12 Standing Chest Exercises: Cables, Dumbbells, & Bodyweight

the 12 best standing chest exercises

Traditionally, when we think of chest exercises, bench press and push ups are first that come to mind, while those are performed on a surface lying down, there are equally effective options for targeting the chest from the standing position.

Standing chest exercises can be great because they do not place the shoulder in a compromising position and can be perfect when limited on equipment. 

The 12 best standing chest exercises are:

  • Cable flyes
  • Single Arm Cable Press
  • Hammer Strength Ground Base Jammer
  • Landmine press
  • Landmine fly
  • Standing dumbbell flys
  • Resistance band wall push-ups
  • Pallof Press
  • Resistance band fly
  • Plate pinch press
  • Dips
  • Med ball pass

In this article, I provide a wide range of standing chest exercises with various types of equipment, explain how to do these exercises, their pros and cons, and how to program them.

The Goal Of Standing Chest Exercises

the goal of standing chest exercises

Whether it’s for sport or functionality, standing chest exercises can be a healthy option to add variety to your training while promoting pressing ability, increasing chest size, and muscular health.

Now you may ask, what is the chest responsible for while standing?

The chest muscles are responsible for stabilization of the shoulder joints, and adduction and external rotation of the upper arm.

This means that when the arms are moving from the hips to overhead, or moving from the side of the body to the midline of the body (like when you’re giving someone a hug), the chest is going to be heavily involved.  

How To Target The Chest Muscles While Standing

The primary actions of the chest are the “chest fly” and “pressing” movement patterns.  

Therefore, we need to implement exercises that model these motions if we want to maximize chest activation (see below for my complete list).  

How Standing Chest Exercises Contribute To Performance

Standing chest exercises are great for building functional pressing patterns that carry over to sports or daily life. 

This can be seen when passing a ball in basketball or baseball, or during pressing patterns like bench press or tackling in football.

Moreover, standing chest exercises can be strong alternatives for those with shoulder injuries as well, while laying pressing patterns can place the shoulder joint in a compromising position.

For more exercises that directly help the bench press, check out my article on 17 Exercises That Improve Bench Press Strength.

12 Standing Chest Exercises

I’m going to breakdown these exercises based on different pieces of equipment: 

Click the links above to jump to the section that has the equipment you’ll be using.  

Standing Chest Exercises with Equipment

Cable Flys

In conjunction with regular bench press and dumbbell press, the cable fly is one of the best standing chest exercises to implement into your program.

How To Do It

  • Hold both the cable handles together facing towards the midline of the chest.
  • Pull the handles outwards as if you were “reverse hugging” the air in front of you.
  • To complete the repetition, bring the handles back to the starting position as if you were hugging someone in front of you.

Benefits

  • Cable flys place constant tension on the muscles of the chest. Constant tension on the pecs can contribute to building better contractions which can promote further muscle growth.
  • Cable flys directly target the chest. Among other pressing movements, anterior deltoids or triceps can often take over and make it quite difficult to target the pecs. This is why cable flys are a very important exercise to implement into your programming to isolate the pec muscles.
  • Cable flys can be done in many different ways. Cable fly’s can be done in an incline, decline, and neutral plane to target the chest in different ways.

Cons

  • Cable flys cannot be loaded up. Unfortunately, cable flys cannot strengthen the pec muscles as much as an exercise like bench press. This is why I would recommend supplementing cable flys with a bench or landmine pressing program.
  • Cable flys can be quite difficult to do. This is why you should start with lighter weight and really work on your cueing. It is extremely common for people to load this exercise up and force the movement, while failing to achieve optimal chest isolation.

How To Program

how to program the cable flys

Here is how I would program the cable flys:

Burnout Set:
  • 3 sets for as many reps as possible.
Time Under Tension Set:
  • 4 sets of 8 with a 3 second tempo and a pause.
Complete Chest Super Set:
  • Incline Cable Fly: 1 x 7
  • Neutral Cable Fly: 1 x 7
  • Decline Cable Fly: 1 x 7

The cable fly is often used by powerlifters to build chest hypertrophy. To learn more about how powerlifters train chest, check out my article on How Do Powerlifters Train Chest?

Single Arm Cable Press

Single arm cable presses are a great standing chest exercise to increase pressing strength and is a lifesaver if you’re experiencing shoulder pain, by placing the shoulders in an uncompromised position.

How To Do It

  • Maintain a neutral stance with an upright posture.
  • Hold the handle with your palm facing down and the elbow bent 90 degrees.
  • Punch forward with the handle until the elbow is completely extended inline with your lower chest.
  • Control the handle back to the starting position to complete the repetition. 

