Well-defined chest muscles not only make you look muscular, but it also helps to create the V-taper that many men desire. Science shows both men and women are equally attracted to the aesthetics that well-defined chest muscles create on men.
There’s more to working out your chest muscles than performing conventional bench presses. To get that impressive-looking chest and make the most out of your workouts, you need to strengthen and condition your chest muscles from various angles.
The primary muscles that make up your chest include:
- Serratus Anterior: Located at the side of your chest walls, this muscle group works together with the thorax and your scapula, which aids in the anteversion and protraction of your arm.
- Pectoralis Major: This group makes up the bulk of your chest muscles. It comes with a clavicular and sternocostal head to go with its fan shape and helps with the rotation and extension of your arm.
- Pectoralis Minor: Located beneath the pectoralis major, this muscle group helps stabilize, rotate, and pull your shoulders down and forward when the chest muscles are activated.
When it comes to building muscles, pumping out some fast reps will not get the job done. Research conducted by the Journal of Physiology shows that slow, controlled reps are the most effective way to target your chest muscles.
The number of reps you perform also affects the type of results you get. People focused on increasing the mass and size of their chest should work out using weights they can only lift four to eight times. This helps to encourage optimal muscle growth. Those who are more concerned with improving the definition of their chest should aim for eight to twelve reps when performing exercises.
The chest muscles should be exercised at least once a week to see consistent improvements. You can target it more than once per week for faster results. Just make sure you’re taking at least a day off between workouts.
After understanding how to target your chest muscles, let’s look at 5 chest exercises that will help build a strong and well-defined chest.
Push-ups are one of those exercises that should be part of your fitness routine if you’re serious about growing your chest muscles. At the very least, use them as a warm-up for your more intense exercises. Push-ups target your chest, shoulders, and triceps. A few sets of as many push-ups could benefit you tremendously and help contribute to an effective chest workout.
To perform push-ups:
- Get into a plank position with your arms shoulder-width apart, and your elbows close to your torso.
- Slowly drop yourself towards the floor, moving only your elbows while keeping your back straight.
- Pause a second at the bottom and slowly push yourself back to the starting position to complete a rep.
Remember not to hyperextend your elbows when you return to the starting position as it places unnecessary stress on your elbow joints.
2) Bench Press
The bench press is one of the most effective exercises that help build mass in your chest. This compound exercise somewhat mimics the motions used for push-ups, with the advantage of pushing with weights. Set the weights in a way that you can perform no more than eight reps. That’s the sweet spot you want when building mass since hypotrophy is your goal.
Here’s how to perform a bench press:
- Lay flat on the bench with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Grab the barbell with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart.
- Take a deep breath, slowly bring the bar towards your chest.
- Pause for a second, and slowly push the weight back to the starting position as you exhale to complete a rep.
Tip: Concentrate on moving the weight with your chest muscles while performing the exercise. You could consider arching your back slightly to reduce any unnecessary movements while performing the bench press.
3) Chest Cable Fly
The cable fly allows you to target your chest muscles from a different angle than what you get from pressing weights. It’s a great way to stimulate muscle growth and helps improve definition. Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Find a pair of stirrup or D handles and attach them to the high pulleys of a cable cross machine.
- Stretch out and grab the handles while maintaining a slight bend at your elbows.
- Place one of your feet slightly ahead of the other, tighten your core, making sure your chest is up and back straight.
- Take a deep breath and pull the handles towards the middle in a downward controlled motion.
- Once both your hands come into contact, return to the starting position slowly to complete a rep.
4) Decline Bench Press
Decline bench presses target your lower chest muscles, forcing them to handle a more significant portion of the load as you press up the weights. It’s an effective way to add mass to your chest region, and it places less stress on your shoulders compared to the flat bench presses.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Lay flat on a declined bench and grab the barbell with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Once ready, take a deep breath and lift the weight off the rack, lowering it slowly towards the middle of your chest.
- Push the barbell back to the starting position, using your chest muscles to do most of the work
Take note that the bench should be declined by about 15-30 degrees for this exercise because the focal point is your lower chest. Any lower would place unnecessary stress on your back when trying to compensate for the weight and movement of this exercise.
5) Dumbbell Chest Flys
Chest flys helps to strengthen and improve the muscle definition in your chest. It is unique compared to most chest exercises since it targets the muscles from a different angle when compared to pressing weights.
It’s a great compliment for all the other chest exercises as it targets some of the areas neglected during the pressing exercises and here’s how to do it:
- Start by laying flat on an exercise bench, keeping your feet flat on the ground, and dumbells held over your chest.
- Take a deep breath and slowly extend your arms to your sides until they are almost in line with your chest.
- Slowly exhale and return by squeezing your chest, bringing the weights back to the starting position.
Tip: For beginners, it’s best to use a set of lighter dumbells for this exercise because of the pressure it places on your chest. Once you’ve built your chest strength, gradually increase the weight of your dumbbells for more resistance.
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