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7 Things You Must Do To Build A Bigger Chest

7 Things You Must Do To Build A Bigger Chest

Average: 2.5 (17 votes)
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Floor presses, flyes with a twist, and the pump! Maik Weidenbach presents you with seven unique chest building tips that aren't centered around the bench press.

One of the things every bodybuilder strives to obtain is a big chest. Ideally, as Vince Gironda put it, "it should be shaped liked the shield of a roman soldier." Remember Gladiator with Russell Crowe and Ralph Moeller? Ok, back to topic.

First let's look at some biomechanics. When we say chest, we actually mean the pectoralis major and minor. The function of the pec major is to pull the arm laterally across the body. Now you can see why flyes are critical to a chest workout.

Here is how I would build a chest workout...

My 7 Ways To Build A Better Chest Workout

#1 - Improve flexibility and rotator cuff strength

Make sure you are ready for your chest workout in terms of flexibility and rotator cuff strength. I touched upon this in my article on functional training so just pull it up. Nobody can grow a monster chest if it’s torn.

#2 - Perform cable floor flyes

Do cable floor flyes. This is a total must-do activation exercise that needs to be performed first. Put the handles at the cable as low as possible and lay on the floor. Perform a regular fly, where your upper arms touch the floor but the elbows don't. This will ensure that you activate the pecs from the beginning.

You can vary in terms of bringing the hands together over your forehead or chest. As for all chest exercises, keep the shoulder blades pinched together. Do not round the shoulders as you go up. It's chest day, not shoulders.

#3 - Stay on the floor and press

Maik Weidenbach Side Chest Post

Do floor presses. I wrote about this exercise in my book "30 Secrets for Bigger Arms." Here is the rundown in short.

The floor press is an all but forgotten exercise, but it is great for strength and mass. Set the bar at the lowest safety level at the power rack, which should be about 15-18 inches above the floor, and get under it. (If your gym doesn’t have power racks, change the gym. Seriously.) Choose a wide grip bench and press the bar from a full stop to full extension.

You should treat each rep as a single, making sure you achieve a full stop at the bottom and the top.

#4 - Avoid the bench press

Do not flat bench press! Steve Shaw is probably going to hate me for this, but I am convinced that for bodybuilding (not powerlifting) the barbell flat bench is a poor choice for most trainees. It causes elbow and shoulder problems and forms a droopy chest.

Then there is the whole moronic "Whadda ya bench" nonsense, which usually leads to poor form and blown out elbows/torn rotator cuffs. The reality is that the flat bench is more of a shoulder/triceps than chest exercise. In addition, the flat bench builds sort of a droopy chest, which isn’t what we are after.

The incline bench press is a better choice, especially if you have long arms. It will hit your chest without putting too much strain on your shoulders. In addition, I find racking and unracking easier when using the incline bench.

Dumbbells are also a great choice, they enable you to find your range of motion and emphasize the squeeze on top.

#5 - "Pullover" the weight

Make sure your first motion after unracking the weight is a pullover. Too many people bench press close to the neck which is:

  1. Dangerous and...
  2. Suboptimal since you can't involve your lats.

Why would I want to involve my lats? Think of the lats as springs when benching you compress them as you lower the weight and release as you move upward. A pullover will ensure proper activation of the lats.

#6 - Add a twist to your flyes

Do underhanded flyes with a twist, to help target the pec minor. The pec minor lies underneath the pec major and is important in regards to total chest development. You stand at the cables in a step and move the handles up in a sort of "upside down old fashioned V" motion, while keeping your shoulders down.

Once at the top, turn your pinky up and outward for a deep squeeze. This is helpful in regards to building a chest that isn't flat on the top.

#7 - Get a chest pump

Get a pump. I have written about this before, but getting a pump is fun and practical at the same time. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right, once again, when he said that the pump is the best feeling in the world; the blood rushing into the muscle and so forth.

Aside from making you look humongous and superhuman, the pump ensures three very important matters.

  1. It means that you trained the muscle correctly, as opposed to performing joint work.
  2. The blood in your arms is stretching the fascia, a tight sock-like tissue surrounding your muscles. The more you stretch the fascia, the more room your muscles have to grow.
  3. The blood carries nutrients to the muscle, which are needed for repair and hypertrophy.

There you have it, 7 things to keep in mind when growing a chest. Keep training hard - Maik.

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  • About The Author
    Maik is an Olympic-level swimmer who turned to muscle building. He is now an author, and one of the most sought-after trainers in Manhattan.
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Comments (26)

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Aaron Chiasson
Posted Mon, 06/25/2012 - 17:41

what exactly do mean with, Get a pump?