Benefits

  • Single arm cable press builds unilateral strength. Bilateral (both arms) pressing movements tend to build strength unevenly, while unilateral (single armed) exercises can allow for focus on strengthening each side evenly.
  • Single arm cable press places constant tension on the chest muscles. During dumbbell and barbell exercises the weight and tension can shift between different phases, while cable exercises are great for maintaining equal tension throughout an exercise.
  • Single arm cable press allows for greater range of motion on one side. While performing a single arm cable press one can reach further across the body to achieve a better contraction and mind muscle connection. 

Cons

  • Single arm cable press can compensate with secondary muscles when fatigued. While this exercise is typically done in a standing position, core stabilizers and the leg muscles are used to counterbalance the single sided loading. Doing this exercise seated, would allow for greater stability and focus on chest isolation.
  • Single arm cable press can be limited on loading. Bilateral strength will always be greater than unilateral strength. For this reason, incorporate a variety of bilateral and unilateral exercises to target the chest effectively.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the single arm cable press:

Single arm into two arm burnout set:
  • Single arm cable press: 1 set of 10 reps each side
  • Two arm cable press: 1 set of 20 reps
Constant tension set:
  • 4 sets of 12 each side without stopping between repetitions

Hammer Strength Ground Base Jammer

The Hammer Strength ground base jammer is the best exercise for directly targeting the chest muscles, while building explosiveness in pressing from the standing position.

How To Do It

  • Start by standing in the middle of the machine with the feet hip width apart.
  • Have a soft bend at the knees and hips, while squeezing the shoulder blades together and keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  • Maintain an upright torso with the elbows stacked underneath the handles.
  • Build a big brace by taking a breath and generating intra-abdominal pressure to improve tension in the torso.
  • Start this exercise by pressing in an upward motion by driving the elbows forward until you achieve complete elbow extension.
  • To complete the repetition, return to the starting position in a controlled fashion.

Benefits

  • The Hammer Strength ground base jammer improves pressing explosiveness. From a functional standpoint, this exercise allows for total body leg drive into the pressing motion. This can be conducive for increasing the load and velocity in which you overcome during the exercise.
  • The Hammer Strength ground base jammer can be loaded up. Due to the angle and the mechanics of this machine, you can use a lot of plates to load this exercise up. Higher intensities and loading can produce greater overload which can promote building muscle and strength in the chest muscles.

Cons

  • As a total body movement, secondary muscle groups can compensate when fatigued. If your goal is to specifically target your chest, then you would be better off doing exercises like the cable fly or cable press.
  • This is more an explosive exercise than a muscle building exercise. While this exercise is great for building power, you are better off doing a cable or dumbbell fly if your goal is to build muscle.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the ground based jammer:

Programming for power output:
  • 5 sets of 4 reps
Chest burnout:
  • 4 sets of 12 reps

Standing Chest Exercises with Barbells

Landmine press

The landmine press increases strength in pressing from the standing position, this makes it a functional standing chest exercise.

How To Do It

  • Maintain a neutral stance with the feet hip-width apart. 
  • Bring the heels of your hands together and hold the very top of the barbell.
  • Initiate this exercise by driving forward with the elbows.
  • Press out until you achieve complete extension by stacking the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.
  • To complete the repetition, control the weight of the bar back into the starting position.

Benefits

  • The landmine press has a lot of carry over to sports specific settings. Landmine exercises are very popular in sports such as football or baseball, which require power output and strength from the standing position.
  • The landmine press has a very unique line of travel. As It is important to utilize various planes of motion in training to be more well rounded, the landmine press allows for a very unique diagonal pressing motion that can target the upper chest and triceps to a great degree.
  • The landmine press is very versatile and allows for variety in chest training. A combination of single arm, two arm, rotational, and fly motions can be achieved with a variety of stimuli with the use of landmine equipment.

Cons

  • The landmine press cannot be loaded up as much as a bench press. To get around the limits of loading for the landmine press, you can implement tempo lowerings to increase the stimulus experienced during this exercise.
  • The landmine press can put stress on the lower back. A half kneeling stance can decrease the amount of stress that a landmine press would place on the back.

The landmine press was also named as one of my favorite Overhead Press Alternatives.

How To Program

how to program the landmine press

Here is how I would program the landmine press:

Sets for building muscle:
  • 3/2/1 tempo landmine press: 4 sets of 4 reps
Power sets:
  • 5 sets of 3 reps at rpe 6-7 (focusing on explosiveness)

Landmine fly

The landmine fly is a great standing chest exercise to implement for total upper body development and building strength in the core stabilizers and upper chest muscles.

How To Do It

  • Maintain a neutral stance with the feet hip-width apart. 
  • Bring the heels of your hands together and hold the very top of the barbell.
  • Rotate the bar in an arcing motion to your side, while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows and a stiff upright torso.
  • To complete the repetition rotate the bar in an arcing motion towards the opposite side.

