Best Chest Exercises to Build Masculine Square Pecs

July 29, 2007

So why would a guy want to concentrate on building square pecs instead of rounded pecs?

Well…the more rounded a guy’s chest muscles look, the more they look like breasts. That probably isn’t the look most men are shooting for.

There are several chest exercises to focus on to make this happen & some chest exercises you will probably want to avoid as well. Here is a photo of Brad Pitt, which shows what to shoot for.

Brad Pitt Fight Club

So you will notice that he has the same thickness of his pecs all the way up to his collar bone. This is what causes that well defined line down the middle of his chest.

The big mistake beginners make is that they concentrate too much on the basic flat bench press.

The problem with the flat bench press is that although it is a great mass builder, it develops the lower chest quicker than the upper chest.

The key to develop square pecs is to focus on building the upper chest. There are several basic chest exercises to choose from.

1) Incline Barbell Press
2) Incline Dumbbell Press
3) Incline Machine Press
4) All variations of Incline Flyes

Do you notice any similarities between these exercises?

Obviously it is all the incline lifts that will build up your upper chest.

Almost every guy you see in the gym starts their workout with the flat bench press. The reason why is that you can lift the most weight on that exercise while you are fresh.

I would recommend the opposite approach…

prioritize your chest workouts so that you do a few incline lifts before you ever hit the flat bench…or drop the flat bench from your workout until your upper chest development catches up with your lower chest.

Here is a tip that I rarely here anyone in the personal training world talk about…If you are having a tough time feeling your upper chest contract in incline exercises, you need to increase the mind-to-muscle link in your upper chest.

The best way to do this is through a high volume of lifting for that lift. You are going to want to lift a lighter weight and higher reps to really feel a burn in that muscle.

Over time you will be able to contract that muscle hard and then lift with heavier weights in a more traditional manner.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

andrew August 16, 2011 at 10:02 pm

is it true that swimming helps alot?

Chris September 19, 2011 at 11:57 pm

I have been lifting for a little over 5 years now and I have noticed my upper chest is lacking a lot of size. I have read a lot of the above comments and replies, but not all so I hope my question is not repetitive, and if it is please just refer me to the discussion above, but I could only read so many! My question is this: I am getting married in about 300 days and I really would like to square my chest off as much as possible before then, but I would also like to gain some weight and or not lose any. I am 23, 5′ 8” and 154 lbs. I have about .7 % of body fat on me and I have always lifted heavy low rep in order to gain mass because I still have very little. I am built like a runner not a lifter, and I can never seem to gain weight. Recently I have seen a little weight gain but that probably has more to do with the fact that I am sitting at a desk job for the first time ever. I still stay pretty active playin all types of sports so I am not missing the cardio.
This morning I started my workout with flat dumbbell bench and repped 90 lb dumbbells 9 times my first set, 7 the second, 5 the third and then moved on to incline bench.
I went with 60 lb dumbbells on incline and did a set of 7 a set of 6 and a set of 3. Then moved on to machine fly’s which I do not enjoy as much now that they have gotten rid of the old machine where I could put my whole forearm on the pad and pinch in the middle. (They have replaced it with the new arms extended grip bars that you almost swing in towards each other until you smash your hands in between them).
For the fly’s I did a weight on the machine that I know I am consistent with and keep track of for my own benefit but couldn’t tell you what it transfers to in lbs (also very frustrating when trying to work out anywhere else than my own gym)
I then moved into a form of incline fly’s that I was taught by a marine- where you take 10 lb dumbbells and sit down on an incline bench almost vertical and lock your arms and slowly bring them from down at your side up to parallel to your chest almost, all the time pinching your chest as much as possible.
That rounded out my workout because of time. It was done from 6:40-7:30 Am because I work 2 jobs and have absolutely no other time that I can do it. My workout partner and I always jump into the Basketball gym for 5 minutes or so and shoot just to stretch out a little.
I followed my workout with 2 scoops of GNC Whey protein. I drank close to 90 oz of water and I try pretty consistently to stay away from Soda. I don’t necessarily eat well, but I try to avoid deserts and such. Usually I am trying to force myself to eat as much as possible in order to feed my muscles.

Having said all of that I am wondering a few things:
1. is it possible to square my chest off in less than 300 days. Obviously I am not going to look chizzled and perfect, but is it possible to make a good dent in that in that amount of time. I work out 5 days a week and truly put in the time. I work out till it hurts and then some. I figure if I am there putting in the time I might as well get something from it.

