Man showing rank of chest exercises

Monday is International Chest Day. Why? Because monday is the start of a new week and the chest is the most important muscle of your body… Jokes aside, many people like to train chest on monday simply because it’s fun, it’s easy to get a sick pump and of course they wanna improve their bench press. If you now think that a strong bench & weights in general are the only way to develop a strong, muscular chest… Think again. You can build well trained pecs with your bodyweight only! We have prepared for you this chest workout: exercises ranked guide to help you better understand which are the best exercises for your next chest training.

What you will learn in this article:

How does this ranking work?

The exercises are rated based on chest activity and all factors that can influence it.  So if an exercise requires other abilities to be able to do it,  it’s rated lower. The same counts for exercises that heavily rely on other muscles in the first place. If you can’t perform an exercise any longer because other muscles fatigue first, you won’t be able to train your chest that effectively.  Please keep in mind that exercises on the lower ranks are not ineffective in general. Exercises on the B and C Rank can also be used to train your chest, but they are not as good as the ones in the higher ranks, at least for the average person.

Chest Workout: D-Rank Exercises

Planche Push Ups

  • Man doing planche push ups
  • Man doing planche push up

No matter if you do pseudo planche, tucked or straddle planche push ups, these exercises are simply not good if you want to hit your chest in the first place. Instead they heavily focus on your shoulders especially the front delt. So the more you move your shoulders in front of your wrist the more the focus shifts away from the chest and triceps.

Muscle Ups

  • Man doing muscle up to train arms
  • Man doing muscle up to train chest
  • Man doing muscle up in a park

The Muscle Up is a mix between pull and push, but the pull part is so much harder in comparison with the dip, that you will always have to stop the exercise because you are not able to pull yourself high enough anymore. So you can’t really focus on the dip, but that’s the most important part for your chest. In addition it’s not optimal to switch between Pull and Push in every rep and waste your energy on the Pull Part. Especially if your main goal is to target your chest with consistent muscle tension.

 Frog Push Ups

  • Man doing frog push ups
  • Man doing a frog push up

The frog push up is a mix between a sphinx and a pike push up. The pike push up focuses on your shoulders in the first place while the sphinx push up is all about triceps activity. So  these muscles will always fatigue first while your chest is not even close to it. Of course you will hit your upper chest to some degree but not nearly as effective as your triceps and your shoulders. 

Handstand Push Ups

  • Man doing a handstand push up
  • Man doing handstand push ups

The handstand push up is without a doubt a shoulder focused movement. The more vertical you push the more your shoulder works instead of your chest. Like in the frog push up you will also hit the upper chest to some degree, but the main worker in this movement are your delts.

Bench Dips

  • Man doing bench dips
  • Man doing a bench dip

This is an exercise we don’t recommend in general, due to the extreme extension and internal rotation of your shoulder. However, this exercise will mainly work your triceps and shoulders and is not a good way to target your chest.

Chest Workout: C-Rank Exercises

Pike Push Ups

  • Man doing pike push ups
  • Man doing a pike push up

Like already explained the pike push up is similar to the handstand push up due to the more vertical body position. We still rank it a bit higher because the pike push up can also be modified to a more horizontal angle and with that target your upper chest a bit more.

Push Up Combinations

  • Man doing push up
  • Man doing push up combinations

Next on this rank we got all kinds of push up combinations in which you switch between the standard push up and any other position. As an example we use the push up to side plank rotation. Everytime you switch from the standard push up to the side plank you reduce the muscle tension and intensity for your chest. In addition you kinda waste energy with the side plank you could have used for the push up with consistent chest tension.

Any kind of push up combination that works like that is not bad as a compound movement. You can use it for improving coordination and work on a lot of other muscles at the same time, but it’s simply inferior in terms of chest activity and development.

Crucifix Push Ups

Man doing crucifix push ups

This exercise has a very little range of motion and is closer to a static than a dynamic movement. Static exercises are not bad in general but to work your chest optimally it’s way better to aim for concentric and eccentric movements with a wider range of motion. In addition the wide arm placement puts a lot of stress on your elbows and shoulders. So you need some strong elbow tendons and biceps and shoulder strength to do it savely. That’s the reason why most chest fly or butterfly movements are done with bend instead of straight arms.

Explosive Push Ups

  • Man doin clap push ups
  • Man doing explosive push ups

Here are different ways to do an explosive push up but they all require the same ability: explosive push strength. Let me explain the downside of this movement based on the clapping push up. You can only perform this movement if you are able to push yourself high enough in the air. Once you lose explosive strength you have to stop your set, otherwise you will simply hit the floor.

Now at this point you would still be able to do a couple of regular push ups with your hands staying on the ground. So your chest is able to continue with the basic movement, but you have to stop because you can’t do the clap anymore. Of course this always depends on which explosive push variation you choose. Some are so hard that they are totally ineffective to build muscle but others are really good.

For example: If you just do the regular push up with a more explosive execution you can focus more on your chest & constant muscle tension instead of heavily relying on the clap in the first place.

Typewriter Push Ups

  • Man doing typewriter push up during chest workout
  • Man doing typewriter push ups

Here we talk about the weight shift close to the ground only. The reason why we put this exercise on this rank is similar to the crucifix pushup. You keep the range of motion very small and are closer to a static execution with a change in tension when you move from side to side. When we talk about the version with the regular Push Up included, we would rank this exercise higher, because here you got a good mix between a concentric, eccentric and static component with a wider range of motion in the regular push up part.

