How to Target the Chest: Bodyweight vs. Weights

December 7, 2015 by VAHVA Fitness

How to target the chest with both bodyweight exercises and weights? Let's introduce bulgarian dips and a special bench press variation to really target the pectoralis muscles. 

In case your chest muscles are lacking behind other muscles, specifically targeting your chest will come necessary. Likely your other muscles are over-compensating and your chest isn't getting enough work done.

Properly done exercises such as push ups, dips and bench press will hit the chest muscles along with triceps and front deltoids.

However, it's possible for the other muscles to over-strengthen to a point where they're doing the majority of lifting and you'll chest muscles get neglected. The same applies to other way around as well.

It's important to look in the mirror and test your strength levels to work on the correct proportions of your body.

Exercise performance can be a great indicator of imbalances:

  • If you have trouble straightening your arms with bench press or dips, your triceps are likely too weak. 
  • If you have trouble pushing yourself up from the "hole" with bench press or dips, probably your chest muscles need to be worked on.

Check our video for the chest exercises with both bodyweight and weights. Both approaches are perfectly fine, although we personally prefer the bodyweight exercises. 

Bulgarian Dips for Chest Development 

Bulgarian Dips on Parallel Bars

bulgarian dip on bars
bulgarian dips on bars

Bulgarian dips are also known as wide dips. This variation of dips eliminates most of the tricep activity and increases tremendously the activation of pectoralis muscles. 

The more you are leaning forward, the more the exercise will hit your chest. If you stay upright, your pecs are still worked very nicely.

If you don't have access to wide parallel bars, just grip the bars from the opposite sides like we have done in the pictures above. The hand placement is slightly uneven, which is why it's recommended to switch your grip with every set. 

Bulgarian Dips on Rings

bulgarian dips on rings
rings bulgarian dip

Bulgarian dips on rings are the best way to do bulgarian dips. If you don't have access to rings, then the parallel bar version of bulgarian dips will suffice.

The biggest difference with rings is that the rings will add an unstable element to the exercise, which promotes the growth of your stabilizer muscles.

Your arms and shoulders can also rotate freely, which is why the bulgarian dip on rings is a better alternative when it comes to your joint health.

You should first master the parallel bar version of bulgarian dips and the basic ring dip. Bulgarian dip on rings is an intermediate/advanced exercise and you should be good at dips before trying this one.

We highly recommend buying gymnastic rings, because they are one of the best tools out there for training the upper body. You can even hang them to your pull up bar at home. 

The Best Chest Exercises with Weights

Lower Portion Bench Press

bench press for chest
chest bench press

In this variation of bench press you are keeping tension in your pectoral muscles the entire duration of the set: you are just doing partial repetitions at the bottom. 

Lower the weight down to your chest and just keep doing 1/2 repetitions to keep the tension in your chest muscles. The key is to feel the chest and practice mind-muscle connection.

Bench press will already develop your chest to a great degree, but this variation will target your chest significantly more.

Cable Chest Flys

cable chest flys
cable flys

Cable chest flys are almost the weights/machine alternative to bulgarian dips. The chest muscles are targeted and isolated in a great manner. 

The cable machine makes the cable chest flys a great exercise, because the chest is continuously under tension. Especially the inner chest is worked a lot when you cross the arms in front of you. 

How to Train the Chest 

You can include any of these exercises as a part of your workout routines or do them as a chest workout on their own. Below are the recommended sets and reps for each of these exercises.

Chest Workout and Exercises

A1 Bulgarian Dip on Parallel Bars: 5 x 10 reps.

B1 Bulgarian Dip on Rings: 5 x 10 reps.

C1 Lower Portion Bench Press: 5 x 15 reps.

D1 Cable Chest Flys: 5 x 10-20 reps.

Take 1-3 minutes of rest between sets.

Train hard, stay safe.


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samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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