2. Is it possible to square my chest off without losing size? I am willing to lose a little size in my chest if need be, but I don’t have much to work with as it is.
3. And lastly how do I do all of the above if it is possible. I have read a lot recently and people say different things. Some say pushups, yet I find that often just takes a long time to get a burn, and I don’t feel like I am gaining any size at all. Some people said drop your flat bench for 2 years, but that sounds a little counterproductive, at least for weight and size gain. Others said that it is all genetics which I don’t agree completely. I think it helps and some people are built for it more than others but I think it ultimately comes down to hard work and consistency!
I will put in all the work needed especially if this is possible. I will try even if it isn’t in that amount of time, but one thing I will not do is become obsessed. I see some guys who eat drink and sleep work out. They spend so much money on supplements and who knows what else, and I would rather not go that far. I respect them, and their dedication, but it is not That important if that makes sense!
Can you help me?

Hassan October 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm

hey admin. i have gone through your replies to people and felt you sound professional. well i have a thing i need to clarify, which most people, including my gym trainer, are confused about. i am 18. i have been lifting since the past 3 years and gained results. currently, i have alot to look up to, including exams and getting into a uni etc and therefore hardly get time to spend on workouts which i used to be regular at. i need to know how to maintain the muscle mass i have right now. does it require just as much workout as it takes to build, or lesser? and can it be done at home? please help asap!

Hayden October 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm

hi there,
I’ve been doing weight training for about a month now and I seem to have developed muscle in the area just around my nipple. Do you have any advice/exercises I could do do build muscle under my armpits and widen my pecs more?
Hope I made my question clear enough lol!
Thanks mate!

Seventhfold October 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Hey Rusty,

Great site,

I just want to ask for some advice. I’ve been in the gym for 4 months my arms are developing fast however I’m having a hard time building my chest, do you have some routine as a beginner for me to build my chest faster? The normal routine I’m doing are Flat bench press, Incline bench press, Dumbbell fly’s, Flat Dumbbell press.

Your advice will be highly appreciated.

Thanks

CB October 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Where did Rusty go?

AMIT October 13, 2011 at 10:05 am

Hi,
I want to know that wider grip is more effective in bench press and push ups for making square pecs and muscularity.
Also for push ups which one is better on bar or plain surface.
please tell me.

Seth October 18, 2011 at 4:47 am

This might sound stupid but with the incline presses do you have your head higher then your feet so that you arms are pushing more above your head. Or do you have your feet higher so that your arms are pressing more towards your feet? I think it’s the first one but I just want to make sure….

Jan October 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I really appreciate your advice of building chest in different ways. And in different styles.

Jazz November 25, 2011 at 10:52 am

Hi.. I really got a big problem for my chest shape.. I got stubborn chest.. I did 3 time a week for chest workout .. I felt ok for my upper chest but in the middle chest was round can’t go wider and I did slot incline fly flat fly even flat wide grip bench press also.. But it really not tone alot.. Can u give some advice ??

foondun December 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

well…when it gets closer to vertical, doesn’t it start to work on the deltoids….while you should be concentrating on the pecs..
shouldn’t you adjust to 45 degrees or something?

Chris z December 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Hey rusty, hope you will reply back to me because this question is pretty important. In visual impact muscle building you say to drop flat bench if your upper chest needs work.well I think my upper chest needs work but I can’t really tell. but at the same time I have like this gap towards the middle of my chest. So the question is should I do flat bench to maybe make that gap smaller or will the incline bench press help me get that line down the chest

Brandon December 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Hi rusty,
my chest has already rounded a little in the lower section of my chest near the nipple area could you tell me how to square off this area so it looks more square and even on the inner side of my chest and the outer side closest to my arms?
i work out at home and the equipment i have is a bench press with a barbell and a pair of dumbbells
thank you

qweasd December 21, 2011 at 11:00 am

sir i used to do exercise at home on by putting both hands on couch side at dip down by keeping both lags parallel to it so my side chest developed now is it possible to get it in shape……sir pls help me

Raj January 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Sir,I wanna ask u About the chest Exercises,How should and i the Order f the Exercise?

I am having the weight 75kgs ,I have started gym before 4months and my only muscle which is not having sufficient mass is the chest ,it is good but not sufficient enough for me.
I m doing 150 pushups and 50 dips in warmup and Chest dips too.
But in 4 months i havent got enough result, iHave got my Lats,Biceps ,triceps more than expected,But chest is the one i should work out hardly.
i have started this schedule:

Flat barbell bench press
incline barbell bench press
Decline barbell bench press
Dumbell bench press
Incline dumbell Flyes
Butterfly
all the 3 sets 10 15 reps.