Benefits

  • The landmine fly is great for building core stability. Being able to resist rotation engages the core to a great degree, and makes this such a fun exercise to try out if you’re looking to improve your core strength.
  • The landmine fly can promote total upper body development. If you are a newer lifter, exercises that can challenge your core stabilizers, erectors, and total musculature can benefit upper body development.

Cons

  • The landmine fly will not build pressing strength. Often when we are searching for chest exercises, we want an exercise that can build strength and mass. While the fly is certainly good for building core strength, the landmine press is definitely a better option if you are trying to develop pressing ability.
  • The landmine fly can place stress on the lower back. As this exercise does require core stability, it also places stress on the low back. Cable and dumbbell flys are much safer for isolating the chest and not placing the low back in a compromising position.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the landmine fly:

Landmine fly for muscle building:
  • 4 sets of 12 reps each side

Standing Chest Exercises with Dumbbells

Standing Dumbbell Chest Flys

Standing dumbbell chest flys are a great option if you don’t have access to a cable machine and are at a hotel gym with dumbbells or a home gym with dumbbells.

How To Do It

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing up.
  • While maintaining a slight bend in your elbow, raise both of your arms in front of you as if you were hugging someone.
  • Control the dumbbells back to your sides to complete the repetitions.

Benefits

  • Dumbbells are fairly common and easy to carry around. Most gyms have dumbbells, which mean that you can do this exercise almost anywhere. A light pair of dumbbells can be cheap and taken on the go as well, which allows you to take this exercise anywhere including a hotel.
  • With the dumbbells you have more control of the line of travel. Dumbbells give you more freedom to experiment with different ways to do this exercise to see what works best for you. 

Cons

  • Less consistent tension. Unlike cable flys, with dumbbells the distribution of the loading changes which makes it difficult to place constant tension on the chest muscles.
  • Standing dumbbell chest flys put greater stress on the shoulders. Dumbbells require greater stability of the anterior deltoids (front of the shoulders) which can take away from the isolation of the chest muscles.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the standing dumbbell chest flys:

Program for muscle gain:
  • 4 sets of 15 repetitions

If you’re looking for an alternative to this exercise, check out my article on the 7 Best Dumbbell Chest Fly Alternatives.

Standing Chest Exercises with Bands

Resistance Band Wall Push Ups

Wall push ups allow you to effectively target the chest from a standing position while controlling the incline to change the difficulty of the exercise.

How To Do It

  • Keep your hands on the wall about shoulder width apart.
  • Place your hand through each end of the band, while having the band around your back.
  • Decrease the incline of this exercise to increase the difficulty of the movement.
  • Bend at the elbows while controlling the lowering of the exercise until you are just short of touching the wall.
  • Press the wall away until you achieve complete lockout of the elbows.

Benefits

  • The difficulty of wall pushups can be easily manipulated. A steeper incline will make this exercise much easier, while a flatter incline will make it harder.  The ability to manipulate difficulty makes it so almost anyone can do wall push ups.
  • Wall push ups can be done anywhere.  As long as you have a band and a wall you can do this exercise at a hotel, at home, or at the gym. 

Cons

  • Wall pushups can be easily mastered. Only so much loading can be done with this exercise until it doesn’t provide enough of a stimulus. Once you’ve mastered wall push ups, move to the ground and you can additionally load with plates or dumbbells to increase the challenge.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the resistance band wall push ups:

Superset for total upper body:
  • Close Grip: 1 set of 10 repetitions
  • Neutral Grip: 1 set of 10 repetitions
  • Wide Grip: 1 set of 10 repetitions
Hypertrophy set:
  • 4 sets for as many reps as possible

Pallof Press

The pallof press is one of my favorite rehabilitative and performance enhancing exercises for core activation and strengthening the chest from the standing position.

How To Do It

  • Anchor the band to be just below the chest.
  • Stand perpendicular to the anchor point and hold the center of the band.
  • Keep your hands pressed together with the band while resisting rotation.
  • Press forward until elbows are completely extended.
  • The harder you press your hands together the greater chest muscle activation.
  • Return the hands to the starting position.

Benefits

  • Pallof press helps build a stable core. By resisting rotation towards the anchor point the pallof press challenges the core stabilizers. This is good when we want to improve the stability of our posture for compound lifts like the squat and power clean, while improving athletic performance as well.
  • Pallof press is a time effective total upper body exercise. Sets and reps done with the pallof press can be achieved relatively quickly which can free up your workout routine for other exercises.

Cons

  • Pallof press cannot be loaded up as much as other exercises. While a landmine press can be loaded to a higher degree, a pallof press can be implemented with a low time cost.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the pallof press:

  • 4 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions

Resistance Band Flys

Resistance band flys can be done anywhere, making it the perfect standing chest exercise on the road or at home.

