Everyone knows that a large chest, with pecs striated from one end of your rib cage to the other, is a thing of envy and commands respect, inside and outside of the gym. Well developed pectorals fill out any t-shirt, tank top or bikini top for that matter. They are impossible to hide and are a benefit in any sport you practice. Letís face it, for many of us, itís the reason we started weight training to begin with. Now letís figure out what it takes to build a truly awesome chest.
Many of you have been bench pressing for years and only attained mediocre results. Thatís because the flat bench press is a mediocre chest exercise that really only hits the mid to lower portion of the pectorals. The movement is limited and for some, very uncomfortable because it stresses the rotator cuff in the shoulder structure. The few people that have developed decent pecs using the bench press usually had the genetic disposition to do so and probably would have great pecs from doing push-ups as well. For those of us that are average or above average, incline presses are the way to go. Incline presses work a larger portion of the pectoral muscles especially the upper chest which creates a fuller, more powerful appearance. Inclines also stress the shoulder structure to a much lesser degree than flat presses. They can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells.
A barbell will allow you to use more weight and is easier to employ ďcheatĒ reps or forced reps. Use a bar when going heavy and working in the low (5-8) rep range. Dumbbells will allow a more extensive range of motion. You can lower your hands below your pec line, something that a straight bar wouldnít allow you to do. Dumbbells also let you to bring the weights together at the top of the motion so you can contract your pec muscles more intensely. This is hard to do with a bar. Also with dumbbells, you can use Drop Sets, quickly and easily, moving from one weight to the next. There are advantages and disadvantages to both barbell and dumbbell inclines, but they both have a place in your chest training.
Now, the next exercise that will add slabs of meat to your chest is the parallel bar dip. This is truly an awesome compound movement. Choose parallel bars and not ones that angle in or out. The angled positions seem to hurt the wrist, elbows and shoulders and provide little muscle building benefits. Grip the bar with a thumb less grip (your thumb together with your fingers). Push your elbows to the outside of your body as much as possible, away from your torso. This will stimulate the pecs while a close elbow position will primarily hit the triceps. Arch your back, push your chest forward and let your feet hang behind you. Go down as deep as possible and try to explode up. Take your pectoral muscles to a fully stretched position and then at that moment, twitch the muscle and reverse the motion. The myotatic muscle reflex will give you an additional powerful boost. Go up and stop before locking out your arms. After two thirds of the way up, the triceps takes over and it becomes less of a chest building exercise.
The final chest building movement includes a fly motion. Flat bench and incline flys work well but the problem is that when people perform them as a finishing exercise, they tend to cheat on the movement so that it looks more like a pressing type of exercise. Also, dumbbell flys, in either position, provide no resistance at the top of the movement. This is one of the few exercises that is better performed on a machine, specifically the pec-dec machine. With the pec-dec, resistance is provided throughout the full range of motion, from start to finish. This is important especially when your hands come together and allow you to squeeze your inner chest muscles intensely.
Make sure your hands are parallel with your shoulders to prevent joint stress. Try to pull with the palms of your hands instead of a closed-grip which will tend to make it more of an arm exercise. When your hands come together, squeeze for a full two-count and release back all the way past your torso for a good stretch. As with the dip, at the full stretched position, reverse the motion with a sudden twitch and pull the handles back forward. This pre-stretch thrust will add additional power to your movement. Keep your back pinned to the bench throughout the exercise. If youíre leaning forward to get the weight up, then itís too heavy and youíre using too much shoulder and back muscles to complete the motion.
A few tips. The top portion of most pressing exercises are triceps and shoulder muscle. You donít need to lock-out when training your chest. ďLock-outĒ just means rest time. Second, keep your elbows flared away from your body. This will isolate the pec muscles and help exclude the triceps from assisting in the movement. Yes, this means you will have to go lighter on some of the exercises but it also means your pecs will develop much faster as well. Finally, stretch between sets. Hold onto the wall or a stable bar and turn your torso away, stretching your pec muscles gradually. Stretching will help increase blood flow, help flush the lactic acid out and increase the amount of muscle fibers you can stimulate. Itís that simple.
There you have it. Three great exercises that, when done properly, get the most stubborn, puny chest to grow consistently.