12 Best Chest Isolation Exercises

Published by Roshan S Pillai on

Chest isolation exercises

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You might be familiar with so many compound exercises like bench press and pushups where you use multiple joints to perform the movement. This engages multiple muscle groups to perform the movement, therefore called a compound movement.

But what about the isolation exercises which is a single joint movement, that targets a single muscle group. In this article, you will find those amazing chest isolation exercises where your chest will do all the work and there will be less activation of other muscles like the triceps and shoulder, which act as an assistant muscle during compound movements like the bench press.

Chest Isolation Exercises

Some of the best isolation exercises for the chest are cable flys, pullovers, and bench flys. We will discuss each of them along with some other exercises. So let’s begin!

1. Cable Crossovers

This is a great isolation exercise for the chest! If you want your pecs to be in good shape, then this workout is for you. It will make your chest well defined and makes your lower chest in much better shape. Some people have saggy chests due to extra body fat or underdeveloped lower chest. This will help you to remove such problems.

Targeted muscles- Pectoralis major (lower chest)

How to do

1. Attach both pulleys on top of the cable tower. Hold the cables and stand in between the machine with one leg forward.

2. Roll your shoulders back and lift your chest. Don’t bend too much and maintain the upright position.

3. While maintaining this position, move your arms forward and take them across each other. Both hands should look like a cross.

4. Return to the starting position slow and steadily. Always concentrate on the muscle you are targeting to hit.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Don’t roll your shoulders forward. It will engage too much of shoulders which you don’t want it when you are targeting ting your chest
  • Don’t use too heavy weights which you can’t handle properly. Choose the weights which you could perform without messing your form.
  • Don’t bend too much. Stay upright.

2. Flat Dumbbell Flys

This is the old-school exercise that many bodybuilders like Arnold used to do during their peak times. Dumbbell fly allows you to stretch your pecs at the bottom, making it move in a full range of motion.

Targeted Muscles- lower and mid pecs

How to do

1. hold two dumbbells and lay down with your back on the bench. Keep your arms straight up with a slight bend in the elbow. This will be your starting position.

2. Start by moving your arms down and bend your elbows as you reach the bottom. Breath in on the way down.

3. Stop until your chest is fully stretched and then move your arms up while breathing out.

4. Move your arms up and bring them back to the starting position.

Tip- To fully activate your chest, your shoulders should be pinched back, which brings your chest up. This way you will involve your shoulders less during the movement.

3. Flat Cable Fly

Another great exercise to give an amazing shape to your chest. This exercise will allow you to completely stretch the pectoralis muscles. However, If you are new to this exercise, then don’t overstretch to a point where your joints feel uncomfortable.

Muscles targeted- Pectoralis major ( inner chest)

How to do

1. Lay on a flat bench with pulleys attached down on the cable towers. Hold the cables and mimic the fly movement.

2. Bring both arms together at the top and contract your chest at the top. Make sure to breathe out on the way up.

3. Slowly return to the starting position and then repeat the exercise.

Fly movement is like giving a hug to someone. Mimic that movement and focus on your chest. Don’t overstretch during the negatives. Also, remember to squeeze your chest hard and concentrate on the right muscle. You don’t have to lock your elbows at the top.

4. Cable Incline Press

Another great alternative to an incline bench press. This is a great isolation exercise for your upper chest. You can create a better mind and muscle connection with cables instead of a barbell because cables allow you to get constant tension on the chest throughout the movement.

Muscles targeted– Pectoralis major ( upper chest)

how to do

1. Place an incline bench in between the cable fly machine. Attach both the pulleys down and hold both handles from each hand.

2. Lay down on a bench with your feet back and knees pointing out. Then start pressing up while squeezing your chest and keep your chest up and the shoulders retracted.

3. Focus on your upper chest while pressing up. Bring your arms down to the starting position. Remember not to overextend your shoulders or go too far down.

