There are many benefits to having a strong chest, ranging from the totally practical—increased shoulder stability, improved posture, and boosted calorie burn from the extra muscle mass, for example—to the completely aesthetic.
“By working your pecs, the muscles under your boobs, you can actually make your breasts appear perkier,” says certified personal trainer Kristina Alai, fitness expert at The Bay Club Company. Sure, increased pec development won’t turn A cups into Bs, but they can create a lifted, rounder shape to your chest, she says.
What’s more, says Alai, is that most chest exercises will also engage and strengthen your shoulder, triceps, and core muscles as well.
And there’s even better news: Push-ups aren’t your only option! Try these five chest exercises, courtesy of Alai, to increase strength and develop those below-the-boob muscles. For best results, Alai recommends incorporating chest-based movements like the ones below into your workout routine twice a week.
RELATED: 4 Exercises to Perk Up Your Boobs
Dumbbell Chest Press
How to do it: Sit on a bench with a light to medium dumbbell (10 to 15 pounds) in each hand so that the head of the dumbbell is resting on your thighs. Squeeze your elbows into your ribs and slowly lower yourself down onto the bench so that you’re face up with the back of your head resting on the bench, holding the dumbbells at the front of your shoulders.
When you’re ready to begin, press your feet into the floor (if they reach), and open your elbows so that they are at a 90-degree angle to your core. Then, exhale as you press both dumbbells simultaneously away from your chest and directly over your shoulders. Inhale as you lower back down to chest height.
Next, repeat the press one arm at a time. Keeping the dumbbell in your left hand resting on or just outside your left shoulder, press the weight in your right hand straight up. Then lower back down to the chest. Switch sides and repeat so that your left arm is doing the work. That’s one rep. Aim for three sets of six to 10 reps.
Why it works: “The Dumbbell Chest Press uses your pecs, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and pretty much every other muscle in your upper body,” says Alai. But the press doesn’t only work your upper body. In order to create a stable base on the bench, you need to properly engage your entire core musculature, she says.
Plus, “when we do upper-body exercises using both arms, we tend to favor one arm. By unilaterally working one arm at a time, you can see if one of your arms is weaker than the other, and then work through those imbalances,” says Alai.
Alternating Chest Press With Leg Lift
How to do it: Sit on a bench with a light dumbbell (5 to 12 pounds) in each hand so that the head is resting on your thighs. Slowly lie down onto the bench with your feet stretched out straight so that the back of your head is resting on the bench and most (but not all) of your legs are supported by the bench.
Holding the dumbbells at the front of your shoulders, squeeze your glutes and brace your core. Keeping the dumbbell in your left hand resting on or just outside your left shoulder, press the weight in your right hand straight up, while simultaneously lifting your left leg straight out and up as high as it can go without your mid-back lifting from the bench, while keeping your foot flexed toward you. Your arm and leg should be fully extended at the same time. Lower both, pause, then, switch sides and repeat so that your left arm and right leg are doing the work. Aim for three sets of six reps per side.
Why it works: “A lot of women skip chest exercises because they think they’re going to be boring,” says Alai. *Cough* push-ups *cough*. “I like to spice up chest day by doing full-body moves with a chest emphasis, like this alternating chest press with a leg lift.”
The leg lift engages your glutes, core, and quads and the dumbbell press works your chest and shoulders, so it works you all over. “Because moving your upper and lower body requires a lot of core stability and strength, this is a more advanced movement. I recommend starting with a light weight and working your way up from there,” says Alai.
Dumbbell Chest Fly
How to do it: Begin just like you did for the Dumbbell Chest Press, but consider using lighter weights if you haven’t done this movement before. Lie flat on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on the tops of your thighs or hips and with your palms facing each other.
Using your legs to help raise the weights, lift the dumbbells to hold them with extended arms directly over your chest. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, inhale and lower both arms out to the sides in a “T” (making sure not to allow your elbows to dip below the bench) while your shoulder blades naturally squeeze together. When the dumbbells reach shoulder height, pause, then exhale and squeeze your chest to pull the dumbbells back to starting position. That’s one rep. Aim for three sets of eight to 10 reps.
The best way to make this movement easier or harder is by changing the weight of the dumbbells. Remember, says Alai, the last two reps of each set should be tough–but not so tough that you have to compromise form or over-arch your back.
Why it works: “The Dumbbell Chest Fly may seem like a total bro move, but it’s seriously great for improving chest strength and targeting and toning the side boob area,” says Alai. The movement targets the chest and shoulders, but it also works the stabilizing muscles in the shoulders, triceps, and core, she explains.
Her biggest tip? Slow down. “This is primarily a chest move, so if you don’t feel it deep in your chest, you’re likely going too fast. Try to bring your arms together on a count of two and back down on a count of two if the move feels too easy.”
Standing Cable Chest Press
How to do it: To begin, adjust the pulleys on the cable machine so that they are at chest height on both sides and select the appropriate weight. Grab onto both handles so that your palms are facing inward, center your body so that you’re in the middle of the machine, and then take two steps forward. Based on your comfort, stand in a stagger-stance or with your feet about hip-width apart.
When you’re ready to begin, squeeze your glutes and engage your core to keep the rest of your body stable. Then, pull the handles down and out in a wide arc in front of your body until your hands meet in front of you at chest height. Pause, squeeze your pecs together, then slowly return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Aim for three sets of 10 reps.
Why it works: “If you’re in a gym with a cable machine, this is a great addition to a chest and upper-body workout because you can work the chest at slightly different angles,” says Alai. It primarily works your chest, shoulders, triceps and core.
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How to do it: Begin just like you did for the Standing Cable Chest Press, but stand so your feet are slightly less than hip-width apart.
When you’re ready to begin, squeeze your glutes and brace your core. Then, keeping a flat spine, hold the handle in your left arm so that it’s touching your shoulder at shoulder height while punching your right arm straight out in front of your shoulder. Retract your right arm. Then repeat on the opposite side. Aim for three sets of 10 reps per side.
Why it works: “The Cable Punch is a unilateral exercise that helps build equal strength on each side of the body,” says Alai. The primary muscles you’ll use for this exercise are your pecs and shoulders for punching, and the core for keeping you stable, she says.