Along with the abs, a balanced, well-defined chest is the main focal point on a bodybuilder's physique. Because attention is immediately drawn to the chest, based on its position at the center of the upper body, it is important to develop it to its fullest to succeed as a bodybuilder.
At the amateur level, shallow, underdeveloped pecs can often be seen and these detract heavily from the rest of the physique. It is interesting to note the relative lack of chest development onstage given it is such a popular body part to train. If your first ever exercise in any gym, anywhere, was not the bench press then you might even be considered odd.
In fact, if a poll were to be run on which body part would be the most desirable to develop among both bodybuilders and the general lifting population, chances are chest would be one of the first picks, such is its impressive shape and the fact it can look great onstage, on the beach or in clothing.
Although a major goal of any bodybuilding program is the attainment of a balanced physique, it seems that full chest development is something that is particularly sought after and rewarded for on the bodybuilding stage.
This is probably because the muscles that catch the judge's attention are those that are fully scrutinised from the outset in the first pose of the relaxed, symmetry round and from front-on the chest is where the gaze tends to be directed - weak pec's will immediately signal a lack of muscle through the entire torso region.
The chest is also quite a complex muscle group to train as it has several, interconnected areas of focus: the upper, lower, inner, outer and middle. And each of these areas will need a different angle of attack and to be fully development if proper balance is to be achieved.
A good set of pec's will be full from top to bottom, side to side, and in balance with the rest of the physique. Therefore, this is why, next to the back and legs, chest is often the hardest body part to train.
To successfully target it for complete development requires a multi-pronged approach using several specific movements in the one session needs to be used. And that is the purpose of this article: to explain in detail how a championship-winning chest is built.
To explain the ins and outs of chest training will be Anthony Catanzaro, a man known for his great pec development. In fact, publishers seek Tony out to appear on the covers of novels where his chest and abdominal development attract potential readers. As usual, Tony is honest and objective when it comes to providing his personal insights.
In the following article he explains why chest training is important to him, where he draws his inspiration from, how he develops his own pecs and what he suggests for advanced and novice bodybuilders.
[ Q ] Hi Tony. What are your current chest training goals?
Hey David! Well, you know me. I'm always looking to get better and that's the key word here "better" not bigger. Being big and trying to get bigger is great, but what good is it if your chest is out of whack?
Do you have a good lower chest, but maybe your upper chest is lacking at bit? When you wear a tank top, is your chest bulging out like two slabs of beef or are you as flat chested as a five-year-old girl? You see balance is key.
If you have read any of my articles in the past you know that's what I'm always talking about. Balance and the power of positive thinking is the key to success. If you've been working out for quite some time now, and your chest is still not where you want it to be, then you need to read this article.
[ Q ] What is the best chest training routine for the beginner?
Basic training. That means free weights baby! No fancy machines or whatever the latest trend your personal trainer has got you doing. I'm talking barbells, pullovers dips and flies. In order for you to change what you have, you have to change what you do.
Your chest will only grow when you can actually see it happening in your mind as well as believing that the exercises and diet you're following is correct. Your body does whatever the mind tells it to do. I don't care what anybody says, if it were not for your mind, you would not even be reading this right now. The reason you are is because you're interested in developing a better chest right? So let's do it.
[ Q ] And for the advanced lifter?
Pretty much the same exercises as a beginner just a lot more weight. If it's not broke don't try and fix it. Always remember that everything must fit together: your chest, shoulders, back, arms, waist, legs and calves are all muscle groups and they all need to tie in with each other.
You can't just love to train your arms and make them so big and ripped that they make your chest and shoulders look small. Here's another example: I love it when guys tell me that they want to have a nice V-taper, but they never want to train their abdominals.
You have to understand what bodybuilding means in the first place. Bodybuilding means building ones body to perfection. Now perfection may vary in the eye of the beholder, but getting real a small midsection and awesome v-taper never hurt anybody.
[ Q ] That's right. What should one never neglect to do when training chest?
The worst thing you can do is not train the areas of your chest that need improvement. You need to use priority training to target your weak points. This means training the muscles you need the most work on first. So if you have a great chest but need to work on building the upper chest, then you need to hit that area first.
The same goes with any other muscles. Your priorities have to be taken care of first thing. Don't do tons of flat benches when you have no upper chest because your lower chest will only become more dominant and your upper will never catch up.
That would be like only brushing one side of your mouth. Everything needs to be balanced. Look at your chest and see what area needs work and then go for it like a lion after a steak.
[ Q ] What exercises are best for building the chest and why?
- Incline smith machine presses: these build the middle, upper chest.
- Incline dumbbell presses: these build the inner, upper outer chest.
- Incline dumbbell flies: these build the outer, upper chest.
- Pullovers: these can widen the rib cage and help stretch the chest cavity, giving you a higher chest.
- Flat barbell bench presses: these build the middle, center chest.
- Flat dumbbell presses: these build the inner, center chest.
- Flat flies: these build the outer, center chest.
