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Jeff Nippard Ranks Every CHEST Exercise From Best To Worst

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

I Ranked Every CHEST Exercise (Best To Worst)

Evaluating chest exercises for muscle growth is a matter of considering key factors such as stretch and tension, comfort, and the capacity for progression.

An exercise must not only provide substantial tension during a deep stretch, but it should also feel good, avoiding pain while promoting a potent pump and connection with the chest muscles.

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Moreover, the ability to enhance the exercise through gradual increases in weight or repetitions plays a crucial role in its effectiveness.

When reviewing popular chest exercises, it becomes clear that some are superior to others, with certain movements awarded the highest distinction for their excellent balance of intensity and progressivity.

At the same time, some exercises fall short, either lacking in the ability to stretch the chest muscles adequately or offering limited potential for progressive overload. In the quest for the most efficient chest workouts, a careful analysis reveals which exercises maximize growth and which ones might be better left out of a routine.

Key Takeaways

  • Effective chest exercises provide a deep stretch, are comfortable, and allow for progression.
  • Top-tier exercises combine intensity with a capacity for progressive overloads, such as weighted adjustments.
  • Lower-ranked exercises fail to effectively stretch the chest or lack a clear path to increased challenge and strength gains.

Chest Exercise Ranking Criteria

Stretch With High Tension

  • Key factor: High-tension stretch required for top rank
  • F tier: No deep stretch, no exception
  • Hex press: No big stretch; triceps take over, not ideal for inner pec fibers
  • Dumbbell pullover: Limited pec activation, overshadowed by lats and triceps engagement

Comfortable Feel and Resistance Profile

  • Necessities: Smooth feel, no pain, consistent resistance providing good pump and connection
  • Bench Press: Generally feels good, some report shoulder discomfort
  • Flat Dumbbell Press: Deeper pec stretch, less shoulder issues reported
  • Machine Chest Press: Locked-in motion can enhance mind-muscle connection and pump

Progression Simplicity

  • Overload: Ability to progressively add weight or reps
  • Bench Press: Easy to add weight over time
  • Dumbbell limitations: At higher strengths, larger dumbbells are bulky and gyms may have weight limits
  • Dips: Various progression methods, from assisted to adding weight
  • Push-ups: Not ideal once strong due to high rep requirements for failure; banded push-ups add tension but stability is a concern

F Tier Exercises

Hex Press

  • Tension and Stretch: Hex Press fails to provide a deep stretch with high tension in the pecs, as arms stay bent and do not fully extend, limiting pec engagement.
  • Feeling and Pump: The movement often causes the triceps to take over. Without a strong mind-muscle connection or a satisfying pump, it detracts from its effectiveness.
  • Progression: Due to its design, progressive overload is challenging. There is no clear path for increasing weight or reps, which is crucial for muscle growth.

Plate Press

  • Tension and Stretch: Similar to the Hex Press, the Plate Press lacks in providing a significant stretch and tension across the pecs during exercise.
  • Ergonomics and Resistance Profile: Awkwardness of the movement compromises the workout experience. The exercise has even less potential for overload compared to the Hex Press.
  • Progression: Like the Hex Press, the Plate Press also struggles with progression options. The ability to effectively increase challenge over time is minimal.

D Tier Exercises

Dumbbell Pullover

The effectiveness of dumbbell pullovers is often debated. While biomechanics suggests that the pecs are engaged during the exercise, alongside the lats and triceps, and activation data confirms pec involvement, the real-world experience tells a different story. Many lifters find that they don’t actually feel their pec muscles engaging during the movement. In fact, numerous clients have echoed this sentiment, reporting a lack of perceived pec activation.

Performance Tips:

  • Focus: While the motion works both the lats and the pecs, it doesn’t necessarily target the latter as effectively in practice.
  • Mind-Muscle Connection: Despite theoretical considerations, the lack of a substantial mind-muscle connection for the pecs makes it suboptimal for chest development.
  • Usage: Rarely incorporated as a primary chest exercise by top bodybuilders, suggesting its limited impact on chest hypertrophy.
  • Pullover Positioning:
    • Grip: Grasp the dumbbell with both hands and position it over the chest.
    • Movement: Lower the weight in an arc behind the head, then bring it back over the chest.
    • Elbow Position: Keep a slight bend to target the pecs without overextending.

Given these observations and the limited practical effectiveness for chest development, dumbbell pullovers are categorized as D tier exercises primarily because they seem more beneficial for the lats. This doesn’t deny their utility as a compound movement but acknowledges their reduced impact on chest muscle growth relative to other available exercises.

