15 Best Chest Isolation Exercises (With Demos)

15 best chest isolation exercises (with demos)

Disclosure: We’re supported by our audience, so if you purchase through some links on this post, we may earn a commission at no cost to you.

Typically, the chest acts in conjunction with the shoulders and triceps, making it tricky to target with compound exercises like the bench press, and often requires isolation to get complete chest development.

Fortunately, there are bench press variations and many other exercises to implement into your programming that isolate and primarily focus on the chest.

Here are the best chest isolation exercises:

  • Wide-grip bench press
  • Incline wide-grip bench press
  • Incline dumbbell flyes
  • Decline dumbbell flyes
  • Dumbbell pullover
  • Incline cable flyes
  • Decline cable flyes
  • Banded flyes
  • Plate pinch press
  • Hammer Strength chest press
  • Incline Hammer Strength chest press
  • Decline Hammer Strength chest press
  • Single-arm Hammer Strength chest press
  • Wide-grip dips
  • Deficit wide push-ups

In this article, I have provided exercises that most effectively isolate the chest. I will also walk you through how to do them, the benefits, cons, and how to best fit them into your chest routine!

The chest isolation exercises involve banded, cable, barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight variations to allow you to have versatility no matter what environment you’re in.

Let’s begin!

How Do You Isolate Your Chest?

How do you isolate your chest?

The chest isolation exercise will target these muscles:

  • Pectoralis minor 
  • Pectoralis major

Pectoralis major is responsible for internal rotation and moving the shoulder joint toward the midline. 

Pectoralis minor is responsible for scapular stabilization, depression, internal rotation, downward rotation, and moving the shoulder blade towards the midline.

Since most of these exercises specifically act on the shoulder joint, a good chest isolation movement will act on the shoulder joint alone.

However, you’ll notice I’ve included some modified compound movements in the list below. Even though other muscle groups, like the triceps, may play a small role in those exercises, they are still great for increasing chest isolation.

Chest Isolation Exercises: 15 Exercises

1. Wide-Grip Bench Press

Normally, the bench press targets more than just the chest. However, the wider our grip moves out, the greater the focus is on isolating the chest. 

That said, widening your bench grip too quickly can place excessive stress on the shoulder joint, and you should progressively widen your grip over time.

How To

  • As you lay under the bar, make sure your shoulders are slightly in front of the bar to minimize the line of travel after the unrack.
  • Hand placement should start with the index finger or middle finger of each hand on the rings of the bar.
  • Drive the base of your hand through the bar, and then wrap your thumb around it.
  • Use the bar’s weight to drive your shoulders back into the bench.
  • Create additional tension by pulling your traps down and pushing your chest up.
  • After you unrack the bar, bring the bar forward until it is in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Control the bar by rowing it down to your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • At the bottom, drive the bar’s weight away from your torso until your elbows are at complete extension.

Benefits

  • Wide-grip bench press will significantly carry over to your regular grip bench press. If your goal is to simultaneously build your bench and your chest, adding the wide-grip bench press is your best bet.
  • Wide-grip bench press can allow you to lift more weight. Due to decreased range of motion because of the wide grip, you can leverage greater loads, consequently leading to a novel stimulus to target the chest.

Cons

  • Wide-grip bench presses limits range of motion. Limited range of motion can decrease the time under tension placed on the pecs and consequently build less muscle.
  • Wide-grip bench presses can put excessive stress on the shoulder. The wider grip can put the shoulders in a compromising position. Therefore, you should pay close attention to any pain or weakness and monitor loading attentively.

How To Program

Below are examples of how you can program the wide-grip bench press based on your goals:

Wide-grip bench press for strength

  • 5 x 3 @80% of 1RM

Wide-grip bench press for size

  • 3 x 8 @60% of 1RM

Wondering if you can just do bench presses to grow your chest? Check out Is Bench Press Good Enough For Chest? (Expert Opinion).

