If you are out on the beach, whether you're a manor a woman, what's the first part of a man's body that you notice? His chest, of course! And if he has no
development to his chest, doesn't the eye just sort of pass by this person? Of course it does. Whether you admit it or not, a man's chest is the hallmark
of devotion to his own physical well-being and level of fitness.
You don't need to have a 50-inch chest to be noticed either. Save that for the genetic freaks who make their living on a bodybuilding stage. You can develop your chest by employing a good routine that is both consistent and complete. A man must train his chest from at least three separate angles to achieve good development and a look that is well rounded.
Let's start by touching on a few training basics, because, as you know by now, I like to do that right from the start. Many men ask me what the best exercise is for the chest, as if there were some trade secret to bulging pecs! My answer is always this: "Do a well-rounded workout, and your chest will be well rounded:' The main ingredient to being successful with any bodypart you're training is consistency and knowing your own body. In training chest, you may not get equal results by doing the same number of sets and reps that you do for your legs. Know when enough is enough, and do a chest workout, not a leg or back workout.
The chest is a major muscle group, but it is subject to overtraining like any other bodypart. The best way to avoid overtraining your chest is to vary the number of sets and reps that you do in each workout. Find the exercises that work best for you, the ones that you can feel working well, and change the weight, sets and reps that you use in each workout. That's a good rule of thumb for any bodypart you are training.
Perhaps the best possible way to gain muscle in the pectoral area is to lock into a mind/muscle connection. No matter how heavy you're going, and no matter how many sets and reps you choose to do, make sure that each rep is controlled by your mind, not your triceps and shoulders. A mind/muscle relationship is essential in every workout but particularly in a chest workout. Because your chest is assisted by other secondary muscles, you must lift with your pecs and not your arms. Lock into a mental image of what you are doing within the first two reps of your chest routine.
A good friend of mine, a top-level pro, once put it this way: "You should be able to go into a room with no weights at all, and lift weight!" I thought that was the best description I had ever heard. It means you should have such a "mind meld" with each muscle group that you can imagine lifting weight and feel a contraction and pump even when you are lying on a bench with no weight supported over your head.
To work the chest, you use exercises that involve pushing. In such movements isolation and concentration are of the utmost importance. It is easy to involve other muscle groups in a pushing movement as you fight gravity and force a heavy object away from your body. You must use a weight that is reasonable, based on your level of strength. Whatever amount of weight you choose, over and above what your chest can actually lift, is all absorbed by the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the secondary and tertiary muscles. Your shoulders and triceps bear the burden of your miscalculations or gym bravado. Choose only weights that can be pushed away from the body by the chest.
So back to the three-part chest workout. As I said, a man must train his chest from three different angles to obtain complete development. (A woman needs to train her chest from only two angles.) Re must do exercises that work his upper, middle and lower pectorals. If he works only his upper pecs, but does nothing for his middle or lower pecs, he will look like a man who has inhaled a tomato and forgotten to exhale. A man who trains only his middle chest by doing only bench press and nothing else will give the impression that a creature has crawled under his pecs and set up house there. And, of course, the man who works only his lower chest will look as if something fell off the edge of the world, disproving Columbus's theory that the world is round!
In dealing with angles, remember that, if you're lying on a flat bench, you're working the middle portion of the pectorals. If your head is raised above your pecs, and you're lying back on an incline bench, you're working your upper pecs. And if your head is lower than your feet, and you're reclining on a decline bench, you're hitting the lower portion of the chest. Chest high... upper pecs. Chest low.., lower pecs. A flat bench has an equalizing angle that hits dead center of the pectorals.
You must include at least one exercise based on each of these angles to give the chest a chance to develop evenly and fully. Whether you are using a barbell or a pair of dumbbells, you must always get a full range of motion in all of the movements you select. Working through a full range of motion allows you to stretch and contract, stretch and contract-a crucial sequence.
Stretching between sets is also good for the pecs. Muscle becomes more pliant and growth becomes more accessible.
I suggest the following exercises for complete pectoral development. They should always be a part of any good chest routine. There are plenty of variations out there that I might not cover, so experiment, find what works, lock into that workout, and develop a mind/muscle connection that will carry you through both low-rep/heavy-weight and high-rep/lighter-weight workouts. I am going to assume that you already know how to do these exercises. I will explain why I believe they are invaluable tools in building the chest and provide you with some tips for performing them correctly.
Conventional Bench Presses - The conventional bench press should be a mainstay of all good chest routines. This exercise almost exclusively works the middle pectoral. It provides the chest with girth and overall mass. In fact, most people associate chest workouts with this one exercise. The bench press is a power-oriented movement, and is used by both bodybuilders and powerlifters. Most often employed for building mass, it is a fairly complete exercise that allows a hill range of motion from bottom to top.
