Want to build bigger pecs? The Chest Exercises and Workouts You Need to Build Bigger Pecs with our guide to chest workouts and chest exercises.
The Chest Exercises and Workouts You Need to Build Bigger Pecs
For most men, chest workout centers around three moves: a bench press completed in the flat, incline and decline positions, but there are so many chest exercises and workouts to try, there's no need for chest day to be so boring.
In other words, we want you to be better than the bench press, but why should you expand your repertoire of chest exercises? Well, hitting your chest for more angles than the humble bench allows will result in a bigger, stronger chest, and having a bigger chest will (obviously) make you more adept at pushing heavy objects — from barbells to broken-down cars. But it's not all about strength, concentrating on chest exercises and workouts will also encourage better posture, as well as making you look taller by adding height to your chest wall.
Moreover, a bigger chest just looks impressive, and not just to us. A study published in Plos One found that women's, as well as men's, perception of the ideal male body, included a muscular, wide chest circumference that creates an overall V-shaped torso.
Convinced? We thought you might be, so, whether you're at home or in the gym, here are the chest exercise and workouts you need to develop serious pecs appeal.
Your Major Chest Muscles
If you want huge pecs you'll need to challenge all of your chest muscles, but you can't target all of your chest muscles if you don't know what they are now can you?
To set you on the path to bigger pecs, here's a quick guide to your major chest muscles.
Pectoralis Major: The pectoralis major makes up most of your chest muscle mass. It is large and fan shaped, and is composed of a sternal head and a clavicular head.
Pectoralis Minor: The pectoralis minor lies underneath the pectoralis major. Its job is to help pull the shoulder forward and down.
Serratus Anterior: Located at the side of the chest wall, you'll notice the serratus anterior in action when you lift weights overhead.
Why Isn't My Chest Growing?
Before we let you in on the secret of how to build your chest, let's first go over some of the reasons why your chest might not be growing. For instance, if you're not using the correct form or warming-up properly, you may struggle to pack on size.
Growth struggles may also be caused by your technique. Pumping out fast reps is unlikely to be giving your chest the muscle-building stimulus it needs. A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that slow, controlled lifts performed to fatigue produced greater rates of muscle growth than the same movement performed rapidly.
Similarly, the British Journal of Sports Medicine proved, across 31 studies, that high-load dynamic warm-ups greatly enhanced power and strength performance, as 'warm' muscles have greater flexibility and are more conditioned to generate explosive power.
How to Activate Your Chest
As well as varying your rep ranges and working different parts of your chest (your upper chest, for example) it's also important to warm-up before your chest workout. With 45 percent of Brits have suffered an injury from the gym, opening up your body with mobility and stretching will ensure easier lifts and considerably safer workouts.
Dynamic warm-ups are generally considered to be the best approach to a pre-workout warm-up. Consisting of movements with a progressive range of motion that mimic the exercise you're about to do, you'll be lengthening your muscles and preparing them to work under heavier loads.
Top 10 Best Exercises for Building a Bigger Chest
Because there's more to life than the bench press, Men's Health has selected 10 of the best chest exercises for building muscle.
We've also put them into workouts for you below, but if you want to design your own program, choose two to three chest exercises and rotate them every three to four weeks.
1. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
Why: Squeezing the dumbbells together during a chest press moves the emphasis of the movement onto your pecs. This simple tweak engages them throughout the entire range of motion — a key factor to maximize muscle gain.
How: Lie on a flat bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Maintain a neutral grip and begin with your arms straight, directly above you. Bend your arms and lower them to the side of your body so the dumbbells lie just above your chest. Pause and then lift your arms to repeat.
2. Incline barbell bench press
Why: Pressing on an incline set-up works the clavicular head, which is why the incline barbell bench press makes your pecs pop.
How: Lie back on a bench set to an incline angle and lift a barbell to shoulder height, palms facing away from you. Breathe out as you press up with both arms. Lockout your arms and squeeze your chest before returning slowly to the start position.
3. Incline dumbbell bench press
Why: While the bench press is the chest-bulking staple, dumbbell presses offer different variants to help you build a bigger chest. By using two separate weights, you have a greater range of motion, while activating more stabilizing muscles too. To make it harder, Take the weight to the top of the movement before lowering the opposite side to keep your chest under tension.
How: Lie back on a bench set to a 45-degree angle and lift the weights over your chest, palms facing away from you. Slowly lower one weight, then drive it back up and squeeze your chest at the top. Repeat with the other side.
4. Close-grip barbell bench press
Why: The close-grip bench press places less strain on your shoulders, shifting the emphasis to your triceps and chest. Place your hands just inside of shoulder width.
How: Lie back on a flat bench holding a barbell with a narrow, overhand grip. From the starting position, breathe in and lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest. Push the bar back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out. Focus on pushing the bar using your chest muscles.
5. Decline press-up
Why: Decline bench press-ups place the muscle-building emphasis on your lower pectorals, helping you build a well-rounded and more defined chest.
How: Place your feet on a bench with your hands planted on the floor in front of you. Lower your body down until your chest almost reaches the floor. Press your body back up to the starting position while squeezing your chest. Pause briefly at the top before repeating.
6. Cable fly
Why: Give your pectorals and deltoids a new stimulus instead of pressing. Add the cable fly to your chest day to provide constant tension throughout the full movement.
How: Attach stirrup handles to the high pulleys of a cable crossover machine. Take one in each hand – your arms should be outstretched with a slight bend. Place one foot slightly forward, brace your core, and pull the handles downward and across your body. Return to the start position under control.
7. Decline barbell bench press
Why: Using a decline bench helps zero-in on your lower chest, helping you build serious size on your chest.
How: Holding a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing your feet, lie back on a bench fixed to a decline setting. Start with your arms fully extended and hands over your chest, then lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest. Push the barbell back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out.
8. Staggered press-up
Why: If you've already mastered press-ups, then this is an ideal stepping-stone into mastering the one-handed press-up.
How: Get into a press-up position with your hands staggered, so your right is further forward than the left. Lower your body until your chest is an inch from the ground then drive up explosively. Pull your hands off the floor and switch positions so your left leads, then repeat.
9. Chest dips
Why: If you want to burn chest fat and lose your man boobs, dips are one of the best ways to go about it. Working the entire upper-body dips also works your arms, shoulders and upper back. As you descend, you'll be fighting to stabilize your entire body as it moves through space, giving your body a huge hormonal boost.
How: Grab the bars of a dip station with your palms facing inward and your arms straight. Slowly lower until your elbows are at right angles, ensuring they stay tucked against your body and don't flare out. Drive yourself back up to the top and repeat.
10. Clap press-up
Why: Scorch your fast-twitch muscle fibers and prime them for growth with this plyometric take on the bodyweight classic
How: Get into a push-up position, your hands just outside your chest, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Brace your core. Lower your chest to the floor and then press up explosively so your hands come off the floor, clapping once at the top of the movement.