The best chest exercises incorporate a lot of different movements to hit the entire chest region. While the pectorals are really just one muscle group, different exercises concentrate the stress on various parts of the muscle. That is why you hear terms like upper chest exercise, lower chest exercise, and inner chest exercise. These are all really just one muscle, the pectorals, with variations in exercises that emphasize specific portions of your front upper torso. So let’s get into basic chest exercises that stimulate all the different regions of the pectoral muscle.
1. Bench Press
They call the bench press the king of the chest muscle exercises. That is because it has proven to be highly effective and relatively simple to do. The bench press can also be quite dangerous though, especially when you do it with extremely heavy weights. So always make sure you have a spotter around to help you. The bench press, in its complete form, normally includes three variations. The flat bench press for the entire chest region, the incline bench press for the upper chest, and the decline bench press for the lower chest. These can be done with barbells, dumbbells, or plated machines. Here is a basic instructional from weighttraining.about.com.
1. Lie flat on the bench under the rack that holds the bar. Your eyes should be approximately aligned with the front of the barbell rack uprights.
2. Butt, shoulders and head should be flat on the bench with a slight (neutral) bend in the spine. Feet should be flat on the floor and relatively wide apart.
3. Try a few lifts without any additional weights to warm up and to get the feel of the bar.
4. When you’re ready to add weight, fit the appropriate barbell plates to the bar and position yourself for the lift.
5. Grasp the bar with your thumbs on the outside of your closed fist, overhand grip, with arms slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The angle of the upper arms should be at about 45 degrees to the body.
6. If you don’t use the specialized bench press rack, a standard flat bench can be used with dumbbells or a light barbell. Or you can use a Smith machine.
7. If you are not at ease with feet on the floor because of short legs, use blocks or weight plates under the feet to boost height rather than placing legs on the bench, which reduces stability.
2. Cable Crossovers
The cable crossover is excellent at building muscle mass, particularly in the inner chest region. It is also a good exercise to include in any routine because cables stimulate the muscles even at the top of the action. Cable resistance does not vary with the motion of the exercise, providing a more consistent weight all throughout the movement. When in a gym, take advantage of the cable crossover equipment and make sure you do this exercise whenever you are doing a chest routine. Muscleandstrength.com provides an easy to follow guide on performing this exercise.
1. Set up the cable machine for crossovers by adjusting the pulleys to the highest point possible on both sides and attaching single grip handles.
2. Set your desired weight on the weight stacks and grasp each handle with your palms facing down.
3. Take a step forward.
4. Bend your arms slightly at the elbows. Keep your chest up and eyes facing forwards. This is the starting position for the exercise.
5. Rotating at the shoulders only and moving your arms in a circular motion, slowly bring the handles together out in front of your body at mid-chest height.
6. Squeeze your chest as you bring the handles together.
7. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position and repeat for desired reps.
1. Form is more important that weight on this exercise.
2. Focus on getting a good chest squeeze on the way down, and a good stretch on the way up.
3. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement, and do not change the angle of you
3. Dumbbell Flys
Dumbbell flys stimulate the same pectoral region as cable crossovers, but this time using dumbbells. The motion is done on a bench press, and again, inclines and declines can be incorporated into the routine. The key to doing the dumbbell fly effectively is having a bend in your arm. When you do the movement, feel a stretch in your chest and imagine hugging a tree. Let’s take a closer look at this bodybuilding staple from Buildchest.com.
1. Lay down on a bench or on the floor, with the dumbbells directly above you and your palms facing each other.
2. With a slight bend in the elbow (very important), lower the weights outward and downward in an arching motion, very SLOWLY.
3. Go as low as you feel comfortable, and do NOT force the stretch if you feel any joint pain (as you get more experienced over time, you will be able to go lower).
4. Pause at the bottom for about 2 seconds.
5. Bring the weights back up in the same motion as you had lowered them. Remember to try and squeeze your chest muscles the entire time (not just at the top), and visualise your chest contracting and moving the weight. Do not be lazy and rest at the top! Go straight back down again (slowly) so that there is constant tension in your muscles.
These are three of the most used chest exercises by both men and women, and are always part of any chest routine, no matter how simple or elaborate. You would be hard pressed to find a chest routine that does not include all three of these classic exercises that are favorites of bodybuilding and fitness enthusiasts all over the world.