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steve101
Posted Sat, 12/07/2013 - 21:21

getting a pump basically means high rep workout were you cant pull that last rep up and your body feels like its going to explode. but once you put the weight down you feel and look like shrek

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Dustin
Posted Wed, 02/05/2014 - 22:43

Doesn't always have to high rep. Any movement that fills the muscles with blood is a pump.
I've achieved a pump simply by squeezing a 10 pound plate between my hands with my arms straight out in front of me after I do flat flyes.

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indra
Posted Thu, 06/28/2012 - 10:40

1. can u show me before and after do this tips? i want to make sure if this tips is work. cos i see in your tips avoid the bench press,
2. is it has take in medical research? or this is a new method?

thanks

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donny
Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:50

Flat Benches build the whole chest... sorry but i do not agree inclines are better!!

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Maik Wiedenbach
Posted Wed, 08/15/2012 - 10:31

@ aaron: getting a pump means flooding the muscle with blood. @ indra: most pros avoid the flat bench, it is simply more of a triceps and shoulder exercises than a chest builder. Look up Vince Girondas writings. If it works for you, by all means keep it. IMO it doesn't work for most people.
@ donny: the chest either contracts or it doesn't, since it is a fan muscle. No such thing as upper pecs or lower pecs builder. the pec minor is a different case, see article.

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donny
Posted Wed, 08/15/2012 - 12:07

thank you for your reply Maik. I will say one thing though i find Parallel Bar dips very good for pecs but not a la Gironda Dips with a reverse grips and legs forward.

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Maik Wiedenbach
Posted Thu, 09/20/2012 - 11:31

Donny, If those dips work for you, by all means stick with them!

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Ryan
Posted Wed, 12/12/2012 - 21:20

I am currently attempting to get back into a high level of fitness (I was out with a torn knee and a new desk job, weight has ballooned and I've lost strength) and my first order of business has been to craft a new plan. I have a Chest/Triceps day allocated and I need to rebuild a foundation of strength as well as general hypertrophy.
1. Would you recommend flat bench for a period of time to establish a base layer of strength
2. If not, what would you recommend as a go to chest exercise, presuming floor presses and floor flies are not available? (A pec fly machine is available, I find it great for getting a pump and making my chest feel huge and tired).
3. Is a hammer strength iso-lateral high push and or iso-lateral bench a decent substitute for barbell flat bench?
4. Your thoughts on doing a couple sets of flat bench for the total shoulder/chest/triceps activation and then move to either of those (iso) machines for dedicated chest work.

Thanks for taking the time.

R

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Maik Wiedenbach
Posted Sat, 01/12/2013 - 07:25

Ryan,

I dont know how long you have been out, but why not start with 3 whole body workouts a week? It will get you back in shape faster than ever.
I advise against the flat bench, if you wish to build strength/activate tris delts, the military press is your friend.
Floor flyes can be done with dumbbells or at th cable, one of them should be there.
email me at maikcwiedenbach@gmail.com if you have more questions.
Maik

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Max
Posted Mon, 01/07/2013 - 17:11

Avoid the bench press? You have just lost all credibility with that comment. Flat bench with proper weight and form is a great exercise and will lead to great results. The only time injuries are caused are when people perform the exercise incorrectly. If you are using too much weight and poor form you will hurt yourself on any exercise not just the flat bench.

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simon
Posted Mon, 01/07/2013 - 17:42

good read

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George
Posted Mon, 01/07/2013 - 18:24

I agree 110% with number 4. I've always felt like the flat bench never did anything for my chest, yet I still did it because everyone else did and everyone thinks benching a lot of weight builds a big chest. It just throws off your form and you use more of your arms, shoulders and back to bench NOT your chest when after-all it's a chest exercise.

The point of training your chest is to train your chest, not to throw off your form and stack weight.

I'm so glad you wrote this in this article about NOT using a flat bench. Thank you so much and great article

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brein
Posted Mon, 01/07/2013 - 21:11

Thumbs up:)that's the principle I personally applied based on my experience in building my chest..true,flant bench press won't build a huge chest,infact if you don't know the techniques it will focus on your front delts & triceps...

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Walter
Posted Mon, 01/07/2013 - 21:18

Everyone getting mad about the bench press statement are dumb. Basically what happens with bench is nobody "NOBODY" does it properly .... and westside barbell definitely is something you bench bros should be into if you truly like to bench. Anyways the best flat movement for chest development honestly to me was the DB bench with the great range of motion and squeeze at the top it can't be beat and its a staple for me PLUS I LOVE!! the floor press you put in the article! Massive respect! and I usually add some bands or chains to it, Its great stuff!!