Some people do bench presses with a regular grip and some with what's called a false grip. In a false grip the thumbs are on the same side of the bar as the fingers, allowing you to push from the chest alone and isolate it hilly. Be careful with this grip, however, until you are certain you can control the weight. You may want to experiment by doing half-reps, close-grip presses (getting more triceps work in) and wide-grip presses.
Wide-grip presses are easily done as a variation in the middle of your benching sets. Allot one or two sets to pressing with a wide grip. Just as the angle of the bench affects the part of the chest you are working, so too does the amount of space between your hands. With a wide-grip bench press you work on the outer regions of the pectorals. The farther out the hands are spaced, the farther out on the pec you are working.
The wide-grip press is excellent for the muscle tie-ins from chest to front deltoid (shoulder). It also tends to give the chest a fuller, higher appearance because the muscles are worked at their point of insertion. Wide-grip pressing allows you to lift with the pecs alone, not involving the triceps too much.
Incline Presses - This is an excellent exercise for building fullness and mass. You can do this with either a straight bar or a pair of dumbbells for a greater range of motion. Whether you use dumbbells or a bar is a personal choice, but I suggest you do both occasionally- unless you have shoulder difficulties, in which case you would want to choose dumbbells.
On any chest exercise, but particularly this one, remember to fill your lungs with air at the start (the bottom) and expel air with great force at the top of the movement. Expanding your rib cage in this manner will help you to reach every muscle fiber and fill the area with blood. This exercise is a great follow-up to the bench press as it will sustain the pump you already created in your pecs while flat-pressing. Keep your elbows close to the body during inclines and concentrate on lifting from the chest alone.
You might also want to experiment with supination and pronation of the wrists as you do each rep. Try turning your p inky fingers in at the top of each rep, as well as turning your thumbs in at the top. Alternating these two variations will give you a better feeling for what the mind/muscle connection is all about. Squeeze at the top of the movement and watch your form so that you get the maximum benefit from each set.
Flat or Incline Flys - The fly is a great detailing exercise. It will also build the inner corridor of the pectoral wall that attaches to the sternum. Flys are a tricky exercise to master. Use lighter weights while you learn to execute them properly. I advise alternating flat-bench flys and incline flys. I have always gotten a much better stretch and feel from doing flat flys. I think the reason is that when you are doing flys on an incline bench, the rotator cuffs in your shoulders are somewhat at a disadvantage. You can get a good feel for this exercise more easily if you attempt to master it in a flat position first.
Flys tend to bring out great detail, and are nearly identical to cable crossovers in terms of creating striations in the chest. They are invaluable for hitting that difficult- to-reach inner portion of the pec. Since flys were never meant to be a heavy exercise, you should consider doing them well after all of your mass-building exercises are completed. They also are effective when supersetted with dips, incline presses and cable crossovers.
Decline Presses - I recommend decline presses to target the lower pecs, the third and final region of the chest that a man has to train to develop a symmetrical and well-rounded chest. Because the bottom of the pectoral muscles hovers just above the abdominal cage, they tend to stand out more than any other area of the chest. Developing that ridge that separates the pectorals from the abdominals is important in creating fullness. Decline presses are best done with a bar, rather than dumbbells, as you maybe a bit disoriented while in that position. The blood rushes to your head and you tend not to have the equilibrium that you do lying flat or just reclined slightly. You must keep good control of the bar while executing this exercise because you risk shoulder injuries if you cannot handle the weight.
Although use of a spotter is recommended, make sure - as a safeguard - that you can lift the weight yourself. Use a standard grip on declines (hands shoulder width apart). Getting fancy with grips in this one is not only unnecessary, but can also be dangerous (unless you're doing triceps work). Save the alternate grips for your flat-bench sets.
Dips - Dips, whether weighted or non-weighted, can be used as either a warmup or a final pumping exercise. There are a couple of ways to do them. You can suspend your weight, upright, in a Roman-chair apparatus, or you can dip between two benches with the center of gravity in your backside. Most people hang a dumbbell or plate from their waist by means of a belt and chain in the Roman chair or hold a dumbbell between their thighs when using two benches. I prefer doing dips in a Roman chair because this method seems to work the chest much better, and seems easier to me. However, I have seen a great many people do them between two benches. That technique seems to work the triceps much more. I often see people doing them during an arm workout.
Either way, dips can be a great building, finishing or pumping exercise. They can also be used as a good stretching movement if done without any weight - i.e. simply using your bodyweight. Dips, though optional in a chest workout, are great endurance-builders for the entire upper body.
I suggest using this workout for building mass and creating separation in the muscles. A great chest is what most people notice first, but to build any bodypart, you need to follow a good diet, allow time for plenty of rest and employ consistency in all that you do. A great set of pecs gives the impression that you are a strong person, whether you actually are or not. The chest is a sign of strength and masculinity that falls about first or second on the wish list of every man the world over.