How To Do It

  • Place a band across your back while using both ends as handles.
  • While maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, bring both arms across your chest until they meet in the middle.
  • Return to the starting position to complete the repetition.

Benefits

  • Resistance band flys are very simple and easy to learn. If you are programming for a beginner who doesn’t have access to weights, resistance band flys are a great option for novices who want to strengthen their chest.
  • Resistance band flys isolate the chest muscles. While many of the exercises provided in this article target the chest, very few give the same versatility while isolating the chest as well as the resistance band fly.

Cons

  • Resistance band flys cannot be loaded up as much as the cable flys. Cable flys can be a far superior option if you are really trying to load up the chest, while the resistance band flys can be a good option if you are on the go or have limited equipment.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the resistance band flies:

  • 4 sets for as many reps as possible

Standing Chest Exercises With Other Equipment

Dips

While dips might not be completely standing, it still makes the list by being extremely vertical and its effectiveness in targeting the chest and improving pressing strength.

How To Do It

  • Find a pair of parallel bars that are wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Place the base of your hands onto each bar.
  • Press the weight of your body up into complete extension of the elbows.
  • Slightly leaned forward, lower your body until you achieve 90 degree flexion of the elbows.
  • To finish the repetition, push yourself up into complete extension of the elbows.
  • If you want to add weight, use a dip belt.

Benefits

  • Dips have a lot of flexibility in shifting focus to chest or triceps. While a wide grip will prioritize the chest, a narrower grip can place greater focus on the triceps.
  • Dips can be loaded up pretty easily. Either by using a weight belt or placing a dumbbell between your legs you can load up your chest and triceps to a high degree.

Cons

  • Dips can place the shoulder in a compromising position. I know a handful of people who cannot perform dips because it hurts their shoulders. A strong alternative can be the landmine press if your goal is to improve pressing ability while targeting the chest.

How To Program

Here is how I would program the dips:

Strength:
  • Weighted dips: 4 sets of 5 repetitions
Hypertrophy:
  • 4 sets of 12 repetitions

Looking for an alternative to the dip? Check out my article on the 13 Best Dip Alternatives.

Plate Pinch Press

The plate pinch press places very minimal stress on the joints and extremities while isolating the chest muscles. For this reason, the plate pinch press is one of my favorite chest exercises to implement either while injured or towards the end of my workout.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise you will press two 5 lbs 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 does not place the shoulder in a compromising position. While many exercises rely on the shoulder to stabilize loading, the plate pinch press is not quite as demanding. This makes the plate pinch press a great option if you are coming back from an injury.

Cons

  • The plate pinch prefcss is ineffective at producing progressive overload in the chest muscles. You will frequently find yourself using either 5 lbs plates or 10 lbs plates for this exercise. You won’t really be able to load this exercise up so you should supplement some sort of hammer strength press or bench press in conjunction with this exercise.

How To Program

Here’s how I would program the plate pinch press:

  • 5 sets of 15 repetitions with 5 lbs plates

Med Ball Pass

The med ball pass is one of my favorite dynamic explosive standing chest exercises that I program for my athletes and general fitness populations.

How To Do It

  • Hold a medicine ball in the middle of your chest with your elbows tucked to your sides.
  • Maintain either a neutral stance or a split stance with your feet about hip to shoulder width apart.
  • Lean back to prepare to propel load up the back, chest, glutes, triceps, and hamstrings.
  • Propel yourself by pressing forward with the ball until elbows are at complete extension.

Benefits

  • Med ball passes are a fun exercise. Fun is an underrated concept in training, there is no wonder that everytime you’re at a commercial gym you see a few people doing this exercise. It is fun to maximally toss a heavy ball at the wall and it can bring some enjoyment to your training.
  • Med ball passes build upper body explosiveness. As med ball passes are not a necessity for building explosiveness in the upper body, dynamic exercises are something that are often neglected by powerlifters, olympic lifters, and regular gym goers. This can be something to add to your training to mix it up and achieve a novel stimulus.

Cons

  • Med ball passes can’t really be progressed too far. Med ball passes are not too complicated and aren’t typically loaded very highly. For this reason, there is not much room to progress in training protocols when doing this exercise.

How To Program

Here is how I would program med ball passes:

Power
  • 5 x 3 with a light med ball
Endurance Set
  • 3 x 8 with a light med ball

Final Thoughts

Whether it be for strength, power, or just building functional movement patterns with the upper body, you can’t go wrong with any of the standing chest exercises mentioned in this article. Depending on the setting, either the landmine press or the cable flys are going to be the exercises that I recommend the most.

Moreover, appropriately programming and selecting the right exercises will be a fundamental process in whether or not you achieve the progress that you want. Using a variety of cable, barbell, machine, and bodyweight movements can contribute well defined progress as well.

Looking for other chest training resources? Check out:


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.