The Ultimate Chest Workout | Chest Variations

Written by Alex Simpson

Chest Variations

People seem to think that building a solid and powerful chest requires bench presses, bench presses, and more bench presses still. Whilst barbell and dumbbell bench presses, and other free weight exercises for that matter, are all hugely beneficial, that does not mean that they are the be-all and end-all of chest training methods. When it comes to working your pectoral muscles, if you have access to a cable machine you have access to a whole variety of different exercises, all of which are designed to hit different parts of your pectoral muscles.

Whilst you have probably heard of cable crossovers for working your chest, there could very well be a number of other cable chest exercises that you would never have previously considered before. To help you add a little variety to your chest workouts, here’s a look at a few unique chest variations which can be performed on a cable machine.

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Incline Cable Chest Press 


First up we’ll take a look at one of the most underutilised chest exercises currently in existence – the incline cable chest press. This exercise is ideal for targeting your upper and middle pectoral muscles, with the added bonus of also adding in a little tricep and deltoid work in the process. To perform this exercise you will need access to a cable machine with a low pulley, along with an adjustable bench. Other than that, however, you’re pretty much set. Here’s what to do:


» Begin by selecting a manageable weight on both sides of the cable machine.


» Place an adjustable bench in the centre of the machine, set it to an incline, and then grasp both handles with an underhand grip, with your arms roughly 45 degrees in correlation to the rest of your body.


» With your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, begin the exercise by pressing both handles straight together directly in front of you, making sure to extend through your elbow as you do.


» Once fully extended, hold for a second at the top of the movement, and focus on squeezing your pecs together.


» Whilst keeping full tension on both cables, slowly lower your arms back down to the starting position, and repeat for as many reps as required.

Chest Press

Seated Cable Chest Press


This exercise is very similar to the one you would perform using a chest press machine, with the added bonus of it working your core, delts, and triceps because it functions as a compound exercise. This exercise primarily targets the middle portion of your pecs, and it is fairly easy to perform.


» Begin by placing an adjustable bench in the centre of the machine, and sit down so that your back is supported.


» Select a weight that you are comfortable with on both sides of the machine, and grasp both handles firmly with each of your hands.


» Bend your elbows at 90 degrees, and keep your arms roughly 45 degrees to the rest of your body.


» Slowly extend through your elbows, and press both handles together, directly in front of you, ensuring shoulder blades remain fully retracted when you perform the movement.


» When you have fully extended your arms, hold for a second, squeeze the pecs together, slowly return your arms back down to their original starting position.


» Repeat for as many reps as required.

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Cable Crossovers 


Cable crossovers are very common and very popular chest exercises, and rightfully so. These exercises not only target all three portions of your pectoral muscles, especially the upper pecs, but they also give your shoulders quite a workout in the process.


» Begin by placing the pulleys so that they are at a high setting, which should be above head height.


» Select the weight required for both sides, and then firmly take each handle in each hand.


» Imagine there is a straight line in front of the pulleys, and take a step forward so that one leg is now standing over the imaginary line.


» Slightly bending forwards at the waist, extend both arms outwards to the side and make a wide arc and bring both arms together, until you begin to feel a deep squeeze on your chest.


» When you perform this part of the exercise, take a deep breath in, making sure to keep your arms and your torso stationary and fixed firmly in place. The idea is that you generate the majority of your power from your chest.


» Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for as many reps as required.

best chest exercises to do at home

Flat Bench Cable Flyes


Flyes do not have to be performed using dumbbells in order for them to be effective, as in actual fact, many people prefer to perform flyes using a cable instead, as they feel it gives them more control over the pectoral muscles. You will need a spotter, or just a regular gym-goer to hand you the handles to begin this exercise.


» Begin this exercise by placing a flat bench directly in the middle of two low pulleys, making sure you have selected a weight on both sides that you are comfortable with.


» When you lay down, your chest should be level with both pulleys.


» Have a spotter hand you both handles (one at a time) and grasp each handle with your palms facing up into the air.


» Next, extend both of your arms so that your elbows are slightly bent at your sides.


» Making sure to maintain the slight bend in your elbows and keeping arms parallel to the ground, lift both arms into the air in a semi-circular motion, pulling both cables together until your palms almost meet in the air whilst at the top of the movement.


» Hold for a second, focus on really contracting your pecs, and then slowly return both arms back down to the original starting position.


» At first the exercise may feel easy and you may think you need more weight, but after six reps or so, you should begin to feel a deep stretching.


» Repeat for as many reps as required.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Andy Griffiths

Andy Griffiths

Writer and expert

Andy's journey in fitness started during his studies at Leeds Becket University in 2003, working in the university campus gym, he got a taste for a life in fitness. In the past 17 years, he has developed through various roles and has built a detailed experience in developing one-to-one clients, fellow team members and group fitness programmes in mainstream and boutique facilities. Training endurance athletes, martial arts athletes and simply those wanting to build a healthier life, he has built some great experiences and is now in a fantastic position to share what he has learnt with you. Being able to engage beginners into exercise regimes he feels is essential but has the ability and experience to adapt training techniques for those more experienced so everyone learns something new. He strongly feels that if you believe you are capable, you commit to achieving your goals that you will be successful!

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