When it comes to the human body, nothing says strength and power quite like a pumped, muscular chest. But swollen, rock-hard pecs can be notoriously difficult to develop, particularly if you’re one of those ectomorph types who have trouble putting on weight. No matter your body type however, you can indeed build a sculpted, powerful chest with a well-designed chest workout protocol.
How do you train your chest efficiently for maximum growth? In this post I’ll explain you which mistakes you must avoid to build a bigger chest and the right method to increase your chest size.
Barbell Bench Press
You can generate the most power with barbell lifts, so the standard barbell bench allows you to move the most weight. It’s also an easier lift to control than pressing with heavy dumbbells. The exercise is easy to spot and relatively easy to learn (if not master), There are plenty of bench-press programs you can follow to increase your strength.
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
With dumbbells, each side of your body must work independently, which recruits more stabilizer muscles; dumbbells are harder to control than a barbell. Dumbbells also allow for a longer range of motion than the barbell bench press, both at the bottom and top of the movement. Flat dumbbell presses allow you to hoist a fairly heavy weight, and they make for a good alternative if you’ve been stuck on the barbell bench for ages.
Low-Incline Barbell Bench Press
Many benches are fixed at a very steep angle, which requires a larger contribution from the front delts than the chest to move the weight. If possible, go for a less-steep incline to hit the upper pecs without as much stress on the delts. You can also easily do low-incline benches with an adjustable bench on the Smith machine.
Machine Decline Press
Some machines, like Hammer Strength, allow you to move each arm independently, which is a great feature on chest day. Besides doing a machine decline press straight on, you can sit sideways on the apparatus and press across your body one arm at a time, which delivers a completely different feel than when you sit straight-on.
Seated Machine Chest Press
Free-weight pressing moves on a flat bench are great, but the machine press has some unique benefits. For one, it’s easier to slow down the repetition, both in the concentric and eccentric phases. Stack-loaded machines are also great for quickly doing dropsets.
Incline Dumbbell Press
Dumbbell presses make everybody’s top 10 list, but with an adjustable bench you can do a number of things you can’t with a fixed bench. Our favorite: changing the angle of the incline from one set to the next, or from one workout to the next. Hitting a muscle from varying degrees of incline angles builds it more thoroughly.
Dips for Chest
First off, make sure you’re doing dips that emphasize the pecs: Put your feet up behind you, lean forward as far as possible, and allow your elbows to flare out as you dip. Chest dips are a great spotter-free alternative to the decline press.
Incline Bench Cable Fly
Not many single-joint exercises made the list, but this is one of our favorites. It’s an effective move to isolate the pecs after completing your multijoint exercises. Cables allow for continuous tension throughout the exercise’s full range of motion. If you’ve got a good chest pump going, nothing beats looking back at yourself in the mirror as you squeeze out a few more reps.
Incline Dumbbell Pull-Over
Forget flat-bench pull-overs; the incline version puts your chest fibers under tension for a longer range of motion! Just sit back against a bench inclined to about 45 degrees and make sure the dumbbell clears the top. Make sure you keep this a single-joint movement; don’t bend or extend at the elbows.
Chest flyes are hard for many trainees to learn with dumbbells or cables because the arms need to be locked in a slightly bent position for the duration of the exercise. Luckily, the pec deck simplifies things because it allows you to work in only one pathway. So, this exercise is a great movement teacher, and you can go for a great pump without having to balance any weights.
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, get into pushup position. Raise your legs behind you onto a bench. Keeping your abs braced and your body in a straight line, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lower your body until your chest is an inch above the floor. Press back up three-quarters of the way, then lower into the next rep.
Top 7 Chest Building Mistakes
To the aesthetically minded, there are few things more important than a thick, rounded chest. As a result, many people’s routines involve training the chest with a higher volume, frequency or intensity than any other body part. More is not better; BETTER is better.
Excessive Shoulder Rotation
On Mondays, or “National Chest Training Day,” as some people call it, the bench presses and chest machines are typically filled with eager trainees. Because of this bum-rush to the bench press and improper technique, you will likely see a young guy spending more time rubbing his shoulder than under the barbell. A chest press seems like an easy movement to perform, but there are a few things you need to be aware of if you don’t want your shoulders to resemble a log after it’s been through a wood-chipper.
Too Much Bench Pressing
Unless you are training for maximum strength (particularly powerlifting), there isn’t a good reason to focus on bench pressing. To people focused on aesthetics, the bench press is just another chest exercise, and maybe not the greatest.
Neglecting Full Range of Motion
I don’t do a lot of isolation movements, but I have started to realize there can be benefits from things like cable crossovers even for a powerlifter. When I was bodybuilding, nothing seemed to set my chest on fire like a crossover. When I made the leap to the dark side and started strongman and powerlifting, I almost entirely cut out isolation movements and focused on heavy compound lifts. In powerlifting, the objective is to reduce the range of motion; that’s not the case for bodybuilding. Despite this, I regularly see guys limit their range of motion because they’re trying to work weights that are too heavy.
The normal chest-enhancing protocol probably looks like this: your obligatory flat barbell presses, followed by an incline or decline hammer strength press, and then finished with a flye. This will work well for most people, most of the time. However, when I get a client who is tall, has narrow shoulders, and long arms, asking about his chest being outpaced by shoulder and arm development, I tend not to go that direction. If you aren’t most people, or if you desire chest specialization, the pre-exhaustion technique may be just what the trainer ordered!
Focusing On the Positive
This is another area where strength trainers differ from bodybuilders. Heavy, slow negatives aren’t usually considered the best thing for maximum strength gain, but they are wonderful for stimulating muscle growth. There is a reason nearly every bodybuilding program out there instructs you to take the eccentric portion of an exercise slowly.
Tips to Build a Bigger Chest
The key to increasing the size of your chest muscles is to eat more and get stronger. Build a foundation before you even think of adding isolation exercises.
Your chest will never be big if you’re underweight. Check the minimum weights for your height. To gain weight: eat every 3 hours and focus on calorie dense foods.
Do Heavy Compounds
Free weight compound exercises like the Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press and Overhead Press are the fastest way to build overall strength & bulk. Do them often & heavy.
Train Your Legs
Squats & Deadlifts help chest growth by increasing the release of muscle building hormones like Testosterone and Growth Hormone. Get stronger at them. Read 5 reasons to train your legs.
Your muscles grow when they rest, not when you train them. Train your chest maximum 2x/week. Eat your calories so your chest gets the nutrients it needs to recover and grow bigger.
Lifting fast recruits more muscle fibers and lets you use more weight, which stimulates chest growth. Lift as fast as you can on the way up with good technique. Way down under control but not slow.
Use Proper Technique
A partial bench press doesn’t work your chest through a full range of motion. Touch your shirt on the way down, lock your elbows at the top. Lower the weight if you have to.
Set Realistic Goals
Even if you train and eat exactly like your idol, you’ll never get the same muscle shape. Developing your muscles is training and diet. But the shape of your muscles is genetics.
Especially if you’re still a teen. Your body is still developing. You won’t get the chest development of a 30y old if you’re only 15. Build the foundation and be patient. Your chest will change as you get older.