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Ever noticed how most gym enthusiasts do chest workouts on Mondays? Some bodybuilders - and many gym-goers - prefer to rest over the weekend and come back fully charged to train the chest on the first day of the week. The reason: (almost) everyone wants great-looking pectoral muscles (pecs) that give definition to the chest and an overall chiselled look to the body.

To be sure, there are dozens of chest workouts that can help you to build your chest to look like a movie star's or a bodybuilder's chest. But a bigger and stronger chest can be notoriously hard to build; it requires a steady focus on muscle development, rest and rehabilitation and healthy diet.

To get the desired result, it's important to work on every part of the chest - the upper chest comprising pectoralis major, the lower chest comprising the pectoralis minor muscle and the inner or middle chest which separates the pecs once you achieve greater muscle definition. You also need to work on the serratus anterior muscle on the side of the chest (from the first to the eighth or ninth rib) and the subclavius muscle below the collar bone for overall strength and definition in the chest.

If you’ve been training for a long time without seeing commensurate results, don't lose heart. Read on to know some of the best chest-strengthening, muscle-building workouts. Some of these exercises may be hard to perform, so take help from a professional or a gym trainer. Make sure you warm up before the workout and stretch afterwards, to get the full benefit of the exercises.

Read more: Exercise myths: 10 common misconceptions about working out

  1. Chest workout benefits
  2. Push-ups for bigger chest
  3. Flat bench-press exercises to increase chest size
  4. Incline dumbbell press for chest
  5. Machine-fly workout for chest
  6. Bent-arm dumbbell pullover for stronger chest
  7. Things to keep in mind for chest workout

There are many reasons to train or develop strong pectoral muscles. Of course, it makes you look super fit. Additionally, the benefits of a workout include:

  • Weight loss: The chest comprises some of the largest upper body muscles. Exercising these muscles helps to burn more calories than working out smaller muscle groups like the biceps.
  • Leaner trunk: Pectoral muscles are big and strong. They help in lifting more weight, which, in turn, helps burn more fat from the trunk (from the shoulders to the waist, but excluding the arms).
  • Targeting most of the upper body.
  • Strengthening the lower body.
  • Core, shoulders, triceps work together to build faster muscle mass.
  • Performed at a low-intensity, chest workouts can help to warm-up other muscle groups.
  • Increasing cardiovascular strength and improving overall heart health.
  • Being one of the largest upper body muscle, training pectorals helps develop greater functional strength.
  • Training pecs improves body posture.
  • Performing chest workout also strengthens rib muscles.
  • Overall strength, mass and endurance increases.

Now that you know the incredible benefits of training pectoral muscles, try these five exercises to reap them. Before you begin, though, remember to warm-up your body with some mobility exercises such as burpees, jumping jacks, cycling or a quick treadmill run.

Push-ups are the simplest yet most effective exercise to train your pectorals. They target the entire chest. And with different variations, you can also train particular muscles of your chest. You can also use this exercise as your warm-up.

Equipment required

  • None

Intensity

  • Low (beginner) to advanced

Sets & reps

  • 3 sets of 15 reps each

How to do it

  • Lie down on your stomach on a mat.
  • Place your palms on the mat, just underneath your shoulders. Keep your fingers spread out.
  • Push down with your arms to lift your chest, stomach and legs off the mat in one straight line. Only your palms and toes should be touching the mat or floor at this point.
  • Keep your head in line with your body - don't drop your head and don't look up. Make sure that your body is in a straight line, from head to toe once you have extended your arms.
  • With a slow and controlled movement, lower your body to the starting position. Do not touch your torso to the ground until the completion of a set. This is one rep.

Tip: Throughout the movement, keep your neck, back and legs stable and straight in a parallel line. To increase the intensity of the workout, you can also try variations like the one-arm push-up.

You may also be interested in: 6 Simple Exercises to Shape up Your Shoulders

This exercise is perfect for training the deltoids (on top of the shoulder), triceps (back of the arms) and the entire chest. Using weights for this workout increases the intensity and gives quicker results.

Equipment required

  • A flat bench
  • 16-inch barbell rod
  • Weight plates, as per your skill and comfort

Intensity

  • Low (beginner) to advanced

Sets and reps

  • 3 sets of 15 reps each

How to do it

  • Facing upward, lie down on a flat bench.
  • Grab the barbell with an overhand grip. The barbell should be just above your chest. And your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend the arms to lift the barbell with your full strength.
  • Bring the weight down towards your mid-chest section with a slow movement.
  • When the barbell touches the chest pause for a few seconds and then pull it upwards. This is one rep.
  • It is a good idea to get someone to help you and provide support for lifting and lowering the weight, especially if you are a beginner.