2. Incline Wide-Grip Bench Press

Similar to the flat wide-grip bench press, the incline wide-grip bench press is great for chest isolation, as it places the shoulders in a more protected position that emphasizes chest isolation.

The angle of the incline wide-grip bench press also allows the upper chest to be the movement’s primary focus.

How To

  • Adjust the seat of an incline bench, so the shoulders are aligned with the bar in the racked position.
  • Hand placement should start with the index finger or middle finger of each hand on the rings of the bar.
  • Drive the base of your hand through the bar, and then wrap your thumb around it.
  • Use the bar’s weight to drive your shoulders into the bench while emphasizing a big open chest.
  • Flare the elbows out until stacked under the bar to press out in the unrack.
  • Bring the bar forward until it is lined up with the upper/mid-chest line.
  • Row the bar down towards the upper/mid-chest line until you make contact with the upper chest.
  • At contact, press out to return to the starting position to complete the repetition.

Benefits

  • Incline wide-grip bench press is safer for the shoulders. Compared to its flat counterpart, the incline wide-grip bench press places the shoulders in a protected position. This shoulder protection can decrease the chance of forward translation of the shoulders, subsequently preventing shoulder pain or injury.
  • Incline wide-grip bench press isolates the upper chest. Implementing a variety of angles and variations is extremely important for a well-developed chest. An incline variation of the wide-grip bench press can further isolate the most pronounced part of the chest, which is the upper chest.

Cons

  • Incline wide-grip bench press cannot be loaded as much as the flat variation.  Due to the angle and positioning of the wide-grip bench press, you aren’t going to be able to lift as much weight.
  • Incline wide-grip bench press requires an adjustable incline bench. Incline adjustable benches aren’t always available since purchasing a flat bench is typically the priority when we build a home or public gym. However, with some flat bench setups, you can place a plate or elevation under the back legs to create an incline.

How To Program

Below are some ways you can program the incline wide-grip bench press for strength or size:

Incline wide-grip bench press for strength

  • 3 x 3 @80% of 1RM

Incline wide-grip bench press for size

  • 5 x 5 with a 3 count lowering @60% of 1RM

If you’re looking for an adjustable bench for your home or commercial gym, check out the Rep Fitness AB-3100 bench.

3. Incline Dumbbell Flyes

Incline dumbbell flyes can be a great dumbbell variation to implement with the goal of isolating the upper chest.

How To

  • Adjust the bench to the middle notch and create a 45-degree incline.
  • Sitting on the bench, hold two dumbbells with straight wrists.
  • Using your upper thighs, kick the dumbbells back.
  • To start, elbows should be fully extended and stacked on top of the shoulders.
  • Hold the dumbbells with the palms facing the midline.
  • Pull your arms apart like you are opening up to receive a hug from someone.
  • To complete the repetition, bring your arms back together as if you were hugging someone.

Benefits

  • Incline dumbbell flyes place you in a position that is extremely safe on the shoulders. As mentioned with the incline wide-grip bench press, the incline dumbbell flyes place the shoulders in a protected position that allows for greater shoulder safety and targets the upper chest. 
  • Incline dumbbell flyes are great for isolating the upper chest. The most prominent part of the front of the physique is the upper chest. It is also the most difficult part to build. Implementing incline work is fundamental to building the upper chest, which is extremely important to building a well-rounded physique.

Cons

  • Incline dumbbell flyes, when done incorrectly, can lead to injury or shoulder discomfort. I mentioned earlier that this exercise places the shoulder in a more protected position. At the same time, since this movement isolates a movement at the shoulder joint, excess weight or improper form can easily place unnecessary stress on the shoulder.
  • Incline dumbbell flyes place inconsistent tension on the chest. Compared to the cable variation, incline dumbbell flyes will change based on the positioning of the dumbbells relative to space. This can be a benefit and a con due to the troubleshooting that might be necessary to cultivate the most effective stimulus.

How To Program

Implement one of the following into your programming to promote chest growth.