For upper chest I love:
For middle chest I love:
For lower chest I love:
[ Q ] Do you have a strategy for improving definition in the chest?
Well defining the chest would mean you're happy with the chest you have. But you would still have to utilize these exercises or else you will lose what you worked so hard to build. If you're looking to just define a little, then you can use the pec deck and various machines.
I'm not a big fan of these but if you're looking to just do a little, then a little is what you're going to get. You see, it goes back to the power of the mind. If you want a million dollars and know that you are going to have a million dollars like Tuesday follows Monday, then you will get a million dollars! Remember energy flows where the mind goes.
[ Q ] Upper chest is often the most stubborn part to develop. What are some special strategies for developing this area?
Pullovers are best. I mean it! I use to think, "Aaah I'm not doing those they are so outdated." Well I was wrong. I started doing them and not only did my upper chest become more dominant, it also helped my posture significantly.
You see in order to see your chest muscles you have to keep your shoulders back and your chest out like a solider. If your posture is bad, you're going to look like crap. Remember, when you stand right, your body will look out of sight.
[ Q ] Describe your chest-training program?
You might be thinking, "Wow this guy must be at the gym all day." Nope! If I'm in the gym for more than one hour and fifteen minutes, I will throw myself out. My training is very simple and very to the point. Just like my life if I'm looking to achieve something I don't want to be distracted.
I don't carry my cell phone in the gym. I leave it in the locker. I also don't listen to negative people. The only thing I'm thinking about is the muscles I'm working that day, period. I don't care if a bomb goes off during my set; if this happened I would probably just dust myself off and continue with my next set.
You see I don't care about what is going on around me; all that matters is that I put 150% into what I'm doing. This will follow with you outside the gym as well. You will begin to find that your whole life will come together once you give complete attention to what you want. Remember, if you want something you have to act like you already have it.
My chest routine would go something like this:
I go to complete failure on every set - use a spot if you need to.
[ Q ] What was your chest like when you began?
I always had a decent chest, but it wasn't until I got serious with my self and my training and dieting etc that is really improved. It was then that I realized anything could be achieved if you want it bad enough.
[ Q ] Describe what your chest looks like now?
I have to say my chest is perfect for me; I don't have any weak points and have a nice upper lower and outer chest. All I have to do is continue to train hard to keep it. But I know it's not going anywhere because I see it always being awesome.
[ Q ] How did you make your biggest improvements in chest development?
I had to understand that in order to achieve "bigger and better", you have to go "heavy and harder." That means if you're lifting the same amount of weight and doing the same old exercises and eating the same way and you're not where you want to be, then something has to change in order to receive change.
I started training heavier with fewer sets - just three sets with three different exercises with the mentally of as many reps as possible and as much weight as possible. You can't really count reps too much when you are looking to grow. Keep the reps between 10 and 15 but don't do your first set for 15 reps when you could have easily done 20. You're not going to grow that way.
[ Q ] What are some chest training safety considerations?
If you need a spot ask for someone who knows how to spot you. Just today I saw these kids bench pressing. One kid was trying to bench like 275lbs and he must have weighed about 155lbs. He had three of his friends behind him to spot him.
Well I don't have to tell you what happened, the kid couldn't lift it and his three friends had trouble lifting it off of him. It was a real mess. The message? Don't lift with your ego, lift with your mind and muscles.
[ Q ] What techniques do you use when training chest; special little tricks that will add to the overall intensity and quality of the movements?
- "My chest is growing this very second."
- "I never felt so much blood in my chest as I do right now."
- "I never felt better in my entire life."
- "I am 150% healthy."
- "I am a champion."
- "I am a winner."
The best trick that I always use, and I use this for everything I train, is I mentally focus on what I'm doing. Let's say I'm training my chest. Between sets I'll take deep breaths and envision the blood flowing right into my chest, creating a massive pump. I visualize the blood like an ocean with huge waves crashing into my muscles like it would if the wave would hit a wall.
The power of the mind is what builds everything. We have to use the universe to our benefit and send out positive signals like,
I am at this very moment the best I have ever been!
[ Q ] Why is a big, well-defined chest important in your view?
Your chest is like an eye catcher. It's like when a woman has large breasts, you can't help but look at them, not that you want to look at them, its just that where they are positioned you can't help it. The same goes for your stomach: it's right out there and there's no way to hide it. I feel that a great-developed chest also helps make the waistline appear smaller and this is what you want.
[ Q ] Who do you admire for their chest development and why?
That's easy, his name begins with A. Hey I might mean Anthony - just kidding, although I do admire myself. But yeah, Arnold's chest was the greatest and the reason for this is he knew he had to develop the greatest chest anyone had ever seen to get where he wanted to be. He imagined his chest being so huge and perfect that it would just bulge out and there was no way anyone could miss it.
Remember, everything you have always gotten in life - good or bad - came from you thinking about it. If your mind is always on one thing and your confident about it and you know you will get it like you know the sun will come up again tomorrow, then what's to stop you?
As always good luck and God bless!