Almost every weightlifter has a desire at some point in their years of training to increase the size of their chest. Whether it is to capture the gold cup at a show, or for the sheer strength that a properly developed chest provides, training is both intense and dangerous if done without care for the structure of human anatomy. The idea is to get results safely.
The chest is very important as the second most shown off muscle group after the bicep. For this reason, whether you are a weight lifter, strongman, athlete, or just into physical fitness, a regimen that trains the chest is going to become a priority at some point. The pecs (short for pectoral muscles) are one of the major muscle groups involved in power lifting.
Increasing chest mass improves the overall performance of several other muscle groups, mostly in the arms. If you are having trouble with other areas try switching to the top 5 chest exercises and watch as those trouble areas begin to show improvement again.
The Anatomy of the Chest
Understanding the function of the chest muscles is a vital step before throwing yourself into a vigorous routine. In the body, no muscle group is an island, and a basic knowledge of how the groups function together will help prevent you from causing injury, while simultaneously informing you of how and why the workout works. This knowledge will help you concentrate on posture, form, and performance.
The chest is made up of two muscles the Pectoralis major, and the Pectoralis minor.
• Pectoralis Major – Is the large fan shaped muscle that is located on the front of the chest. It originates from both the sternum (breast bone) and the clavicle and inserts into the humerus. This muscle is responsible for flexing and extending the humerus, as well as adducting and medially rotating.
• Pectoralis Minor – Lies under the pectoralis major, and is a much smaller triangular shaped muscle that stabilizes the action of the scapula.
The Top 5 Exercises for Increasing the Chest- The Breakdown
The numbers of exercises that will work the chest are very long, but only a few will achieve real results. The chest, as stated previously, provides support for many other muscles, and therefore is more responsive to targeted training over the longterm.
Free weights are assumed to be the only tools available in most of the descriptions of these exercises, but there are machines that are designed with some of these exercises in mind. Once you grasp the concept of how the muscles work together, you can alter the workouts to accommodate whatever machines you may desire to use that fit your target workout style.
Top Chest Exercise #1 – The Barbell Bench Press
The undisputed king of chest expansion for hundreds of years, the bench press has been the standard for increasing strength and size in the chest by experts around the globe. It is possible to perform the bench press in a few variations, but for the purposes of this article, we will start by discussing the wide grip, pec pounding bench press.
Lie flat on your back on a standard Olympic weight bench. With your feet flat on the floor and your glutes tight to the bench, back and head on the bench at all times, unrack the bar from the bench and lower it to your chest. Pressing your feet into the floor while maintaining a flat position on the bench, use both arms to drive the bar straight up.
Top Chest Exercise #2 – Dumbbell Bench Press
Extremely similar to the first chest exercise, the dumbbell bench press more accurately follows the intended function of the pectoral muscle. Instead of driving the weight straight up, it allows you to bring it in towards the midline of the body. It is also easier to maintain an even level of strength with the dumbbell bench press because the free weights that you are holding aren’t connected in any way.
As you begin, lie flat on your back on a bench while lying in a position that keeps your feet flat on the floor. With a dumbbell in each hand rest the weight gently on your shoulders and then force them up and away from the body.
Top Chest Exercise #3 – Explosive Push-ups
The standard bench press will only get a person so far when trying to attain more muscle mass in the chest. To supplement normal weightlifting, it is important to incorporate more rapid motions into any chest program. This is difficult to do safely with weights, so smart body builders turn over and put their nose to the floor for some push-ups that will create the most powerful resistance through explosive movements.
To begin, get down on your hands and knees. Extend your feet back and hold your position with your toes. Place both hands approximately shoulder width apart, and begin by flexing your arms so that your chest lowers to the floor. With as much power as you can muster, push against the floor hard enough to pop your hands off of the ground. You can increase the challenge by trying to jump your hands up to elevated boxes, or by clapping between each jump.
Top Chest Exercise #4 – Inclined Bench Press
This top chest exercise is extremely similar to the standard bench press listed above in that it works the same primary muscle groups (pectorals, deltoids and triceps.) The incline of the bench press however places a great deal more of the workload onto the upper chest.
To perform, use a press bench that can be raised to an incline position. Unrack the weight and lower the barbell until it touches your upper chest. Press the weight back up into the starting position with arms fully extended and repeat. Keep your elbows tucked in to maintain a 45 degree angle to your flanks. If you allow your arms/elbows to deviate outward you’ll be placing excessive strain on your shoulder joints.
Top Chest Exercise #5 – Decline Bench Press
Again, another workout that is very similar to the standard bench press. It works the same muscle groups (pectorals, deltoids and triceps). The decline of the bench press however puts a great deal of emphasis on the lower chest muscles.
To perform, use a press bench that is adjustable and move the seat into a decline. Unrack the weight and lower the barbell until it touches your lower chest, upper abdominal region. Once again, you’ll need to keep your elbows turned in to your body so that your arms are at a 45 degree angle to your flanks. If you allow your elbows to drift outward you’ll be placing excessive stress on the shoulder joints.
The important thing is to integrate these exercises into your daily routine among other programs. You do not want to have a series of “target chest muscle” days. Combine individual workouts with full body workouts to get the optimal increase in mass for your chest. Establishing more chest mass takes significant effort and a lot of time. While it’s ok to occasionally put some training on hold to target individual muscle groups, don’t let the other areas of your body fall to the wayside while concentrating on your chest.
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