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6 Powerful Compound Chest Exercises

Compound workouts can help you train many muscles with a few exercises. What are some compound exercises that focus a lot on chest muscles?

Compound exercises are movements that work out multiple muscles at the same time. Most of these exercises can be done with a wide variety of free weights and gym machines.

The best weights for compound exercises vary from exercise to exercise and individual to individual. If you are not sure how much weight would be right for you, you can start with light weights and slowly build up from there.

Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

1. Bench presses

The bench press is one of the most popular weight lifting exercises. For this exercise, you will need a weight bench a barbell, and a barbell rack. To do a barbell bench press take the following steps:

  1. Load up the barbell in the rack with the desired weight.
  2. Lie down with your back on the weight bench and place your hands with an overhanded grip on the barbell at about shoulder width.
  3. Unrack the barbell and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
  5. Push the barbell back up in the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.

You can also change the angle of a good FID weight bench (flat, incline, decline) to focus more on different parts of your chest muscles.

Putting the bench more incline, so your upper body higher than your lower body, engages your upper chest and shoulders more. A barbell bench press with a more decline bench will focus more on your lower chest muscles.

It is also possible to do bench presses with free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, etc., and machines like the cable machine, smith machine, and chest press machine.

Some of the muscles you engage with this compound chest exercise include: chest, triceps, and front part of the deltoids (main shoulder muscle).

2. Pushups

Pushups are an extremely popular compound chest exercise you can do with just your body weight. To do a pushup take the following steps:

  1. Get into the position where your face is facing the floor with your hand palms on the ground. Your arms are stretched and your knees are on the ground.
  2. Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
  4. Stretch your arms again until you are back in a straight arm plank position.

For many people bodyweight pushups are already challenging enough but you can also use extra weights like a compact weighted vest or weight plate to make them more challenging. You can also do many pushup variations to focus on slightly different muscles.

Some of the muscles you engage with this compound chest exercise include: shoulders, core, chest, triceps, and lower back.

How to do a pushup

3. Lower chest dips

The dip exercise mainly helps you train your triceps if you keep your body straight, but also your lower chest if you tilt your upper body forward. You will need dip bars for this compound chest exercise. To do a lower chest dip take the following steps:

  1. Place your hands on the dip bars. Start with your arms in an extended but not locked position. You will likely need to step-ups to get into this position. Your upper body should slightly tilt forward.
  2. Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until these are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Raise yourself back up again into starting position in a controlled motion.

For most people regular dips are already more than challenging enough. Doing weighted dips with dumbbells, a dip belt, a weighted vest, or ankle weights is generally for individuals more experienced with resistance training.

Some of the muscles you engage with this compound chest exercise include: lower chest, triceps, shoulders, and back.

4. Press outs

To do a press out with a kettlebell take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one or two kettlebells in your two hands at about chest height. The kettlebell(s) starts against your chest.
  2. Push the kettlebell(s) away from you horizontally, so in a straight line forward, in a controlled motion until your arms are stretched.
  3. Return the kettlebell(s) to your chest.

Keep your own limits in mind when doing this exercise. You don’t want to drop the kettlebells, or any other free weights you use, involuntarily.

Some of the muscles you engage with this compound chest exercise include: front deltoids, upper chest, trapezius, and triceps.

5. Landmine chest presses

For this next exercise you need a landmine setup. This is an attachment that secures a barbell at the ground level. The landmine setup opens the door to exercises like the landmine chest press. To do a landmine chest press take the following steps:

  1. Set up the landmine with the desired number of plates. Stand upright in front of the landmine with your feet at about shoulder width and your face toward the landmine. Make sure you are far enough from the anchor so the barbell is at a tilted angle.
  2. Grab the end of the barbell with one hand with a neutral grip, so hand palm pointing to the center/upward. The upper arm of the hand with the barbell is next to your body. The arm is about fully folded and the hand with the barbell is close to your chest.
  3. Slowly move the barbell forward and up until your arm is slightly less than stretched.
  4. Lower the barbell back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.

One of the possible benefits of the landmine chest press compared to for example the bench press is that you work out one side at a time. This can help you avoid or resolve muscle imbalances.

Some of the muscles you engage with this compound chest exercise include: chest, triceps, and front part of the deltoids.

6. Jackhammer pushdowns

For the jackhammer pushdown you only need one pulley of a cable machine and a straight bar handle. Once you have these to do a jackhammer pushdown take the following steps:

  1. Set the pulley as high as possible and attach a straight bar handle.
  2. Stand next to the cable machine with your face toward it. Tilt your body slightly forward while keeping your back straight, and grab the straight bar with both of your hands. Your hand palms should face downward. In starting position you want your hands at about shoulder height.
  3. Slowly push down the straight bar until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
  4. Return to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

There are not many pieces of fitness equipment that allow you do to do jackhammer pushdowns. One alternative to using a cable machine is a resistance band.

Some of the muscles you engage with this compound chest exercise include: chest and triceps.

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Matt Claes

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.

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