15 Powerful Compound Chest Workouts for All Fitness Levels 

Focusing your workout program around compound movements is an excellent idea. Not only do these exercises engage multiple muscle groups for a sturdy and well-rounded physique, but the equipment used for them is often more readily available than things like machine-based isolation exercises. 

In this guide, I’ve written up 15 individual compound chest workouts you can perform. It’s broken up by experience level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) as well as the equipment you may have available (barbells, dumbbells, and body weight). 

These distinctions will give you options no matter where you are in your fitness journey or the equipment your gym or home gym has available. With the right strategies, you can build a great chest in most training setups. 

With all that out of the way, let’s get into the best compound chest training programs. 

Beginner Compound Chest Workouts

First up, we have the beginner chest workouts. You’ll notice the volume is relatively light. No matter which of these you choose, aim to do the workout once per week. That amounts to 6 sets of chest training per week, which will be more than enough for those who are new to the gym. 

Make the primary focus of each training session to add either weight or reps for every exercise. So, if you did 3 sets of 8 with 40 lbs on the dumbbell bench press, the next week, you could aim for 3 sets of 9. The better and stronger you get at these basic exercises will set you up nicely as you advance into the intermediate training phase. 

Option 1: Barbell Focus

ExerciseSetsReps
Bench Press35-10
Incline Bench Press35-10

Option 2: Dumbbell Focus

ExerciseSetsReps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press35-10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press35-10

Option 3: Bodyweight Focus

Exercise SetsReps
Incline Push-Ups35-30
Standard Push-Ups35-30

Note: Beginners who can’t do standard or incline push-ups yet can either start with decline push-ups or do them on their knees. In this case, just choose one exercise and perform 3 sets of 5-30 reps. Once you can do 3 sets of 30 with good form, aim to start implementing regular push-ups into your training. 

Intermediate Compound Chest Workouts

With the intermediate workouts, you’ll notice each option (barbell, dumbbell, and body weight) incorporates a Workout A and Workout B. That’s to signify that we’re now training chest twice per week to incorporate more volume that’s necessary to continue progressing as you reach your intermediate training phase. 

All of these options will have you doing 16 sets per week, which is right in the middle of the recommended 10-20 weekly sets you should be performing for optimal muscle growth, so this should work well for most people. 

Option 1: Barbell Focus

Workout A

Exercise SetsReps
Barbell Bench Press45-10
Incline Bench Press45-10

Workout B

Exercise SetsReps
Incline Bench Press45-10
Chest Dips or Decline Bench Press45-10

Option 2: Dumbbell Focus

Workout A

Exercise SetsReps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press45-10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press45-10

Workout B

Exercise SetsReps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press45-10
Chest Dips or Decline Dumbbell Bench Press45-10

Option 3: Bodyweight Focus

When you’re doing bodyweight training, it should be noted that you will have to find ways to add resistance as you progress as a lifter. So, while these exercises do still have a bodyweight base, I’m recommending that you at least make the investment to buy a weighted vest at this point in your training to continue building your pecs. 

You can often find weighted vests for around $100 from most retailers, so it’s not too bad of an investment to get much better workouts. 

Workout A

Exercise SetsReps
Weighted Incline Push-Up45-30
Weighted Standard Push-Up45-30

Workout B

Exercise SetsReps
Weighted Incline Push-Up45-30
Chest Dips or Weighted Decline Push-Up45-30

Advanced Compound Chest Workouts

Now that we’ve made it into the advanced section, you’ll see that the volume per workout will have progressed once again. Now, we’re doing 18-20 sets per week, a handful of them being drop sets to increase tension and stress on the muscles in a calculated way.   

Advanced lifters usually don’t increase weight or reps as easily anymore, so it’s important to find new and creative ways to challenge the muscles. Therefore, adding things like drop sets, burnout sets to failure, and overall additional volume are great ideas to continue challenging your pecs to stimulate growth. 

