For most men, building a bigger chest is one of the main reasons they start with weight lifting. A perfectly shaped chest signals a healthy body and shows all of the hard work you put into training.
But where do you start? It’s worth mentioning that building aesthetic chest isn’t rocket science, as long as you follow a good routine with progressive overload, control your form and choose the right movements. In this article, we’ll cover 5 essential exercises that should be part of every chest training programme.
So if you want to see how to achieve a chest definition and strengthen your upper body, you’re in the right place. Keep reading.
Basics of Chest Training
The perfect chest workout should consist of exercises for your upper chest, middle chest and lower chest. This is crucial because, in order to develop a complete chest, you have to go through the full range of motion for every pectoral muscle.
Pectoral muscles or pecs are simply a scientific name for chest muscles.
Two main chest muscles are the pectoralis major (attached to the front of the body on the rib cage) and the pectoralis minor which can be found right below the pectoralis major. Both of them have slightly different function as the first one brings the arm (humerus) across the body and the second one moves shoulders forward.
These are the three main areas of the chest:
- Upper pecs: The topmost area of the chest. The best exercise for hitting the upper chest is incline barbell press (more on that later).
- Middle pecs: The middle area known for the most popular exercise – flat bench press.
- Lower pecs: The area below the nipples. Arguably the most neglected part of the chest due to the lack of variation available, and the limited motion ranges that this area needs.
Being aware of chest anatomy is essential as it helps us to remember two important things that are closely related to training:
- Focus on the area you’re aiming to work. Actively think about which muscle you are trying to build and prioritise that part. There’s no point going to the gym and do loads of lower pecs focused exercises if you want to grow your upper chest.
- Make sure you are not going too heavy. If at any point you feel that the exercise engages other muscle groups (such as arching your back during the incline press), consider using lighter weight.
Now that we briefly explained the main parts of the chest and how it works, it should be much easier to visualise your workouts and focus on getting the most out of every rep.
That said, let’s move to the 5 essential exercises to build a well-rounded chest and increase strength.
Tip: Supporting your training with a good diet is key if you want to maximise your potential. Check out this article to learn about the best diet tips for beginners.
5 Essential Chest Exercises
#1 Flat Bench Press
The complete chest builder and the ultimate exercise for building a muscular physique (along with deadlifts and squats). The bench press is a part of the so-called “compound movements” as it also trains your triceps and shoulders.
Ideally, you want to include this exercise at the start of your training while you are rested and at full strength.
Before you start performing the exercise, consider the following: the position of the safety bars, whether the bar is centred on the rack properly and finally, your posture. With your back arched, press the shoulders and glutes firmly into the bench.
Bring the bar above your shoulders while keeping the tension on the chest. Every repetition should be felt. Make sure to move the bar all the way down to just above your chest. Repeat.
#2 Incline Dumbbell Press
This exercise is excellent for working your upper chest muscles and can go easily anywhere from first to third place in your routine. It also allows you to get a greater range of motion when compared to incline barbell press.
Set your bench to somewhere between 20 and 45 degrees (with time, you want to vary the angle in which you are pressing to avoid plateaus). As with the flat bench press, it’s essential to keep your shoulders back as much as possible.
Squeeze your chest at the top of the movement and make sure you don’t lift more than you possibly can to maximise the results.
Sidenote: Not sure how to perform this exercise? Why not consult a qualified personal trainer? Delta Fitness is a place where personal training is genuinely personal.
We are based in East London, 10 minutes from Canary Wharf Estate. Check out our client results.
Dips are arguably the best exercise for hitting your lower chest. Why? Because during the movement, your arm travels down, allowing you to go from the high to the low position.
This helps you to better target the lower fibre in your chest as opposed to the first two exercises we mentioned (they go from low to the high position).
In short, dips are essential to ensure your training is well-rounded and you train the chest muscles through the entire range of motion.
The best technique for dips is quite straightforward: lean forward, slow down the reps and keep your shoulders in place!
#4 Standing Cable Fly
The standing cable fly is an exercise that requires a stable core and strong posture. It strengthens the pushing muscles of your body, including the chest, triceps, and shoulders. The main benefit of cable flyes is that you can hit different angles to achieve a full degree of contraction. Like this:
When doing this exercise, don’t allow your shoulders to creep forward. Also, because cable flyes require a great deal of core stability, it’s not wise to go too heavy. Instead, we recommend focusing on keeping a stable posture and using the proper form.
Push-ups are a timeless exercise that can be easily built into the end of your routine. They are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises as they not only work your chest and shoulders, but they also strengthen your entire core.
Here’s how to do push-ups right:
- Place your hands directly below your shoulders.
- The core should be flexed and back flat; the weight is on your toes.
- Slowly lower your body until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
- Hold for one second, then return to starting position.
Mastering these 5 essential chest exercises isn’t easy, especially when you’re a beginner. However, they are crucial if your goal is to build a bigger and stronger chest. At Delta Fitness, we get our clients into great shape in record time by creating personalised plans with clear goals. Because in the end, the results are what matters the most. Need help with training or looking for advice on nutrition? Book your first free consultation today!