Chest Workout: B-Rank Exercises

Upright Dips

  • Man doing upright dips
  • Man doing uprisght dips on parallel bars

This exercise is similar to the bench dip. It is still a bit better because you don’t do such an 8 shoulder extension and internal rotation. It’s still not optimal for your chest because the more vertical you push and the more your elbows travel behind your wrist the more your triceps have to work.

Diamond Push Ups

  • Man doing diamond push ups
  • Man doing diamond push ups to train his chest

Here we talk about a specific way to do it. If you focus on elbow extension and flexion with decreased range of motion in your shoulder, you will shift the focus away from your chest to your triceps. If you do the version with more shoulder extension you got a good mix between chest, shoulder and triceps activity.

Spiderman Push Ups

Man doing spiderman push ups during chest workout

This variation is very good to target your chest. The downside is that you need more stability, coordination and core strength compared with the standard push up. So it’s a very good complex movement to train many muscles at the same time. But not the perfect chest builder.

Knee to Elbow Push Ups

Man doing knee to elbow push ups during chest workout

Similar to the pervious exercise is the knee to elbow push up. The digfference is that here you move the knee towards the opposite elbow. Like in the spiderman push up you need more stability, core strength and coordination compared to the standard push up.

Ring Fly

  • Man doing knee to ring fly push ups
  • Man doing ring fly push ups during chest workout

This is an exercise which is really hard to rank. It’s actually pretty good, but has a lot of requirements to do it savely. The Ring fly is superior to the crucifix and the weight shift typewriter push up because you do a complete abduction and adduction. This is very similar to the dumbbell fly, cable fly or butterfly. But, as mentioned before, you need a lot of shoulder & elbow stability to do it savely. If your tendons and muscles are not prepared for it you can’t really benefit from this exercise as a good chest builder. Of course there are ways to modify this exercise but you still need some preparation to do it savely.

One Arm Push Ups

  • Men doing omne arm push ups
  • Men doing omne arm push ups during chest training

It requires a lot of core strength, coordination and overall stability and can only be done by advanced athletes. To stay in balance you have to keep the pushing arm as centered as possible. This is the reason why you have a higher degree of shoulder and triceps work and you might fatigue there first.

Chest Workout: A-Rank Exercises

Now we move on to Rank-A and here we mainly got progressions of the standard push up.

Inclinde Push Ups

  • Man doing incline push ups during chest workout
  • Man doing incline push ups during home workout

First we take a look on the incline push up. Of course we know that this exercise could be way too easy for intermediates or advanced athletes. But the movement path is nearly the same as in the regular push up. So for all beginners it’s one of the best exercises for targeting the chest.

Decline Push Ups

  • Man doing decline push ups
  • Man doing decline push ups to train chest

This exercise is very good to target your upper chest but only if you’re doing it with the correct range of motion. If you’re doing it on the ground and with that decrease the range of motion in your shoulder, you’re shifting the focus more to your delts and triceps instead of working your chest properly.

Archer Push Ups

  • Man doing archer push ups during a chest workout
  • Man doing archer push ups

Here you focus on the bent arm while the straight one only supports the movement. This is just a way to make the standard push up harder but it also requires more coordination and core strength.

Chest Workout: S-Rank Exercises

Now it’s time for the S-Rank. These exercises are superior and should be included in every chest focused routine.

Standard Push Ups

  • Men doing regular push ups during chest workout
  • Men doing regular push ups

The first exercise should not come as a surprise to anyone… because it’s the standard push up. This exercise has not only a good movement path, it’s also the best when it comes to targeting all fibers of the chest at the same time. We suggest to use a shoulder wide grip and aim for full shoulder extension to target your chest optimally. In contrast to the widely spread belief we don’t recommend a very wide grip. It’s less effective for chest development and also not that good for shoulder health.

Ring Push Ups

  • Man doing ring push ups to train his chest
  • Man doing ring push ups

In our opinion it’s the best variation to modify the standard push up. With the rings your hands are not fixed. You can not only bend and extend your arms but also abduct, adduct and rotate them.  Especially the adduction at the end of the movement is great for chest activation and you won’t be able to do this with the standard push up on the ground. The only exception for that would be fly push ups. But for this you need a low-friction surface and some sliders or a towel. The only downside is the additional stability component you need for this movement. So for all beginners we suggest to master the standard push up first.

Chest Dips

  • Man doing chest dips
  • Man doing chest dips on parallel bars

While any kind of dips involve your chest, this particular body position offers the best chest activation. The key in this variation is to lean your upper body a bit forward while raising your legs at the same time. This body-position puts the center of gravity right below your chest. Of course you can also do it with bent knees as long as you get the right center of gravity. Imagine it like a mix of a dip and a push up. The only downside of this movement is that you mainly focus on the lower and middle fibers of your chest while the standard push up trains all 3 parts more evenly.

Don’t forget the other muscles

Man and woman with information about all body muscles

Chest workout are beautiful, but please, don’t forget that you have to train your whole body evenly. So If you want a complete Workout guide that trains all muscles of your body in a balanced way you should head over to calimove.com and check our Workout Programs. No matter on which Level you are right now, we have you covered. All of our Programs are designed as a step by step online course you can follow easily. Just choose the right level for your goal and individual needs and you’re ready to start.

Watch the video and start you chest workout

Time for a chest workout? Choose the right exercises!

Follow us for more!

Scroll to Top