THE CHEST IS a muscle group that takes up a great deal of attention for physique-minded guys. If you pause a moment to think about why, you won’t need long to figure out the appeal of chest-pumping workouts. The anatomical position of the muscle group is the answer. Your chest muscles sit at the top of your torso on the front side of your body, making it one of the first physical features anyone looking at you is likely to notice. Whether you’re checking out your own reflection in the mirror or being clocked by a stranger when you walk into a party wearing a tight-fitting t-shirt, you lead with your chest.
Some exercisers that are more focused on functional fitness than aesthetic goals might downplay the importance of training to target the chest muscles—but that’s a shortsighted mistake. While it’s undeniable that building muscle to achieve a certain type of physique ideal can be a major driver behind chest development, the muscle group is also essential for healthy movement in its own right. That’s due to the functions of the pectoral muscles, which help to move your arms.
Still, some exercisers approach chest training with a very narrow approach. The International Chest Day model, which consists of a barbell bench press and little else, doesn’t give you a chance for a fully diversified chest workout. There should be much more to your chest muscle workouts than stacking plates onto a barbell and pressing into infinity—that can be a recipe for major problems down the line.
But anyone who wants to train for a balanced, healthy physique will understand that you need to train smart, not like a meathead (at least not all the time). There are more exercises that you should do to target your chest muscles. Variety is a major key for muscle adaptation, so you’ll want to use different types of equipment and techniques to challenge your chest to help it grow.
You can build out a new plan using some of these exercises, which will spur muscle growth and help you to build strength. First, though, it helps to understand the muscle group before you pick up a weight.
What Are Your Chest Muscles
A chest is a muscle group you might have heard referred to by one catchall name: the pectorals, a.k.a. the pecs. There are actually two muscles that make up your pecs, the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.
The pectoralis major is larger, as the name implies, and is superior (or located above) to the pectoralis minor, is smaller and located below the pec major. The pec major is tasked with adduction of the arm (movement in toward the body) and rotation of the arm forward, along with assisting other muscles in pulling the trunk up when your arms are above your head. The pec minor helps to move your ribs and shoulders.
The serratus anterior and subclavius are also chest muscles, which rotate the scapula and anchor and depress the clavicle, respectively.
The Benefits of Training Your Chest Muscles
Your chest is a fairly large muscle group, so you’d be hard-pressed to ignore it. Still, the benefits of chest training are important to keep in mind: Not only will a well-developed chest have aesthetic benefits in terms of how your shirts fit and how you’ll look without one, but you’ll also see postural benefits (just make sure to balance out your chest day with back training, too). You’ll also be stronger anytime you need to push or swing using your arms.
Common Chest Workout Mistakes to Avoid
Too Much Bench Press
Poor Bench Press Form
Poor Incline Press Form
Make sure you don’t just focus on bench presses. You should also aim to use exercises that hit the other functions of your chest, like arm adduction, and allow you to emphasize the squeeze. When you do bench, however, listen to MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel and make sure that you don’t flare your elbows. When you take on another common exercise, the incline press, keep your forearms perpendicular to the floor so that you can keep the focus on your upper chest muscles and avoid shoulder issues. Finally, make sure that as much as you target your chest muscles, you also train opposing muscle groups. Your back needs attention too, both for better function and a balanced physique.
How to Train Your Chest Muscles
You can train your chest at home or in a pinch with bodyweight moves like pushup variations, feature chest-centric movements in broader full-body workouts to spread the workload, and if you feel like you’re lagging, even ramp up the volume beyond the Monday standard with multiple sessions dedicated to chest in a week.
There’s a whole treasure trove full of workouts and exercises to be uncovered to blast the chest that can sculpt your pecs and push your upper body training days to the next level. Just remember, if your goal is to build chest muscle, you should aim to work using the right protocols for hypertrophy, with the most efficient rep schemes and rest periods. Likewise, you’ll need to be eating right to gain muscle.
Here are some of the best chest exercises to do just that. Choose two or three to work into your routine, and for best results, rotate in new movements every 3 or 4 weeks. Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with a big bench for your chest—as long as your workout doesn’t start and end there
The Chest-Building Exercises
Sure, we just talked about branching out beyond the bench press. But you can’t avoid the exercise if you’re serious about training—or even if you just step foot into any typical strength facility in the world. The move is standard for a reason: it works. Let’s break it down with dumbbells for some variety.
