Call it functional or call it vanity, having a big, strong chest is a goal for most people who work out, whether you do CrossFit or not.
Having a strong chest can make you a better CrossFitter and also give you the “sought after” look most gym-goers (at least guys) want.
It’s a common misconception that CrossFitters don’t train their chest muscles.
This rumor spread because, originally, it was thought that CrossFit did not consider the bench press a “functional” exercise.
Gym bros across the world took to the internet to let everyone know that CrossFitters, and their tiny pectoral muscles, should not be taken seriously.
But those days are gone. CrossFit featured the bench press in this year’s regionals. Plus, having a big, strong chest isn’t just about bench press. There are plenty of great CrossFit workouts and exercises that will help you build up pectoral muscles.
Here’s a look at the best CrossFit chest workouts, best chest exercises, and depending on your goals, how you might add them into your training.
What Are The Best Crossfit Chest Workouts?
Depending on your goals, there are different chest workout “schemes” you can follow.
If your goal is to improve 1RM strength in a lift like the bench press, focus on low rep, high weight rep schemes. To increase muscle hypertrophy, use medium reps (6-12) at a moderate to heavy weight. Try to add a little bit of weight each week and keep the same rep/set scheme for 4-6 weeks.
CrossFit chest workouts are a bit more varied. Some specific to CrossFit include:
- AMRAPs- Add a chest exercise below like the push-up or muscle-up to a 10 or 15-minute AMRAP. Cycle through as many rounds as you can in that time.
- EMOMs- A good scheme for chest exercises because you can time your rest between sets. Even the bench press fits in nicely here.
- Hero WODs and Chippers– Known to be long and grueling, many of CrossFit’s hardest challenges use push-ups, muscle-ups, and other chest exercises.
- Supersets- Do a heavy compound chest exercise (like the bench press) for 4-6 reps. Immediately after, do an accessory exercise (perhaps tricep or bicep related) for 10-15 reps.
Related: Floor Press – Benefits, Technique, and Muscles Worked
Best Chest Exercises In CrossFit
Because CrossFit emphasizes functional movements, I’ve omitted some of the standard “bodybuilding” chest exercises like flies and pullovers.
1. Standard Push-Ups (And Variations)
There’s nothing more functional than being able to push yourself off the ground. Push-ups are simple, but they never go out of style.
To standardize the movement (and make them more difficult), CrossFit introduced the hand release push-up a few years back.
When To Use: EMOMs, AMRAPs, Hero WODs, Chippers, accessory work
2. Ring Push-Ups
Even if you can do 50 push-ups without breaking a sweat, ring push-ups get incredibly taxing quickly.
Probably better used in a more controlled setting instead of a high-intensity CrossFit WOD due to the long recovery period after hitting failure.
When To Use: EMOMs, skill work, accessory work
3. Bench Press
No longer considered a swear word in the CrossFit community, the bench press is the quintessential exercise for growing chest muscles.
Some metcons like Linda use it, but if your goal is strength and size, it’s probably better off being used in a strength program.
When To Use: strength training, muscle growth, accessory work
4. Dips (Ring, Bar And Weighted)
Believe it or not, dips are about as good an exercise for building a big chest as the bench press is.
You’ll find ring dips in some CrossFit workouts (like the classic Elizabeth WOD).
Keep in mind, there’s a difference between ring dips in a WOD and ring, dips on a bar or weighted dips for strength training. In a WOD, your goal is efficiency.
Kipping ring dips are encouraged. For strength training, use them as accessory work or go with heavy dips using a weight belt.
When To Use: accessory work, hypertrophy, strength training, any CrossFit-style workout
The muscle-up is one of a handful of movements that CrossFit has made famous in the fitness world. Classics like Nasty Girls to hero WODS like Nate, you don’t have to look hard to find them.
They are a great exercise for developing your chest muscles, among other things.
If you need some motivation, check out this 30-muscle ups for time workout from the 2018 CrossFit games. 29 straight muscle ups is no joke!
And if you can’t do a muscle up yet, you can still strengthen your chest muscles using a muscle-up progression.
When To Use: EMOMs, AMRAPs, Hero WODs, Chippers, accessory work
Chest Workouts Benefits
Having a big, strong chest will carry over into several other lifts and exercises in CrossFit. Your overhead press,
Because training chest also means training triceps, any movement that involves pressing, dipping, or locking out the bar (the snatch or jerk, for example), will improve from having strong chest muscles.
And because most of us aren’t afraid to admit that at least some of the reason we work out is to look good, a strong chest is one of the most easily visible signs that someone hits the gym.
How Often Do You Need to Train Your Chest?
Because CrossFit is about highly varied functional movements, it’s hard to say exactly how often an athlete should train one muscle group.
If you were to ask Greg Glassman, he’d probably say something along the lines of, “The point is to be prepared to do it every day“. That’s not to say do it everyday. Just be prepared to.
Still, here are some general guidelines to follow for your chest workouts:
If your goal is to increase total strength and add muscle in your chest, you should train chest no more than 2x a week.
This gives your body time to grow from your hard work. Design your own strength program or pick a classic like Wendler 5/3/1.
If your goal is to simply be a strong, well rounded CrossFit athlete, constantly vary chest exercises throughout the week.
Just mix the intensity– high one day, medium the next, light or dynamic on the third. As long as you aren’t pushing failure on push-ups, muscle-ups, and bench presses back to back to back, it should be fine.
CrossFit & Chest Workouts: Wrap-Up
A strong chest is functional. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Plus, having a strong chest is a telltale sign to others that you’ve been working hard in the gym.
Use the exercises and schemes in this guide as a starting point for chest work in your training.
CrossFit is known for not specializing in any one type of fitness, but if your goal is to have a bigger, stronger chest, there is a place in your program for it.