7 Ways To Pump Up Your Chest
Among lifters, there aren't many people who will shy away from wanting to build a strong, chiseled chest. After all, they know beastly chest muscles scream strength and power, and look great on the beach.
Functionally, strong pecs also assist with performing everyday activities, lower the risk of shoulder injuries, and provide that extra edge in sports and in the gym. Simply put, a well-built chest is, well, pectacular. Sorry.
It's high time for you to get your chest training out of a rut. Use and share these tips to reassess your chest routine and pave your way to pec success.
1 Stick With Basics
When the chest game starts to falter, some people react by piling on ridiculous-sounding accessory work like a one-handed, reverse lay-up upper-cut. No need to reinvent the wheel here; there are no secret exercises.
Tried-and-true foundational exercises like ye olde bench press, dumbbell press, incline press, and chest flye have helped top lifters such as Steve Reeves, Arnold, and countless other folks throughout the years. So why wouldn't they work for you?
Before trying to change things, make sure you master these movements. Perfect your technique and form and identify the best rep range for your objective. After all, any structurally solid building must rise from a strong foundation.
Exercises like the bench press are the cornerstones for a powerful chest. Still doubtful? Look to IFBB Physique Pro Craig Capurso, who uses these exercises to build his rock-solid chest.
2 Everyone Should Train Chest
Yep, that includes you, ladies. Unfortunately, some women need to banish these false preconceived notions of how chest exercises could negatively impact their bust. No, they will not shrink your bust. No, they will not make you look like She-Hulk. So stop worrying over these unfounded concerns!
If there's someone who has both a strong and good-looking chest, it's WBFF Pro Jen Jewell. Jen knows the importance of chest day and likes to include as many different movements into her chest workout as possible, including presses, flyes, and push-up variations.
"Just because [women] may not be out to build the biggest pecs out there doesn't mean we should neglect chest training," she says. "Our chests are a major muscle group. We wouldn't neglect training our back, so why would we skip out on chest day?"
It's like those dudes who exclusively train upper body and end up with chopsticks for legs. The same concept of imbalance echoes here: Working out one group of muscles but ignoring another group could make you look (and function) disproportionate.
Jen continues: "If we neglect training our chests, it could lead to a muscular imbalance in our physique and impact our training all around—we can't have that, now can we?! When we are working our chests, our shoulders and triceps are involved, too. And ladies, there's another bonus! Even though you can't increase the size of your breasts themselves with training, you can tighten the muscles of the chest, which makes for an even perkier bust line."
Squeeze what, you ask? Well, there's your problem.
When benching, you want to squeeze two things: the bar handle and your pec muscles. When I say squeeze your pecs, I don't mean using your hands to actually squeeze them. On the concentric, or lifting, portion of your reps, think about contracting your pecs. Squeezing increases the pump and the work involved, as well as the density of the muscle. It won't be easy, but your hard efforts will be rewarded.
Also make sure you squeeze the bar or dumbbell handle as if you want to crush it in the palm of your hands. This clench will invite more fibers to the pump party, resulting in increased strength down the road.
4 Focus On Form
Proper lifting form trumps everything else. If your form collapses, it doesn't matter that you're slinging twice your body weight.
If the intended muscle fibers aren't recruited correctly, other muscle groups may dominate the exercise, which adds unnecessary stress to muscle groups that aren't designed to bear heavy loads. That's how you get hurt. No one builds a strong chest while sitting in physical therapy or dealing with an injured back or shoulder. Throwing up big bench numbers may impress the bros at your gym, but it's not a good long-term strategy if those numbers come at the expense of good form.
Executing proper form, performing reps at a slower tempo, and focusing on using your chest throughout the movement will maximize the intensity and effectiveness of the workout, while minimizing injury risk.
5 Push Yourself
Your body is an amazing, intelligent machine that will adapt to stress quickly. If you don't push it hard enough, it won't grow. It's as simple as that.
While proper form still rules the day, muscle growth requires progressively increased stimuli. This increase leads to breaking down the muscle fibers and rebuilding stronger and bigger ones, preparing you for the next time you go against the iron.