How to Do It:
This hypertrophy method means you’re more focused on building muscle than pressing max weight, so keep your butt on the bench, with your feet flat on the floor and your glutes and core engaged. You should also drive your shoulder blades down into the bench.
Lift your dumbbells up, squeezing the handles tightly. Once your back is on the bench, don’t just hold the weights with your elbows parallel to your shoulders.
Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to help to keep your shoulders safe.
Squeeze your chest to drive the weight up, then lower under control under the same path to just above your chest.
Drive back up to hit another rep.
Dumbbell Chest Fly
One of the absolute go-to chest exercises, the chest fly is all about creating tension through the movement. Your goal is not to flap your arms like a bird to take flight like the name suggests—squeezing is the name of the game here. That means you’ll probably use less weight than you might expect.
How to Do It:
Lie on a flat bench, gripping dumbbells in each hand.
Press the weights up above your chest, keeping them from touching, with your pinkies turned slightly inward. Maintain full body tension on the bench.
Lower your arms down moving only at your shoulders, keeping a slight elbow bend. Only go as deep as your shoulder mobility allows.
Squeeze your shoulder blades to raise the weight back up to the starting position, and emphasize the squeeze in your chest at the top.
You’ve done pushups a million times before, and if you want a well-rounded workout, you’ll keep at it until you’ve done them a million more times. You can’t do a more basic exercise to train your chest, so make sure you’re doing them properly.
How to Do It:
Get into a high plank position with your weight on your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your feet close together, keeping a straight spine with your core and glutes squeezed. Keep your gaze down to keep your neck in a neutral position.
Lower your chest down to the floor, keeping your elbows close to your torso and not flaring them out.
Push straight off the ground all the way up to the top position with your elbows straight.
Dumbbell Floor Press
No bench? No problem. Take your dumbbell press to the floor for a shoulder-safe chest pump. This is another excellent option for building up your chest with home workouts since all you’ll need are some weights and some space to spread out.
How to Do It:
Lie back on the floor gripping a pair of dumbbells tightly.
Keep your feet flat on the floor, driving with your heels and squeezing your glutes. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle relative to your torso to keep your shoulders safe.
Press the dumbbells up and squeeze your chest at the top position. Lower back with control, allowing your elbows to rest briefly on the ground.
Band Chest Fly
For a great warmup before a chest workout or a killer burnout to finish one, try out the band chest fly. The move isn’t much different than its big brother, the cable fly (more on that below) or the dumbbell fly, but the use of exercise bands makes it more accessible, and potentially another exercise you can do at home. “This exercise can be an extremely effective single or double arm exercise increasing hypertrophy and muscular endurance (providing that pump) without putting the amount of stress on the shoulder joints that a chest fly with a dumbbell would,” says athlete performance and development specialist Curtis Shannon, C.S.C.S.
“I like programming it as an accessory, warmup/priming, filler, or finisher lift. It can also be programmed with a global lower and upper-body pull exercise, such as a deadlift or bent-over row. Or simply use it as a “beach day” workout exercise that focuses on high volume for that “pump”.”
How to Do It:
Attach two bands to a stable base, like a power rack or tower. Grab the ends of the bands in each hand, wrapping around your palms.
Stand in a staggered stance in the middle of the station. Your arms should be outstretched but slightly bent. Lean forward slightly at your hips and avoid rounding your back.
Without changing the bend in your arms, bring your hands together. Slowly reverse the movement, keeping the bands controlled.
Take the bench fly, then add an idea from the floor press to hit your chest muscles in a shoulder-safe manner. You’ll also challenge your glutes and abs too since you’ll be challenged to hold a difficult position.
How to Do It:
Sit on the edge of a horizontally oriented weight bench, and place a set of dumbbells on your lap.
Kick the weights back, shift your shoulder blades onto the bench, and press the weights straight up. Drive your shoulders into the bench to “set” them, then squeeze your glutes and abs to form a bridge shape with your feet planted on the ground.
Open your arms to lower your elbows down to the bench, forming the shape of the letter T. Focus on the eccentric portion of the movement, taking 3 to 4 seconds to lower.
Then, squeeze your chest to fly the weights back up.
Source – MensHealth