Your arms should move up and in line with the upper chest. Don’t lock your elbows at the end. Don’t go too heavy on this exercise otherwise, you could injure your shoulders.

5. Incline Dumbbell Flys

Another great isolation exercises to hit the upper chest. As most people have an underdeveloped upper chest, it’s very important to train these muscles.

Targeted Muscles- upper chest

How to do

1. Pick two dumbbells and lay down on the bench set at an incline angle. Bring your arms up with a slight bend in the elbow. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by moving your arms down and bend your elbows as you move. Breath in on the way down.

3. Stop until your chest is fully stretched and slowly move your arms up.

4. Squeeze your upper chest muscles and bring your arms back to the starting position.

For beginners, it is not recommended to do flys as it puts extra strain on your shoulder joints. Therefore you should do pressing exercises and focus on doing more compound exercises.

6. Dumbbell Pullovers

Pullovers are great in building the inner part of the chest. This is a great exercise to give a nice shape to your chest. Overall, a very good isolation exercise use for your chest.

Targeted Muscles- Pectoralis major and minor ( inner chest)

How to do

1 Hold a dumbbell by placing your palm under the upper plate of the dumbbell and lay flat on the bench.

2. Bring the dumbbell up above the head while keeping your hands straight and elbows bent. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by taking your hands back and stretch your chest at the bottom.

4. Stop until your chest is fully stretched and then bring your hands up by squeezing your chest tight and bring your arms back towards the starting position.

Make sure that you bring your elbows in and squeeze those chest muscles while bringing the dumbbell up to completely isolate the chest. Otherwise, your back will activate more.

7. Machine Flys

Pec deck machine can be found in almost every gym. Machine fly is a great exercise to isolate your chest muscles. Here, you cant use any momentum or other muscles. Your chest will work the most.

Targeted Muscles – Mid chest

How to do

1. Adjust the seat height such that when you sit, the handles are in line with the mid-chest.

2. Hold both handles and sit straight with your chest up and elbows slightly bent. This will be your starting position.

3. Now start the exercise by moving your arms towards the center by squeezing your chest hard and pause when both hands are close to each other.

4. Slowly move your arms backward along with bending your elbow and return to the starting position.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Don’t bring your head forward and keep your back flat on the seat.
  • Don’t do partial reps, your elbow should not bend too much.
  • Your shoulder should not come forward. You should use your chest to move the weights instead of the shoulders.

8. One Arm Cable Crossovers

If you have any muscular imbalances or if your one side is weaker than the other, then this exercise is for you. Here, you can focus on each part separately, which will improve your mind and muscle connection and will remove imbalances

Muscles targeted- Pectoralis major and minor ( mid and lower chest)

How to do

1. Attach a pulley at the highest part of a cable tower. Grab a handle from one hand while the other hand on the thighs for support.

2. Stand on a split stance and don’t bend too much. Your shoulders should be back with your chest and neck upright.

3. Start the exercise by bringing your arms down without bending your back. Maintain the upright position. Your shoulders should not come forward.

4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Take your hands across the midline of the body to stimulate your chest more. That’s the benefit of this exercise because, in most other exercises, you can’t bring your hands passing the midline of the body.

Tips– You can also do this exercise in place of other flys which we discussed by using a single arm. Make sure that you don’t use to heavyweights on this because it’s not meant for that purpose.

9. Low Cable Flyes

Another awesome exercise for your upper chest. You can perform this as a finisher or can superset it with cable crossovers which will be an awesome finisher at the end.

Targeted muscles- Pectoralis minor (upper chest)

How to do

1. Attach the pulleys at the bottom end of the cable machine. Hold two handles of the cables and stand in between the machine. Stand with one leg forward while maintaining a proper balance.

2. Roll your shoulders back and maintain a neutral spine. Your hands should be down on the sides and this will be your starting position.

3. From the downward position, take your arms up and stop at chest height. Pause for a second and squeezing your chest at the top.

