Here are 5 great exercises you can do to develop a strong, defined chest!
You knew it was going to start with Bench Press, right? It’s the runaway favorite lift for your chest. It also works your triceps and shoulders.
Set yourself up so your upper back and butt are firmly on the bench. Your feet are planted on the ground. Your shins should be perpendicular to the ground. You don’t have to have the huge back arch that powerlifters like to use, but you should arch a little. Keep your shoulder blades packed tightly together and down. This helps make sure your shoulders remain in a stable position.
Your head should be on the bench. Your eyes should be just past the bar. Pick a spot on the ceiling and focus your vision on it. Grip the bar tightly in your hands, which are a little bit further than shoulder width apart. The distance is going to be different for everyone. Comfort is the main thing you want. At the bottom position of the lift your forearms should be perpendicular to the ground.
You don’t want your upper arm too far away from your sides. You don’t want to look like a scarecrow. This puts the shoulder in a position for potential injury. You also don’t want your upper arms too close to your ribs. Keeping them in too tight takes emphasis off the chest and puts it more on the triceps.
On to the lift itself! Unrack the bar and extend your arms fully. Lower the weight in a controlled manner down to your mid-chest. Let it touch your chest gently and then drive it back up to the starting position. Not touching your chest shortens the range of motion. I hope it’s obvious why you don’t want to let the bar slam into your chest. If not, just know that it’s dangerous and painful.
For your last repetition, make sure you fully extend your arms. Then rack the bar. Trying to rack too early is a good way to get injured.
Inhale at the top position. Exhale as you drive the weight up.
Incline Bench is up next. It’s similar to the flat bench but it emphasizes the upper part of your chest. The degree of incline will vary depending on the equipment. Find an incline that’s comfortable for you. A steeper incline is going to put greater emphasis on your shoulders. You’ll notice the steeper it is, the more closely it resembles a seated shoulder press. The flatter the incline, the closer it will be to a flat bench.
Again, pack your shoulder blades together and down. Upper back and butt are in contact with the bench. Slight arch in your back. Feet firmly on the ground. Eyes focused on one spot on the ceiling.
Unrack the bar. Extend your arms. This time you’ll lower the weight to your upper chest, just below your collarbone. Touch and drive it back up. Again, breathe in at the top, breathe out as you drive the weight up.
Flys are a good chest isolation exercise. The bench and incline bench are compound lifts because they use more than one muscle group. Flys isolate your chest. There are a bunch of ways to do them.
To do them on a bench, grab a pair of dumbbells and lay flat on a bench. Start with your arms straight out in front of you, with your palms facing each other. Put a slight bend in your elbows. Maintain that slight bend for all the repetitions. Lower your arms so your body pretty much looks like the letter T, if someone were to view you from above. You’ll feel a stretch in your pecs. Squeeze your pecs to bring the weights back up to the start position. Exhale as you raise the weights. Inhale at the top.
You can do them on an incline bench also.
Other variations will have you using a cable machine. An advantage of using a cable machine is you’ll be under constant tension. Try the different ways and see which feels best for you.
Push-ups are a staple chest exercise. Like the bench, they work your triceps and shoulders as well. Most people just use their bodyweight, but it’s possible to add weight if you want to.
Start with your hands on the floor, a little bit wider than shoulder width apart. The exact distance will be different from person to person. Find the distance that’s comfortable for you. Your body should be straight. Keep your abs tight, flex your legs and glutes. Lower yourself by bending your elbows until your chest is just off the floor. Push hard to extend yourself to the starting position. Try not to tilt your head too much. Tilting it up so you’re looking straight a head, or tucking your chin into your chest can put a strain on your neck. Breathe in at the top, and out as you push up.
Push-ups are very easily scaled to make them easier or more difficult. Essentially, tilting your body so your upper body is higher than your lower body makes it easier. An example of this would be if you put your hands on bench. Or if you did push-ups on your knees. Tilting so your feet are higher than your upper body adds difficulty. If you put your feet up on a bench, this would make it more challenging.
The last chest exercise I’ll talk about today is dips. For bench dips, start with your hands on the bench. Your legs will be out in front of you. Having them straight makes the exercise more difficult. Having your knees bent makes them a little less challenging. Lower yourself by bending at the elbows until your upper arm is about parallel with the floor. Push hard into the bench to drive yourself to the starting position.
If you’re using a dip station, your body will be more vertical but you still lower yourself by bending at the elbow and drive yourself up by extending your arms. These are a progression from bench dips. You want to avoid swinging with your legs which uses momentum instead of muscle. You can keep your legs straight or you can bend at the knees. For more of a challenge you can do weighted dips. You can hold a dumbbell between your crossed ankles but using a belt to hold the weight is a better solution.
Inhale at the top, exhale as you drive up.
So there you have it. Five great exercises to help you build your best chest ever. You don’t have to do them all in order to develop your pecs. These are just tools you can use. You’ll find you’ll prefer some more than others. Some will just feel more comfortable.
Try ‘em out and get to work!