8 Best Isolation Chest Exercises for Sculpting Your Pecs

Isolation Chest Exercises

Almost every professional bodybuilder who has an incredible chest portion highly focuses on performing isolation exercises.

Isolation exercises primarily focus on one muscle at a time, helping you bolster your fundamental strength, improve your form, and provide the same results as the compound lifts1 Paoli, Antonio et al. “Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength.” Frontiers in Physiology vol. 8 1105. 22 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.01105, 2 Gentil, Paulo et al. “Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy.” Asian Journal of Sports Medicine vol. 6,2 (2015): e24057. doi:10.5812/asjsm.24057.

They are also safe, effective, and great for improving strength imbalance and bringing out the best shape.

In this article, I’ve shared the eight most effective isolation chest exercises that can help you build muscular, jacked, and proportional pecs.

Whether you’re starting out or lifting for a while, you can integrate these exercises into your training program to grow your chest muscles and improve your torso aesthetics.

8 Best Isolation Chest Exercises to Build Proportional Pecs


  1. Seated Pec Deck Fly
  2. Seated Chest Press
  3. Hammer Strength Press
  4. High Cable Crossover
  5. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
  6. Incline Dumbbell Press
  7. Low Cable Crossover
  8. Incline Cable Fly

1. Seated Pec Deck Fly

Seated Pec Deck Fly, an isolation chest exercise.

The Pec Deck Fly is a gym machine exercise that strengthens and shapes your pectoral muscles and improves your torso strength and appearance.

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Butterfly/Pec Deck Machine
  • Difficulty Level: Beginners
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Focus Area: Overall Chest

Steps to Perform

  1. Select the desired weight and adjust the machine handles at an appropriate height.
  2. Sit on the machine with your chest up and grab the handles firmly with a neutral grip.
  3. Squeezing your pecs, bring your arms toward each other until they are aligned with your pecs.
  4. Return to the start and repeat for the desired reps.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Keep your elbows slightly bent and your back resting against the pad.
  • Perform each rep in a controlled fashion to feel the full contraction

2. Seated Machine Chest Press

Seated Machine Chest Press

The seated machine press allows you to hit your chest muscles in a safe and effective way and helps you build strength and muscularity. It also enhances your ability to push heavy loads against your body and scale your bench press performance. 3 Muyor, José M et al. “Comparison of Muscle Activity between the Horizontal Bench Press and the Seated Chest Press Exercises Using Several Grips.” Journal of Human Kinetics vol. 87 23-34. 20 Apr. 2023, doi:10.5114/jhk/161468

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Seated Chest Press Machine
  • Difficulty Level: Suitable for Beginners
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 4 sets of 10-20 reps
  • Focus Area: Entire Pectoral Region

Steps to Perform

  1. Select the weight proper weight and sit on the machine with your back resting on it.
  2. Grasp the handles firmly with an overhand grip and hold your trunk upright.
  3. Feeling the contraction in your pecs, press the weight forward until your arms are straight.
  4. Return the handles to the start and go for the next reps.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Exhale as you push the handles forward, and breathe out as you complete pressing.
  • Avoid full extension of your arms by keeping your elbows a bit bent.

3. Hammer Strength Chest Press

The hammer machine is slightly leaned backward, unlike the seated machine, which is vertical. The inclination angle of the hammer machine puts more stress on the upper pectoral muscles, and pairing it with a horizontal press can help you develop perfect pecs.

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Hammer Strength Machine
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner Friendly
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 4 sets of 10-20 reps
  • Focus Area: Upper Pecs

Steps to Perform

  1. Put the plates in the machine and sit on the machine with your back lying on it.
  2. Grab the handles with an overhand grip, brace your core, and keep your chest up.
  3. Push the weight against your body until you feel the full contraction in your chest.
  4. After a brief pause, return to the start and go for the next reps.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Keep your core tight and inhale before pushing the weight.
  • Maintain a soft bend in your elbows.

4. High Cable Crossover

Isolated Pec Exercise

The high cable crossover keeps your pectoral muscles under constant tension and elicits maximum concentration.

