One of the most crucial muscles to develop to gain upper body strength is the chest. Most of the time they are also the defining part of body building. But this particular muscle region is also extremely important from an operational frame of reference as it supports almost all activities involving arms.
For a better understanding, chest or pec (short for Pectoralis) muscle is the largest muscle on the upper torso. It connects the front walls of the chest with the bones of upper arms and shoulders. There are two pectoralis muscles on both sides of the sternum ( breastbone) known as pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. These are considered the major chest muscles.
The pectoralis major makes up most of your chest muscle mass and it is large and fan shaped. It is composed of a sternocostal head and a clavicular head. The pectoralis minor lies underneath the pectoralis major. Its job is to help pull the shoulder forward and down. There is in fact another muscle which is considered a major muscle by some of the professional bodybuilders called Serratus Anterior. This chest muscle is located at the side of the chest wall, you'll notice it in action when you lift weights overhead.
Sometimes it can be difficult to grow your chest muscles. There can be various reasons like, not following proper form, not warming-up and most importantly improper diet. Hence, practicing a proper technique or form is important. Research showed that slow, controlled lifting of weights, performed to fatigue, has yielded greater results and better rates of muscle growth than the same movement or exercise done rapidly.
This is done by following a 'tempo', which is the pace at which you perform one rep, while you vary rep ranges and adjust the lifting. Also heavy warm-up workouts that open-up your body with mobility and stretch, has extremely boosted the power and strength performance, as that makes the muscles ready by making them achieve a greater flexibility and also well conditioned to generate an explosive strength to deal with further workouts. Dynamic warm-ups are generally considered to be the best approach to a pre-workout warm-up. Consisting of movements with a progressive range of motion that mimic the exercise you're about to do, you'll be lengthening your muscles and preparing them to work under heavier loads.
When it comes to diet, any fitness enthusiast will know that the working out part is only about 30 - 40% of the challenge. The biggest challenge for many can be diet, which makes up almost 70% of the battle. No matter how much workout you do or how much one has mastered the technique, without a proper protein centric diet, it will not workout. According to some studies, it is recommended that an average person should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight everyday.
However, when it comes to building muscle, you definitely have to double the quantity of consumption. Which makes it 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight. Hence, pull out your calculators, and acknowledge the amount of protein needed for your body weight before starting your next workout and try to follow that for faster and better results than anyone around you.
The best chest exercises for building muscle
The basics are always considered the best. Well, in the body building manual (
there's no such thing) the mighty bench press is considered the basic most and most reliable workout when it comes to building muscle. Bench press accounts to most of the workout regime, but that's not all.
The goal is to have strength along with volume and this only happens if you activate all the muscles present in the concentrated areas as discussed earlier. For this to happen, you need to change the variations of exercises and try different workouts every time. The most common mistake is sticking to one particular workout technique or schedule having the same, repeated exercise from the previous day or workout.
So, here's the best exercises we recommend after a lot of research and also trying it for ourselves:
- Dumbbell Squeeze Press:
This moves the emphasis of the movement onto your pecs. This simple change or enhancement engages the muscles throughout the entire range of motion.
Procedure : Lie down on a flat bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Maintain a neutral grip and begin with your arms straight, directly above you. Bend your arms and lower them to the side of your body so the dumbbells lie just above your chest. Pause and then lift your arms to repeat.
- Incline push up:
This zero equipment workout is a good warmup to prepare the chest for work. Research has shown that a dynamic warmup is helpful in preventing injury prior to training. Lower resistance movements related to those you are about to perform prepares the muscles for work.
Start with your hands on the wall or a countertop height surface. Walk your feet back so that your body makes roughly a 45 degree angle with the floor. Keep your body straight and your spine neutral, and lower your chest to the surface you’re leaning against.
Pause for a moment, then return to the start position.
- Incline dumbbell bench press:
Dumbbell presses offer different variations and are flexible to help you build a bigger chest. By using two separate weights, you have a greater range of motion, while activating more stabilising muscles too.
Additional tip: move the weights all the way to the top of the movement before lowering the opposite side to keep your chest under tension.
Procedure: Lie back on a bench set to a 45-degree angle and lift the weights over your chest, palms facing away from you. Slowly lower one weight, then drive it back up and squeeze your chest at the top. Repeat on the other side.
- Close-grip barbell bench press :
This exercise places less strain on your shoulders, shifting the emphasis to your triceps and chest. Place your hands just inside of shoulder width.
Procedure: Lie down on a flat bench holding a barbell with a narrow, overhand grip. From the starting position, breathe in and lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest. Push the bar back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out. Focus on pushing the bar using your chest muscles.
- Decline press-up:
This workout places the muscle-building emphasis on your lower pectorals, helping you build a well-rounded and more defined chest.
Procedure : Place your feet on a bench with your hands planted on the floor in front of you. Lower your body down until your chest almost reaches the floor. Press your body back up to the starting position while squeezing your chest. Pause briefly at the top before repeating.
- Cable fly/crossover:
This exercise gives your pectorals and deltoids a new stimulus instead of pressing. Add the cable fly to your chest day to provide constant tension throughout the full movement.
Procedure : Attach stirrup handles to the high pulleys of a cable crossover machine. Take one in each hand – your arms should be outstretched with a slight bend. Place one foot slightly forward, brace your core, and pull the handles downward and across your body near belly button region, the hands can cross for additional impact. Return to the start position under control
- Decline barbell bench press:
Using a decline bench helps zero-in on your lower chest, helping you build serious size on your chest.
Procedure: Holding a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing your feet, lie back on a bench fixed to a decline setting. Start with your arms fully extended and hands over your chest, then lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest. Push barbell back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out.
- Staggered push-up/ alternating pushup:
In case you've already mastered press-ups, then this is an ideal stepping-stone into mastering the one-handed press-up.
Procedure: Get into a press-up position with your hands staggered, so your right is further forward than the left. Lower your body until your chest is an inch from the ground then drive up explosively. Pull your hands off the floor and switch positions so your left leads, then repeat.
- Chest dips:
This works the entire upper-body, dips also work your arms, shoulders and upper back. As you descend, you'll be fighting to stabilise your entire body as it moves through space, giving your body a huge hormonal boost.
Procedure : Grab the bars of a dip station with your palms facing inward and your arms straight. Slowly lower until your elbows are at right angles, ensuring they stay tucked against your body and don't flare out. Drive yourself back up to the top and repeat.
- Clap press-up:
This exercise can be hard at times and can be highly effective for the chest muscles.
Procedure: Get into a push-up position, your hands just outside your chest, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Brace your core. Lower your chest to the floor and then press up explosively so your hands come off the floor, clapping once at the top of the movement.
Chest workouts can be tough and sometimes all the hard work may not yield any results. The problems faced by many people trying to develop or shape their chest have been discussed and resolved. Most of them are subjected to various factors like diet, improper techniques,etc. Here, we guide you to get rid of the bad practices and implement the right one's for optimum results.