  • Tempo 3 count lower/2 count pause: 4 x 10 @50%

OR

  • High volume: 4 x 20 @40%

4. Decline Dumbbell Flyes

Decline dumbbell flyes can be a great dumbbell variation to implement with the goal of isolating the lower chest.

How To

  • Utilize a decline bench with your thighs firmly locked into the safeties.
  • Sitting on the bench, hold two dumbbells with straight wrists.
  • Carefully swing the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  • Elbows should be fully extended and stacked on top of the shoulders.
  • Hold the dumbbells with the palms facing the midline.
  • Pull your arms apart like you are opening up to receive a hug from someone.
  • To complete the repetition, bring your arms back together as if you were hugging someone.

Benefits

  • Decline dumbbell flyes are great at targeting the lower chest. Even though pressing movements target the entire chest, decline dumbbell flyes place greater focus on the isolation of the lower chest.
  • Decline dumbbell flyes allow one to leverage more weight. Greater loads can be a novel option to provide sufficient overload to strengthen and build the chest.

Cons

  • Decline dumbbell flyes won’t make or break a chest isolation movement. Compared to incline and flat variations, decline dumbbell flyes aren’t fundamental to building the chest. Even though decline dumbbell flyes might be a good addition to a program, you can get away with not implementing them into your program.
  • Decline dumbbell flyes require a decline bench press. Flat or incline variations can be performed on adjustable benches, but you will need access to an uncommon decline bench to perform decline dumbbell flyes. 

How To Program

Implement one of the following into your programming to promote chest growth:

  • Tempo 3 count lower/2 count pause: 4 x 10 @50%

OR

  • High volume: 5 x 15 @40%

5. Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is a low-stress chest isolation movement that can be performed with a higher number of repetitions.

How To

  • Firmly place your upper back on the side of a bench.
  • Bridge up off the bench until the hips and torso are completely parallel to the ground.
  • Have your feet firmly planted on the ground with the knees bent at 90 degrees.
  • Cup the top of the dumbbell with both hands.
  • Elbows should be slightly bent out and stacked over the upper abdomen/lower chest to start.
  • At a controlled pace, raise the dumbbell behind your head until the arms are straight above your head.
  • Pull the dumbbell back to the starting position over the upper abdomen/lower chest to complete the repetition.

Benefits

  • The dumbbell pullover isolates the chest and back in two separate motions. Although this movement acts on both the chest and back, dumbbell pullovers work to isolate these muscles completely.
  • The dumbbell pullover is an extremely light, low-stress movement. Due to the nature of the dumbbell pullover, there is very little risk of doing high volume. Furthermore, you can add the dumbbell pullover to any chest program regardless of volume.

Cons

  • The dumbbell pullover can be unhealthy for the shoulders when done incorrectly. When first doing the dumbbell pullover, implement lighter loads with a focus on tempo, meaning you should perform each rep in a slow and controlled manner. After several sessions, increase loading by a small margin of 5-10 lbs.
  • The dumbbell pullover can be time-consuming and less effective at targeting the chest. When we look at the totem pole of priorities for exercise implementation, pressing movements and flyes are most effective at building the chest. If you find that you have excess time in the gym or are looking for something new to do, implementing an exercise like the dumbbell pullover can be great.

How To Program

Below is an example of how you can program this movement and progress it over a period of several weeks:

  • Week 1: 3 x 12-20 @60%
  • Week 2: 4 x 12-20 @60%
  • Week 3: 4 x 12-20 @65%

You can also try one of these dumbbell pullover alternatives if you want to add more variety to your routine.

6. Incline Cable Flyes

Unlike its dumbbell variation, incline cable flyes place consistent tension on the muscles and are good for isolation of the upper chest.

How To

  • Have the anchor points on the cable stacks set to the lowest setting.
  • Hold a cable in each hand with the palms facing up.
  • Maintain a staggered stance with one foot in front of the other and feet about hip-width apart.
  • Bring your arms together, pulling the two handles upward towards the ceiling.
  • Emphasize squeezing your biceps toward your chest to get a better activation.
  • Lower your arms to the starting position to complete the repetition.

