The chest is one body area where men and women aren’t exactly looking for the same results—so we spoke to Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute trainers Adam Friedman and Nikki Kimbrough to get the lowdown on the most efficient moves for both genders. These superfast workouts will help you rock a tank top in no time.
1. Basic Bench Press
Why: The bench press is the most basic building block of a chest workout because it zeroes in on the pectoral muscles. “Those are the largest muscles in your chest, and many women completely overlook them,” Kimbrough says, “but pectorals support your breast tissue, which helps keep your chest looking tight and sexy as you age.”
How: Lie down with your back flat on the bench and your feet planted firmly on the floor. To ensure that you have a wide enough grip, align your index finger with the first ring on the bar. Bring your elbows back even with your shoulders. Let the bar touch your chest, then drive it back to full extension in one fluid motion. To make sure you are in full control, do a 1-2-3 count as you lift the bar up from your chest and as you bring it back down.
3 sets of 10 reps
(for a more advanced workout: 3 sets of 12–15 reps)
2. Dumbbell Fly
Why: Most women default to machines for chest moves like the fly. “Using free weights is much more effective because you really have to control your body weight, which requires additional energy so you see results faster,” Kimbrough explains. If free weights intimidate you, Kimbrough suggests reaching out to a trainer or knowledgeable friend to act as a spotter.
How: Position yourself on an incline bench, and hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in. Hold your arms straight above you. As you exhale, lower both arms out to the sides, to about shoulder height. Hold momentarily, then slowly raise to return to start position.
3 sets of 10 reps
1. Cable Crossover
Why: Unlike free weights, cables provide a continuous and steady level of resistance, which engages the small stabilizing muscles in your chest as well as the pectorals.How: Stand with one foot forward and your feet about hip width apart. Bend your chest slightly forward. Grip a cable handle in each hand. Your hands should be slightly above the shoulders and elbows slightly bent. With your arms almost fully extended, slowly bring your hands together in a wide arc motion. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
3 sets with increasing reps of 10, 12 and 15
2. Dumbbell Chest Press With Hold
Why: “I see a lot of guys defaulting to straight bars whenever they do chest exercises because it’s easier to use momentum when you’re using both hands,” Friedman says. “Dumbbells are better because they require stability and balance.” This version of the classic dumbbell chest press also builds up stamina since you keep your arms and chest engaged at all times.
How: Lie on your back on a flat bench. Hold dumbbells with your palms facing forward and plant your feet on the floor. Lift arms straight up so the dumbbells are in line with your shoulders. Lower your right arm until your elbow is even with your shoulder while keeping your left arm straight up. Lift the right arm back up, then lower the left arm while keeping the right arm straight up.
3 sets of 12 reps
WOMEN AND MEN
3. Incline Bench Press
Why: Both experts concur that this is an often overlooked but vital move for getting a great chest workout. “Many people just stand, sit or lie on flat benches, but adding angles can challenge more muscle groups,” explains Friedman. The incline bench press helps you work the top section of the pectoral to help you get a toned look in tank tops and low-cut or sleeveless shirts.
How: Lie on your back on an incline bench angled between 45 and 60 degrees. Grasp a dumbbell* in each hand and plant your feet on the floor. Hold dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Press the dumbbells up to a position over your eyes until your elbows are straight. Lower the dumbbells toward your upper chest and keep your elbows straight under your wrists.
3 sets of 10 reps
*You can also use a straight bar instead of dumbbells.
Why: The granddaddy of chest exercises still makes the cut as an essential part of any chest workout. Pushups work all your major upper-body muscles, plus they strengthen the neck androtator cuff muscles that stabilize your shoulders and help prevent injuries when you’re lifting and pulling objects—staple movements of most chest exercises.
How: Lie facedown with your hands slightly more than shoulder width apart and your feet together. Keeping your body straight, push up.
3 sets of 10–15 reps