Building up the muscles in the chest is a common goal in the gym for many men. The strong, curved shape that inevitably comes with a serious chest routine is one that is deemed to be desirable for many men.
With a commitment to regular exercise, this shape and this strength is within reach, and this can also benefit your health in other ways. For example, when you work hard to improve the muscles in your chest you can enjoy improved posture, enhanced upper body performance and a lower risk of injury.
Your chest is made up of two muscle groups - the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major has several important functions, such as lifting the arms and enabling you to throw things. The pectoralis minor is primarily concerned with stabilizing the shoulder blades.
So, what are the best exercises for building up the chest with maximum efficiency?
Barbell Bench Press
Barbell lifts are a great way to generate power and using the bench will support you in your lift. The use of the barbell is beneficial for maintaining control over the weight. Make sure you start with the weight of the barbell on your chest and then extend your arms up without locking your elbows. You can then lower the barbell back down and continue for the pre-determined rep - set pattern that you are working on.
Mixing up your training with this exercise by varying your grip on the barbell is a good idea. Move out of your comfort zone to try a wide grip and also a shorter grip during a different session. This will help to target different muscles as well as keeping yourself challenged.
Low-Incline Barbell Bench Press
When you lift the barbell at a low-incline you will be targeting the pecs and placing less stress on the delts. The Smith machine comes in very useful here as you can immediately go in for the incline. An additional benefit of the Smith machine is that your lift is semi-supported, so it's more feasible to train alone without a spotter.
You may notice that your growth is slightly quicker with the low-incline barbell bench press than if you always stick to a flat bench for this exercise. Play around with the angle and make sure to mix it up every so often to maximise your results and challenge your body.
Seated Machine Chest Press
Free weights are fantastic for boosting the chest, but complimenting these activities with certain machines will also be very helpful. The seated machine chest press is a perfect example and one of the best machines that you can use for this purpose.
When you use this machine you will observe that it is easier to slow down and control your reps than it is with free weights. This machine is also easy to use when doing dropsets. Use of this machine requires less effort on your part to stabilise the weights and to maintain balance, which then makes it easier for you to target your pecs.
This is a good exercise to do at the end of your routine as the machine allows you to build you pecs with minimal shoulder assistance, which is obviously useful if you are exhausted from your session!
A dumbbell pullover is a simple but effective compound chest exercise that will also help to build the muscles of the back. If you suffer with shoulder problems then this may be an exercise to avoid, or to at least go lightly on!
To do this exercise you must first lie flat on a bench with your hips flexed slightly. Reach behind your head to grab a dumbbell with both hands, and then raise it up over your head and towards your torso. Your arms should be mostly straight with a slight bend at the elbow. From here you can then lower it back down to the start position.
Incline Dumbbell Press
When you hit the same muscle with different degrees of incline then you are going to build that muscle more effectively and efficiently. That's why you should make sure that your dumbbell presses are sometimes done at an incline, and also at a decline angle.
The incline dumbbell press is an amazing exercise for your pecs, and the sooner up the list you prioritise this exercise, the more weight you will be able to lift. Therefore doing this as the first, second or third exercise during your session is the best idea.
To do this exercise you can set a bench to an incline and then lie with your back firmly against the bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting on your thighs, with your palms facing each other. Use your thighs to assist your arms as you push the dumbbells up to either side of your shoulder. At this point your palms should be facing forwards. This will be your start position, and from here you can extend the dumbbells up into the air until your arms are almost stright. Be sure not to lock those elbows out! Lower the dumbbells slowly back to the start position and continue for the desired number of reps.
To maximise your efforts with this exercise you should rotate your dumbbells from the palms facing forwards position to your palms facing inwards as you reach the top of the lift.
Using this machine is great for your chest, as well as your shoulders and general upper body strength. A wide grip is a good position to start in and ensure that you are pulling the bar to the front of your upper chest.
Try not to lean too far back and notice how your shoulder blades are retracting to ensure you are hitting the right muscle groups.
Push-ups are a tried and tested favourite for building chest muscles and the strength of the upper body. Varying the position of the hands is a good way to mix up this activity and to maximise the effect of push-ups. Studies suggest that a close grip is best, meaning your hands are positioned closer together than you usually might place them.
As you progress with doing push-ups, and you find it easier to do a large number of them, you can ask your gym buddy to add a weight onto your back. Start with a small weight and see how comfortable you are doing push-ups with a weight before making it slightly heavier over time.
You can also choose to progress push-ups by elevating your feet behind you. The higher you elevate your feet, the harder each push-up will become. This type of push-up is known as a decline push-up, and will mean that you are lifting more of your own bodyweight than you would with the regular type.
Fitness for Physical Health
When you work hard to stick to a workout routine then you will soon start to see progressions in your body! You may also begin to feel healthier, happier and stronger! However, do keep in mind that the potential for injury always exists when you are doing anything physical.
At Onto Orthopedics we consider sports injuries to be one of our specialities, and you can reach out to us for a consultation and speedy diagnosis!