Last Updated on August 15, 2022 by TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer
If you asked someone to give you their vision of what would be happening at a gym, many people would likely answer by saying barbell chest exercises. It’s one of the classic visions we have of the gym!
The reason for this is that barbell exercises are incredibly popular and effective! So many of us are trying to develop a stronger chest and look better – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, when you are looking to build a stronger chest using barbell exercises, it can be pretty easy to get confused and lost about the best way to do so.
Luckily, we’ve created this handy guide for you to follow. If you want the best barbell exercises for a stronger chest – read on below!
1. The Barbell Bench Press
The classic vision starts off our list, the good ole’ barbell bench press. As mentioned, this is by far one of the most effective chest exercises you can do, so start them early in your workout journey as you’ll most likely be doing them a lot!
It is one of the best ways to workout your upper body muscles and it helps you to train almost all of your major muscle groups in that region of your body. You will notice benefits to your triceps, delts and pecs.
What To Do
To do this workout, you need to:
- Find a spotter if you plan to use heavy weights.
- Lie flat on your back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Make sure your back does not move from the bench as you lift your arms up to the bar.
- You should avoid arching your back at any time while doing this exercise.
- Brace yourself by taking a deep breath and lift the bar off the rack.
- Bring the bar slowly down to your chest at your chest’s highest point.
- Once you have touched or are close to touching your chest, push the bar back up to the starting position.
2. The Incline Bench Press
This workout is slightly different from the previous one, but it has more benefits to your upper chest muscles, which are often ignored when it comes to weight training.
It involves you being seated on the bench at a slight angle and continuing your workout similarly to the last one.
What To Do
To do this one correctly, you need to:
- Place yourself on a bench at a 45-degree angle.
- Ensure your feet are flat on the ground and stable.
- Ensure your back does not move from the bench as you lift.
- Grab the bar and brace yourself with a deep breath.
- Unrack the bar and bring the bar down to your chest.
- Lift the bar back up, directly above your chest until your arms are fully extended.
- Repeat this for your chosen amount of reps.
3. The Decline Bench Press
This one is almost the opposite of the last in terms of your positioning. The main advantage of this workout is that it will work your lower chest muscles, along with the upper body.
If you want a break from the usual bench workouts, then consider this one as a way to work your chest.
What To Do
Completing this workout correctly involves:
- Place yourself on a decline bench with your feet underneath the pads and ensure you’re looking directly at the bar.
- Keep your back on the bench and lift your arms up to the bar.
- Brace yourself for the lift.
- Breathe deeply.
- Unrack the bar.
- Lift the bar down to your chest and back towards the rack with a full extension.
- Repeat for your chosen amount of reps and sets.
4. The Close-Grip Bench Press
This particular exercise is the same as the regular bench press, except there is one major difference – where your hands are placed.
When your hands are closer to one another, you will feel a much improved burn in the center of your chest.
What To Do
To do this exercise correctly, you should:
- Get yourself a spotter as it is easy to get tired more quickly on this one.
- Select your weight, it’s best not to go too heavy here.
- Lie underneath the bar.
- Prepare and breathe deeply.
- Put your hands as close to one another as possible, but make sure they are wide enough to keep the bar stable.
- Bring it down to your chest and then lift it back up.
- Repeat until your reps are completed.
5. Wide Grip Bench Press
Another variation of the classic bench press, but this one targets your outer chest and also eliminates some of the ancillary muscles from helping as much putting more emphasis on your chest muscles and less emphasis on your triceps and shoulders.
It’s pretty simple but you have to ensure you’re getting the form correct.
What To Do
Completing this exercise involves:
- Getting a barbell.
- Placing weights on the bar that you can manage to lift. You should go lighter here than your regular bench press.
- Grap the bar with as wide of a grip as you can, making sure you don’t pinch your hands on the rack.
- Lift the bar and bring the bar down slowly to your chest.
- Once at the bottom, push the bar back to its starting position.
6. Barbell Pullover
For this exercise, you will want to find a bench that is not attached to anything. So, any free-standing bench will do.
When starting out with the exercise, it is best to use a spotter to ensure you have the correct form and feel for the exercise.
What To Do
Barbell pullovers involve:
- Getting a spotter nearby.
- Knowing your limits on the weight.
- Laying on the bench and having your spotter hand your barbell to you as if you were doing bench press.
- While keeping your arms straight, lower the bar behind you until the barbell is slightly below the level of your head.
- Again, while keeping your arms straight, raise the bar back up to the bench press position.
- Take a deep breath and repeat
- When you are done with your reps, you can drop the bar down below your head or hand the bar to your spotter.
7. Wide Grip Barbell Decline/Incline
Because these exercises are so similar, we are going to describe two exercises in one here!
Just like the wide grip flat bench exercise we explained earlier, here we are doing the same thing but either with the bench at an incline or decline angle.
What To Do
To complete this exercise, you will need to:
- Take a wide grip on the bar, sitting on either an incline or decline bench.
- Remove the weight from the rack and hold your arms directly above your chest while you gain your balance.
- Lower the bar to your chest slowly, stopping for a beat at the bottom.
- Push the bar back up to the starting position, making sure you are not fully locking out your elbows.
- Repeat for your desired number of reps and set.
8. Barbell Deadlift
This is one of the most conducted exercises in the gym and is very good for a lot of muscle groups. If you can complete this exercise with the right form, your chest muscles will be engaged and receive the benefit, along with your other muscles.
What To Do
To do this exercise correctly and safely, you should do the following:
- Know your limits on the weights and start with a weight you know you can handle.
- Place your barbell on the ground and make sure there is plenty of room around you.
- Slightly bend your knees and keep your head forward.
- With extended arms, prepare yourself for the lift.
- Lift the bar from the ground to your waist with a controlled “stand-up” motion and hold it there for a few seconds.
- Return the bar back to the ground.
The Bottom Line
Building a strong chest using barbells is a great way to work out and there are plenty of options. However, you must remember that safety is paramount.
If you are not sure of your limits, always start with lower weights and gradually increase your weights as you gain strength and comfort. Also, be sure to rely on spotters to really be safe!
We hope this guide has been useful to you!
- How To Sneak A Workout In While Taking Care Of Your Baby - March 17, 2023
- How To Build Your Chest With Dumbbells [Guide] - February 9, 2023
- Can You Do Barbell Squats Every Day? [What You Need To Know] - January 14, 2023