Should i workout twice a day or once,Or should i change it ,
Help me out….

aaron January 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm

i am 19 started gym 6 months ago im now working on my abs and pecs after losing 2 stone and gaining alot of muscle im finding the best way to build your upper pecs is flat bench a weight you find very heavy for 2-6 reps each session this will shock your muscles into growth, you should be struggling. im now focusing on lower pecs any questions ask me i kno a fair bit about muscle gain and fat loss but im no expert

aaron January 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm

5 sets by the way

Harsh February 9, 2012 at 9:22 pm

hello im 18 and from india. i have started working out a year ago and im not happy about the way my pecs look. the part that is connected to my armpits is very well defined which i like but there is almost no muscle in the middle part of the chest. how can i isolate the upper chest so that my pecs are even. cause they look droopey from the side 🙁 ??

MR B March 19, 2012 at 6:50 am

IM 33YRS OLD 5.7′ AND I BLEW UP TO 390 LBS!!! I WORKED OUT ALWAYS OFF AND ON SINCE I WAS 13 SO IM A LITTLE EXPERIENCED BUT ABOUT 6 YRS AGO I STOPED SMOKING HAD SOME KIDS THEN I STARTED MY OWN BUISSNES SO I DID NO MORE MANUEL LABOR SO I BLEW UP FAST HELP ME OUT!! I STARTED WORKING OUT AGAIN A MONTH AGO I WANT TO BLAST OFF THIS BIG BELLY I HAVE BIG ARM ALREADY I WANT THEM BACK I WANT A BIG CHEST NOT INTERESTED IN A SIX PACK I JUST WANT TO SHOOT FOR 200 LBS ID BE HAPPY I ALREADY LOST 47LBS IM DOWN TO 338 SO NEED DIET ADVICE AND WIEGHT TRAINING ADVICE TO MAX OUT RESULTS

tom March 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

Wow. You assumed that the workout to gain muscle does not burn calories. Weight training for an hour, in one study, burnt as many calories as running a 6 min mile for an hour. You burn , you get the muscles that burn more just resting, you get stronger, faster, leaner than the counter part that just does cardio. Which way is faster? Which end result is towards your goal?

prevas April 21, 2012 at 11:54 am

hi Aly

I have exactly the same problem like you do. i saw your second picture that you posted and I have the same problem too. Would you tell me if the flat bench press you did with wide grip helped you get past the problem?

Thanks!

rohit April 22, 2012 at 10:15 am

i am 19 yrs and i have a little just a little bit of extra fat on the lower chest ,i have just started doing gym . also my lower back is really small .i want to know the routine and exercises to follow to get a square shape fatless chest and wide lower back and back.please help as i have seen most of my friends doing wrong chest exercises and ultimatly making their chest look more like a breast.sir please help me out .

Peeyush May 2, 2012 at 6:25 am

I am presently doing incline press as well as decline press for my chest. But my upper chest has not developed sufficiently. Please suggest whether I should stop doing decline press altogether and focus on incline press and pushups with legs on chair?

Svevo June 3, 2012 at 10:59 pm

The development of upper chest and the general shape is all about genetics. The lower chest looks bigger because the gravity. Doing flat or incline bench don’t change the upper chest development. It’s a myth and i really don’t understand how it’s became so popular. Even if you work the upper fibers, “Upper chest” grow together with “lower”.
You say “Drop the flat bench from your workout until your upper chest development catches up with your lower chest.” But is only a matter of time, the upper chest catches up with flat bench too, because it’s impossible to grow “upper chest” without grow the “lower”.

P.s. Please do not delete comments.

Rage June 6, 2012 at 6:23 am

Guys i have a problem,my nipples are below my chest.How can I fix this?

Mark Thomas June 19, 2012 at 11:39 am

Hi Rusty,
Thanks again for a great post.

But I need your help though on how to (flat) bench press correctly.
Could you please give me some tips on how to maximize tension on the pecs with the bench press?
(Your advice will really help me with the incline bench press as well 🙂 )

Thanks.

P.S. – It’s easy for me to target other muscle groups like the shoulders, biceps, triceps, etc… but the hitting the pecs hard has always been a challenge for me.

teja June 26, 2012 at 12:21 am

im doing flat bench with 22lb from past 1 month but my chest has not increased i’ve maintained the same with inclined bench etc…
yesterday a person came n said ‘reduce the weight you will get a better chest’ but my coach says to increase the weight … now im in a dilemma to reduce or increase weight plz someone help me :/

