Dad Bod

This 30-Minute Chest Workout Is The Secret To Getting Big

10 moves, big gains.

Originally Published: 
A man on a workout bench with arms straight out to the sides with dumbbells in his hands.
JGI/Tom Grill/Getty

Your chest is basically made up of two muscles: the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, or as you know them, your pecs. They do cool things for you, like opening heavy doors and helping you stash groceries on high shelves. They also do cool things for your appearance, like making your waist look smaller and your stance look taller. You know, making it look like you lost a bunch of weight.

The pectoralis muscles respond quickly to training, but as with any type of workout, overdoing it can lead to injury in the form of small tears in the fibers. So perform this 30-minute chest workout twice a week, and stop an exercise immediately if something feels uncomfortable.

Incline Bench Press

How to: Lie on a bench with the incline set to 45 degrees. Using a barbell with a weight you can perform 10 reps with, lift the barbell above your chest, arms straight, palms facing away from you. Bend elbows and lower to chest. Straighten.

How many: 10 reps, 3 sets

Extra credit: Use dumbbells instead of a barbell to make the movement less stable, thus engaging more muscles.

Decline Bench Press

How to: Lie on a bench with the decline set to 45 degrees (make sure it has a bar you can hook your feet under for support). Use two dumbbells with a weight you can perform 10 reps with. Lift the dumbbells straight above your chest, arms straight, palms facing away from you. Bend elbows and lower to chest. Straighten.

How many: 10 reps, 3 sets

Extra credit: Allow the dumbbells to drift back slightly so they are more over your head than chest. This engages the triceps muscles as well.


How to: Get down on all fours, hand and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs behind you so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Bend elbows back and lower your body so chin is just above floor. Raise back to the start position.

How many: 20 reps, 2 sets

Extra credit: Add plyometrics by pushing explosively off the floor when you reach your lowest position, lifting, and clapping your hands together before returning to the start.


How to: You can do these at the gym on the dips machine, or take it to your kid’s playground and use the parallel bars. Start by hoisting yourself in the air so that your weight is supported by your arms, and you are pressing down on bars that are about two feet apart. Arms should be straight. Bend elbows and lower your body toward the floor. Straighten and return to the start.

How many: 8 reps, 3 sets

Extra credit: From the start position (straight arms), add a little core work by raising your legs together toward the horizon and back down (keep knees straight).

Dumbbell Fly

How to: Lie face-up on a bench, feet flat on the floor. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise arms straight up in the air over your chest. Inhale, then exhale as you open your arms wide out to the sides. Contract your chest muscles and raise the dumbbells overhead again.

How many: 10 reps, 3 sets

Extra credit: Opening your arms past the 90-degree marks adds stretch and helps prevent a rounded-forward posture.

Standing Overhead Press

How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Holding a barbell, raise arms directly overhead, palms facing forward. This is your start position. Bend elbows and lower bar to your shoulders. Raise back to start.

How many: 10-12 reps, 2 sets

Extra credit: Swap the barbell for dumbbells. Doing this movement with two independent weights adds an element of instability that forces your muscles to work extra-hard to compensate.

Suspended Pushup

How to: (Requires either a TRX strap or a two-headed rope secured to a hook in the ceiling or high on the wall.) Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding an end of the TRX strap in each hand. Raise your arms directly out in front of your torso. Keeping your body in a long, straight line, lean forward to about a 45-degree angle. From there, bend your elbows as if you are doing a pushup, allowing your body to tilt forward at an even greater incline. Squeeze arms back together in straight position and return to the 45-degree incline with your body.

Extra credit: Instead of bending your elbows back, keep arms straight and open them widely out to the sides. This engages shoulders, back muscles, and biceps.

Dumbbell Row

How to: Place your left knee and left hand on a bench, leaning forward so that your back is flat. Hold dumbbell in your right hand, allowing your right arms to hang straight down. Bend right elbow and raise dumbbell to your chest. Release.

How many: 10 reps per side, 3 sets.

Extra credit: Begin with your palm facing forward, and rotate your arm as you raise the weight to finish with it facing backward. This engages and tones your shoulder muscles as well as pecs.

Cable/Bands Crossover

How to: Attached cables or resistance bands to two different spots about 10 feet apart and roughly in line with the middle of your body. Standing mid-way between the bands, grab one end of the cable or band in each hand, adjusting so that there is tension on the bands when you arms are straight out to the side. Engage your chest muscles to squeeze your arms together, allowing wrists to cross in front of your body before releasing.

How many: 10 reps, 3 sets

Extra credit: Vary the attachment point of the cable or band so that sometimes it’s rising from floor height and other times, the angle is from above your head. This applies stress to different areas of your chest giving you a more complete workout.


How to: Get into the extended pushups position. Lower onto your elbows so that your body forms a straight line from your head to your toes. Engage your core and hold for 90 seconds.

How many: 3 planks for 90 seconds each

Extra credit: Challenge yourself by raising one leg off the ground, forcing your upper body to compensate for stability. Raise your right leg for 45 seconds, then switch to your left.

This article was originally published on