Beyond the Bench Press: Best Chest Exercises for Athletes

Get better results by mixing up your chest exercises. Work through STACK's list of the best chest exercises for athletes for a great workout.

Chest muscles are important in sports for everything from blocking to shooting to batting, making them vital to every athlete's game. Unfortunately, even professional athletes can let their chest workouts grow stale, returning to the same handful of exercises every week. If you've fallen into a rut, pick some new favorites from the list below to start seeing results again.

When developing a chest workout, be sure to add exercises that include variations of the three foundational exercises—the press, the fly and the pullover. This will challenge the pectoralis major—the primary muscle in the chest—with different movements and from different angles to ensure the entire muscle is engaged and chest strength is continually increased.

Also, to prevent muscle imbalances, make sure to perform an equal number of pulling exercises for the back of your body.

Pressing Movements

Pressing movements are not only the most popular chest exercises, they are also among the most applicable to sports. Work through these exercises to develop upper-body strength useful for pushing, swinging or punching movements.

  • Flat Bench Barbell Press
  • Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
  • Incline Bench Barbell Press
  • Incline Bench Dumbbell Press
  • Decline Bench Barbell Press
  • Decline Bench Dumbbell Press

Fly Movements
Contrary to the belief of most gym rats around the world, the Bench Press is not the end-all chest exercise. Incorporate these fly exercises into your workout to improve swinging, throwing and grappling movements.

  • Flat Bench Dumbbell Fly
  • Incline Bench Dumbbell Fly
  • Decline Bench Dumbbell Fly

Pullover Movements
Often overlooked, pullover exercises are crucial for any athlete who uses an overhead throwing motion. If you're a baseball, tennis or football player, add plenty of pullover movements to your workout.

  • Barbell Pullover
  • Dumbbell Pullover

Bodyweight Movements
The beauty of bodyweight exercises is they can be performed anywhere. Even if you have access to a gym, bodyweight exercises can provide an extremely useful change of pace for any athlete.

  • Dips
  • Push-Ups

Machine Variations
Although machines provide great alternatives to free weight workouts, they should not be considered replacements unless you're limited by an injury or medical condition.

  • Machine Presses
  • Cable Crossovers
  • Machine Flies
  • Machine Pullovers
  • Machine Dips

Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty

Michael Palmieri is the president and founder of The Institute of Sport Science & Athletic Conditioning. He has lectured for several major organizations and associations, and written numerous articles for multiple media outlets. He is also a state chairman for the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a state director for the North American Strongman corporation and a judge for the International Natural Bodybuilding Association. A former powerlifter, Palmieri has been in the industry for more than 20 years, and is pursuing his master's degree as a biomechanics graduate student at UNLV.

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