The American Council on Exercise recently sponsored a study that identified which exercises most effectively work the large chest muscle known as the pectoralis major (or pecs). Incorporate these moves into your upper body workouts to maximize your exercise time.
Barbell Bench Press: This classic gym exercise activated the chest muscles the most out of the nine exercises that were tested. If you are new to strength training, don’t let this weight room exercise scare you. Beginners can start by using only the bar for weight until you get comfortable with proper form. Then you can begin to add 5-to-10 lb plates on each side as you get stronger.
Pec Deck Machine: The pec deck came in a close second to the bench press. While this is a popular machine found in most gyms, experts recommend practicing caution when using the pec deck. Many use bad form and lift too much weight, which can injure the shoulder joint. If you plan to use it, ask a trainer to help you set it up safely.
Bent-forward Cable Crossover: Not far behind the pec deck, the cable crossover is the third most effective chest exercise. Proper position and use of the cables can take a while to get used to. Start with a small amount of weight and ask a trainer to check your form as you perform this exercise.
These three exercises are very close in their level of muscle activation; therefore, experts reported that they can be used interchangeably to train the chest muscles. Six additional exercises were tested, but they were much less effective at working the pecs than the top three.
What exercise was the least effective? Standard push-ups. This doesn’t mean that you should stop doing them, but you will need to do almost twice as many push-ups to get the same result as you will from the top three exercises.