Get a Big Chest With 5 Stand-up Exercises

Build a big chest with standing exercises prescribed by STACK Expert Jim Carpentier.

Big Chest

Can you identify a sport that involves lying on your back while trying to lift an opponent off your chest? If such a sport existed, then building a big chest on the Bench Press would be great training. But it doesn't exist. In wrestling and martial arts, if you end up on your back, you've already lost or you're in trouble, so strength in this position won't do you much good.

Better to build a big chest while standing. Here are five combo exercises that require you to be upright from start to finish.


  • Cable machine or portable resistance band (80% RM)
  • Med ball (80%RM)
  • Medium Swiss ball
  • 45-pound plate
  • Water bottle


  • Perform upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Arm Raises and Lunges).
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10
  • Rest: 30 to 45 seconds between sets; 60 seconds between exercises.
  • Hydrate between exercises.
  • Finish with upper- and lower-body static cooldown stretches, especially chest stretches like the Doorway Stretch, held for 10 to 20 seconds, to improve flexibility.
  • Perform the full-body workout on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.

5 Standing Combo Exercises (Full-Body Workout for a Big Chest)

1. Cable Flys and Alternate Forward Lunges

  • Set cables or resistance band position at chest level and stand a few feet away with your back toward the machine or a post (where the resistance band is attached).
  • Explosively lunge forward with your right leg and simultaneously bring cable or band handles together with your arms slightly bent across your chest.
  • Hold for two seconds while squeezing your inner chest muscles.
  • Slowly release and repeat with with your left leg for Flys/Lunges.
  • That's one rep.

Continue with nine more alternating Lunges/Flys, then rest and do two more sets. Combining a chest exercise (Flys) with a leg exercise (Lunges) creates a more favorable anabolic (muscle-building) effect. Engaging the large, powerful hip and leg muscles during the Lunges stimulates greater natural testosterone and growth hormone release compared with performing a cable or band fly movement without Lunges.

2. Med Ball Press-Outs and Squats

  • Assume athletic stance holding the med ball close to your chest.
  • Squat and explosively press the ball away from your chest.
  • Hold for one second and return to start position.

Med Ball Press-Outs are excellent training for pushing away opponents on the mat, ice or football field. Like Lunges, Squats engage the large lower-body muscles, triggering the release of natural anabolic hormones for overall growth throughout the body (including helping increase chest size).

3. Swiss Ball Squeezes and Single-Leg Squats

  • Hold a Swiss ball away from your chest with your left knee slightly bent and your right foot off the floor.
  • Squat and squeeze the ball for three seconds.
  • Breathe naturally. Don't hold your breath,
  • Slowly release and return to start position.
  • Perform nine more reps, then do 10 more Squats/Ball Squeezes with your right knee slightly bent and your left foot off the floor.

The Ball Squeezes will really pump up your inner pectoral muscles, simulating wrapping your arms around a wrestling opponent and pulling him to the mat or tackling a football opponent.

Single-Leg Squats enhance balance—crucial when trying to stay inbounds in wrestling, basketball or football—and they strengthen core abdominal, lower-back, and inner-thigh muscles by forcing stabilizer muscles to work harder when balancing on one leg.

4. Plate Press-Outs and Alternate Plate Rows

  • Assume an athletic stance while holding the plate close to your chest.
  • Quickly press the plate away from your chest, hold one second, and return to start position.
  • Bend your knees slightly, lean slightly forward with your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight, and slowly extend your arms down with the plate toward your knees.
  • Explosively pull the plate up toward your waist and squeeze your shoulder blades together for one second.
  • Bring the plate back to chest level as you return to start position.
  • Alternate Plate Press-Outs/Rows for 10 reps.

Plate Rows build back and biceps muscles to help balance the pushing/pressing movements that strengthen pectoral and triceps muscles.

5. Cable or Band Incline Flys and Alternating Incline Presses

  • Set cable or band position at knee level.
  • Stand a few feet away from the machine or post with your back to it.
  • Grasp cable/band handles and assume athletic stance.
  • Bring cable/band handles upward together above chest level and pause one second while squeezing your inner pectoral muscles.
  • Slowly return to start position, then rapidly press the handles up and out toward your outer pectoral muscles (hands spaced about shoulder-width apart).
  • Hold for one second and slowly return to start position.
  • Continue alternating Flys and Presses for 10 reps.

Incline Flys and Presses build upper, inner and outer chest muscles. Upper pectoral strength and size are particularly beneficial when launching long-range basketball shots (e.g., 3-pointers) and long cross-court passes; grabbing overhead passes and rebounds; catching a basketball or football above chest-level or overhead; or pushing away a taller wrestling or ice hockey opponent.

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