There is a reason why Monday is known as “The International chest day” in many workout routines. And the reason is that chest is the most popular muscle group with a LOT of gym goers.
And what better exercise to start your chest workout than the legendary barbell bench press. Don’t get me wrong, the bench press is a great exercise for building your upper body and your strength, but when it comes to specifically building a broader and bigger chest, there are a few better alternatives.
What’s wrong with the barbell bench press ?
Nothing, the barbell bench press is a great exercise. It’s great for developing push strength, the front delts, triceps and chest. But if you want fully developed pectoral muscles there is one downside to it. It’s the range of motion that you use while barbell pressing.
You see, when you bring the barbell down, it can only go down until it touches your chest and this limits the stretch you can place on your muscle fibers. This is why, if you want to build a big round chest, you need to add a few other exercises that allow you to stretch your pecs more. Here are a few such exercises.
The best chest exercises that are not barbell bench press
The dumbbell press
Although it sounds boring and you probably knew this was one of the other exercises, yes it’s the dumbbell chest press. While you can’t control the same weight as with the barbell bench press, dumbbells allow a better stretch in the lowest position and better contraction in the upper position of the movement compared to the barbell press. They simply allow you a greater range of motion than the barbell press.
- Sit down on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on top of your thighs. The palms of your hands should be facing each other.
- Using your thighs to help raise the dumbbells up, lay down on the bench and lift the dumbbells one at a time so that you can hold them in front of you at shoulder width. At this point your hands should be facing forward.
- Slowly bring down the dumbbells to the sides of your shoulders and press the weight in a controlled manner, bringing the dumbbells in towards each other at the top.
- Avoid locking out at the elbows, as this will take tension off the pecs
- Try not to touch the dumbbells at the top
Low Pulley Cable Crossover
This is a great exercise that will help you build your upper chest. The low pulley option actually places a greater emphasis on the clavicular portion of the pectoral muscle.
Here are the form tips in writing:
- Stand right in the middle of two cable stations, with pulleys set to the lowest rung
- Grab the handles with palms facing up with elbows slightly bent.
- Bring your hands up and inwards, to the point where your wrists are leveled with your upper chest
- Keep the movement controlled and squeeze your chest at the top.
Parallel Bar Dips
Dips are an terrific exercise that will work your chest, triceps and front delts. The difference with the bench press is that the dip mostly works your lower part of the chest, it is less stressful on the shoulders than the bench press and you don’t need a spotter for it.
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- Stand between a set of parallel bars. Place a hand on each bar, and then take a small jump to help you get into the starting position with your arms locked out.
- Lower your body until your arms break 90 degrees. Avoid swinging, and maintain good posture throughout the descent.
- Lower your body as far as it feels comfortable, feeling the stretch through your chest and triceps
- Push back up and repeat
- Once you are able to do 15 controlled reps, add some weight
Your leg positioning alters which muscle groups you will work with the dip. The further forward your foot positioning, the more chest you’ll activate. When you shift your weight backwards by crossing your legs behind you, the triceps instead take most of the stress.