Benefits

  • Incline cable flyes place more consistent tension on the chest. More consistent tension creates an environment where the chest is being activated under the same constant load. The alternative could be problematic with dumbbells for example, where some tension is lost at different points of the lift.
  • Incline cable flyes are easy to execute. With cable flyes, technical execution to achieve chest stimulation is straightforward. This ease of execution allows for lifters of all experience levels to benefit from this exercise.
  • Incline cable flyes isolate the upper chest. A well-rounded program will implement multiple angles and planes of motion. In an ideal setting, flat, incline, and decline variations can be implemented to get the most chest growth. 

Cons

  • Incline cable flyes require two cable stacks. To do this exercise, you will most likely need a weight room with two cable stacks next to each other. However, you can simulate cable flys by doing a banded variation with two bands attached to poles that are parallel to each other.
  • Incline cable flyes can be extremely easy. To get the most out of this exercise, you might want to do a burnout set on your last set where you do as many reps as possible or pair the incline fly with another fly variation such as the decline cable fly.

How To Program

Below is a sample progression you can implement if you want to add incline cable flyes to your routine:

  • Week 1: 3 x 12-15 @65%
  • Week 2: 4 x 12-15 @65%
  • Week 3: 4 x 12-15 @70%

7. Decline Cable Flyes

Decline flyes are an effective easy-to-do chest isolation exercise that I highly recommend implementing into your program, especially when paired with incline flyes.

How To

  • Have the anchor points on the cable stacks set to the highest setting.
  • Hold a cable in each hand with the palms facing down.
  • Maintain a staggered stance with one foot in front of the other and feet about hip-width apart.
  • Bring your arms together, pulling the two handles downward towards the floor.
  • Emphasize squeezing your biceps toward your chest to get a better activation.
  • Raise your arms to the starting position to complete the repetition.

Benefits

  • Decline cable flyes place a more consistent tension on the chest. Any cable movement will simplify exercise execution, which is extremely beneficial for novice gymgoers. 
  • Decline cable flyes isolate the lower chest. Isolating the lower chest can be great for developing a full and complete chest.

Cons

  • Decline cable flyes are easily executed. Even though the ease of execution can be great for beginners, decline cable flyes can become boring when programmed for long periods of time. Exchange decline cable flyes for weighted dips or wide-grip decline bench press to mix up your chest isolation routine.
  • Decline cable flyes can place excess stress on the shoulders. When done incorrectly, decline cable flyes can place extra torque on the shoulder joints and subsequently lead to a shoulder injury.

How To Program

The following circuit featuring decline cable flyes can be done for 1-4 sets:

  • Decline cable flyes: x 10 @50%
  • Incline cable flyes: x 10 @50%
  • Deficit wide-grip pushups: x 10
  • Bodyweight dips: x 10

8. Banded Flyes

Banded flyes are a simple and effective chest isolation exercise that can be set up anywhere, whether it’s on the go or at home, with minimal equipment.

How To

  • Set up two anchor points with the band on two poles that are parallel to each other.
  • Hold a band in each hand with the palms neutral (facing each other).
  • Maintain a staggered stance with one foot in front of the other and feet about hip-width apart.
  • Bring your arms together, pulling both arms toward each other in a hugging motion.
  • Emphasize squeezing your biceps toward your chest to get a better activation.
  • Pull your arms back and return to the starting position to complete the repetition.

Benefits

  • Banded flyes vary in resistance at different points of the movement. The elastic tension that is created by the bands is great for developing dynamic strength, which has direct carryover to power output. Utilizing ballistic or explosive reps (lifting the bands as explosively as possible) can help achieve burnout faster and develop power expression.
  • Banded flyes can be great for a higher repetition count. Achieving higher repetition counts ranging from 15-30 can improve strength endurance and generate a novel stimulus for building the chest.

