How long do you spend training your chest?
If, like most bodybuilders, pec size and shape is one of your workout priorities, your chest workouts probably last an hour or more. After all, you need to make sure you train your upper, mid, and lower pecs and your inner and outer pecs, which means plenty of exercises and lots of sets.
It’s all very time-consuming!
Unfortunately, life has a way of derailing your best intentions to train. Your job, family commitments, and other distractions can make it hard to find the time to make it to the gym. After all, time is a valuable commodity, and it runs out fast.
But what if we told you that you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to build an impressive chest and that you can get a great workout in 30 minutes or less? Believe it or not, you don’t have to do high-volume, two-hour training sessions to build muscle and get stronger.
In this article, we reveal our favorite 30-minute chest workout!
30-Minute Chest Workout – Overview
30-minutes might not sound like long, especially compared to the marathon high-volume workouts that many bodybuilders favor. But, providing you train with intensity and don’t dawdle between sets and exercises, it’s plenty long enough to trigger hypertrophy.
This workout is designed to be done as part of a split routine, where you train different muscle groups on different days of the week.
Of course, before you start this or any other workout, you need to prepare your muscles and joints for what you are about to do. Start with a few minutes of easy cardio followed by dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for the muscles and joints you are about to use.
|30-Minute Chest Workout|
|1||3-way dumbbell bench press||3||6-8||90 seconds|
|2a||Cable crossover||3||8-10||90 seconds|
|3||Paused wide-grip bench press||2||10-12||60 seconds|
|4||Pec deck||2||10-12||60 seconds|
|5||Push-up mechanical drop set||1||AMRAP||N/A|
Exercises 2a and 2b are to be performed as a superset. Do a set of cable crossovers and then, without resting, immediately do a set of chest dips. Rest for the prescribed time and then repeat the pairing for the specified number of supersets.
30-Minute Chest Workout – Exercise Instructions
There are two ways to do any exercise – the right way and the wrong way. The right way is safe and effective, while the wrong way isn’t! So, when in doubt, use less weight, focus on your technique, and remember that many injuries are avoidable if you train with good form and appropriate weights.
1. 3-way dumbbell bench press
Most chest workouts start with barbell bench presses. But, for many lifters, dumbbell bench presses are better. They allow for a larger range of motion, are more shoulder-friendly, and force you to work harder as you struggle to stabilize two heavy weights. This exercise is actually three movements rolled into one and hits your upper, mid, and lower chest.
How to do it:
- Set the backrest on an adjustable bench to around 30-degrees. With a dumbbell in each hand, lie down and hold the weights over your shoulders, palms facing down your body.
- Bend your elbows and lower the weights out and down to the outside of your shoulders.
- Press the dumbbells back up and repeat until you are close to failure.
- Put the dumbbells on the floor and then quickly lower the bench backrest, so it’s flat.
- Lie back on the bench and do a set of flat dumbbell bench presses, repping out to near failure.
- Put the dumbbells on the floor and quickly set your bench to a 10 to 15-degree decline.
- Lie back on the bench and do a set of decline dumbbell bench presses, repping out to failure.
- Rest a moment and repeat the entire incline/flat/decline dumbbell bench press sequence twice more.
2a. Cable crossover
Cable crossovers are a chest isolation exercise, meaning they involve movement at just one joint – your shoulders. This is an excellent exercise for pec separation and works your inner/lower chest. Cable crossovers work best when done with moderate weights and strict form. Don’t use your abs or legs to help you lift the weights.
How to do it:
- Attach D-shape handles to the high pulleys on a cable crossover. Then, take a handle in each hand and stand in the center of the machine.
- Adopt a split stance for balance, lean forward slightly from your hips, and extend your arms out, so your hands are roughly level with your shoulders. Your elbows should be slightly bent but rigid.
- Draw your arms forward and down, so your hands meet in front of your hips.
- Open your arms and repeat.
- On completion, move straight to the next exercise.
