Clobber Your Chest!

Impressive pectoral muscles are often defined as the very foundation of a manly physique. For so many people, this means to start pumping out reps on the barbell bench press. Find out what OTHER exercises will help you build an Arnold size chest!

Chest training. What could possibly be easier, you ask? Just lie down on the bench and start repping, and then don't stop until you see black spots dancing in front of your eyes. Actually, I think there are much easier, effective and less-risky ways of building an impressive chest.

Impressive pectoral muscles are often defined as the very foundation of a "manly" physique. It's a classic. And as such, it's very hard to trade the classic exercise - the bench press - for anything else. But give it a try, if nothing else so at least for the sake of change!

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Dumbbell Bench Press
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The advantages to the barbell are many:

  • You can go further down and get a better stretch
  • Your forearms are not locked = better control
  • You can't cheat by bouncing the bar on your chest
  • Both sides are trained equally
  • If you reach failure, you get to keep your head on

Chest Chest
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Flat Dumbbell Bench Press.
Video GuidesWindows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

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    Shoulders down and relaxed. Forearms 100% vertical, from all angles. Straight wrists. Lower back against the pad, abs slightly tense, feet wide apart and firmly planted to the floor (you might have to put a plate under your feet).

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Pec-Deck
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This machine should be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism. It CAN be excellent, but some brands turn this elsewise good exercise into almost pure death to your shoulders. You have to pay close attention to how your pecs feel vs. how your shoulders feel - only YOU can determine it, not enyone else.

Chest Chest
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Pec-Deck.
Video GuidesWindows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

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    Shoulders down and relaxed. Scapulaes together. Entire back against the pad. Abs lightly flexed. Feet wide for balance, and MOST importantly: Press with your ELBOWS, not hands!

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Cable Crossover
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Not much to say about this one, really. Tried and true. However, you often see people making up new exercises which they believe will train their pecs even better.

You have the low-pulley, crossing-in-front-of-you-going-upwards (which uses front delts almost exclusively, and not at all much upper pecs as they would like) and the one-arm version of the crossover (which puts tremendous stress your entire midsection to keep your spine from being twisted right off).

Chest Chest
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Cable Crossover.
Video Guide: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

There's even weirder things going on out there, but I don't see any reason for going deeper into something that won't make a good exercise better.

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    Balanced body positioning. Abs flexed. Shoulders down and back. Wrists straight. Forearms as parallell to the wires as possible. Avoid leaning forward too much. Cross the cables in front of you for max contraction, but make sure to alternate which hand goes over the other one.

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Dips
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This is a nice, classic exercise that hits both chest and triceps about equally. Not much to say, really - it's been around since the stone age of bodybuilding, and it's still there. Must be a reason, right?

Chest Chest
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Dips.
Video Guide: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

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    Keep shoulders down and back, esp. at the bottom. Avoid going below 90 degrees (as you stress your vulnerable shoulder joints in an extreme position). Don't "kick" your way up.

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Chest Press Machines
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There are plenty of different machines. My favourites are the Hammer Strength kind, with free-weight plates. It's hard to define, but personally, I find those to give more FEEL to the action than the classic weight-stack machines.

Or it could be me getting my head stuck in a weight-stack machine as a kid, causing lifelong trauma and suspicion against them until my shrink one day drags it out of me after 45,228 billable hours.

Chest Chest
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Machine Bench Press.
Video Guide: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

I mean, hey, how would YOU know? Anyway, I guess the bottom line is that you should always rely on your own sound judgement in these matters, but there are a few basic pointers that most machines have in common, regardless of the brand.

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    Shoulders down and back. Abs flexed. Forearms as straight as possible, going in the direction of the movement (imagine a line going through your hand - wrist - elbow - shoulder). Neck relaxed.

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Summary
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I believe you've recognized a certain pattern by now, such as my constant nagging about the shoulders being down and back. The reason for this is simple: that way your pecs do the bulk of the work. If your shoulders are forward, your front delts do the work. Result: Overtrained delts, undertrained pecs. Another pattern you should recognize is the forearms being parallel to the direction the weight is travelling in an exercise.

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Or as I prefer to visualize it: A line going through your hand - wrist - elbow - shoulder, from which you should not stray. Your joints are not exposed to any "rotating" action, which is not that good of an idea when you're handling 300+ lbs weights (and yes, "rotating" force includes bracing yourself against actual rotation).