Cons

  • Banded flyes cannot be loaded to a high degree. Due to the elastic nature of the banded flyes, you cannot use heavier loads. Consequently, this exercise might not be your best bet if you are an intermediate to advanced lifter, and you might benefit more from a cable or dumbbell variation.
  • Banded flyes require bands. You might have to purchase your own resistance bands since your gym might not have them available. Fortunately, resistance bands are cheap and can be purchased in a variety of locations and websites.

How To Program

To program banded flyes, aim for higher rep counts ranging from 15-30 reps. Either doubling up bands, increasing reps, or using a thicker band from week to week can serve to progress your programming.

9. Plate Pinch Press

The plate pinch press is a great chest isolation exercise for the end of a workout or if you are suffering from a shoulder injury.

The plate pinch press is one of my favorite exercises since it has saved me multiple times when I had been suffering from shoulder pain. Pivoting to this exercise from conventional compound movements or isolation movements helped maintain and strengthen my chest.

How To

  • For this exercise, you will press two 5lbs or 10lbs plates together.
  • During the course of this exercise, you will squeeze these plates together as much as possible while pushing the plates away.
  • When elbows achieve complete extension, you will then bring these plates back to the lower chest/upper abdomen.

Benefits

  • The plate pinch press is great to implement when you have a shoulder injury. This exercise places minimal joint stress and can be effective for all experience levels.
  • The plate pinch press is a very low-risk exercise to implement. No matter how much existing volume there is within your current chest routine, the additional implementation of the plate pinch press is extremely safe and can yield benefits.

Cons

  • The plate pinch press is not as effective alone in your program. The plate pinch press can be a great finisher but is weak as a primary movement. Bench press, flyes, and machine pressing are more effective in your existing programming.
  • The plate pinch press can take time away from other exercises. Although the plate pinch press is an effective exercise, it can take focus away from other movements that might be more effective and keep you at the gym longer than you may want to be.

How To Program

The plate pinch press is most effective when implemented for as many reps as possible for 3-5 sets and can be extremely effective at higher rep counts from 12-20.

10. Hammer Strength Chest Press

The Hammer Strength chest press isolates the chest, is easy to execute, and can be loaded up with minimal risk.

How To

  • Ensure that the seat position places the handles in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Press the handles away until you reach complete elbow extension.
  • To complete the reps, control the handles back to the starting position.

Benefits

  • The Hammer Strength chest press has many angled pieces of equipment. Incline, flat, and decline variations of this piece of equipment exist so you can hit the chest from all angles.
  • The Hammer Strength chest press can be loaded up with minimal risk. High-intensity movements from 75-90% for reps can be great for building the chest.

Cons

  • The Hammer Strength chest press is fixed in one axis of motion. This is great for chest isolation but isn’t great for total upper-body muscular development. 
  • The Hammer Strength chest press requires a Hammer Strength machine. The Hammer Strength chest press is an expensive piece of equipment that isn’t at all gyms. However, this can easily be substituted for push-ups, plate pinch presses, or weighted dips.

How To Program

Hammer Strength chest presses can be programmed in a variety of sets, reps, and intensities. This makes the movement extremely versatile for multiple goals and settings.

Program for high intensity:

  • 4 x 6 @75%

Program for low intensity:

  • 3 x 12 @50%

11. Incline Hammer Strength Chest Press

The incline Hammer Strength chest press is great for isolating and developing the upper chest.

How To

  • Ensure that the seat position places the handles in line with your upper chest/upper abdomen.
  • Press the handles up and away until you reach complete extension of the elbows.
  • To complete the reps, control the handles back to the starting position.

Benefits

  • Incline Hammer Strength chest press is great for loading up the upper chest. The incline Hammer Strength chest press isolates the upper chest more than the incline bench press and can be done at higher intensities.
  • Incline Hammer Strength chest press can be easily paired with other exercises. To isolate the chest, we can easily and safely pair the hammer strength chest press with a push-up or fly. This can make training more fun and allow for greater progressive overload to occur.

