Chest Toning Workout Plan: 7 Best Chest Toning Exercises (Before and After Pics)

Workout Plans | Written by Nathan Petitpas | Updated on 17 June 2024

Marissa's chest-toning exercise and workout results show a transformation from a lying-down image with sunglasses and an A cup top to a sitting-upright photo with a blue and silver necklace, now boasting a C cup size.

This chest toning workout plan and associated exercises are perfect for women looking to perk up and lift their chest, and for men to build the chiseled chest they dream of.7

The 7 exercises seen here should be staples in everyone’s workout routine since they’ve been used by physique athletes and gym goers for ages, and effectively tone the pecs.

In addition, the chest-toning before and pictures will shine light on just how toned your chest can get, how long it will take, and also serves as inspiration because if they can do it, so can you!

Best Chest Toning Exercises (Top Chest-Toning Workout Plan for Men and Women Using Equipment)

Gyms are typically laden with a mass of equipment perfect for chest-toning exercises; however, the trick lies in knowing which workouts are worth the time and will have the best outcome. No one wants to spend countless hours in the gym and not see any changes, and some even think they have bad chest genetics, so take note of the top machines and equipment that will help in gaining killer pecs and overcoming even the worst of genetics.

1. Bench Press

Typically located in the middle of the gym, the bench press may be intimidating to new gym goers, but it is popular for good reason. This is a compound exercise that not only works the pectoral muscles (chest muscles), but also the front deltoids which are located at the front of the shoulder as well as triceps.

The average bench press bar weighs 45 pounds and weight plates can be added to achieve a heavier lift. If just beginning, some gyms have a training barbell available that weighs 22 pounds if 45 pounds is found to be too much. If no training barbell is available, dumbbells can be used to achieve the same motion.

An important factor when performing the bench press is proper form; where should the bar contact during the bench press as well as where is the best place to grip are both questions that are helpful to ask when learning to properly utilize the bench press.

The following video is an example of how to properly perform a bench press to maintain safety and get the most from a workout.

2. Chest Press

While similar to the bench press, the chest press is also a compound exercise, but there are some key differences between the two. The chest press is performed on a machine that consists of a cable and pulley that allows users to adjust weight on the machine itself instead of using free weights like a barbell or dumbbells, therefore removing the need to be concerned about the bench press bar path.

The chest press is performed while sitting with the back pushed against the backrest and has a fixed range of motion, but also works the pecs, deltoids, and triceps. Because of this, this particular machine is ideal for beginners and for those who don’t have access to a spotter during their workout time.

Proper technique requires the grips of the chest press to be at shoulder height; therefore, before starting, make sure to adjust the chair to the proper height to ensure arms are parallel to the floor once extended.

3. Cable Crossover

While the cable stack machine may look like a medieval torture device, in reality, it is an excellent multifaceted piece of gym equipment that can help users realize their chest goals. Cable crossovers are an isolated exercise and focus on the chest muscles alone.

The benefits of using a cable machine versus using dumbbells lies in the way the cables provide constant tension which keep the muscles activated. Lowering or raising the cable origination position also allows the user to focus on either the lower or upper portion of the chest to target a specific muscle location.

A different motion is used for cable crossovers than both the bench press and chest press.

When standing while holding the grips, extend arms from the sides where they are parallel to the ground with palms facing forward. Next, slightly bend the elbows to allow hands to stay even with the chest.

When gripping the handles and throughout the exercise, elbows should remain at a 45 degree angle. Keeping the back straight and legs firmly planted with one slightly forward to stabilize, begin to bring fists toward each other in a hugging motion until wrists cross over and then return to starting position.

Best Way To Tone Chest at Home With No Equipment

Anyone reading this article who does not have a gym membership may be feeling discouraged, but there is some great news; anyone can tone their chest at home with no equipment.

The key to a no equipment chest-toning workout is two words: push ups. There are several forms of push ups that target certain areas and can easily and effortlessly be adjusted if working a different muscle group.1

4. Standard Push Ups

A standard push up is a compound exercise that works the muscles in the chest as well as the shoulders and triceps. Along with pinpointing these muscles, core and glute muscles are activated as well to help stabilize the body as it is lowered and pushed up.