4. Return to the starting position slowly while breathing in and repeat the rep.

Your elbows should be in so that you can stimulate your chest more. Also, it will put your shoulders in a safe position.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Don’t take your hands too far behind the body. Your chest should be stretched and not your shoulders so don’t go too far back.
  • Shoulders should not move or come forward during the exercise
  • Don’t go too heavy on this!

10. Decline Cable Chest Pullover

This is a great cable version of pullovers where you can create a perfect mind and muscle connection. You can feel an amazing pump after this exercise, so try it out!

Muscles targeted- Pectoralis major (mid and upper chest)

How to do

1. Place a bench fixed at a decline angle at about 2 feet apart from the cable machine and attach a rope at a lower pulley of the cable machine.

2. Hold both ends of the rope and lay down on a bench and this will be your starting position.

3. While keeping your elbows slightly bent, take your hands behind the body and stretch your chest at the bottom.

4. Stop until your chest is fully stretched and then bring your hands up toward the starting position and then repeat the movement.

While performing this exercise make sure that you are squeezing your chest harder during the concentric phase and keep your elbows in on the way up.

11. Close Grip Cable Press

Almost all chest exercises allow you to target the entire chest muscles. However, sometimes some people don’t have a fuller-looking chest. This is because their inner chest looks underdeveloped.

Therefore these close-grip exercises will allow you to target that inner region more, hence making your chest look 3-dimensional.

Muscles targeted- Pectoralis major (inner chest)

How to do

1. Attach both pulleys in line with your chest height. Stand straight without bending your spine. The shoulder should be back and the chest should be up.

2. By holding the handles, join both hands together. Your hands should be placed just below the lower chest and your elbows should be out.

3. Start pushing your hands forward while keeping your hands together. Don’t lock your elbows at the end and squeeze your chest throughout the exercise.

4. Return slowly to the starting position. Exhale as you push forward and inhale while you return.

You should never use heavyweights in this exercise otherwise you can injure yourself. Also, this exercise is meant to isolate the muscles and is not a strength-building exercise. It is good to train your weaknesses and to create a better shape.

Important notes

  • This is an advanced exercise and without a proper mind and muscle connection, you should not perform this exercise. People just beginning to work out at an intermediate level should stick with the basic exercises.
  • You can include this exercise in your workout program every once or twice a month. Once you get experience and have built a solid mind and muscle connection, then you can do this exercise quite often.

12. Decline Dumbbell Fly

This is a perfect lower chest exercise to give a better shape to the chest. Most people already have a lower chest, but it lacks definition. This exercise will help you to get that sharp line to the lower part of your pecs, making it look defined and toned.

Targeted Muscles – lower chest

How to do

1. Grab two dumbbells and lay down on the decline bench. Bring your arms up such that the dumbbells should be in line with the lower chest. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by moving your arms down and bend your elbows as you move. Breath in on the way down.

3. Stop until your chest is fully stretched at the bottom where the dumbbells are in line with the lower chest.

4. Move your hands up by contracting your lower chest and bring your arms back to the starting position.

Don’t use heavy dumbbells for flies as these exercises are meant to isolate the muscle and to improve the shape and definition. With heavy weights, your shoulders get into an overstretched position which can put extra tension on the scapula which can lead to injury. So unless you are experienced, don’t go heavy on this!

Final Words

So these were some best isolation exercises for the chest. All these exercises help improve the shape and definition of the chest. However, if your main focus is to build strength and size, then you must do compound exercises like bench press and pushups. The combination of the compound and isolation exercises will give you the best results.

When you design your workout program, then prioritize those muscles in which you need to work more. Like if you want to improve your bench press, then do bench press at the beginning of the workout and then isolate with cable flys. The workout should be designed according to your goals and fitness level.

If you found this article helpful, then please share it with your friends and family. Also if you want me to make an article on any other related topics, then please share it in the comment section below.

Categories: Chest

Roshan S Pillai

Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com, and has worked as a fitness coach in gyms and is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.

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