Cons

  • Incline Hammer Strength chest presses can stress the shoulders greater than other Hammer Strength equipment. Due to this exercise’s acute incline, it can easily stress the upper extremities if using improper form or pushing too hard.
  • Incline Hammer Strength chest press isn’t dynamic. Dumbbell and barbell variations involve more dynamic movement, creating more robust development of the upper extremities. Furthermore, we should also program dumbbell and barbell variations to produce more robust muscle growth.

How To Program

Here are some ways to program the incline Hammer Strength chest press at varying intensities:

Program for high intensity:

  • 4 x 4 @80%

Program for low intensity:

  • 3 x 10 @60%

12. Decline Hammer Strength Chest Press

The decline Hammer Strength chest press is the safest Hammer Strength variation that can be loaded to the highest degree.

How To

  • Ensure that the seat position places the handles in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Press the handles out and away until you reach complete extension of the elbows.
  • To complete the reps, control the handles back to the starting position.

Benefits

  • The decline Hammer Strength chest press is the safest variation. The decline Hammer Strength chest press completely protects the shoulders and allows you to press in an extremely safe way. This allows you to implement heavier loads at 75-90% for multiple sets and reps.
  • The decline Hammer Strength chest press targets the lower chest. This exercise can be paired with incline and flat variations to target the complete chest.

Cons

  • The decline Hammer Strength chest press can place the most stress on the chest. The angle of the decline Hammer Strength chest press can allow for greater pec recruitment. However, this can lead to a greater risk of a pec injury if you aren’t careful.
  • The decline Hammer Strength chest press has minimal carry over to main movements. The flat and incline counterparts of the decline Hammer Strength chest press are more effective at increasing pressing ability, allowing for greater carryover to the bench press.

How To Program

Program For High intensity:

  • 6 x 5 @80%

Program For Low intensity:

  • 3 x 20 @50%

13. Single-Arm Hammer Strength Chest Press

The single-arm Hammer Strength chest press is effective at producing overload on a single side while being greater than the other variations at isolating the inner pec.

How To

  • Ensure that the seat position places the handles in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Position yourself so you’re parallel to a single handle.
  • Press out towards your side while squeezing your bicep to your chest.
  • Return to the starting position to complete the repetition.

Benefits

  • The single-arm Hammer Strength chest press stimulates the inner chest to a high degree. You can do a lot of internal cueing with this exercise to achieve the greatest chest muscle activation. For example, squeezing your bicep towards your chest is one of the best ways to promote chest activation.
  • The single-arm Hammer Strength chest press is best at isolating the chest. Adduction, or moving your arm towards your body, is the primary action of the chest. The single-arm Hammer Strength chest press isolates this single-shoulder action greater than any other movement.

Cons

  • The single-arm Hammer Strength chest press cannot be loaded to a high degree. Since this is a single-arm movement, absolute loads that are used will be much lower. However, the stimulus of lighter loads @50-70% will be more effective when implementing the single-arm Hammer Strength chest press into your program.
  • The single-arm Hammer Strength chest press, when done incorrectly, can place higher stress on the shoulders. 

How To Program

When I program a single-arm Hammer Strength chest press, I implement higher rep ranges at 6-20 on each side for multiple sets to produce the greatest hypertrophy. 

14. Wide-Grip Dips

Dips are one of my favorite exercises for improving pressing ability, and when my goal is to isolate the chest, I move my grip out to greater isolate the chest.

How To

  • For the dip exercise, you will need a set of rails that are greater than shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other.
  • Place the base of each hand on the handles.
  • Press the weight of your body up until your elbows are at complete extension and your entire body is suspended in the air.
  • Control the weight of your body into the descent of this exercise until your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  • Drive the weight of your body up until your elbows are at complete extension.