To perform a standard push up, hold oneself up with the hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and toes either together or one foot apart while keeping the body straight. Begin by bending the elbows and lower the chest slowly toward the ground stopping before contact and slowly push back up to the starting position.

5. Incline Push Ups

If standard push ups are too difficult in the beginning, starting with incline push ups is a good option. While these push ups target similar areas, the lower chest is actually more engaged due to the angle of the body.

The benefit of this particular push up is that the angle of the incline is highly adjustable and can fit any user’s ability or fitness level. For those who are just initiating a strength building routine, older exercisers, or those who are recovering from an injury can use the wall as a starting point and can progress to a less steep incline, such as a counter or secured bench, as time goes on if they prefer.

Instead of placing hands on the floor as with a standard push up, hands are placed on whichever object is providing the incline, such as a bench. Ensure the core and glutes are tight and just as with standard push ups, the elbows bend and chest is lowered and subsequently raised back to starting position.

6. Close Grip Push Ups

The close grip push up may increase the work for triceps, but it also focuses on the inner portion of the chest muscles which surround the sternum. This is because the hand placement in this push up variation is closer together.

Instead of having hands past the shoulders, they are brought in directly below the shoulders with fingers facing forward which will keep elbows close to the body. Because the arms remain snug against the body, bending the elbows to 90 degrees is the goal, then return to the starting position.

7. Plyometric Push Ups

For those seeking a challenge, look no further than the plyometric push up. Instead of a slow and steady exercise, this particular workout incorporates a burst of energy that increases muscle load on the chest, shoulders, arms, and core.

While it may be common to see people do a plyometric push up that involves a clap, this isn’t necessary to make it effective. Starting with a standard push up and lowering down, the force begins when pushing back up.

Instead of focusing on ending the push up at the starting position, target energy from the chest down to the hands with enough force to slightly propel off the ground, which will then be followed by ending at the starting position.

If You Can’t Tone and Tighten Flabby Chest Muscles – You Might Be Making These Mistakes

If it feels like success isn’t coming when trying to tighten flabby chest muscles, it is likely that workouts are being plagued with these common chest toning mistakes. Building pectoral and other chest muscles take time and work, so don’t let the effort that is being put in keep being unrewarded; see if some of the below adjustments can be made to get awe inspiring results.

Too Much of the Same Exercise

Some may be wondering if doing push ups everyday is considered overtraining. Doing the same exercise day after day, set after set can, in fact, lead to slow progress.

Not only does it leave a whole host of muscles unworked, it can most definitely lead to overtraining.2 Overtraining involves burnout, fatigue, and injury, all which can greatly hinder muscle gains.

Too Many Reps and Not Enough Resistance

Too many repetitions while not using enough resistance typically happens when those working out are concerned about bulking up too much. What many don’t realize is the amount of effort (and calories) it takes to grow muscle, especially in women.

One of the biggest components in muscle growth is testosterone, which is typically very limited in women, so this is an unfounded concern.3

To get the most out of training, focus on heavier weights and less repetitions to successfully build muscle through hypertrophy, which is the breakdown and rebuilding of muscle fibers.4 If a set goes past 20 reps without the muscle being too tired to continue during that set, the weight being used is too light.

Poor Form

Proposed resistance training results are based on correctly doing that particular exercise to trigger specific muscles. If improper form is used, this can lead to other muscle groups taking on the majority of the work, which, in turn, will greatly reduce the efficacy and results of the workout.

Another consequence of poor form is injury which can cause stress and strain on joints and muscles and cause subjects to be out of commission for an indeterminate amount of time.

Chest-Toning Before & After Pictures and Results

In hopes to provide inspiration and show that transformations really are possible, we’ll include a few pictures and videos of peoples experience toning their chest.

Of course, everyone will progress at different rates and has their own story to tell, but if they can do it, so can you!

Marissa’s Chest-Toning Results

On the left is Marissa with a barbell on her back and she's wearing grey shorts and a blue top that shows her chest that's an A cup, but on the right is Marissa's after picture where she toned her chest and is wearing a similar top, but now she's a C cup due to tightening and lifting her chest through exercise.

Marissa’s journey from losing chest tone to gaining curves. Source: Marissa Arnone on Youtube7

At first Marissa tried an ab program and lost much of her chest size or tone due to losing weight. But then she ate more while lifting just 3x per week and went from an A cup to a C cup.

