For a lot of guys who work out, the chest is essentially the holy grail of bodybuilding. It gives the appearance of strength and power and is a must in any great physique. Here are some of the best exercises for chest development.
Even those new to lifting will probably have heard of the bench press. Done correctly, it can improve muscular size and definition in the chest like no other exercise. It also works the shoulders and triceps to a degree, so you should be careful to get the form right and put the emphasis more on the chest. Do this by pulling back your shoulder blades and keeping them in that retracted position throughout the movement. Also try to keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides and not flare them out; as this could put extra pressure on your shoulders and lead to injury. The bench press allows you to use relatively heavy weights so is great for improving strength. Try sets of up to 5 reps or so for more focus on strength, and 8-10 reps if you’re more focused on hypertrophy (building muscle, in other words).
Incline Dumbbell Press
The flat bench, while a great exercise, does not hit all of the muscles in the chest. Your upper chest, where it connects to your clavicle, is more stimulated by benching with a slight incline. This can also be done with a barbell, but can be hard on the shoulders for some people. Using dumbbells also recruits muscles for stabilisation, and ensures that the stronger side of the body cannot take over. It is a great exercise to do after the flat bench, as it ensures that you are hitting the chest from different angles and engaging as many muscle fibres as possible.
The humble push-up is also a great exercise for building your chest and has the benefit of being easy to perform as you don’t need a gym to do it. It can be modified in a variety of ways in order to stress different parts of the chest; such as widening the grip for the outer chest or narrowing it to emphasise the inner chest. It can also be done with your feet on an elevated surface to mimic a decline bench press or with your hands on an elevated surface, making it similar to an incline press. When these variations become too easy add some weight to the exercise. If you don’t have any weight plates you can always fill up some bottles with water and put them in a backpack for added resistance.
Dips are often considered a triceps exercise but done correctly they are an effective exercise for building an impressive chest. The trick is to lean forward at a slight angle and consciously contract your chest through the movement. To minimise triceps involvement you should only go most of the way up and not fully lock out your arms; this will keep the stress on your chest and not your triceps. Once you can do 10 to 12 of these with no problems; you should consider strapping some weights onto a belt for added resistance. If your gym doesn’t have the necessary equipment or you’re doing them from home, you can still make them harder by varying the tempo. Try lowering yourself down more slowly for each rep so you can still use the concept of progressive overload to make muscle gains.
Regular flys can also be a good exercise for the chest; but using the cable machine can enable you to keep your muscles under constant tension, making it a superior exercise. Get a bench and put it in the middle of the cable machine, then take one of the handles in each hand and bring them together above your chest, slowly lowering as you move your hands apart again. This is best done on a slight incline. Again, make sure you are tensing your chest and make sure your pectorals are controlling the movement; keeping your arms slightly bent but not bending them further while you perform the exercise.
So there you have it. These are not the only chest exercises, but they are some of the most effective and it’s no secret that many people stick to just these ones during their workout. If you are looking for the best chest development possible then stick to these as the core of your workout; supplementing it with some other accessory exercises. As long as you hit your chest from a number of different angles, and have a decent diet with enough calories, you should see some muscle gains.