There are no shortcuts to huge chest muscles, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Let’s first start by explaining the anatomy of the chest. Don’t worry as it’s not complicated at all. Once you understand how the chest is built it will be much easier to visualize and create training programs for it.
The chest is composed of two muscles:
Pectoralis major and Pectoralis minor:
The chest muscles are attached to your upper arm or to be more precise, to the place where the shoulder joint is. They then extend to the middle of the chest, and are attached to the sternum.
Pectoralis Major is the large chest muscle in the upper chest that makes the bulk of the chest. The pectoralis major extends across the upper part of the chest, from the strenum and is attached to a ridge at the rear of the humerus (the bone of the upper arm)
Pectoralis Minor is a triangular muscle located just underneath the pectorails major. It originates from the 3rd, 4th and 5th rib and connects to the scapula.
Pectoralis major function is the adduction of the arm as well as internal rotation. Pectoralis minor on the other hand has the role to stabilize the scapula by “moving” the shoulders to the front.
This mutual movement, describes how we perform the bench-press exercise. As mentioned, when you understand how the chest functions, it is much easier to visualize how the muscle fibers contract during each repetition and set. When you develop a good mind-muscle connection, you get a lot more of each repetition. Many trainees put heavy weights who can not control and end up using more additional muscles (triceps and shoulders) rather than the primary muscles – the pecs.
Different parts of the chest muscles
When you work on your chest, you have 3 parts which need to be worked properly with various exercises; Upper, middle and lower chest.
The Upper Chest
This is usually the least developed part for most trainees. The best exercise to hit this part of the chest is the incline barbell bench press. For this exercise you have to adjust the bench to your needs, and how you feel works best for you. Most bodybuilders set a position at an angle of 45 degrees, but it is best to test multiple angles and see which works best for you.
If you feel the exercise more towards the middle of the chest, then the angle is too small and you should increase it. Conversely, if you feel that your shoulders do more work, then the angle is too high and should decrease it.
The middle part of the chest
This is the probably most worked part of the chest with the flat bench press. Almost all trainees, whether they are beginners or advanced level, do this exercise (unless you are injured or you are not able to perform it). Many guys in the gym try to impress others using heavy weights with this exercise, and almost half of them perform the exercise incorrectly, leading to serious injuries.
One of the most famous questions in each gym is – “How much do you bench press?”. Usually the question is asked by those mentioned above, which perform the exercise incorrectly. It is important to note – No matter how much you can bench press, leave your ego at the door and concentrate in order on using proper form.
Another good exercise that hits the middle part of the chest, is the push up. Push ups are an excellent choice if you can’t make it to the gym, or you simply want to pump some blood into the chest.
The lower part of the chest
This is the most neglected part of the chest. When you look at some of the best developed chests in bodybuilding, what you will notice is that from the top to the bottom, the chest is evenly almost developed. If development in the lower part of the chests is lagging, you will notice density in the upper part, with flat middle part and lagging curvature at the bottom. To a degree this is also genetic, but with proper training we can somewhat correct it.
Exercises such as decline bench press, and dips will help in developing the lower part of the chest.
Below, you will find a list of the most used chest exercises and three example workouts.
- Flat barbell bench press
- Flat dumbbell bench press
- Incline barbell bench press
- Incline dumbbell bench press
- Decline barbell bench press
- Decline dumbbell bench press
- Flat bench dumbbell fly
- Incline bench dumbbell fly
- Dips with your own bodyweight
- Dips with additional weight
- Incline, decline and flat bench presses on a Smith machine
- Pec deck fly
- Cable crossover
- Push ups
Example Chest Workout Routines
- Incline barbell bench press 3 x 8-10 reps
- Flat barbell bench press 3 x 8-10 reps
- Decline barbell bench press 3 x 8-10 reps
- dumbbell flyes on an incline bench 3 x 12 reps
- Incline dumbbell bench press 3 x 8-10 reps
- Flat dumbbell bench press 3 x 8-10 reps
- Dips 3 x 10 reps
- Cable crossover 3 x 12-15 reps
workout #3 (bodyweight workout)
- Push ups (feet elevated on a chair or bench) 4 x 12-15 reps
- Regular push ups 4 x 15-20 reps
- Bodyweight dips 3 x 10 reps
Concentrate on your form instead of how much weight you can push. Remember, you are trying to build up your chest, not competing how much you can lift. Of course you should follow some kind of a progression and get stronger over time – try to increase the weight every 3-4 weeks if you feel you are ready to lift more.
Concentrate on the mind-muscle connection. If you don’t feel your pecs working, you are probably using too much weight or you’re using poor form.
Try to focus more on your lagging parts of the chest. For most bodybuilders that’s the upper chest. Put incline presses first in your workout when you are still fresh and strong.
One more important note – don’t get carried away with the chest isolation exercises. Concentrate on the compound movements such as the barbell and dumbbell bench presses and dips, and add shaping exercises at the end of the workout (flyes, cable movements etc…)