Working out for a better chest means working out for a bigger, stronger chest. Whether you play sports, want to increase your bench press max or simply want to look better, there are numerous benefits for a better, stronger chest.
Sport benefits. All types of throwing motions, a tennis serve, pushing off in football and setting picks in basketball are all examples of how working out for a better chest can give you an extra boost in sports.
A better bench. One of the most asked questions, especially for guys who work out, is, “How much do you bench?” A bigger chest can give you a bigger answer.
A better look. The chest muscles are composed of 2 muscle groups: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. In most chest exercises, you are also targeting your triceps and anterior deltoids (or the muscles on the front of the shoulder). A bigger chest leads to bigger triceps and shoulders, which in turn widens the top of your body. This can easily create the illusion of a thinner waistline and the coveted “V” shape most men desire. For women a stronger chest can help control bust size and give a more toned, athletic look.
If you really want to work out for a better chest, you need a plan. There is so much more than just hopping onto a bench and slinging weight up and down. The chest muscles and the two groups mentioned previously have inner, outer, upper, middle, and lower parts to them – and they all need attention.
Start with a warmup. Pushups may just be the best upper body exercise known to man, and they are awesome for warming up the chest muscles. Pushups are safe, effective, and because of the number of different variations, you could develop an entire chest program using just pushups. In this workout, pushups are going to be the warmup.
Regular pushups are the building blocks of all other variations. Nail the fundamentals of this classic move, and you’ll be set free to progress and alter variations.
Begin with your shoulders lined up over your hands. Maintain a straight line with your body from your feet to your head. Slower lower down until just before your chest hits the ground (about a fist height away) and return to the starting position. Do 12, 10, and 8 reps – all within 2 minutes, resting in between. Do the same thing with a wide-grip position, where your hands are just wider than your shoulders. Finish with a close-grip diamond position, where you place your hands together in the shape of a diamond. Working and warming up the chest in these three positions will target the middle, outer and inner muscles of the chest, prevent injury, and prepare you for the upcoming exercises.
Work all areas of the chest. Just like with the pushups, your resistance and strength training for the chest should focus on the middle, outer and inner areas of the chest. The upper and lower areas should also be given attention.
A regular, flat-bench chest press will target the middle chest muscles. This can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells. Begin with barbells, and use weights and repetitions based on your goals. Higher reps and lower weights will aid in muscular endurance. Reps and weights in the 12-16 range will add hypertrophy to the muscle, and reps in the 5-8 range will add pure strength and size.
The incline bench press will target the upper chest muscles, while the decline bench press will target the lower chest muscles. A close grip bench press will work the middle chest muscles.
Chest flys and cable crossovers are awesome for working the outside of the chest muscles and adding definition.
As you progress and get stronger, mix it up with dumbbell bench presses. These can also be performed on a stability ball to work the core as you train the chest. Keep adding reps to your pushup warmups, as well, and you will build muscle on top of muscle.
Tips for success.
1. Always use a spotter. Preventing injuries is always the smartest approach.
- After a warmup and after a workout, stretch. As you workout the chest, it is going to get tight, which can pull and round your shoulders forward, making you appear hunched over. Try a doorway stretch to avoid this: bend your arms 90 degrees and place your forearms against a door frame. Stagger your feet slightly and push your shoulders forward until you feel slight tension in your chest. Hold for 20 seconds.
- Work the antagonist muscles. If you are spending a lot of time building a better chest, be sure to pay attention to the muscles of the upper and middle back to avoid muscle imbalances. A row should work nicely.
- To really get the most out of your workouts, don’t allow your muscles time to fully recover, and they’ll learn to withstand fatigue better. As a result, over time you’ll improve your ability to churn out more repetitions. That means more muscle.
- Keep in mind that the previous tip refers to working fatigued muscles during a workout. Always allow adequate rest periods between workouts. Once your muscles are fully recovered, dive back into the workout. Increase the weight as you get stronger and enjoy working out for a better chest!