Beginners usually want a bigger chest. In the journey to find the best chest workout, we bring you our beginners guide that explains the anatomy of the chest and how to hit it properly from all angles.
To understand how to build a bigger and fuller chest, one must learn chest anatomy and function. Basically you just need to understand that while the chest is one muscle, it should be categorically divided into three, the upper chest, the middle and the lower chest. Now the best chest workout would no doubt include exercises that cater to each area; it will still not make your chest into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chest. You can however put some serious mass to your chest.
For beginners to understand how to build a bigger chest, it’s best to stick to free weights and not include machines because they will stunt the development for their core as well. When you are holding a barbell and pressing, as opposed to a machine, you will notice that it’s harder with the same weight. This is because the free weights will need your core to stabilize the exercise whereas in machines the cables do the work for you. For each area we will give you our Top 3 exercises you should do to develop your chest.
The upper chest is the most difficult to hit and develop which is why we are starting with it first. An important thing to note is that without mind-muscle connection, this area can be frustrating to develop. When you feel the muscle contract and when you feel the pump; that is when you will build bigger pecs.
To target the upper chest, you should perform exercises at a 30 to 45 degree incline. Though this does bring in more shoulder involvement, it also helps you target the area in a better way. These are some of the targeted upper chest exercises:
1. Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press is the best exercise to build the upper chest. Though I would recommend you perform this exercise with a barbell, but only after you master the dumbell bench press. What’s important to also note that using dumbells for this will be initially harder. Because each dumbell needs to be balanced by each arm, which further still increases your core strength, mastering this movement will also give the beneift of no muscular imbalances. After you can dumbell bench 30kg, move onto a barbell because even the best chests in bodybuilding use barbell bench press as a staple exercise to develop their chest.
2. Incline Fly
The incline fly imitates you streching out the chest muscle and then contracting it back, not by pressing, but by arching your hands and extending them outwards. Especially useful for taller athletes, the fly is a primary accessory movement that one should engage in after their pressing movements have been done. Start at 3 sets of 8-10 reps. To do the movment correctly, bend your elbows and extend your arms outward. Come back up slowly and remember to pull from your elbows, and squeezing the chest at all times. To make this harder, slow the tempo of going down or coming back up. Never go super heavy on this exercise as it will damage your shoulder/rotator cuff areas.
3. Dumbell Pullover
While it can be argued that this exercise is also for lats, it is a fantastic chest builder. However many gym goers botch up this movement by swinging and jerking and using heavy weight. With a challenging weight in your hand, extend your hands backwards to the point where you feel your lats contract. This should be done with your shoulders rested upon a flat bench. When coming back up, keep your hands steady and pull with your chest. When done correctly the pullover, along with these other exercises, can grow your chest in six weeks.
While performing a pullover, remember to keep the weight moderate and reps high
The middle chest is targeted by flat pressing exercises. These are the exercises that you should be as an absolute beginner since they will give you mass with class all over your chest. Not only that, since they are compound movements, they will help you develop your overall structure.
Interestingly, more and more advanced lifters aren’t bothering with exercises like flat bench press because they feel their middle chest is developed enough and gets stress with working their upper and lower chest adequately. However, for a beginners guide to building your chest these movements are absolutely essential.
1. Flat Bench Press
The king of upper body movements in some opinions, this is the first movement you will learn in the gym. Ironically it’s also the first movement you’ll have to unlearn in the gym. That’s because while it may seem like a normal exercise to add to your chest building routine, it’s not as simple as sitting down and pressing the weight up. Without going into too many technical details, always retract the shoulder blades before sitting onto the bench and keep your feet firmly planted. After this bring the bar down to your lower chest level and while pushing up, make sure the rep goes up fast. However do remember, that for a chest workout for beginners this will be your primary movement so pay more attention to this exercise.
2. Flat Dumbell Fly
With all flying movments, do remember as always to go slow and perform higher reps. The noticeable difference between this and the incline fly is that because you are on a flat bench press, the arch of the flying movement can be higher. Simply put, the stretching movement can be increased.
3. Close Grip Bench Press
A fantastic exercise not only for your chest but also to develop some thick triceps. Movement wise it is identical to the flat bench press. What’s different? The grip length. Instead of grabbing onto the bar at greater than shoulder width, you will be gripping it close or at shoulder width, depending on your mobility level. What is important to note here that while this is considered a tricep movement, you should be using this for your chest by using techniques such as trisets and giant sets. Do remember that the bar needs to be placed upon your palms and not on your fingers.
A triset is three exercises performed back-to-back with no rest while a giant set is the same with four or more exercises
The lower chest is hardly a weak point for many lifters. This doesn’t mean you don’t capitalize on your strengths though. Targeting the lower chest is simple and some of the most effective exercises to build a bigger chest are specifically lower chest exercises which will also promote growth of other areas of the chest. These chest exercises should be mastered at a beginner stage to use it effectively as an advanced lifter.
No surprises here. The dips as stated before, can be done in two ways. It can be done for your triceps, which means staying up straight and going down slowly or it can be done for your lower chest. While performing this technique, lean forwards and come down. Depending on your shoulder mobility, go down as far as you can and push yourself upwards. To make this harder, go down slowly and come up faster.
When you start making your own chest workouts, do remember that for some beginners these movements are also challenging. Fret not and soldier on. Even if you get half a rep for this exercise, do it. Don’t let your motivation drop.
2. Decline Dumbell Bench Press
Experts say that the decline bench press is the most effective chest movement that one can perform during his/her workout. That to me sounds like this movement should be included in any great chest workout programs for size. However unlike the incline bench press, with the decline I would only recommend dumbells because of the stablizing factor.
3. Cable Crossover
The cable crossover is the only machine-based movement that one can indulge in as a beginner because it provides constant tension to the lower chest and if you are lean enough, provides the opportunity for striations to be visible. All accessory movements like fly’s and the cable crossover should be performed at the end of your workout and performed with moderate to high reps because the end motive would be to exhaust the muscle. Furthermore, always remember to pull with your elbows and squeeze your chest on every rep to ensure that this is one of your moves, to a bigger chest.