Trey LeCLair July 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

For Chris hey man i was a pretty big dude around a year ago and im not talking muscle, i was chunky and i joined the military but after basic i was really skinny and i wanted to be muscled instead of small so i asked around and started working out with a few of my friends and noticed i started to gain weight. not fat however it was all muscle. when you work out try not to use alot of protein because taking too much burns calories and then fat. work out in the morning and i would recommend pushups to hit your pecs completely. flyers and inclines are also a very good way but if u want to gain weight but in muscle i would also try eating less meals a day cut down to at least 3. the more you eat the faster your metabolism goes and that will result in loss of weight period. dont eat greasy foods alot try to limit to 1-2 meals with alot of grease a week. try grilled chicken with white rice, potatoes, fish, but not fried grilled, try not to drink alot of milk and soda. too much milk will pack fat. drink water before workouts and after drink alot of gatorade, powerade, etc. to replace electrolytes. this will decrease the amount of sugar taken in. if you are going to take protein i would stay away from powder. i use nitrous oxide stimulate(its not actual nitrous oxide it just provides your body with energy to work out and build muscle easier and faster. its a pill that u take before and after workout. use it till u get those pecs and abs u want then wean off of it slowly to where u r using no proteins. then wait a week and start to usethen use small variations of proteins. i would recommend some sort of whey(however i dont use any protein anymore and im still keeping my stocky build) hope this helps, and if u have any questions email me at [email protected] also let me know if it works for ya. have a good day keep up the work!!

Trey LeCLair July 26, 2012 at 9:41 am

and for teja increasing the weight will only build mass with muscle if u would like to make them more toned reduce the weight. more reps. doing that will tone instead of just building muscle under the fat. after u tone it then u can add weight.

sobol August 6, 2012 at 7:22 am

Hey rusty, thanks for your tips but why i think upper chest is all about genetics and i hope it’s not true since my upper chest is lagging if it compared to my lower chest but am working on it, hopefully it will grow

Mark September 3, 2012 at 12:25 am

Great article. Common sense and paying attention to your body. I’d figured out the mind/body/muscle connection thing on my own accord and it was great to see someone else mention. I feel good about that. The importance of paying attention indeed…

JIESON A MORGA September 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm

hi. i started gym about 1 year and the result is not good and I deside to stop about 4months and I came Back to gym. Can you gave me some ideas of what I Really What To do to improve my Chest.
”THANKS BY THE WAY I’M STAYED FROM PHILIPPINES”

Mike Foze September 25, 2012 at 10:43 am

This is really a great article, Rusty.

When I read this a while back it really did give me a different perspective on training for a great chest. Even though I had already built a decent chest. Upper chest workouts really took it to the next level.

I definitely think upper chest exercises are the best chest exercises

Eddy October 11, 2012 at 8:53 am

This is an interesting article. Many of who commented here including Rusty had always advice building the upper chest first for a better look.
That’s completely right but you missed that not doing especially the lower chest will leave you with an incomplete overall chest look, moreover it leads to fat be found at that lower area.
Even professionals who advice exercises for bodybuilders who have the gyne or gyno problem(or it might be fat probelm at end not small tissue..) advice upper chest exercises.
From my experience, for BB’s with the gyno or maybe its actually chest fat(overall body too) problem, you must first lower your body fat to 10-15% and see how your chest look, then you can determine if it’s gyno or not.
Even if it’s gyno or excessive fat problem, in both cases just doing the upper chest exercises will not work and will not solve your problem.
Because as my upper chest muscles grew strong and big, I could still find most of the fat in my lower chest to the outer sides of chest area.
Meaning, after a BB had grown his upper chest well, must add more pecs exercises like flyes in different angles and also decline exercises.
How do you discover what part of your chest is lacking growth?
Sit in a posture position, shoulders and chest straight.. then squeeze your chest muscles, then touch your chest and see what parts you find have muscles and what parts have more fat like loosing skin or tissue.
As much as I concentrated on my upper chest and mostly presses as much as I found and felt when I sqeeze my chest that muscles of my upper chest are strong with less fat while the lower part with the pecs are the ones soft and needs build up.
In other meaning, if want to measure it from the inside or middle point of the chest(in bt. left and right sides), I’ll say from the middle of the chest to half of each side my chest is strong and developed but what’s lacking is the rest half of both sides of chest till the outside(pecs).
Hopefully, pictured it right!

Jason October 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm

If I really wanted to focus on my upper chest, should I do a tricep workout first (to wear them out) and then move to my chest workout? Or is that counter-productive?

Alex October 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I’m not really into the whole muscle thing right now. I want your advice on how I can lose fat efficiently from my chest as well as my and belly?

wezz June 27, 2013 at 3:26 am

yep i use the dragons breath on this too,,

sanu dutta February 24, 2015 at 9:54 pm

I usually work on my lower chest and middle chest, that’s why maybe I’m not gettin that square shape.
Thanks for letting us!

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