6 of the Best Chest Exercises and Workouts for Women
What area counts as the chest?
The chest is the front part of your upper body, breast and torso, covering the region between your neck, shoulders and rib cage. The main muscles you’re likely to focus on in this area are the pectoral muscles (or ‘pecs’), which are the largest muscles in the chest and split between:
- pectoralis major - this makes up most of the chest muscle mass
- pectoralis minor - sits under the pectoralis major and pulls the shoulder down and forward
What are the benefits of chest exercises for females?
While the aesthetic of muscular pecs is a draw for many men working out their chest, building strength in this area can feel like less of a priority for women. But there are still many benefits to chest workouts for females too.
- Improve posture - while you may feel that most of your posture comes from your shoulders and back, these work so closely with your chest, that you’ll see much better results on your posture by working all of these areas together.
- Boost upper body strength - a lot of your lifting power comes from your pectorals, so if you’re keen to be able to increase your upper body strength as a whole, you should definitely be including chest exercises in your workout routines.
- Avoid injury - stronger muscles are less likely to suffer injury or strain. Keep the area worked and you’ll be less likely to pull a painful muscle in your chest area.
- Lifted boobs - your breasts sit over your pectoral muscles - as you build and strengthen these muscles you’re effectively pushing the breast tissue upwards and forwards, giving them additional elevation.
- Breathe easier - your pec minor is connected to your ribs, stretching and expanding as you breathe. A boost in your posture will open up your chest, meaning you’ll be more able to take deeper breaths (which in turn can help with your cardio).
Which exercises are best for women’s chest workouts?
1. Incline Press Ups
Incline press ups are an excellent entryway into mastering full press ups, but they are also perfect for focusing on your chest and upper body. All you need is some kind of raised support, like a gym workout bench. This chest exercise is also easy for women to do at home on a bed, sofa, chair or staircase (the latter is particularly helpful as you can work your way down each step as you improve).
Place your hands on the raised step below your shoulders - higher is easier, lower is more challenging - straighten your arms and step your feet back until your body is a straight line (effectively a raised plank position). Keeping your core engaged, lower your chin towards the step, bending your elbows but keeping them close to your body. Then straighten your arms again to return to starting position.
If this is a bit too much of a challenge, or if you don’t have any kind of raised step or chair, you can also try these on the ground with your knees on the floor.
2. Dumbbell or Barbell Bench Press
Perfect for targeting your pecs, deltoids and triceps, a bench press is one of the ultimate upper body exercises. You’ll need some exercise equipment - ideally a gym bench and either dumbbells or a barbell. If you’re at home without any workout kit, you could also complete these on the floor (known as a Floor Press), using any kind of weighted object in place of dumbbells (grab some water bottles or food cans from the kitchen perhaps!).
Lie back on a bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand, either side of your shoulders with your knuckles facing the ceiling. Keeping your core engaged, push the weights upwards until your arms are straight and positioned above your chest (be careful not to lock your elbows), before easing them back down slowly. With dumbbells you can drop the weights right down past your shoulders before lifting back up. You can also complete bench presses with a barbell, raising and lifting the weight in a similar way.
3. Close grip bench press
The close grip bench press is extremely similar to a regular bench press, only with (you guessed it) a narrower grip between your hands. This enables you to add some variety to your chest workouts, but also gives a little more emphasis on the triceps, helping you to build other parts of your upper body too.
If you’re using dumbbells, you can complete these in the same way as mentioned above, only by focusing on keeping your hands and elbows closer together as you lift. With a barbell, you’ll aim to use a closer grip on the bar itself - narrower than shoulder width apart.
4. Chest Presses
Another fantastic pectoral exercise that works a lot of the upper body, the chest press is similar in form to a bench press, only you’ll be lifting from a seated position rather than lying down. It also requires the use of the chest press equipment in the gym.
With the handles at chest level and your back pressed against the seat, hold the handles of the machine. Push, until your arms are straight out in front of you, taking care not to lock your elbows. Then slowly ease back to the starting position. Check out our How to Use the Chest Press guide for more.
5. Dumbbell Chest Fly
The chest fly is an excellent way of targeting the inner part of your chest. You’ll need a bench to lie on and a couple of dumbbells. Lying with your back flat on the bench, hold the weights up in front of you, around shoulder width apart, with straight, but not locked, arms. Tuck your shoulder blades down and under your body as much as you can to protect them during the exercise. Slightly turn the weights so your pinky fingers are a little closer together and bend your arms a little - this is your starting position. Keeping your elbows and wrists in this position, your core engaged and your shoulder blades squeezed together, drop your arms down until your body is in more of a T-position. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
6. Cable Chest Fly
Another great action for working the pecs, the cable chest fly is very similar to the dumbbell chest fly, except it requires the use of the cable machine in the gym and takes place in a standing position. Set both pulleys at chest height and find the right weight for you. Stand with your back to the machine and, keeping your elbows slightly bent, take hold of each strap. Keeping your palms facing the floor, pull the handles inwards until your hands nearly meet in front of you, before easing back. Take care not to let your arms pull too far back, keeping tensions tight throughout.
Discover more exercise inspiration on our workouts for women section, including this guide to some of the best arm exercises for women, our favourite leg day exercises for women, and these kettlebell workouts for women.
You can also download the free PureGym app, where you can create a customised training plan for your fitness goals or get involved with our on-demand classes and workouts. Also, consider booking a session with a dedicated Personal Trainer at PureGym - they’re able to offer a wealth of advice for both fitness and nutrition.