If you follow bodybuilding at all, then you’re familiar with the phrase “international chest day,” which is associated with Mondays. The chest is a focus of every gymgoer, novice or veteran alike, because of its impact on aesthetics and overall performance. Big pecs look great when paired with a set of chiseled abs, as well.
For competitive bodybuilders, the chest has to look wide, full, and have quality definition. What they bench is no factor on stage in front of the judges. Many of the greatest bodybuilders of the past and present built their legacies on their chest development. Others may not be as well-known, but the quality of their pecs makes them worth acknowledging.
These 10 individuals would make quite the lineup if there was ever a “best chest” competition in men’s professional bodybuilding:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Franco Columbu
- Lou Ferrigno
- Serge Nubret
- Gary Strydom
- Roy Callendar
- Ronnie Coleman
- Brandon Curry
- Derek Lundsford
- Wesley Vissers
There is a reason that 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 undoubtedly his chest. At the peak of his Mr. Olympia reign, Schwarzenegger’s upper torso was reportedly 57 inches in circumference.
Part of the reason for his superior pecs was due to his competitive origins in powerlifting. According to Schwarzenegger himself, his best all-time bench press was 525 pounds. That kind of strength requires serious muscle, something the Austrian Oak had in spades.
View this post on Instagram
[Related: The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Own Bodybuilding Workout Plan]
Once Schwarzenegger focused on bodybuilding, he matched that size with detail and definition. No competitor that shared the stage with him was able to hold his own on the side chest pose or the most muscular. Some may have been bigger, others may have been more ripped, but no one had the combination to defeat Arnold at his peak.
One of the greatest chests in bodybuilding history belonged to the late great Franco Columbu. 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 stood out because of the prominent striations that went across the middle. No bodybuilder has shown the separation that the 5’5″ bodybuilder had when he took to the stage. He also displayed unparalleled thickness when he stood to the side.
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 tall at 6’5″ and weighing 270 pounds in his younger years, Ferrigno was usually the biggest man on stage. His chest was full and dense. Knowing that many men he faced lacked upper chest development, he focused more on incline movements to develop his pecs. While he never won the Olympia title from Schwarzenegger, his physique did help 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 he trained. The result was him competing at around 300 pounds onstage at both the 1992 and 1993 Olympia shows. He never defeated champion Dorian Yates for the title, but Ferrigno undoubtedly smashed his way into the history books of bodybuilding.
French competitor Serge Nubret was crowned the World’s Most Muscular Man at a competition 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 on his aesthetic, 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 contenders. While he never won the Olympia, he maintained his lean and defined look throughout his life, even guest posing at a show in France in 2003 at the age of 65. Nubret passed away in 2011 at the age of 72 to natural causes.
Strydom was a prominent competitor during the 1980s and 1990s. He’s most known for being the only champion of Vince McMahon’s World Bodybuilding Federation. (WBF) Strydom burst onto the scene as the 1986 National Physique Committee (NPC) National Champion before competing in the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro circuit. He won four shows in the IFBB Pro League before switching to the WBF.
Thanks to Strydom’s overall size, including his huge and ripped chest, he won both the 1991 and 1992 WBF championships. After the fall of the WBF, he returned in 1996 and 2006 but never won another show.
[Related: How to Bulk — The Ultimate Guide to Gaining Size]
The South African competitor credited the combination of free weights and machines for his outstanding pec development. The incredible definition he revealed made Strydom’s chest look even more impressive. While he never won major titles outside of his WBF run, no list describing the best chests in bodybuilding could be complete without his inclusion.
Roy Callendar is most famous for bodybuilding, but he also had a short career in professional wrestling. He wrestled under his own name and under the moniker “Mr. Universe.” Whether it was in the ring or on stage, Callendar’s chest stood out. His pecs were a big reason why he won the Canadian Championship in 1977 and the IFBB Pro Universe title in 1978.
He finished third at the Mr. Olympia that same year. The champion was Frank Zane. He never got closer to the Olympia than that, but he won four more contests before retiring in 1987.
When debating who could be considered the greatest bodybuilder to ever live comes up, Ronnie Coleman is always in the conversation. He laid the foundation for the physique he created while powerlifting after college. He saw many benefits to training heavy, which is partly why he’s famous for bench pressing 500 pounds 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 the current crop of stars in the world of bodybuilding, few have the combination of shape and size as the 2019 Mr. Olympia. Brandon Curry likes using both machines and free weights when training his chest. He focuses more on muscular contraction than using a full range of motion, which has paid off for him tremendously.
View this post on Instagram
[Related: The 2022 Olympia Schedule Revealed]
His unbelievable upper body development has led him to being named one of the top two bodybuilders in the world for three years in a row. After winning the Sandow in 2019, Curry finished in second place at both the 2020 and 2021 Mr. Olympia contests.
The 2021 Olympia 212 Champion had been in the conversation regarding the best pecs in the sport ever since his pro debut in 2017. The Indiana native’s chest is a truly standout element of an already well-developed physique.
View this post on Instagram
Whether it’s the side chest or most muscular pose, Lunsford’s chest is large and full. Vascularity and definition can be seen 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, then his chest may improve even more as a result.
The Classic Physique division is closely associated with Chris Bumstead, but there are other stars that have incredible features to show off. One of them is Wesley Vissers, and his chest would be on par with any competitor in any division.
View this post on Instagram
The details in his pecs can be seen in any pose he hits, and the density of the muscle is an indicator that he trains heavy and with purpose. The 2019 Romania Muscle Fest Pro winner still has work to do if he wants to stand among the elite on the Olympia stage, but whatever he does on chest day has been working.
The Power of Pecs
A balanced, well-developed physique requires you to pay attention to every muscle in your body. If something lags behind, it shows on stage. Conversely, going the extra mile to bring up 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 beer can on your pec shelf, you’re sure to leave a legacy of greatness behind.
Featured Image: @arnoldschwarzeneggerpics on Instagram