While the advanced program that I wrote out has you training your chest twice per week, advanced lifters can also take a different approach where you train your chest 3-4 times weekly during a chest-focused training cycle. Usually, this cycle would last for 2-3 months, and then you’d switch your focus to a different muscle group you want to grow. 

Option 1: Barbell Focus

Workout A

Exercise SetsReps
Barbell Bench Press3 + Drop set with 10-30% less weight on 3rd set5-10
Incline Bench Press5-10
Incline Dumbbell Fly or Incline Push-Up310-20

Workout B

Exercise SetsReps
Incline Bench Press3 + Drop set with 10-30% less weight on 3rd set5-10
Weighted Chest Dip or Decline Bench Press5-10
Decline Dumbbell Fly or Push-Up310-20

Option 2: Dumbbell Focus

Workout A

Exercise SetsReps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press3 + Drop set with 10-30% less weight on 3rd set5-10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press35-10
Incline Dumbbell Fly or Incline Push-Up310-20

Workout B

Exercise SetsReps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press3 + Drop set with 10-30% less weight on 3rd set5-10
Weighted Chest Dip or Decline Dumbbell Bench Press5-10
Decline Dumbbell Fly or Push-Up310-20

Option 3: Bodyweight Focus

Workout A

Exercise SetsReps
Ring/TRX Push-Ups35-30
Ring/TRX Flys35-30
Incline Push-Ups (Optional)3To Failure

Workout B

Exercise SetsReps
Weighted Chest Dips3 + Drop set with 10-30% less weight on 3rd set5-10
Tempo Push-Ups (Lower for 3 seconds, pause for 1 second, press back up for 3 seconds)35-30
Incline Push-Ups (Optional)3To Failure

How Do I Determine Which Training Level is Right for Me?

Since I don’t know your exact training experience, it’s hard for me to give a highly specific recommendation on which level you choose. For a general answer, you should choose the beginner program if you’ve been training 0-2 years, the intermediate program if you’ve been training 2-5 years, and the advanced program if you’ve been training 5+ years. 

If you choose a program and it feels like you’re doing way too much volume and intensity, you can always move back down to a lower level where it’s easier for you to make progress. The same is true if it feels like you’re doing too little volume or aren’t progressing like you think you should; you can try moving up a level. 

Can I Do 5 Chest Exercises Per Workout?

Having gone through the different programs, you probably noticed that even the advanced workouts only contain a max of 3 exercises. The important thing to remember with strength training is we want to stimulate the muscles and stress them in a calculated manner. We don’t want to annihilate them with too much volume, which will do too much damage to recover from in a normal training cycle. 

All that said, you could do 5 chest exercises in one workout if you want. I’d just make sure to lower the number of sets you do per exercise. So, rather than doing 3-4 sets each, you’d do 1-2 sets for each one. Studies have proven that 10-20 weekly sets per muscle group works best for intermediate and advanced lifters. 

What if I’m Still Feeling Sore By the Time I Get to My Next Chest Workout?

If your chest muscles are still sore by the time you get to your next workout, you should consider dropping the volume per workout or reducing how many times per week you’re training your chest. For example, you could go from doing 3 sets per exercise down to 2 and see if you’re still getting excessively sore. 

While some may give advice to just “tough it out,” being sore in the muscle you’re trying to train is really not conducive to being able to lift the heaviest possible weights and perform the best. 

You may even be someone who responds well to low volume. Some lifters even see great adaptations when performing less than 5 sets per week per muscle group. 

There’s No One Size Fits All Chest Workout Program

Each of these compound chest workouts will be a good start to help you develop a sound training program. However, these aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone is built a bit differently and has varying training needs. I encourage you to experiment and find what works best for you. 

With many of these workouts, you can mix and match the exercises. So, even if you want to do a mix of barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight training, you can find a good variety between the different options. 

If you have any questions about training your chest or designing a fitness routine, feel free to comment below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for reading! 

Share This Post
Pierce Reiten
Pierce Reiten

Pierce Reiten is an NASM certified personal trainer with over a decade of experience in the gym. He's passionate about providing information to help you improve your fitness and life.

Articles: 28

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *