Top 5 Exercises for Chest
It’s no secret that most people want to build a big chest in the gym. No one walks around prouder than an individual who’s built a literal shelf for pecs. Regardless of where you are with your chest build, you can always get better. Getting better in the muscle building world often means spending your time doing the right things. There are millions of exercises out there that can help to build muscle, some fancy and some simple. More times than not, the simple things are going to be most effective. While not necessarily flashy, they are in fact the most efficient and worth your time.
In this post, you’re going to learn my top five exercises to build a big chest. Simple, effective, and straight to the point. Let’s dive in.
What Builds the Chest?
What type of stimulus will it take to build a large chest in the first place? You might think that it comes down to benching every single day, but in reality, there are many more options. While benching and pressing are important, you’ll find that there are other ways to stretch and contract the pecs to achieve maximum muscle growth.
The chest or the pecs, contain roughly 60% fast twitch muscle fibers. This means that the chest is a fast, and powerful set of muscles. While this does mean you’ll have a high capacity for moving heavy weight, that doesn’t always lead to a bigger chest. Strength training alone won’t produce the MOST effective change in muscle tissue size. What it comes down to is hypertrophy, which can be achieved with higher volumes (reps, sets) during your workouts. This breaks the muscle down, thus allowing your body to repair it larger and stronger. Over time, this repeated cycle leads to muscle growth. You should keep this in mind for building your chest. Yes, it’s fun to go into the gym and see how much you can bench, but if you really want a bigger chest, you’ll need to do more than just that.
Hitting Different Parts of the Chest
The chest is broken up into two main parts. The upper and lower chest. Depending on the movement being done, you’ll be activating a section of the muscle. For example, if you’re doing something with more of an incline to it, you’ll be activating the upper chest. If you’re doing something like a decline bench press, then you would be hitting the lower chest. The lower chest is the much larger, and stronger section of your whole chest, whereas the upper chest is slightly smaller and not as strong.
Hitting each part of the chest is important to stimulating growth equally. This creates a full, round, and strong chest overall.
When trying to hit a certain section of the chest, think about where your arms are in relation to it. If the arms are at an angle above the chest, you’ll more than likely be hitting the upper chest. If the arms are even with or below the chest, then the lower pec is going to be initiated.
With this being said, varying angles are your best friend when it comes to building a big chest.
Must Have Exercises to Work the Chest
Incline DB Bench Press
Dumbbells are great for working the chest because they allow less stress on the shoulder joint. When working the upper chest, you’re going to kick on the shoulders some too, so it’s smart to use dumbbells for this one. Taking an adjustable bench, set it to a medium incline. Setup with your dumbbells like you would for a normal bench, with the dumbbells locked out right OVER your chest, not out in front of your chest. The angle will be different, and you’ll need to adjust so that the weight is properly aligned with your body. Once you feel comfortable, lower the dumbbells to your chest until they reach right outside of the pack. From here, extend the arms back to the start position. Remember to always keep your shoulder blades against the bench during this exercise. You should also ensure that your feet stay on the ground and your butt stays on the bench.
The most important part of this movement is the lowering portion, which is going to slowly breakdown those muscle fibers and give you larger upper chest.
Flat Barbell Bench Press
This is probably the most popular of the chest exercises. The flat barbell bench is a compound movement that works the entire chest, shoulders, and even the triceps. With that being said, a ton of the focus is also on the lower portion of the chest. This part of the chest really shines during this movement as a prime mover. The flat barbell bench press should be your first movement since it’s going to require the most coordination and strength. This is your bread and butter before you move onto something more isolated.
To begin, lay flat on the bench with your feet touching the ground, your button the bench, and your upper body touching as well. Pinch your shoulder blades back and down to put yourself in a sturdy position. You can slightly arch your back if you feel comfortable with it, as this will help you to get a deeper stretch in the chest. Your hands should be right outside shoulder width for a normal bench press. ALWAYS wrap your thumbs around the bar so that it won’t slip out of your hands. Either have someone hand you the bar or lift it yourself. Just make sure you are ready for the load. The barbell should travel down towards your lower chest. Allow it to graze you before driving the barbell back up to the locked-out position. Utilize control in this movement, as well as good form for the best results.
If your gym has a dip station, these are fantastic. They will primarily target the lower chest and allow for a great stretch. These don’t need to be done fast and can really pump up the chest if done correctly. As you get set up, like with any chest movement, pinch the shoulder blades back and down. Place your hands on the handles and lift your feet off the ground. Slightly lean forward so that your chest is pointing somewhat towards the ground. At no point should your chest be pointing straight forward, as this will put strain on the shoulder joint. Your feet can go behind you or you can keep them under your body depending on what feels the best. Slowly lower yourself until you are at about a 90-degree angle from the elbow. You only need to go low enough to get the full stretch, any more than that and you risk injury. From here, drive yourself back to the start position and begin again.
Practice doing these with your body weight first before adding chains or weights. It doesn’t take much with the dip to get results if you do it right.
The cable fly is one that can bring a ton of different variations. Most machines will allow you to change the angle at which the cables are coming from. This means that you can hit all portions of the chest and really pump things up. Taking both handles into your hands, step about 2 feet forward. Lean your chest forward and lock your shoulders in place. There should be a slight bend at your elbow, to help keep the tension where you want it. From here we want to slowly let those handles travel back so that we can get an awesome stretch. Don’t let the arms full extend and keep good tension. Once you feel a good stretch, you can bring those handles back together and squeeze the chest. This will help to flush blood into the chest for an insane pump.
Cable fly’s are great, but make sure to keep them controlled. You can easily tear or injure something with this one if you’re not careful.
Pec Deck Fly’s
Like the cable fly, you’ll be working on a stretch and squeeze with the chest. However, now you’ll be seated and slightly supported. This allows for a little more weight to be used, as well as more control. With the pec deck, avoid being super leaned forward and focus more on keeping your upper back pinned to the padding. Slightly poke your chest out here and keep those shoulder blades tight. Get a full stretch of the chest before bringing your handles back to start with a squeeze.
Again, this movement requires control and can be harmful if it isn’t practiced. It should also be noted that you may be able to change the angle on these by adjusting the seat up or down.
Put it Into Practice
Building a big chest isn’t rocket science. It takes a simple approach, with some simple movements to really see a difference. If you take the time to focus on the parts of the chest you’re trying to work, then you’ll be able to effectively train. This comes down to using various angles in your training as well. And while these movements are some of the best, there are variations of them that you can try. Some individuals like to only use dumbbells, while others prefer machines. So long as you approach it knowing what your goal is, you’ll get where you need to be.
Good luck building that shelf!