As you grow more comfortable performing the movement perfectly within a certain weight range, push yourself to take on more weight—as long as your form stays tight.
6 Rest, Pause, Drop
When adding more weight is no longer a challenging option, there's another method for making your next chest workout a sufferfest. I call it the "rest, pause, drop" method—RPD, for short—and no, it isn't a new dance routine.
I combined two intensity-raising techniques: rest-pause and dropsets. The former breaks up one set into several subsets with brief rest worked into the whole set. The latter is a technique that allows you to continue an exercise with a lighter weight after your muscles have tapped out at a heavier weight. My rest, pause, drop methodology applied to a chest workout makes for absolute muscle-building brutality and is designed to train all your muscle fiber varieties at once.
Start with a weight you can do for 6-8 reps and go to failure (use a spotter). Rest for 5 seconds and then try for a couple of more.
Reduce the weight by 20-25 percent. Repeat what you just did, including the rest-pause, for 5 seconds.
Reduce the weight again—by the same amount you did last time—and repeat the rest-pause set one more time.
The final result is a 25-30 rep set. Beginners can do one set of this at the end of their chest workout, but I don't recommend any more than that. Advanced lifters can include this RPD set with each exercise next Monday. (Everyone still does chest on Monday, right?)
7 Dust Off the Decline
You know that decline bench? The sloped brute that gathered a thick layer of dust from underuse? Well, this underrated angle can be a huge boon to your chest routine. It is approved by strongman Colton Leonard, who knows a thing or two about strong pecs.
Comparing exercises done on a flat bench versus a decline bench, some studies have shown that more muscle fibers in the pec are recruited while on the decline. Try this out with both a barbell and dumbbells.
Put these tips to the test and share your results with me and the rest of us in the comments below!
- Follow This Discussion by:
All great but disagree with the last one, incline is the best chest bench, arnie and the rock always did incline chest workouts, the upper clavicular head is the hardest part of the chest to build and doing that on a decline seems far from reach
Actually, iEMG testing revealed that the decline DB chest press activates your pectoralis major the most, and the incline version activates your pectoralis minor the most. And, all versions activate the entire muscle spectrum (top, middle, lower) albeit to varying degrees.
Thanks for your feedback. I agree about inclines which is why it was included in the first step. We included the declines since many people neglect to use it for a variety of reasons and are missing out on the great benefits of the angle.
The article never claimed that the decline was better than the incline. They said that studies suggested more muscle fibers were recruited on decline rather than on the flat bench.
i was under the impression the pectoralis minor was mostly a respiratory muscle, this is feedback i got from a video.
You got that from the "Built By Science" videos; but it's still a muscle, and it contributes to size. Just like developing your soleus pushes your gastrocnemius out, giving you more overall size, so does your pec minor push out your pec major, giving you better size. In fact, I've never heard or read that the pec minor is mainly for respiration, except in the aforementioned program, which is really weak (sorry, but all that program does is feature an out-of-shape "trainer" with a presentation on the names of muscles and the origin and insertion of each.)
I get a better pump and squeeze from doing declines personally. If the goal is to build that upper chest to look like a bulging shelf, then of course inclines are ideal. I try to include flat, incline, decline, and some type of fly in each of my workouts.
Good article, thanks man!
I used the RPD set principle on the Shortcut to size program and loved it...brutal but amazing for squeezing out those final few reps you thought weren't possible!
Individuals sometimes - not usualy I admit - but sometimes DO vary. I strugled to put on chest muscle with barbell bench but accelerated away when I found a gym with heavy dumbbells to bench. Now I can barbell aswell as I can FEEL the pecs! :)
really nice article, but i'm wondering why you would mention women's fear of losing bust size and then include pictures of a female fitness model with implants? and nothing against jen jewell, she's great.
jen is an all natural babe, keep telling yourself otherwise
I agree. Pretty sure the chick with the fake rack proves your point wrong, definitely doesn't support the point.
I really don't understand the irreverent comments on Jens chest! The focus is the help!and great tips...and yes might lose size .. Who cares looks great and great info.... For those who understand the POINT