Best Chest Exercises for Big Pecs
Posted by Simon on 30 March 2008 14:23:55
For full development of the chest muscles, you’ll need to perform a variety of chest exercises that target your pecs (pectoral muscles) from a number of different angles.
Building the upper pecs is very important for creating a full, powerful looking chest. Just focussing on the lower chest muscles can create a saggy appearance. Targeting both upper and lower pecs with different exercises will ensure you get the best chest development possible.
There are many different exercises to choose from. Here are a few of the best chest exercises to get you started.
The bench press works the overall chest and triceps muscles and can be performed using either a barbell or with dumbbells. Using dumbbells will recruit more stabilizer muscles to keep the weights steady, so you’ll probably not be able to lift as much as you can when using a barbell. If you don’t have a spotter, using dumbbells is slightly safer than using a barbell as you can drop them to the sides, if needed, rather than getting trapped under a bar.
The angle of the bench can be changed to target different parts of the pectoral muscles. A flat bench will work your overall chest, whilst increasing the incline will place more focus on your upper pecs. However, any more than a 45 degree angle will start to target your shoulders muscles (anterior deltoids). If your gym has a decline bench, where your head is lower than your chest, you can also perform the bench press on this to work the lower chest muscles.
How to do it:
- Start by lying face up on a bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground.
- Tighten your abs to flatten your back against the bench. This will protect your lower back.
- Keep your shoulder blades pinched together to focus the lift on your chest rather than the front of your shoulders.
- Push the barbell or dumbbells towards the ceiling squeezing the chest muscles as you go. Make sure you don’t lock the elbows at the top of the movement.
- Lower the bar until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Lowering any further can place excessive train on the shoulder joint.
- Repeat the movement.
Seated Chest Press
This exercise is similar to the flat bench press except you’re sat down and using a machine. The motion is stabilised by the machine and so the effort is focussed on the chest muscles.
Because the seated chest press uses a machine, it is safer than using a barbell on a bench press so you won’t need a spotter and you’ll be able to lift a heavier weight. And heavier weights mean more muscle building (as long as you use good form).
How to do it:
- Sit in the seat with the height adjusted so that the handles are at the same height as the middle part of your chest muscles.
- Push the handles forward concentrating on squeezing your chest muscles.
- Slowly lower the weight to the starting position – just before the weight stack touches down and then repeat.
Like with the bench press, you can perform flyes with the bench at different angles to vary the emphasis on different parts of the chest.
How to do it:
- Lie on the bench after adjusting it to the required angle.
- Hold the dumbbells out to the sides with your elbows slightly bent.
- Move the weights up and over your chest in an arc.
- Lower back to the starting position.
This is a similar motion to dumbbell flyes. However, whilst dumbbell flyes are a great exercise, the tension on the chest muscles reduces as we bring the weights in until there is almost no effort in the pecs when the weights are overhead. Cable crossovers, on the other hand, keep more of the tension on the pectoral muscles at the apex of the movement. This helps to develop the hard-to-get inner pecs. Using both exercises in your chest workout programme will make you get the best all-round chest development.
How to do it:
- Lock each pulley into a high position, above the level of your head.
- With your arms out to the sides, grasp one pulley handle with each hand. Your body should form a t-shape.
- Stand with one foot in front of the other.
- Bring your arms down and together in front of you. Squeezing your chest muscles and holding for one second at the peak of the movement.
- Let the weights slowly pull your arms back to the start position, giving your chest muscles a good stretch. Then repeat the motion.
Muscle Building Tips for all these Chest Exercises
The concentric phase (lifting the weight) should take about 1-2 seconds.
The eccentric phase of the exercise (lowering the weight) should take about 3 seconds. Much of the muscle building power of resistance exercises comes from this ‘negative’ part of the exercise so, once you’ve lifted the weight, don’t waste it by just dropping it.
At the top of the movement, make sure you don’t lock out your elbows as this can put excessive strain on the joint. Always keep a slight bend.
Always make sure you’ve warmed up and have stretched the muscles before training. This will help prevent injury. Resistance training tends to shorten muscles, you should always stretch the muscles you’ve trained after your workout to prevent this effect. Stretch your chest muscles to ensure they don’t pull your shoulders forward giving you bad posture.