2b. Chest dips
Dips are often seen as a triceps exercise but, done with a wide grip, they’re actually an excellent chest exercise that may even rival the mighty bench press. This is an AMRAP exercise, meaning you should do As Many Reps As Possible. So, it doesn’t matter if you do five or 15 – just keep going until you hit failure.
How to do it:
- Use dipping bars that are wider than shoulder-width apart. The narrower your grip, the less chest engagement there will be.
- Place your hands on the bars with your palms turned inward. Support your weight on straight arms.
- Bend your knees and push your legs and hips as far back as possible. The greater the incline, the more pec activation there will be.
- Bend your arms and descend as far as you can without hurting your shoulders. Get a good stretch in your pecs. Allow your upper arms and elbows to flare outward.
- Extend your elbows and push yourself upward, stopping just short of lockout to keep the tension on your pecs. Push inward as well as downward to maximize pec engagement.
- Descend and repeat.
3. Paused wide-grip bench press
You can’t have a chest workout without bench presses! But, for this program, you’ll be doing wide grip paused bench presses to really fire up your pecs. Don’t go too heavy here; you’re probably feeling tired, and wide/paused bench presses are harder than regular bench presses.
How to do it:
- Lie on your bench with your eyes directly below the bar. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, grip the bar with a 1 ½ shoulder-width grip, arch your lower back slightly and lift your chest up to the bar.
- Pull your shoulders down and back and unrack the bar.
- Bend your arms and lower the bar to the highest point of your chest. Keep your elbows up and out. Pause with the bar lightly touching your chest for three seconds.
- Push the bar back up and repeat.
4. Pec deck
The pec deck is another effective chest isolation exercise. Get the most from the pec deck by squeezing your arms together as hard as possible at the mid-point of each rep. Please note that pec deck machines vary by manufacturer, so seek advice from a trainer if you are unsure how to use the pec deck at your gym.
How to do it:
- Adjust the seat so that when you sit on it and grip the handles, your elbows are level with your shoulders, and your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Sit on the machine and place your feet on the floor or the footrests. Reach up and back and grab the handles. Place your forearms against the arm pads.
- Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your abs.
- Without jerking or leaning forward, smoothly squeeze your arms together until the machine arms touch lightly in front of your chest. Pause for 1-2 seconds.
- Open your arms and return to the starting position, stopping just short of touching the weights together.
- Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
5. Push-up mechanical drop set
This push-up drop set is designed to fully exhaust your chest. It involves three different push-up variations (decline, regular, and incline) so you can do the maximum number of reps. Take each exercise to failure, and only rest a couple of seconds between each one.
How to do it:
- Adopt the push-up position with your feet on a knee-high bench and your hands on the floor, positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your arms and lower your chest down to within an inch of the floor. Push yourself back up and repeat. Do as many reps as possible.
- Next, move your feet off the bench and adopt the regular push-up position. Again, rep out to failure.
- Finally, place your hands on your bench, and adopt the incline push-up position. Do as many reps as you can.
More Chest Workouts:
- Best Chest and Biceps Workout Routines
- Jay Cutler Shares Four Top Chest Building Exercises
- The 7 Best Outer Pec Exercises + Workout
- Chest and Triceps Workout
- Bodybuilding Workout for Big Pecs
- 13 Unique Bench Press Variations for Massive Pecs
- Best Cable Machine Exercises for Bigger Pecs
- The No Ego Bigger Chest Program
- Train Like a Champion: Arnold Chest Workout
- The Pectoral Split – Two Workouts Per Week for Perfect Pecs
- Nick Walker Chest and Biceps Workout
- The Best Inner Chest Workout for Sculpted Pecs
- Bench Press vs Push Ups: Which One Should You Do?
- 4 Advanced Bodyweight Chest Workouts
30-Minute Chest Workout – Wrapping Up
A lot of lifters are hung up on 60-minute workouts. They believe that spending anything less than an hour in the gym is pointless and that, when it comes to working out, longer is better.
While long, high-volume workouts can be productive, it’s not the only way to train. And, as the old bodybuilding adage goes, you can train hard, or you can train long, but you can’t train hard AND long.
30-minutes is plenty of time to train your chest, providing you raise the intensity and push yourself close to failure.