She worked out with her boyfriend and split her days into chest and triceps, back and biceps, and legs and shoulders another day.

Hunter’s Pec Transformation

On the left is Hunter before he began working out and his belly is protruding, chest muscles are there but undefined, and on the right is his after picture where he has a six-back and his chest is defined and chiseled.

Hunter’s impressive chest transformation despite losing weight – going from 202 to 160 pounds in just 3 months through serious dedication to diet and exercise. Source: Hunter Hobbs on Youtube8

Although Hunter was losing weight throughout this video below, he was still able to seemingly increase the size and/or definition of his chest. From January to April he was able to go from 202 – 160 pounds.

He does not describe his routine other than “getting super serious for three months” as far as diet and exercise goes, but again, this is proof it can be done albeit it may not be easy.

Nimeshaa’s Chest Lift Results From Getfitbyivana’s Workout Challenge

On the left is Nimeshaa’s before picture that show her in a black tank top, and on the right is her picture after working out her chest which reveals she went up a cup size and her bust is more full.

Nimeshaa’s impressive chest lift results from @getfitbyivana’s at-home workout challenge, where she incorporated various chest-focused workout videos for size and tone. Source: Nimeshaa on Youtube9

She had an intention to improve the size of her bust in addition to toning so she tried @getfitbyivana’s at home workout challenge or workout programs – it seems she chose any video that worked the chest and chose different videos each day.

She said there was a fair amount of rest days but that the exercises were a bit repetitive and boring for her. That being said, hear is her opinions and you can watch her transformation here:

How Long Will It Take To Strengthen My Chest? (How To Get Fast Results)

There are a myriad of factors that go into how long it will take to see results from chest-toning, this includes starting physique, the volume of workouts, and concurrent diet and exercise. When working out specific muscle groups, it is important to account for recovery time to avoid overtraining.

Depending on the variety of exercises performed and the amount of sets performed, this is anywhere from 48 to 72 hours, allowing muscle groups to be worked out between 2 and 6 days per week.5

With no other lifestyle changes other than adding in a rotation of the top 7 best chest-toning exercises, resistance trainees can expect to start seeing results in 30 days to 6 weeks. Some notable areas where changes can be seen in the beginning are definition around the pectoral muscles for men and slight lifting of breasts for women; as time goes on, these changes will become more and more noticeable.

The Ultimate Chest-Toning Workout Plan

As mentioned above, pairing exercises with adequate volume is a surefire way to guarantee results. The Minimum Effective Volume (MEV) for muscles in the chest is at least 6 sets per week while the Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV) is between 20 and 35 sets per week depending on the amount of sessions per week (between 2 and 6 as mentioned above). More on this can be read here but don’t get too wrapped up in the exact numbers because the workout program below covers all this to make it easier on you.

In other words, to gain muscle in the chest, lifters need a minimum amount of chest work per week, but can effectively recover from 20 to 35 sets per week (up to 20 sets spread between two sessions to 35 sets spread between 6 sessions).

Below are two examples of weekly chest workout routines utilizing the 7 best chest-toning exercises that take into account the following:

  • Minimum Effective Volume
  • Maximum Adaptive Volume
  • Variation in Exercise: Including horizontal, incline, and isolated movements
  • Varying Loads: Heavier loads with less reps at the beginning of the week transitioning to the lightest load with the most reps at the conclusion of the week5, 6

While these chest focused workout programs below are perfect for beginners, after completing the program 1-2x it’s best to move on to a beginner workout routine that not only tones the chest, but the entire body too.

Equipment-Based Chest Workout

Monday

  • Bench Press: 3 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Cable Crossovers: 3 sets of 5-10 reps

Tuesday (Rest)

Wednesday (Rest)

Thursday

  • Chest Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Cable Crossovers: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Friday (Rest)

Saturday

  • Bench Press: 3 sets of 10-20 reps
  • Close Grip Push Ups: 3 sets of 10-20 reps

Sunday (Rest)

Note, to progress on this routine you can use it week over week, but just increase the number of sets on 1-2 exercises by +1 for each week. You can also try to add 5lbs every 2 weeks to progressively overload and achieve the toned chest you dream of.

