I’ve always enjoyed building the chest. To me, a powerful chest is a real alpha-male attribute. Having a thick, muscled chest screams power and commands respect. Not to mention, having no chest on an otherwise good body is paramount to driving around in a Mercedes with the badge missing. People know something is missing – even if they can’t pinpoint it immediately.
There are countless chest exercises, and truth be told, it’d take me an entire book to tell you about all of them, so I’ll keep it simple and give you an overview of a hand full of the most effective to get you started.
Barbell Flat Bench Press
The bench press is an exercise which should be in any and all bodybuilders programs, no matter how much of a novice or advanced trainee they are. The bench press is one of the finest exercises to build the chest muscles – if perform in the right way, which I’m going to explain.
In the bench press, grip variation can have a big impact upon results. Using a close grip (arms close in to the sides) puts most of the stress on the triceps and front deltoids, but by having a wider grip – wide enough that when the bar touches the chest, the forearms are completely vertical – you optimise the bench press for building the chest, so that is the grip you should use for the bench press. One final tip when benching is, not to let the bar bounce from your chest, but bring it to a complete and controlled stop, before exploding upward.
Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
True, it may be very similar to the regular barbell bench press and you may be wondering what I’ve included it in this article. But, the fundamental difference is the increased range of motion afforded by the use of dumbbells.
Because the range of motion is so increased a greater amount of stress is placed on the outer pectoral regions in the lower position. When the dumbbells are brought together at the top of the movement the middle of the pectorals take much more of a hammering.
A favourite exercise of most bodybuilders because of the way it utilises the chests primary function in the body – not pressing, but pulling the arms across the body. And, when at the bottom position, the incredible stretch it gives the pectorals whilst under weighted pressure goes a long way to stressing and building a great chest.
Decline Dumbbell Presses
Most chest exercises tend to hit the upper region of the pectorals, and the lower is often left underdeveloped. By hitting the lower pectorals you are developing the incredibly important line which runs underneath the pectoral muscles and makes them stand out.
Decline dumbbell presses do just that, and they are performed in exactly the same way as flat dumbbell bench presses, only from a decline position.
Standing Cable Crossovers
Probably the most neglected area of the chest is the inner regions of the pectorals, and standing cable crossovers target them precisely, along with added benefit to the lower and middle of the pecs.
To perform this exercise requires strict form, so I’ll get a little more descriptive into the execution of this exercise so you understand it better.
Fundamentally, the standing cable crossover is almost a standing fly using cables. In fact, it’s an identical motion – although the hands cross over each other in the centre of the movement, alternating with each rep.
Using overhead cable pulleys, the trainee should step slightly forward of the lines, so in essence, they are pulling from slightly behind themselves – this helps to keep the stress on the chest. Executing the movement, the trainee should bend slightly forward at the waist and the movement needn’t be thought of as any more complex than a fly, or bear hug, however you like to think about it. But remember, as I’ve said, this is a crossover exercise – the hands should cross over each other in the centre, alternating which hand with each rep, and a big squeeze should be made on the pecs each time.