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Having a developed chest is a key aspect of bodybuilding. It’s one of the first muscle groups people notice when viewing a physique from the front. A big chest contributes to a tapered appearance, therefore resulting in a more aesthetic physique. Throughout this article, we’ll discuss the bodybuilders with the best chests of all time. Although this is an opinionated topic, these gentlemen are widely regarded for their chest genetics.
We can’t discuss the best chests without mentioning Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any sort of bodybuilding rankings that don’t mention the ‘Austrian Oak’. Arnold’s chest was one of his strongest attributes, measuring an astonishing 57 inches in circumference.
When looking at a bodybuilders chest, the factors to consider are the shape, separation, volume, and density. Ticking all of these boxes will theoretically result in an ideal chest. In the picture above, we can clearly distinguish Arnold had separation in his chest. The volume and density of his chest was apparent through his famous side-chest pose. Lastly, we can tell the shape was ideal because his mass was distributed evenly throughout the chest.
It’s quite fitting that Arnold and Franco are the first two names mentioned on this list because they were best friends and training partners. Franco Columbu was a former Mr. Olympia who was known for his chest. The separation in his chest was unmatched at the time, and even today it’s hard to beat.
Despite being smaller in stature compared to most bodybuilders at the time, Franco had a very balanced physique. The development of his chest, in particular, can be linked to his powerlifting and strongman career. When you’re lifting heavy, you’re contributing to myofibril hypertrophy which is simply an increase in muscle fibrils. An increase in muscle fibrils results in greater muscle density and more development in the impacted area.
Johnnie O. Jackson
Johnnie O. Jackson, aka JOJ, was a prominent bodybuilder throughout the 2000s. Despite never winning a Mr. Olympia title, he’s well regarded for his chest development. In his prime, Jackson’s chest had an ideal shape and a lot of volume.
Have you ever heard of the saying “birds of a feather flock together”? Well, the same thing applies to the bodybuilders with the best chests of all time. It seems like every bodybuilder with a prominent chest trained alongside bodybuilders who also had great chests. Arnold and Franco are a great example of this, but Johnnie O. Jackson is another great example because he trained with Branch Warren.
Overall, JOJ had a successful bodybuilding career. His 57-inch chest was among his best attributes and likely contributed to his five professional wins. He retired in 2017 after winning the Toronto Pro.
Ronnie Coleman shares the record for the most Mr. Olympia wins. Knowing this, it makes sense that he had one of the best chests of all time. Coleman, like others on this list, trained with extreme intensity and emphasized heavy compound lifts. His training encouraged myofibril hypertrophy which ultimately resulted in a 60-inch chest.
There’s no denying Ronnie Coleman’s dominance, but many critics thought he carried too much mass in his chest. If you look at pictures of Coleman in his competition days, you’ll notice that his upper chest was extremely developed. This over-development indirectly created a saggy look – i.e, the mass on his upper pecs weighed down the entire chest.
Regardless of what you think about the appearance of Coleman’s chest, it’s clear that he was leagues ahead of other competitors. The sheer size and volume of his pecs was incomparable for well over a decade.
Markus Ruhl is known as one of the biggest mass monsters in recent bodybuilding history, so it’s no surprise he had a huge chest. Ruhl was better known for his size as opposed to having an aesthetic physique, but he managed to win a couple pro shows throughout his career. His chest measured 59 inches in his prime which was one inch short of the king Ronnie Coleman.
Despite only winning two shows, Markus Ruhl had a dominant upper body. His chest and shoulders, for example, were so developed that they showed separation and striations even in the off-season. Although Markus was much larger, he was comparable to Franco Columbu in terms of separation between the upper and lower pecs.
Branch Warren was a prominent professional bodybuilder from 2001-2015. Although he won several shows throughout this time, his elite years were from 2009 to 2012. In this four year span, he won two Arnold Classics (2011 & 2012), placed runner-up at the Mr. Olympia (2009), and won the British (2011) and Australian Grand Prix (2012).
Generally speaking, Branch Warren had a very balanced physique, but his chest stood out the most. His chest was unique in the sense that he had a lot of vascularity. When conditioned, his upper body had a dry, shredded look that most competitors could not compare to. Warren is known to train with Johnnie O Jackson who also has one of the best chests in bodybuilding.
Prior to the existence of the Mr. Olympia competition, Serge Nubret had one of the best physiques in the world. He was crowned the IFBB World’s Most Muscular Man in 1960 and went on to compete for an incredible 23 years. Nubret had the epitome of a golden era physique, highlighted by his narrow waist and wide shoulders. His chest, however, was arguably most impressive considering the resources available at the time.
If you look at historic photos of Serge Nubret, you’ll notice he’s no where near as massive as the bodybuilders today. To put it simply, this is due to advancements in science, mostly on the grounds of nutrition, exercise science, and endocrinology. Regardless of these advancements, Nubret had phenomenal chest genetics and he’s still praised for them today.
Lou Ferrigno is a former bodybuilder who’s most known for his consecutive Mr. Universe wins in 1973 and 1974. He also played the role of the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk (1977). During this time, Ferrigno stood at 6’5″ and weighed ~300 pounds, so he was truly a massive human being. If it weren’t for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dominance throughout the ’70s, Lou Ferrigno could have won several Mr. Olympia titles.
Ferrigno was considered tall amongst bodybuilders, but he was still proportional given his size. His large frame gave him an advantage in the sense that he could pack on more muscle mass, especially in the upper body. Knowing this, his chest was extremely developed and among his best muscle groups.
Conclusion and Poll Results
Throughout this article, we’ve discussed a handful of bodybuilders that are considered to have the best chests of all time. We did some additional research and found two polls from the Bodybuilding.com forum which total 1204 votes. Both polls rank Arnold Schwarzenegger at the top, followed by Ronnie Coleman.
To recap, the following bodybuilders are considered to have the best chests:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Franco Columbu
- Ronnie Coleman
- Johnnie O. Jackson
- Markus Ruhl
- Branch Warren
- Serge Nubret
- Lou Ferrigno