A Tier Exercises

Flat Bench Press

  • Offers high tension when barbell is brought to the chest
  • Easy to progressively overload with weight
  • Common shoulder discomfort noted by many lifters

Intensity and Overload:

  • Highly intense with potential for progressive increments

Experience Feedback:

  • Smooth resistance profile yet occasionally triggers shoulder issues

Incline Bench Press

  • Emphasizes upper pecs without neglecting mid and lower regions
  • Comparable effects on lower/mid pecs to flat bench
  • Study indicates additional upper pec growth

Resistance Profile:

  • Similar to flat with a slight shift in muscular emphasis

Flat Dumbbell Press

  • Deeper pec stretch possible as dumbbells move past rib cage
  • Likely to produce a substantial chest pump
  • Diminishing progression potential at advanced levels due to dumbbell size


  • Initially amenable to weight and rep increases
  • Encounters practical limitations with heavier weights

Incline Dumbbell Press

  • Incorporates benefits of flat variation with an upper pec focus
  • Progress could be hindered at higher strength levels due to dumbbell size limitations

B Tier Exercises

Decline Bench Press

  • Target Regions: Mid to lower pecs
  • Downsides:
    • Slightly less range of motion than flat or incline
    • Upper pecs are often the area needing more growth emphasis

Decline Dumbbell Press

  • Key Points:
    • Offers variation for lower pec focus
    • Can feel awkward during setup
  • Potential Issues:
    • Might need assistance to get into position with heavier weights
    • Not ideal if seeking upper pec development

Body Weight Push-Ups

  • Benefits:
    • No equipment required
    • Performable anywhere
  • Limitations:
    • Limited stretch at full chest expansion due to the floor
    • Progressive overload is challenging
  • Recommended as:
    • A finisher rather than a primary exercise for chest growth due to high rep necessity for advanced individuals

S Tier Exercises

Machine Chest Press

  • Stretch and Tension: Offers a deep stretch on the pecs with high tension throughout the range.
  • Feel: The locked-in nature of the movement increases the mind-muscle connection and provides a solid chest pump.
  • Progression: Overloading is straightforward with the ability to add weight or repetitions over time.
  • Safety: Generally safer to push to failure compared to free weights, assuming a well-designed chest press machine is used.
AdvantagesDisentanglement from Disadvantages
Deep stretch on the pecsNone found, according to a muscle building perspective
High tension throughoutn/a
Enhanced mind-muscle connectionn/a
Easy overloadn/a
Safe failure progressionn/a

Given these points, the machine chest press is awarded the S Tier for its comprehensive fulfillment of desired qualities in a chest exercise, meeting all criteria of stretch, feel, and progression without discernible downsides for muscle growth.

Progressive Overload Techniques for Dips

Assisted Dips

Assisted dips are a foundational progression for individuals seeking to enhance their chest muscles through dips. The method entails:

  • Starting Position: Using an assisted dip machine with adjustable weight to counterbalance body weight.
  • Progression: Reducing the assistance weight gradually as strength increases, aiming for a more demanding exercise over time.

Body Weight Dips

Body weight dips are a staple for chest development, involving:

  • Technique: Performing dips with only one’s body weight, focusing on a deep stretch in the chest area.
  • Overloading: Adding repetitions or extending the time under tension by slowing down the movement, particularly during the negative phase.

Weight Belt Dips

For advanced individuals, weight belt dips offer significant overload potential:

  • Equipment: Attaching additional weight via a weight belt during dips.
  • Incremental Loading: Increasing the weight attached to the belt incrementally as one’s strength builds.
  • Note: While dips provide a profound stretch and high tension, caution is advised for those experiencing shoulder discomfort.

Body Weight Exercise Considerations


When assessing push-ups for chest muscle growth, it’s essential to focus on the exercise’s ability to stretch the muscle with high tension, provide a comfortable experience, and allow for straightforward progression.

This means evaluating the move for effective muscle engagement, absence of pain, and opportunities for progressively overloading the muscle with additional weight or repetitions.

Tension and Stretch: Normal push-ups place a reasonable amount of tension on the pecs, though they fall short of providing a full stretch because the movement ends once the body is close to the ground.

Comfort and Resistance Profile: Push-ups generally feel good and offer a smooth resistance profile, but they do not afford the deepest stretch possible for the pecs as the floor stops the downward movement.

The move should not cause shoulder pain, yet some may find it less comfortable past a certain volume.

  • Progression Methods:
    • Assisted push-ups (reducing assistance)
    • Increasing repetitions
    • Adding weight (with caution, as stability can be an issue)
    • Slowing down the movement, especially on the negative phase

Progressive Overload Challenges: As strength increases, conventional push-ups can become less challenging. This means they require a high number of repetitions to approach failure, which may not be ideal for muscle growth.

Moreover, once one becomes proficient, it’s less straightforward to add resistance in a stable and effective manner.

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