Bodybuilding Chest Exercises


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Chest Building Exercises

Your chest workout should include at least two warm up sets, some light stretching and some heavy poundage on the work sets. My routine is almost always three sets of three different exercises--all of which are done to complete failure except perhaps the very first set which I consider sort of the tail-end of my warm up.

The execution of all my chest movements is very strict. It usually takes me three seconds to lower the weight before I bring it up again in an equally controlled fashion but slightly faster. This tecnique has worked extremely well for me. Don't try to put up a heavier weight than you really ought to be ignoring the negative part of the rep and arching your back.

It's my feeling that a good chest workout should have three parts to it. One exercise needs to be a mass builder--a compound movement where you use as much weight as you can and still do 6-10 controlled reps. I usually do flat dumbbell presses for this. I prefer dumbbells to the bar, but I don't think you can go wrong either way as long as you don't come up crooked on the bench.

Second, every chest routine needs an exercise for the upper chest. Incline flies, incline dumbbell press or incline barbbell press all work well. I use dumbbell presses again.

Finally, to carve out the valley between your pecs, you need some sort of cross-over movement. Advanced bodybuilders who already have a good base of mass can go into cable movements. For the rest of us who are still building a base of muscle, dumbbell flies work best here.

On to the exercises...

Flat Bench/Dumbbell Press

Execution

For dumbbell press, start seated on a bench with the weights resting up and down on your quads. Lay back and swing the weights back to the point where the corners of each dumbbell is just touching your outer pecs. Push the weight up, bringing them slightly closer together at the top of the movement. Lower the weight back down slowly--two seconds on the way down for every second on the way up is a good rule. Repeat.

For barbell press, first make sure you have a spotter. Lay the bench so that the racked weight is just a tad behind your shoulders. Use a wider than shoulder width grip, but don't go too wide or you'll reduce your range of motion too much. Have your partner break it for you by lifting it up off the rack. Lower the weight slowly down till it touches your chest. Bring it back up with just as much control. I don't like to lock my elbows at the top of the movement, because it takes some of the stress off your muscles and puts it on your skeletal structure which is not the point of the movement.

Muscles Worked

Pectorals, secondary emphasis on triceps and front deltoids.

Notes

You may want to try alternating between the barbell and dumbbells to get the best of both worlds. A lot of pros favor one or the other, so I'm sure both have their merits, I simply prefer dumbbells.

I usually do this movement first in my workout, although if you are serious about building mass in your upper pecs you may want to consider doing an inclined movement first.

Incline Bench/Dumbbell Press

Execution

With dumbbells, the only difference between this movement and the flat dumbbell press is way you start the exercise and the muscles it stresses. Sit on an inclined bench with the dumbbells resting on your quads. You want to bring them up so that your hands are just above shoulder height. With heavier weight, this is not easy. The way I do it is by kicking one leg and then the other up. This throws the weight up and back so that I can bring it to rest near my front delts and upper pecs. From there I slowly push the weight up and squeeze the dumbbells closer together along the way. Lower the weight slowly and repeat. I sometimes pause at the top of the movement and conciously try to flex my pecs to maximize the stress.

For barbell press, you absolutely need a spotter. Use a slightly wider than shoulder width grip--with the flat bench press. Let your partner unrack the weight. Steady the weight above your chest and bring it slowly down. Let it touch your chest and then push it back up. As with the flat bench press, I don't believe you should lock your elbows at the top of the movement--it allows your muscles to rest which you could just as easily do by staying in bed, you're in the gym to work.

Muscles Worked

Pectorals, secondary emphasis on triceps and front deltoids. I feel this movement places more stress on the deltoids then the flat bench press because of the angle it's performed at.

Notes

This is the exercise to do for upper pec mass.

Flat/Incline Dumbbell Flies

Execution

You'll need to use lighter weight for this exercise than the pressing movements. I'm actually able to use slightly heavier poundage for incline flies than I am for flat flies.

As with the other dumbbell movements, you'll need to kick the weights up from your legs to get them in position--especially with the incline flies.

Press the weight up as with any other pressing movment to get started. With your elbows bent a little farther out than 90? lower the weight down. Slow down a lot towards the bottom of the movement so that when you switch directions to squeeze the weight back up you don't tear anything. Keep the elbows bent at the same angle as you move the weights up over your chest in an arc. I'm not sure if there's an official ruling on how far in to bring the weights at the top of the movement, but I stop just short of touching the weights together.

Muscles Worked

Pectorals particularly outer pecs, secondary emphasis on triceps and front deltoids. Incline variety places more stress on upper pecs.

Notes

I always include at least one crossing-type movement in my chest workout. Typically I alternate between flat flies and incline flies.

Decline Bench/Dumbbell Press

Execution

For this exercise, you need a special bench with a place to hook your legs so that you don't slide down off the bench. If your gym doesn't have one, you can still do decline dumbbell presses using a decline sit-up board.

If you're working with heavy dumbbells, you'll probably have to have help getting them up for the first rep because it's a real bear to try and curl them up off the ground onto your chest. If you're using a barbell then just have your partner unrack the weight and stablilize it for you.

From that point, the execution is the same as any other pressing motion.

Muscles Worked

Pectorals particularly lower pecs, secondary emphasis on triceps.

Notes

I don't feel this is a particularly necessary exercise. Most bodybuilders have a much harder time developing the upper pecs compared to the lower pecs. Occasionally, I throw these in to a workout as a substiture for incline or flat presses just to add some variety. Variety is good up to a point because it prevents your muscles from getting to used to the same routine and stagnating.

Dips

Execution

Really, the only thing to remember about dips is that you need to go all the way down to see the full benefit of the exercise. If you're getting sets of 10 and 15 without straining too hard then you probably need to add some more resistance. Do this by either attatching a plate to your belt with a cord of some sort or by simply cradling a dumbbell between your legs.

To increase the role the pecs play in this movement, point your elbows outward. Keeping them tucked in and pointed back forces your triceps to bear the brunt of the load--not necessarily bad, but you need to decide wether you're doing it for your chest or your triceps.

Muscles Worked

Pectorals particularly outer pecs, strong emphasis on triceps.

Notes

Don't become so fixated on reps that you try and whip them out super-fast by dropping down quickly and bouncing back up to the top. Keep the motion slow, especially on the negative portion of the rep.

Cable Cross-Overs

Execution

Stand in between the pulleys of an adjustable-pulley-rack (for lack of a better name). Move the pulleys so that they are at or above shoulder height--you may have to experiment to decide what you like best. Adjust both sides to be the same weight and grab one of the handles. Pull yourself over to the other side and grab the opposite handle. Move back to the center and let the weight pull your arms out so that they are extended nearly straight out.

Bend your elbows slightly and lean forward at about a 60 degree angle. Pull your hands across your body so that they meet in front of you. For an even greater squeeze, cross one hand under the other and alternate which hand goes on top each rep.

Be especially carefull not to let the weight jerk your arms back to the starting position. Your shoulders will thank you for it.

Muscles Worked

Pectorals particularly inner pecs.

Notes

There are so many variations on this movement. It would be impossible for me to describe all of them. If you have already built massive pectorals and you're concentrating on developing the striations, then by all means experiment with this movement.

I sometimes substitutes inclined cable flies for inclined dumbbell flies. The cables help me get a really intense peak contraction that the dumbbells don't allow so readily.

Those of us still making steps towards hugeness, but who are not quite there are better off leaving this exercise out and concentrating on the exercises that involve moving more weight.


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