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Maik Wiedenbach
Posted Tue, 01/08/2013 - 20:53

Everyone,

thanks for the comments. Normally, I get way more hate when I write against benching. One thing to keep in mind: it is the function of the pecs to move the arm laterally across the body. this shows clearly that the flat bench is a tri/shoulder exercises with high risk of injuries. Most bodybuilding pros do not bench, but what do they know.
They key is to pretend to bend the bar together, this will keep the stress on the pecs and away from the shoulders ( that's also why db's are awesome.)
Best
maik

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blong_yang
Posted Wed, 02/20/2013 - 14:25

i have a question that i dont really know why my chest is not form how i want it. yes it is show in the middle but i still say i have the man boo on my lower chest. my middle part my chest is showing but not my side of the chest. i have been ask and told that i need to lose body fat and workout my back and lat to get my chest form in shape. tell me if im right or wrong. thank you

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Oscaf
Posted Mon, 12/09/2013 - 02:38

Hey maik, what about the protein? I am bearly trying to workout and gym ppl reccomended me mass gainer after work out but idont actually now what should i work in . What should i do for a starter ? Also i have been doing flat bench press , but, it doesnt seem to work. Could u help me ? Please , it would mean a lot .
Thank you ,

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vince
Posted Tue, 02/04/2014 - 17:45

I like everything ive read here. But heres a quicker way to building a bigger chest.

Steroids
synthol
Repeat

Jkjk

Love ur articles and the new school perspective to muscle mass improvement!

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Joe
Posted Tue, 02/04/2014 - 20:35

hahahahha ... make sense bro... that's it!!! end of this article, even u lift wrong if u have those stuffs u'll probably still get big!!! LOL

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Paul
Posted Tue, 02/04/2014 - 17:47

I do incline, decline, and military press on my upper body days, but I always start things off with flat bench. To be honest, if its done right, I feel like its a highly beneficial work out; so to say avoid it all together is a little extreme. I do, however, agree that people over highly over exaggerate its importance--some people only lift just so they can increase their bench, and as you said, will simply ask "how much do you bench" when assessing someones strength, which is idiotic.

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Syed
Posted Wed, 02/05/2014 - 09:12

Dear Maik,

Can't thank you enough for this article.. I tried all of the above variations and I feel much more pump and muscle isolation in my chest.. The flat cable flyes are a killer! Flat benches were a favourite of mine but from now on I shall restrict it as a finish off variation with minimal weight just in case I need to rush more blood to the muscle..

Keep those articles coming!
Thanks,
Syed

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Richie
Posted Wed, 02/05/2014 - 15:44

I find it hilarious that someone would say "you lose all credibility" due to a verifiable bit of advice from a high level bodybuilder. Just because you haven't been injured yet doesn't mean he isn't correct. I've only been lifting for about three years and I personally know five guys at different levels that have injured themselves during barbell bench pressing. Two of them have been lifting for 15-20 years. I am a huge fan of dumbbell pressing. I feel a great pump afterwards and my strength gains have been faster.

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Gage
Posted Mon, 02/10/2014 - 14:26

I am a 62 year old young man. I have had both hips replaced,so I am limited to getting on floor doing fly's. I do them setting or standing. I work out at Golds. I work on my chest and biceps,traps,triceps,deltoids. Would like to get bigger quicker.Give me a few more tips please. Thank you Gage

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David
Posted Sat, 04/19/2014 - 15:52

I thought it was a very interesting article, however I disagree on number 6 and would like to know more about why you think Pec. min. is so important. I work as a physical therapist, and as far as I know, that little muscle has nothing to do with total chest development. Its actions are protraction of shoulder, anterior tilt and depression of scapula and raising ribs 3-5. Much of these actions lead to shoulder impingement which is exactly what we want to avoid. So why do you think it is so important to train this muscle? The exercise in number 6 is really good, but has nothing to do with pec. min.

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David
Posted Sun, 04/20/2014 - 03:15

Great article. However, I'm a bout confused about number 6. You see, I work as a physical therapist and you say pec min is important for total chest development. Could you elaborate? As far as I know it has absolutely nothing to do with chest development. In fact training that muscle could lead to shoulder impingement. Its actions are raising ribs 3-5, protraction og shoulders, depressing and anterior tilt of scapula. The exercise in number six is great for upper chest, but has nothing to do with pec min.

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