Gym Chest Workout
Ask a person like me for tips on building chest size, and I can give you a much better answer than the guy whose chest grew easily - those guys didn't have to think about it, they just did a few benches and wham! They had a good chest.
Some guys are like that - they add an inch to their biceps just lifting their coffee cup in the morning. In this article, I will give you several solid tips and routines to nudge that stubborn chest into new growth.
Before jumping into any training, it makes sense to understand the anatomy of the muscle group you're working, as opposed to just blinding hitting the gym with Ronnie Coleman's chest routine.
Anatomy of the chest: called the pectorals, there are two parts to this muscle: the clavicular or upper part and the sternal or lower part. The upper part is attached to the collarbone. It attaches to the sternum, or breastbone, about mid-body, attaching also to the rib-cage.
The lower part attaches to the upper arm bone, just above where the delts attach to the upper arm bone (also called the humerus). It then attaches to the rib-cage in the center and across to the deltoid. The basic function is to pull the arm and shoulder across the front of the body.
In functional terms, this muscle lets you pitch a ball underhanded, do a wide-grip bench press, twist a bottle cap, swim the crawl stroke.
Along with the pecs, there is the subclavius, a small muscle between the clavicle and first rib. The function is to draw the shoulder forward. There is also the serratus, a thin sheet of muscle between the ribs and the scapula (the large, flat triangular bone that forms the posterior, or rear part of the shoulder), this rotates the scapula, raising the point of the shoulder and drawing the scapular forward and downward.
Chest movements fall into two main categories: presses and flyes. Pretty simple. It's what you do with your presses and flyes that make the difference.
The Bench Press
The bench press is pretty much the primary chest and upper body exercise, often referred to as the "upper body squat." It also comes under a lot of criticism because of claims it's not a great chest builder. In reality, it's in how the exercise is performed that determines if it's a good or bad chest builder. The key, which you'd think would be pretty obvious, is to make the chest do the work.
The problem is that everyone benches with there ego - in other words, get up as much weight as possible, any way you can get it up, who cares about using proper form. If you want chest progress, you have to lift with your chest, not your ego. That means good form - back on the bench, legs on the floor, no weird twisting, arching and jerking.
Some keys to a good bench: keep your shoulders flat on the bench, stick your chest out, and keep your elbows back, don't let them come forward. Think of your arms as hooks and start the movement with your chest muscles.
This is as much mental as anything; you have to make a conscious effort to feel it in the chest. If you feel it in the triceps or delts more than the chest, this usually indicates a problem with form and perhaps with the mind-muscle connection.
The way to fix this is to first understand where you should feel it, and using a light weight, work on your form until you feel it more in the chest. It also goes back to what I said about making a conscious effort to mentally feel the chest working.
Variations to the standard flat bench press include:
Flyes are more of an isolation exercise. One tip when performing a fly is to keep your little finger a little higher than your thumb. Also, try holding the bells as if you were doing presses, keeping the little finger up. For me, this seems to hit the chest better, try it and see what it does for you.
When it comes to adding upper body mass, you might be surprised to learn you can increase upper body size 10% by doing heavy leg work (squats). In fact, back in the early 80's when Tom Platz was trying so hard to bring his upper body to the same level as his legs, he actually began squatting more than usual upon hearing this. So if you aren't doing heavy squats, start now!
For a weak chest, I suggest training it on its own day, as part of a 4 day split routine.
Here's an example of this routine:
- Day 1 - chest, abs
- Day 2 - back, biceps, abs
- Day 3 - rest
- Day 4 - legs, abs
- Day 5 - deltoids, triceps, abs
- Day 6 - rest
- Day 7 - rest
By setting it up this way, you can devote one full workout to chest work.
Incline Over Flat
It's important to include plenty of incline work; I would do more incline work than flat bench work. Nothing looks worse than a weak upper chest. That's what leads to that droopy look.