If you follow bodybuilding at all, you know the phrase “international chest day,” which is associated with Mondays. The chest is central to all gym goers, new or veteran, due to its impact on aesthetics and overall performance. Big pecs look great when paired with a set of chiseled abs.
For competitive bodybuilders, the chest should be large, full and have quality definition. What they bench is not a factor on stage in front of the judges. Many of the greatest bodybuilders of the past and present have built their legacies on developing their chests. Others may not be as well known, but the quality of their pecs makes them worthy of recognition.
These 10 people would run the gamut if there was ever a “best chest” competition in men’s professional bodybuilding:
There’s a reason this man is considered one of, if not the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Schwarzenegger had several body parts that could be counted among the best ever, but his signature muscle group was definitely his chest. At the height of his Mr. Olympia reign, Schwarzenegger’s upper torso would have been 57 inches in circumference.
Part of the reason for his upper pecs was due to his competitiveness Origins of weightlifting. According to Schwarzenegger himself, his best bench press of all time weighed 525 pounds. That kind of strength requires serious muscle, which the Austrian Oak had in spades.
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Once Schwarzenegger focused on muscle building, he matched this size with detail and definition. No contestant who shared the stage with him was able to hold his own on the side chest or most muscular pose. Some might have been bigger, some more ripped, but no one had the combination to defeat Arnold in his prime.
One of the biggest chests in bodybuilding history belonged to the late great Franco Columbus. Columbu was actually a four-sport athlete, having won titles in boxing, powerlifting, bodybuilding and competing in the inaugural World’s Strongest Man in 1977.
Columbu’s chest was distinguished by the prominent ridges that ran through the middle. No bodybuilder showed the separation the 5’5″ bodybuilder had when he took the stage. He also displayed unprecedented thickness when standing sideways.
Like Schwarzenegger, Columbu was a proponent of the basic bench press, incline bench press, dips, and flyes. He would retire with two Mr. Olympia titles (1976 and 1981), so his results were worth the effort he put into the gym.
It was hard to miss Lou Ferrigno when he stepped onto a bodybuilding stage. Standing at 6’5″ and weighing 270 pounds in his youth, Ferrigno was usually the tallest man on stage. His chest was full and dense. Knowing that many of the men he faced lacked upper chest development, he focused more on incline movements to develop his pecs. Although he never won the Olympia title from Schwarzenegger, his physique helped him earn the role of the original Incredible Hulk.
After a hiatus from bodybuilding, Ferrigno would return to competition in 1992 even bigger than before. To maximize quality, he focused on less weight and better contractions when training. The result was that he competed at around 300 pounds on stage at the Olympia shows of 1992 and 1993. He never beat champion Dorian Yates for the title, but Ferrigno undoubtedly fought his way into the bodybuilding history books.
French competitor Serge Nubret was crowned the world’s most muscular man in a contest in 1960. He also won the prestigious Mr. Universe title in 1976. The “Black Panther” was best known for his incredible abs, but his chest was also a standout feature of his aesthetically pleasing and symmetrical physique.
Nubret played minor roles in several films and he was featured in the documentary film “Pumping Iron” as one of Schwarzenegger’s top suitors. Although he never won the Olympia, he maintained his slim and defined look throughout his life, even being asked to pose at a show in France in 2003 at the age of 65. Nubret died in 2011 at the age of 72 of natural causes.
Strydom was a top contender in the 1980s and 1990s. He is best known for being Vince McMahon’s only champion World Bodybuilding Federation. (WBF) Strydom burst onto the scene as the National Physique Committee (NPC) National Champion in 1986 before competing on the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) professional circuit. He won four shows in the IFBB Pro League before moving to the WBF.
Thanks to Strydom’s overall size, including his massive ripped chest, he won the 1991 and 1992 WBF Championships. After the WBF fell, he returned in 1996 and 2006 but never won another show.
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The South African competitor credited the combination of free weights and machines for his exceptional chest development. The incredible definition he revealed made Strydom’s chest even more impressive. Although he has never won any major titles outside of his WBF run, no list depicting the best bodybuilding chests could be complete without his inclusion.
Roy Callendar is best known for bodybuilding, but he also had a short career in professional wrestling. He wrestled under his own name and under the nickname “Mr. Universe.” Whether in the ring or on stage, Callendar’s chest stood out. His pecs were a big reason he won the Canadian Championship in 1977 and the IFBB Pro Universe title in 1978.
He finished third at the Mr. Olympia the same year. The champion was Frank Zane. He never got closer to Olympia, but he won four more competitions before retiring in 1987.
When debating who could be considered the greatest bodybuilder of all time, Ronnie Coleman is still in the conversation. He laid the foundation for the physique he created in powerlifting after college. He saw many benefits from training heavy, which is part of why he’s famous for pressing a 500-pound bench for reps and working with 200-pound dumbbells on both flat and incline benches.
From 1998 to 2005, Coleman dominated the sport, winning eight Mr. Olympia titles in a row. More often than not, the show was over as soon as he faced the judges thanks to his superior chest development.
When it comes to of the current crop of stars in the bodybuilding world, few have the combination of shape and size like the 2019 Mr. Olympia. Brandon Curry enjoys using both machines and free weights to train his chest. He focuses more on muscle contraction than using a full range of motion, which has paid off tremendously for him.
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His incredible upper body development led to him being named one of the top two bodybuilders in the world for three consecutive years. After winning the Sandow in 2019, Curry finished in second place at the 2020 and 2021 Mr. Olympia contests.
the The 2021 212 Olympia champion had been in the conversation regarding the best pecs in the sport since his professional debut in 2017. The Indiana native’s chest is a truly standout piece of an already well-developed physique.
From the side chest to the most muscular pose, Lunsford’s chest is wide and full. Vascularity and definition are visible when he contracts his muscles. Fans have speculated if he will move up to the Open Division now that he has won the 212 Olympia title. If he does, his chest may improve even more as a result.
the The Classic Physique division is closely associated with Chris Bumstead, but there are other stars who have incredible characteristics to show off. One of them is Wesley Vissers, and his chest would be on par with any competitor in any division.
The details of his pecs can be seen in every pose he strikes, and the density of the muscle is an indicator that he trains hard and with purpose. The 2019 Romania Muscle Fest Pro winner still has some work to do if he wants to make it to the elite on the Olympic stage, but everything he does on chest day has worked.
The power of the Pécs
A balanced and well-developed physique requires you to pay attention to every muscle in your body. If something is late, it shows on stage. Conversely, going the extra mile to elevate a certain muscle or muscle group can help give you an iconic look.
Athletes like Ferrigno, Curry, and Schwarzenegger—among the others on this list—prove that making your chest the centerpiece of your physique sets you apart from the pack. If you can balance a can of beer on your pec shelf, you’re sure to leave behind a legacy of greatness.
Featured image: @arnoldschwarzeneggerpics on Instagram