Benefits

  • Wide-grip dips have direct carryover to the bench press. Wide-grip dips are my favorite exercise with the goal of increasing both my chest size and bench press.
  • Wide-grip dips have a lot of room for progression. Similar to other compound movements, you can implement a weight belt to increase the difficulty of this exercise. You can also set weight goals to make this activity more fun and engaging over the course of a cycle. 

Cons

  • Wide-grip dips can be extremely harmful to pec or shoulder health. The greater you move your grip out the more risk you place on damaging either your shoulder or pecs. To promote safety during this exercise you can slowly move your grip out on an adjustable bench or control the tempo at which you do the movement.
  • Wide-grip dips require two parallel bars. Without a dip bar, you will not be able to achieve this movement. 

How To Program

Wide-grip dips can be programmed at a high intensity with weights from 75-90% for 3-6 reps or can be done with bodyweight or band assistance for higher repetitions for 6-20 reps.

15. Deficit Wide Push-Ups

Deficit wide push-ups are a great bodyweight exercise that isolates the chest, can easily be loaded, and can be done anywhere.

How To

  • For this exercise, you will have a wider hand position that is further than shoulder-width apart.
  • Set up a 2-inch elevation just outside of shoulder-width apart to increase the range of motion of this exercise.
  • Hand placement will be on the ground, under your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Lying face down, you will push the ground away from you until your elbows are at complete extension.
  • During the course of this exercise, make sure your hips don’t drop or shift excessively.

Benefits

  • Deficit wide push-ups have greater range of motion. The greater range of motion involved with this movement can lead to building more muscle due to greater time under tension and lengthening of the chest muscles.
  • Deficit wide push-ups can be regressed or progressed very easily. Deficit wide-grip push-ups on your knees can make this exercise easier for novices while maintaining the increased range of motion. Additionally, the deficit wide push-up can be progressed by loading plates on the back.

Cons

  • Deficit wide push-ups are extremely simple. Once mastered, the deficit wide push-up will be less effective and should be cycled out with other exercises such as wide grip dips or decline Hammer Strength chest press.
  • Deficit wide push-ups can be too hard for novices. If the person you are programming for is an absolute beginner, starting with a deficit may be too much. Instead, you should start with a regular push-up or a push-up at the knees.

How To Program

Due to ease of execution once mastered, deficit wide push-ups are great for higher repetitions at 10-30 reps or done to failure. 

Exercises to Avoid for Isolating the Chest

Barbell Bench Press

Barbell bench press is a compound movement that targets all of the upper body’s muscles, including the chest, triceps, lats, and shoulders. This makes implementing the barbell bench press with the focus of chest isolation a bad idea.

However, as you can see from the list of chest isolation exercises above, key variations and grip widths can place greater focus on chest muscle activation.

Plyo Push-Ups

Even though plyo push-ups target the chest, the duration and time under tension of this exercise is minimal, making it a poor choice for chest isolation.

Plyo push-ups are great for developing power of the chest and triceps, while exercises like tempo wide push-ups or deficit push-ups are your best bet for isolating the chest.

Med Ball Passes

Med ball chest passes are often misprogrammed with the goal of targeting the chest. However, the degree to which they isolate the chest is minimal.

Similar to plyo push-ups, the forceful nature of the med ball pass can draw from secondary muscles like the triceps and shoulders for execution while providing minimal time under tension on the chest.

Final Thoughts

There is an abundance of chest isolation movements that can serve to supplement a well-rounded program with primarily compound exercises. My favorite exercises to isolate the chest are the single-arm Hammer Strength chest press, wide-grip dips, and plate pinch press.


About The Author

Javad Bakhshinejad

Javad Bakhshinejad was born and raised in the Washington Area. Currently, he is a student at Seattle University where he’s been pursuing an MS in Kinesiology, and has been a Strength Coach in the athletic department. He was a competitive bodybuilder for 8 years where he later transitioned to competitive powerlifting for 4 years. Currently, He has his own personal coaching business, where he works with powerlifters and bodybuilders.