From Lou Ferrigno to Phil Health, many bodybuilders use this exercise to bring out their chest muscles and definition.

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Cable Pulley Machine
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Focus Area: Upper Chest

Steps to Perform

  1. Set the pulley at a proper height, usually in line with your head.
  2. Grab the handles, take a step forward, and stand in the split stance.
  3. Slightly lean forward, brace your abdominals, and maintain a neutral spine.
  4. Squeezing your pectorals, bring your arms against your chest until your hands cross each other.
  5. Pause for two seconds, then return to the start and repeat.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Maintain a soft bend in your elbows throughout the movement.
  • Focus on squeezing your chest at the midpoint.

5. Dumbbell Squeeze Press

Isolation chest wokout

The squeeze press is a great way to highly stimulate the pectoral area and helps improve the build of a defined and symmetrical chest. You can do it as a finisher exercise on your chest day to get more out of it.

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells and a Adjustable Bench
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Focus Area: Entire Chest

Steps to Perform

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip and lie on a flat or incline bench.
  2. Keep your elbows bent and close to the body with the dumbbells hovered over your chest, palms facing each other. That’s the start.
  3. Contracting your chest, press the dumbbells up until your arms are straight.
  4. Pause for a brief moment, then return to the start and go for the next repetitions.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Use a flat bench to hit the overall pecs, incline to target the upper area, and decline to engage the lower part.
  • Perform at the end of the workout to give your chest day a nice pump.

6. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

The incline bench press is the best isolation workout to highly engage the bust muscles and helps develop a strong and sculpted upper chest while working on your anterior delt and triceps as well.4 Rodríguez-Ridao, David et al. “Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health vol. 17,19 7339. 8 Oct. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17197339

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells and a Adjustable Bench
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
  • Focus Area: Top Pectoral Muscles

Steps to Perform

  1. Holding a pair of dumbbells, lie on a 30-degree incline bench.
  2. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, elbows bent, and palms pointing forward.
  3. Brace your abdominal muscles and push the dumbbells upward until your pecs are engaged.
  4. Feel the contraction for two seconds, then return to the start.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Press and lower the dumbbells in a controlled fashion so you can feel the maximum contraction.
  • Avoid your elbows flaring out too much because it can place unnecessary stress on your shoulder joints.

7. Low Cable Crossover

Low Cable Crossover, an isolated pecs workout

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Cable Pulley Machine
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Focus Area: Upper Pecs

Steps to Perform

  1. Set the pulley to a lower section, usually at your ankle height.
  2. Grasp the handles, take a step forward, and stand upright in the staggered stance.
  3. Keeping your elbows close to your body, lift your arms up until you feel a good contraction in your chest.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Squeeze your chest muscles together throughout the ascending phase.
  • Hold your abdominals tight so you can properly engage the targeted area.

8. Incline Cable Fly

The incline cable fly is a great isolation exercise to stimulate chest growth and improve muscle definition. The cable machine provides better stability and control than dumbbells, allowing you to hit your inner and upper chest effectively.

About Exercise

  • Equipment Needed: Cable Pulley Machine and an Adjustable Bench
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Optimal Reps and Sets: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Focus Area: Top Pectoral Area

Steps to Perform

  1. Set the pulley to a lower section and attach D-handles.
  2. Position the bench in the center of the machine so both ends are equally apart.
  3. Lie on the bench and grab the handles firmly.
  4. Keep your feet grounded and your abs tight. That’s the start.
  5. Maintaining a soft bend in your elbows, pull the handles until your hands are over your pecs.
  6. Feel the squeeze for two seconds, then return to the start and repeat.

Tips and Mistakes

  • Start with light weight, focus on muscle engagement, and perform each rep in a steady fashion.

References

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Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. For the last six years, I’ve been working and training with people who use all sorts of equipment and follow multiple types of workouts, from calisthenics to powerlifting. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you become stronger, flexible, and healthier.

About Me

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. For the last six years, I’ve been working and training with people who use all sorts of equipment and follow multiple types of workouts, from calisthenics to powerlifting. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you become stronger, flexible, and healthier.

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