Bodyweight-Based (At Home) Chest Workout

Monday

  • Plyometric Push Ups: 3 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Close Grip Push Ups: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Tuesday (Rest)

Wednesday (Rest)

Thursday

  • Standard Push Ups: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Close Grip Push Ups: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Friday (Rest)

Saturday

  • Standard Push Ups: 3 sets of 10-20 reps
  • Incline Push Ups: 3 sets of 10-20 reps

Sunday (Rest)

Note, to progress on this routine you can use it week over week, but just increase the number of sets on 1-2 exercises by +1 for each week. You can also try to add 5lbs every 2 weeks to progressively overload and achieve the toned chest you dream of.

The Ultimate Chest-Toning Protocol

The ultimate chest-toning protocol is dependent on long term goals, but generally speaking, most people looking to tone up their pecs as well as the other muscles in their chest can follow the below key points to craft an ideal routine while learning that it isn’t necessary to do 500 push ups a day to get the results they want.

Add In Cardio To Help Slim Down

While putting effort into building muscle is important for many reasons, it is also smart to look at overall physique to see if the muscle tone that is being gained is hidden behind stubborn fat. A foolproof way to begin slimming down to see resistance training progress is through adding cardio to the weekly workout routine.

Progress in burning calories will already be started through resistance training, so it isn’t necessary to overload a workout routine with endless amounts of cardio. Instead, consider supplementing chest days with a short walk around the neighborhood, but adding in a longer walk during rest days.

Cardio doesn’t only consist of running on a treadmill, so be creative when coming up with ways to get the heart pumping. Dancing, swimming, and playing a sport are all fun options that will make cardiovascular exercise easier to stick with.

Reveal Chest-Toning Progress by Eating Well & Leaning Down

Another way to reveal stellar pec progress is by taking an inventory of the diet that is being paired with the muscle building routine and making some livable adjustments. Just as with cardio, it isn’t necessary to make drastic changes to eating habits.

Not everyone is looking to become a bodybuilder and limit their breakfast, lunch, and dinner to grilled chicken and brown rice, so if you’re curious about the best way to trim down while exercising. Both weight loss and muscle gain benefit greatly from protein; so, instead of focusing on things to eliminate from meals, strive to add in .7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.

What this will do is satiate hunger and potentially lower cravings for junk food while simultaneously contributing to muscle repair. It’s a win/win and a great way to start when trying to figure out how to lose weight without trying.

The 7 best chest exercises listed above are great not only for beginners, but for anyone looking to tone and build the muscles of their chest. With these exercises and workout programs at your fingertips, chest toning is achievable with enough determination and persistence so get started today to get the chest of your dreams.


References

1Solan, M. (2019, February 18). The rise of push-ups: A classic exercise that can help you get stronger. Harvard Health. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from <https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/rise-push-ups-classic-exercise-can-motivate-get-stronger-2019021810165>

2Kreher, J. B., & Schwartz, J. B. (2012, March). Overtraining Syndrome – PMC. NCBI. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/>

3Maresh, C. M. (2010, December 1). Testosterone physiology in resistance exercise and training: the up-stream regulatory elements. PubMed. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21058750/>

4Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018, December 14). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men. NCBI. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6303131/>

5Israetel, M. (2022). Chest (Pecs) Growth Training Tips. Renaissance Periodization. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from <https://rpstrength.com/chest-training-tips-hypertrophy/>

6Lopez, P., Radaelli, R., Taaffee, D., Newton, R. U., Galvao, D. A., Trajano, G. S., Teodoro, J. L., Kraemer, W. J., Hakkinen, K., & Pinto, R. S. (2021, June). Resistance Training Load Effects on Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Gain: Systematic Review and Network Meta-analysis. NCBI. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8126497/>

7Marissa Arnone. “MY CRAZY CHEST TRANSFORMATION | How I Went From A Cup to C Cup Through Nutrition and Exercise.” YouTube, 7 January 2021. Accessed 14 April 2023. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPQufskrm08>

8Hunter Hobbs. “My 3 Month Body Transformation Time-lapse (202lbs-160lbs).” YouTube, 15 April 2018. Accessed 14 April 2023. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4-QpckHfNo>

9Nimeshaa. “Natural Chest Lift? || I did GetFitByViana chest workouts.” YouTube, 7 October 2021. Accessed 14 April 2023. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNHfs9ApgsY>

About the Author

Nathan Petitpas

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.