Before you skim down and click away you most likely have an intimate relationship with many of the chest exercises laid out here. Bench presses, dumbbell presses and various other traditional movements are nothing new. But let’s kick these old-school lifts in the butt and breathe new life into these powerful and effective exercises to help you build seriously impressive pecs!
Below are five of the most effective exercises for building your chest into the best it could possibly be – but there’s a twist. With each lift let’s add a little something new to squeeze out every ounce of advantage you can to maximize your progress and build monumental pecs.
1. Flat and Incline Bench Barbell Press
The granddaddy of chest exercises really needs no formal introduction. The beauty of barbell pressing is that since it is a multi-joint move it allows you to use a maximum amount of weight to overload the pecs – something fly movements can’t do. Practicing plenty of textbook form and leaving your ego at home, all forms of bench pressing is old-school but still rises to the top for results.
Try modifying any form of the barbell press by adding chains or bands which will add what is called linear variable resistance, forcing you to develop power and strength along specific points of the press. It is sure to help strengthen weak points and add plenty of new muscle. Alternately you can even perform a light set of dumbbell flys to pre-exhaust the pecs prior to pressing. This will keep your shoulders and triceps nice and fresh so your pecs get the brunt of the pounding.
2. Flat and Incline Bench Dumbbell Press
As a close cousin to the barbell versions dumbbell presses allow you to independently utilize your arms in a unilateral way. This will expose your weak side and force you to shore-up your strength ultimately creating balance and symmetry. Dumbbells also allow you to apply more muscle tissue to the lift due to the fact you are focusing not only on pressing but also balancing the weight as you press.
The brutal, honest truth is that most individuals don’t perform dumbbell presses correctly. Sure, they all talk about how you can get more of a range of motion but who do you really see that puts this into practice? Next time you venture over to the dumbbell press do this: Lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest – all the way down for a full stretch (you will have to use lighter weight). At the bottom, pause for a count of two and then press back up and actively squeeze your pecs for a full contraction, don’t just press.
3. Flat and Incline Bench Dumbbell Fly
Probably the most mutilated exercise to date is the chest fly movement. After using too much weight to begin with most will quickly turn what’s supposed to be a wide fly motion into a press. This completely negates the advantages of the chest fly. Be sure to use lighter weight, a large arching motion and just a slight bend in your elbows. Oh, and save the pressing motion for presses.
Aside from practicing textbook form with a manageable weight, be sure to get a deep stretch and a squeeze at the top of the movement. Additionally, try twisting the dumbbells at the top so the pinky-side of your hands meet. Once your pecs are exhausted from strict flys, then you can start to press the weight as with dumbbell presses.
4. Flat and Feet-Elevated Push-Up
Nothing is more timeless than the traditional push-up yet few take advantage of what it can potentially do. The simple, almost caveman-like act of pushing your own bodyweight off the ground is a true display of mastery over one’s own body. Along with pull-ups, dips, sit-ups and countless others, the push-up remains an effective bodyweight muscle builder.
There is much more to the push-up than straight sets ‘til muscular failure. For starters, do this: Near the end of your normal chest routine perform a round of multi-angle push-ups. Start with your feet elevated on a bench for reps, then immediately perform reps with your feet on the floor and lastly, put your hands on the bench while your feet remain on the floor to squeeze out the last bit of muscle fibers left untouched. Do as many rounds as you can while maintaining perfect form.
5. Chest Dip on Parallel Bars
It’s no secret that the chest dip is one serious chest annihilator. Whether done with a weight belt around your waist or free-style this functional beast should be a staple in any chest program. With the ability to be performed anywhere, the chest dip has some differences from the traditional triceps dip. With a forward lean and arms angled slightly outward the focus should be on the pecs stretching and contracting.
Other than additional weight or high reps to failure the chest dip can be modified into so much more. You’ve heard of 21s for biceps curls; how about apply the same insanity to dips. Try seven reps in the bottom half of the movement, then seven reps near the top half and finally attempt seven full-range reps. If you still have more gas left in the tank, try weighted chest dips.
2 Most Effective Programs for Building Your Chest
Try each program once per week. For example, program A on Monday and program B on Thursday.
|Incline Bench Banded Barbell Press||3||5-8|
|Flat Bench Twisted Dumbbell Fly||3||10-15|
|Multi-Angle Push-Up Complex||3 Rounds||Failure|
|Superset: Incline Bench Dumbbell Fly w/Incline Bench Barbell Press||3||6-12|
|Flat Bench Paused Dumbbell Press||3||6-8|
|Parallel Dip – 21s Style||3 Rounds||-|