Tip: Keep the movement stable and the barbell straight. To avoid workout injuries, do not bend your wrists - doing this can cause a ligament tear.

Read more: Rotator Cuff Injury: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

While push-ups and flat bench presses help in training the entire chest, this exercise focuses on the pectoralis major (upper chest region). By training the upper chest, you can also hope to achieve sharply defined collar bones.

Equipment required

  • An incline bench
  • A pair of dumbbells, according to strength

Intensity

  • Moderate (beginner to intermediate level)

Sets & reps

  • 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps each

How to do it

  • Positioned the bench at 45-degree angle.
  • Lie down over your back on the bench.
  • Grab the dumbbells with an underhand grip, parallel to your chest. Make sure your wrists are straight and not bent back or forward.
  • Push the weights up by straightening your elbows.
  • Stretch your arms to their full extent, pause for a few seconds.
  • Bring the weights down with a slow and stable movement. Make sure you bring them down on each side of the chest.
  • This is one rep. Try to achieve as many as you can.

Tip - For better results, try to gently bring the dumbbells together at the top (when your arms are extended), and pause for a few seconds at the top before bringing the weights back down. You can also try a neutral or a slight slant grip.

The machine fly is also known as the butterfly exercise, as it mimics the movement of a butterfly’s wings. While this workout trains the entire chest, it is especially helpful for developing a sharp separation between the pecs by exercising the mid-section of the chest. It also targets the collar bone and the front deltoids (in the shoulders).

Equipment required

  • Pec fly machine (easily available at gyms)

Intensity

  • Low (beginner)

Sets & reps

  • 3 sets of 15 reps each

How to do it

  • Set the seat’s level according to your height. Select the weight as per your strength and comfort level.
  • Sit comfortably with your feet planted on the ground.
  • Keep your back straight and supported with the back cushion of the machine.
  • Hold the handles in each hand with a firm grip. Your arms should be almost parallel to the floor and just a little below shoulder-height.
  • Slowly bring the handles in front of your face. Keep your elbows locked.
  • After touching the handles together, hold for a few seconds and then slowly get back to the starting position. This is one rep.

Tip: Ask the gym trainer or a helper to set the seat and handles according to your height.

This is a compound exercise, meaning it targets multiple muscles. It specifically works on the chest, shoulder, tricep and lats (latissimus dorsi muscle in the mid and lower back). The bent-arm dumbbell pullover movement is easy to learn and can produce great results. This exercise is one of the favourites of many famous bodybuilders, especially to finish their chest workout at the gym.

Equipment required

  • A flat bench
  • A dumbbell (try to pick a heavier weight than you would for a bicep curl)

Intensity

  • Low (beginner to trainee)

Sets and reps

  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps each

How to do it

  • Put your upper back on the bench, with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
  • The mid-section of your body should be in the air, like a bridge.
  • Grab one end of the dumbbell with both hands - your palms should be pressing against the underside of this end of the dumbbell.
  • Lift the dumbbell over your chest.
  • Without bending the arms too much, take the weight behind your head as slowly as possible.
  • Lower the weight as much as you can to stretch out the chest muscles.
  • Now, with a slow movement bring the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Hold for a few seconds. This is one rep.

Tip - While lowering the weight behind your head, push your hips down towards the ground. While coming back to the starting position, raise your hips so they are parallel to the ground again. If you are not able to perform this exercise in this movement, then try to lie down on a flat bench and then perform the steps with the dumbbell.

These exercises can be performed by people of age group and sex. If you are a beginner, try to get to used to the basic chest workout first. Once you're comfortable with the movements, and you feel stronger and more confident, increase the intensity of the workout little by little.

Once you will be able to complete all the sets and reps of every exercise, increase the weight on each set incrementally. In addition to these, you can also move to more intense workouts such as:

  • Cable cross-over
  • Decline barbell press
  • Dips
  • Dumbbell fly
  • Weighted push-ups
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References

  1. Rehabilitation Research & Development Service (RR&D) [internet]. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Chest
  2. Tillaar RV,Sæterbakken A. The sticking region in three chest-press exercises with increasing degrees of freedom. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):2962-9. PMID: 22158100
  3. Kim, YS et al. Effect of the push-up exercise at different palmar width on muscle activities. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2016 Feb; 28(2): 446–449. PMID: 27064571.
  4. Ogaswara R. et al Time course for arm and chest muscle thickness changes following bench press training Interv Med Appl Sci. 2012 Dec; 4(4): 217–220. PMID: 24265879
  5. Yasuda T. et al Effects of low-intensity bench press training with restricted arm muscle blood flow on chest muscle hypertrophy: a pilot study. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2010 Sep;30(5):338-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-097X.2010.00949.x. Epub 2010 Jul 4.
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