Developing a well-rounded, muscular physique takes time, effort, and training know how. One of the most impressive muscle groups you can develop are the pectorals (those massive muscles of the chest).
Having a well-developed chest can make you not only look like a big muscular guy with your shirt off, but also with your shirt on! They are absolutely integral to building a physically impressive body.
But, when it comes to training their chest effectively most people don’t know where to start – and as a result find themselves rotating between the same one or two exercises on a regular basis – with no results to show for it. Fortunately we are here to help you.
In the following article we outline the five best chest exercises to promote muscular growth of the pectorals, leading you to some massive chest gains!
Incline Dumbbell Press
When most people start training their chest, they typically jump straight on the barbell bench press. Now while this is undoubtedly a fantastic exercise itself for the development of upper body strength, it may not be our best option when trying to develop muscle size.
You see, by using a barbell we get stuck in a somewhat fixed line of movement, which creates the even distribution of load between both the pecs and the triceps, thus limiting the amount of work the muscles of the chest actually have to perform.
But, by opting for a dumbbell pressing variation, we eliminate this issue, as they allow the continued abduction (movement at the shoulder that brings the hands together) or the arms throughout the duration of the movement. This forces the muscles of the chest to work overtime throughout the whole exercise.
Moreover, by working at an incline we also get an increased focus on the upper fibres of the pectorals. These fibres are often missed in flat benching variations, and by maximising their development we can guarantee a well-rounded and complete chest.
As a bonus, the incline dumbbell press can be performed using slightly heavier rep ranges to increase the amount of mechanical stress the pecs receive. 3-4 sets of 4-8 repetitions would be perfect for this exercise.
Cable Chest Fly
The cable chest fly is a fantastic exercise that targets both the upper and lower fibres of the chest, throughout the movement’s entirety. While it is very similar to the dumbbell fly, in that the movement occurring at the shoulder joint is the same, it does offer one distinct advantage.
By using a cable we provide the muscles with continued resistance throughout the movement’s entire range of motion. This differs significantly from when we use dumbbells, as the resistance is somewhat dependant on gravity, and as such the exercise tends to have one very difficult portion, and is then markedly easier throughout the remaining range of movement.
By increasing the activation of the pectorals throughout the entire range of movement we create additional stimulus on the pectorals. This can lead to substantially more growth of the entire chest region.
The Cable chest fly should be completed for slightly higher rep ranges to create serious metabolic damage of the muscle tissue. Using 2-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions is recommended when doing this exercise.
Paused Barbell Bench Press
Now, we realise that above we’ve discussed the slight downfalls associated with the barbell bench press. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean the exercise is useless, it just means that there are certain alternatives that are better for muscular development.
But, in saying that, there are small changes we can make to the barbell bench press that create a lot more demand on the muscle tissue of the pectorals – which subsequently leads to increased muscle growth.
One of which involves turning a traditional barbell bench press into a paused barbell bench press. This is when we perform a bench press, and take a three second pause with the bar just off the chest each and every rep. By pausing at the bottom at the lift when the pectorals are under a full stretch we can cause a greater pressure on the muscle fibers, while also increasing the time under tension the muscle tissue receives.
The combination of these two factors will lead to large increase in muscle growth. 3-4 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions are recommended for the best results with this exercise.
Dumbbell Squeeze Press
The dumbbell squeeze press is a somewhat lesser known exercise that absolutely smokes the muscle of the chest. A squeeze press is very similar to a traditional dumbbell bench press BUT the dumbbells are kept together, and throughout the movement they are actively squeezed together.
This ensures the muscles of the chest are working overtime, creating tension to not only keep the dumbbells together, but also go through the pressing motion.
This causes massive increases in muscle damage, leading to excellent growth. These are best performed for 2-4 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Eccentric Emphasis Push Ups
The humble push up is often only (and unfortunately) used as a novice exercise, when in fact it can be varied to cause great muscle growth of the chest.
One such way to increase the difficulty of the push up is to emphasis the eccentric portion of the lift. This means taking 3-5 seconds to lower your chest to the ground every single rep. By increasing the duration of the eccentric portion we cause greater muscle damage, which leads to improved muscle growth.
As a bonus, we also increase the time under tension of this lift, which is also considered a key driver for muscle growth! These should be performed for 2-3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
So there we have it! The next time you are thinking of having a heavy upper body training session, try and sprinkle a few of these exercises in and see the results. They will lead to improved chest growth and massive chest gains!