A muscle group which a lot of guys spend hours upon hours working on is the chest. Day-in and day-out people go to the gym, jump on the bench, and press until their heart is content. It's not uncommon to see people simply doing flat bench presses for chest along with some flye movements.
To build an overall strong and well developed chest you need to do more than just a flat bench press. You need to hit the chest from different angles and stimulate and break down those fibers to see some growth.
This article will show you some tips and workouts for building perfect pecs. Let's first talk a little about the chest and the musculature so you can fully understand how the chest works.
Anatomy Of The Chest
- Flat Bench Press
- Incline Bench Press
- Decline Bench Press
- Flat Bench Flye
- Incline Bench Flye
- Decline Bench Flye
- Cable Flye
- Cable Incline Flye
- Chest Dips
The chest is made up of two muscles: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.
The pecs are found attached to the humerus of the arm, right near the shoulder joint. The pecs then run across the front of the body and originate on the breastbone. The pectoralis major is attached to the front of the body on the rib cage. The pectoralis minor is found underneath the pectoralis major. It originates on the ribs and attaches up to the scapula, specifically at the coracoid process.
The pectoralis major brings the humerus across the body while the pectoralis minor moves the shoulders forward.
In order to have a fully developed chest, there are a couple qualities that you must possess:
- You want to have thick pectoral muscle mass.
- You want to have the inside/outside and the upper/lower pectorals developed.
- When you flex you want to be able to see striations.
- When raising your arms up you want to make sure that you have enough thickness so your chest doesn't disappear.
Tips & Workouts
Here are some tips and workouts from the members of the forum:
Shape (of the chest) is genetic, focus on the big pressing exercises and dips to make your chest bigger.
My chest routine goes a little like this:
This is my current pec routine, if you are new to lifting cut the sets down from 5 to 3:
I'll usually cycle in these keeping the same rep range:
Barbell Bench Press - I'll use a wide grip with shoulders flared out a bit more then normal to place the emphasis on the chest instead of triceps.
Incline Barbell Bench Press - I'll use a wide-grip with shoulders flared out a bit more then normal to place the emphasis on the chest instead of triceps.
Dumbbell Bench Press - On these I will place the emphasis on the squeeze at the top, flexing my pec for a 1-second contraction. Make sure to do these properly and go low enough with the weight so that if it were a straight bar, it would touch your chest. I see many guys doing too much weigh with partial reps.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press - On these I will place the emphasis on the squeeze at the top, flexing my pec for a 1 second contraction. Make sure to do these properly and go low enough with the weight so that if it were a strait bar, it would touch your chest. I see many guys doing too much weigh with partial reps.
Weighted Dips - On these, I will use enough weight to keep me in the 4-6 per range and keep my chin down, so as to help lean forward. Leaning forward places more emphasis on the chest and less on the triceps.
Machine Flyes - Again, use enough weight to stay in my rep range and flex hard on the contraction! Make sure to get a good stretch w/ a full range of motion.
Barbell Decline Bench Press - These are fairly simple, I will drop the bar right below nipple level, with controlled explosive push on the lift.
Crossover Cable Flyes - These to are fairly easy also. It's pretty hard to mess these up. I will vary the cable position (if yours is adjustable) to hit the pecs at various angles.
Dumbbell Pullovers -You will especially feel this working your lower pec.
There are many other lifts for this, but these are the ones I like to use.
From Hola Bola
Total = between 14 and 20 sets (including warm-up and lighter "burn" sets) ... depending on how much volume you can handle.
From god hand
Slow- and fast-growing muscle groups are an annoying fact of life and understandably frustrating. One wonders why this problem exists in the first place. After all, your muscles all belong to the same body and are governed by identical physical, physiological and mental processes.
All are fed by the same food and supplements, and they get equal rest and recovery, so why the wide disparity in muscle growth? Why should your shoulders grow easily and your pectorals slowly, or vice versa?
Blame it mostly on your parents. Chest development can be influenced by heredity, such as having too few cells in the pectoral muscles. It's also affected by your somatic body type: endomorphic (those naturally heavy, chubby people who carry a great amount of fat), mesomorphic (genetically gifted bodybuilders who have natural muscle size and strength) or ectomorphic (naturally slim people who have long, thin limbs and a small ribcage).
Other factors include:
- Poor neuromuscular pathways (that make it difficult to innervate a muscle as you train it).
- Poor blood circulation to a muscle group or a part of a muscle group, which makes it difficult to pump a muscle fully and take advantage of the blood principle (the better a muscle pumps, the faster it grows).
- Poor nerve force (the inability to make a muscle contract hard).
- A slow or fast metabolism.
- Different skeletal frames and muscle attachments.
- The length of muscle bellies and your proclivity for training.
Those are the primary reasons why bodybuilders fail to develop a great chest, particularly the upper chest.
Genetics may not be the only explanation for slow muscle growth, but, realistically, it's a factor. There's no denying that some people are more genetically gifted for developing muscle mass and symmetry than others. That said ... it's also true that all bodybuilders - even Olympia champions - have one or two muscle groups that don't grow as fast as the rest of their physique.
Few bodybuilders can build a Mr. Olympia-quality chest, but hard work and persistence can overcome many problems. It takes time to learn which exercises and training principles give you the best results, but everyone, no matter how poor the genetic potential, can improve his or her physique in general and the chest in particular.
If you peruse a copy of Gray's Anatomy, you can see that the primary muscles of the chest are the pectoralis major, the pectoralis minor and the subclavius.
Most bodybuilders incorrectly call the pectoralis major the lower pectoral and the pectoralis minor the upper pec. Actually, the pectoralis major covers the entire chest, from the lower ribcage to the collarbones and from the sternum, or chest bone, to the armpit.
The pectoralis minor actually lies beneath the pec major. It's a thin, flat, triangular muscle that arises from the third, fourth and fifth ribs. Its fibers pass upward and outward beneath the pec major and meet to form a flat tendon that inserts under the coracoid, the bones that form the tip of the shoulder.
The subclavius is small and also triangular. It's located between the collarbone and the first rib at the top of the chest, and its fibers slant upward and outward to where they insert into a deep groove under the surface of the collarbone.
For complete development of the chest you must fully develop all sections of the pectoralis major (especially the upper section), the pectoralis minor and the subclavius, as well as the serratus muscles, which are those long fingerlike muscles under the armpits that frame the chest, and the ribcage should be deep and full.
I don't see how people can do 16+ sets for a body part with any kind of intensity. If you use heavy weight, and I mean truly heavy weight, with good form in a controlled manner coming as close as you can to failure, there is no way you should be able to do 16-plus sets ... or better yet, want to. Plus there is no need to IMO.
The 5x5 is a great matrix for chest. 2-3 sets of 2-3 exercises are also fine for chest. If people think that 5x5 is a waste of their time, they need to re-evaluate their intensity.
You're supposed to feel like you had a good workout, not that you were run over by a bus.
My upper chest was always lagging. I made some changes to my workout and have made great gains. Here is the whole thing with the upper chest exercises in bold. This workout stresses upper chest while still hitting the rest of the chest as well. It's using the priority principle, so for each movement I am hitting the upper chest first, i.e. Incline BB before Flat BB, Incline Flyes before flat flyes, etc.
Pins set high. Light Weight, very slow Go slowly - designed to hit those last remaining fibers and to finish off with a solid pump
Heavy weight that allows you to complete the suggested reps, but achieving total failure on the last rep. Moderate weight that is challenging, but you could easily force out 1-2 more reps. Light weight that offers just enough resistance for slow movements.