Barbell Bench Press
It’s popular to hate on the bench press these days, but it’s one of the most famous lifts in the gym for a reason. For one, the standard barbell bench allows you to move the most weight. It’s also a more accessible lift to control than pressing with heavy dumbbells. The exercise is also relatively easy to spot—so don’t be afraid to ask for one!
The bench press also responds well to classic protocols like 5×5 for muscle and strength, or even 10×10, aka German Volume Training, for pure mass. If you want to get serious, there are systematic bench press programs like Bench 300 to help you chase a considerable number.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Whether dumbbell or barbell presses are better for growth is an age-old weight-room debate. Luckily, you can do both! But there’s little doubt that the dumbbell variation has more versatility throughout the beginning, middle, and end of a chest workout.
Some other big plusses for dumbbells: Each side’s musculature must work independently, creating more balanced strength and size. Dumbbells also allow a more extended range of motion, which some studies say can lead to muscle growth. Plus, you can more easily tweak your grip to create variety and a new stimulus on chest day.
An obvious point favouring push-ups is that they require no equipment and can be the centrepiece of a home chest workout, like in strength coach Paul Carter’s program Jacked at Home: Bodyweight Muscle-Building Workouts. But they’re also highly versatile, easy to adjust for a range of motion, and can help strategically target different parts of your chest with a few simple tweaks to elevation or hand placement.
“Yeah, but they’re just push-ups,” you say. “They’re not enough to make you strong.” Believe it or not, an in-depth analysis found that push-ups and bench presses are similar in both muscle activation and overall muscle gains. This doesn’t mean push-ups should be all you do, but it means they definitely should have a place in your repertoire.