The chest is, to me anyway, the most masculine looking muscle on the body. It makes a man either look powerful, if he has a well-developed chest, or weak, if his chest is undeveloped. Most people really neglect to train their chest the way they should. The average Joe probably only does a few sets of bench presses, and that's all for his chest. Well, all that will change when I show you how to train your chest right.
What makes a good chest, anyway? I see men in the gym that are bench pressing 300-350 pounds, but they are overweight and they have boobs flapping all over the place. If that's the look you want it won't take much to get there and you really shouldn't be reading this article. To me, a well-developed chest is one that stands out from your ribcage, and is noticeable and formed. It should also be very striated and ripped, because I don't think any bodybuilder wants to have a smooth chest. A chest should also have a cut between the top and bottom of it. Take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's chest. Or maybe Lee Haney's. They have developed their chests with knowledge and hard work, and so can you.
If you want to have a wonderful chest, however, there are some things you should know. You won't get your chest working as well as it should if your back, particularly the Lats, aren't very well developed. Just ask Arnold in his huge book, "New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding." Or you could ask me. I was stuck on my bench press forever. I couldn't get past my maximum. This was before I started bodybuilding. I heard that you couldn't get your chest going unless your Lats were developed, so I started working the Lats more. Since this was before I started bodybuilding, I never worked my back before. I started working my back a lot more, and my bench maximum shot up 45 pounds in 2 months! For me that is a great gain. Along with that gain, my chest was much more defined, and a lot larger than it used to be. So get pumping on those Lats, and your chest will get a lot bigger.
Muscles of the Chest
I'll start off by telling you the muscles that make up your chest. The source of this information came out of Arnold Schwarzenegger's book, "The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding," and Bodybuilding.com Anatomy/Exercises page.
PECTORALIS MAJOR - This muscle starts in your clavicle and sternum, and basically makes up your breast.
SERRATUS ANTERIOR - This is a thin muscle sheet between the ribs and the scapula.
When you do your chest exercises, you almost always work your front deltoid. It is very easy to overtrain this deltoid, as it is used in most chest and shoulder movements. Be careful!
How can I get the Chest I desire?
I am sure you don't want to hear all about the hard work and effort, but you need that for any muscle to grow. But, there are other things you need to be aware of. If you were to follow my plan (Don't worry, I haven't shown it yet), bench press and a few incline movements hit my chest nicely. My delts get sore before chest ever does, so that creates a problem. You have to find out what works with you when you make a chest workout. Do you need work on your lower pecs? How about your outer pecs? All these things should be taken into consideration before you make a chest plan that is right for you. I strongly suggest doing a little extra work on your weak spots whenever you do chest. I used to do that on my biceps. One was half an inch smaller than the other was, so I did an extra set of dumbbell curls on that one biceps. For chest, if you have a weak upper chest, do an additional set of incline movements added to the exercises you already did.
Exercises for the Chest
BENCH PRESS - If you don't know what a bench press is, you desperately need some exercise help. This is by far the most popular exercise in all of weightlifting/bodybuilding/fitness, or whatever you want to call it. Bench press is a must, if not for chest development, but for people's respect of you. Lie down on a bench (hence the name, "Bench Press"!), put your hands a little farther apart than shoulder width, bring the bar down to your chest, and press up. Do not bounce the bar on your chest. That is dangerous, and you aren't using your muscles as much to focus on a full range of motion. Bench presses can be done on an incline or decline bench, with either a barbell or two dumbbells. You can do chest presses on some machines, too.
DIPS - these are done on two parallel bars (you in between the bars), while you lower and push yourself up using your arms. These work great for the lower chest area.
DUMBBELL FLYES - these are done holding two dumbbells over your chest with your palms facing each other. Keeping your arms bent, lower the weights on either side of you. Once you can't see your arms anymore, then it is time to bring them up. Do not lower them too far, because I have done that and it hurts if you pull the muscles. BADLY! These can also be done on an incline and decline instead of flat bench. They also have pec-deck machines, and cables where you can do crossovers, which are almost the same things. For cable crossovers, pull two cables like you would a dumbbell, just crossover each arm, going farther than you would a dumbbell fly.
For the Serratus muscles, most of the chest exercises will hit them, but there are a lot of exercises that tend to isolate them. You can do pullovers with cables, or a barbell. Pullovers also hit the back muscles, too, which is good. Close grip chins also hit the Serratus, and there are serratus crunches you can do.
How much can you bench?
Like I said before, benching is a very important lift, as most people who know nothing about bodybuilding will always ask, "How much can you bench press?" You could be jacked up so much, but if you can't bench press, people won't really accept it. Believe me. I have never had strong chest muscles, and I neglected to take bench pressing seriously at the beginning of my bodybuilding "career", as you might say. All I heard was, "You're still weak, and you are a bodybuilder? This sounds easy, maybe I will become a bodybuilder." That was it. I made a change, and my chest grew because of it, too. I took bench pressing very seriously and I think you should too.
Different Areas of the Chest
It is important to hit different areas of the chest, as you do not want a lopsided or under-developed chest. For any upper chest development, you should do incline movements, such as incline press or incline Flyes. For lower development, it is said to do decline movements, but flat bench works my lower chest just fine. For outer development, wide grip bench presses and dumbbell flyes. Just the opposite for inner chest development, you should do close grip bench presses.
Achieving the "Cut"
Have you ever seen a bodybuilder with this huge cut on the top of his chest? The best example, to me anyway, would be Dr. Franco Columbu. He has awesome separation between his upper and lower pecs. I read somewhere that he attributes a lot of his chest development to the bench press. I looked up his training plan (Joe Weider collected a lot of pros' workout plans), and he did 7 sets of bench presses, just on flat press, but he did extra on incline, too. So, if you want that cut and striations along your chest, do a lot of incline work, and hit every possible area of the chest.
I told you that I would show you my chest workout. Keep in mind, you might say to yourself, "Why does he do so little reps on a flat bench, but more on the incline, and why do more incline movements than flat movements?" Well, this workout plan works best for me, and my weakness is upper pecs. I have no problem with lower pecs, so I designed a workout to suit me. Do the same for yourselves. Find something perfect for you. Well, here it is.
- Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets of 5 reps
- Barbell Incline Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Flyes
3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Bench Dips