4 Really good chest workouts that will help you add the mass you have been missing
Your pectoralis major, pecs for short, is your main chest muscle. After the biceps, the pecs are probably the most trained muscle in the majority gyms.
In fact, Monday is National chest training day (also known as bench press day) in gyms all over the world! Most people, on learning you go to the gym and lift weights, will eventually get around to asking you “how much can you bench press?”
A well-developed chest is not just important for aesthetics, it is also important for shoulder health and sporting performance. The fibres of the pecs run in several different angles which basically means that, for maximum chest development, your workout should include a variety of exercises. If you want to be a good bench presser then the bench press should be your go to exercise but if you want to develop aesthetically pleasing and shapely pecs, you’ll need to expand your chest exercise repertoire.
Broadly speaking, there are four “regions” to the chest – upper, middle, lower and inner.
The upper chest is best targeted with incline bench exercises such as incline dumbbell presses, incline barbell presses and incline machine chest presses. The ideal angle is around 30 to 45-degrees as any steeper places too much stress on the shoulders and too little on the pecs.
To target the middle fibres, the most effective exercises are those where the arms are pushed forward perpendicularly to the body i.e. flat bench presses using a barbell or dumbbells. To get the most from these exercises you should use a full range of movement i.e. lower the bar to your chest, and use a grip that is wide enough so that your forearms are vertical at the bottom of the movement. A narrower hand placement means your triceps will end up doing the brunt of the work and not descending deep enough simply reduces the effectiveness of these chest building exercises.
The lower pecs are best targeted with decline exercises such as decline dumbbell or barbell presses, push-ups and parallel bar dips. Ideally, the angle of decline should be around 30 to 45-degrees.
To work the inner chest cable crossovers and dumbbell flyes are the answer – make sure you squeeze your hands together at the top of the movement to maximize the effectiveness of these exercises.
It’s worth noting that some exercises address more than one aspect of the pecs. For example, decline dumbbell flyes work both the lower pecs and the inner pecs. Choose your exercises wisely to avoid unnecessary overlaps or to preferentially target areas of weakness.
Here are a few good chest workouts to try…
Good Chest Workouts – Workout one – Pre Exhaust
Perform two to four sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of each of the following exercise pairs. Move quickly from one exercise to the next in each par. Rest 60 to 90-seconds between paired exercises.
1a. Incline dumbbell flyes
1b. Incline barbell press
2a. Decline cable cross overs
2b. Dips or push-ups
3a. Flat bench dumbbell flyes
3b. Flat bench barbell bench press
Good Chest Workouts – Workout 2 – German volume training (GVT)
Using around 60-percent of your one repetition maximum (1RM – a weight you can lift once but not twice) perform ten sets of ten repetitions with exactly 60-seconds rest between sets. If you are unsuccessful i.e. can only do 8 for the last couple of sets, leave the weight the same. If you complete all sets of ten, put the weight up by five to ten-percent for next time.
1. Barbell bench press 10 sets of 10
2. Incline dumbbell flyes 3 sets of 8 to 12
Good Chest Workouts – Workout 3 – mechanical drop sets
In terms of strength, you will be able to press more weight in a declined position than in an inclined position. This workout takes you from your weakest to strongest position. Move quickly from one exercise to the next (by simply changing the angle of your bench) while keeping the weights the same. Stop one repetition short of complete failure on all but except the final exercise where you should rep out and do as many as you can.
1a. Incline dumbbell press
1b. Flat dumbbell presses
1c. Decline dumbbell presses
You can achieve a similar workout using push-ups…
1a. Feet elevated push-ups
1b. Feet on the floor push-ups
1c. Push-ups on the knees
Good Chest Workouts – Workout 4 – Classic Bodybuilding Chest Workout
1. Barbell bench press 12, 10, 8, 6, 6 repetitions – increase the weight set by set
2. Incline dumbbell flyes 3 sets of 12 repetitions
3. Parallel bar dips 3 sets of AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible)
4. Push-ups 100 reps in as few sets as possible
As important as chest training is, it is equally important that you spend a similar amount of time working on your upper back and your rear deltoids. These muscles counterbalance your chest and keeping them in good shape will help preserve your posture and maintain healthy shoulder joints. Monday may well be National bench press day but, by that token, Tuesday should be National upper back day!