not your delts. Also, like with the dumbbell chest press, this exercise offers loads of flexibility – pull the bands across your chest to work the middle portion, start with the hands low and drive them upwards to hit the upper pec, or from high to low to target the lower area.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.