Ultimate Chest Training Guide

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Chest Exercises for Mass and Symmetry (11 Studies)

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Have difficulty developing your chest? This is a must-read article. In this article, I’ll go through the exact exercises and training plan that will get you a gigantic chest – in a shorter amount of time.

The chest is one of the most commonly trained muscles by the majority of people. Unfortunately, it is also the one muscle group that people have the most difficulty developing. Furthermore, the majority of people have a propensity to overemphasize flat pressing actions (e.g. barbell bench press).

With insufficient volume in other planes of motion (incline or decline, for example), this might develop to a “imbalanced chest” over time. As a result, when it comes to having an appealing chest, symmetry takes precedence over sheer size. That is, it is critical that you target and train each section of your chest properly.

Looking to learn how to properly (and effectively) target each of your muscle groups, other than the chest? Don’t be concerned. I’ve got you covered. The Unorthodox Training Membership program is created as an all-in-one, science-based method that will bring you to your ideal body or help you work towards your health and fitness goals.

The chest is divided into two major anatomical regions:

  • Clavicular head of the pec major – Also referred to as the “upper chest”
  • The sternal head of the pec major is divided into the middle and lower chests based on the direction of the fibers.
  • Although all parts of the chest are stimulated during all chest workouts, specific parts can be highlighted. Because of the:
  • Upper chest fibers run upward and are better engaged by chest exercises that involve moving the arms upward (shoulder flexion)
  • Middle chest fibres run horizontally and are best engaged by chest exercises that involve moving the arms directly horizontally.
  • Lower chest fibres run downwards and are better engaged by chest exercises that require moving the arms downwards (shoulder extension)

First, make a strong mind-muscle connection with your chest.

Before we begin, it is critical that you create a strong mind-muscle connection with your chest. If you don’t, you’ll be exercising secondary muscles and your chest won’t grow as much as it could. Snyder and Fry’s study exemplifies this. When compared to when no cues were utilized, verbal cues increased chest activation by 22% during bench press in trained athletes.

You can utilize the following clues to aid you:

Squeeze your traps

Before beginning any pressing movement, squeeze your shoulder blades back into the bench.

Consider moving the weight by squeezing your biceps together and back out again throughout each rep rather than pushing the weight. This is due to the fact that the pecs’ primary role is this exact movement (horizontal adduction and resisting against horizontal abduction).

Incline Dumbbell Press (Exercise 1)

Incline dumbbell presses target the clavicular head of the pecs as well as many other secondary muscles. This is due to the increased shoulder flexion of this exercise. The primary purpose for beginning with this exercise is to focus on the upper chest. In most people, this is the trailing region of the chest. However, I’ll go into workout order in greater detail later in this article.

The Benefits of Incline Dumbbell Press

The following are some of the benefits of this exercise:

It permits the pecs to move more freely, resulting in increased hypertrophy. This has been supported by numerous range of motion investigations.

It works well for stimulating the upper chest. For example, in a large EMG study conducted by Brett Contreras, he examined chest activity with 15 distinct chest workouts. The most effective compound movement for the upper chest was discovered to be incline dumbbell presses.

Because each hand is responsible for an equal amount of weight, it more efficiently avoids muscular imbalances from occurring.

What Is the Best Position for Incline Dumbbell Presses?

The optimal bench angle to execute them with will vary according to your body. According to EMG research, the *optimal bench angle ranges from 30 to 56 degrees. As the angle increased, so did the activation of the anterior delts. Personally, I find that a 30° and 45° angle best engages my chest. This appears to be true for the majority of people. So, to hit your chest the most effectively, I’d recommend doing a couple of sets at both angles.

Flat Bench Press (Exercise 2)

Option 1: Bench Press with a Barbell

The bench press will emphasize the center chest the most. Additionally, it will aid in the development of total chest thickness. This exercise had to be included in this program due to the overwhelming evidence supporting its effectiveness in chest growth.

Several studies have demonstrated that it is the greatest exercise for activating the chest. In addition, the activity that allows you to raise the highest weight. Furthermore, research such as this one by Akagi et al. reveal a favorable link between 1 rep max bench press and pec major size. As a result, a powerful bench does not always correlate to a huge chest.

In terms of form, you should definitely come down to your chest for a full range of motion. As previously stated, longer ranges of motion are more helpful for hypertrophy than shorter ranges of motion.

Option 2: Bench Press using Dumbbells

However, the primary issue I have with bench press is that some people respond extremely well to it, while others tend to overcompensate with the delts regardless of form or activation cues used. This distinction, in my opinion, is due to their individual anatomy. How far down the pec inserts onto the humerus, for example.

If this is the case for you, consider doing an exercise like the dumbbell bench press instead. It has been demonstrated to activate the chest similarly to the barbell bench press but not the triceps. This could be beneficial if your triceps are hyperactive during benching.

Other Benefits of Doing the Dumbbell Bench Press

In fact, Brett Contreras’ study found that the dumbbell bench press elicited the highest activation of the middle chest. Another advantage of using dumbbells is that your range of motion isn’t restricted by the bar. However, as you can see, there is a lot of individual variance even in the literature. So give them each a shot and see which one works best for you.

Dips are the third exercise (Straight Bar or Regular Dips)

Dips will be the following workout. According to Brett Contreras’ research, this exercise is the most effective for hitting the lower chest. This is understandable given that your shoulder is in an extended position.

Personally, I prefer the straight-bar dips variety since it feels a lot better in my lower chest. This is most likely due to the increased internal rotation during the exercise, which is another important function of the lower chest, and it also provides an excellent workout for my core.

Dips: How to Do It

These can be done on a smith machine bar. Alternatively, any barbell set up on a rack will suffice. To maintain balanced, lean your upper body slightly over the bar and pull your legs forward under the bar as you drop. Then, utilizing your lower chest and triceps, push back up and try not to flare out your elbows too much. Also, make sure the bar isn’t dragging on your body during the movement. Most people find it a difficult activity. But I guarantee that if you do them correctly, you will see significant changes in your lower chest.

If you’re having trouble with that, stick to conventional dips with a tiny lean forward to impact your chest more than your triceps for now. And you’ll eventually want to start adding weight to keep it progressing.

4th Exercise: Banded Push-Ups

This is a sort of concluding movement. However, it is something I strongly advise you to incorporate into your routine. All you have to do is wrap a band around your back and hold the ends together with your palms. Then, with the resistance added, complete ordinary push-ups.

Andersen et al. compared banded push-ups to the bench press in research. One group did only banded pushups for 5 weeks, while the other group did only bench press for 5 weeks. The researchers then compared how their bench press strength had changed after 5 weeks. What were the results? Researchers discovered that banded push-ups and bench press had nearly comparable chest activation.

Over the course of five weeks, both groups experienced very equal gains in bench press strength.

The fact that this exercise has the potential to develop your upper body strength just as much as the bench, and that it has been demonstrated in several studies to engage the chest extremely well, particularly the upper chest, is why I chose to add it. And a simple method to progress this exercise is to simply use bands with increased resistance as you gain strength.

Crossovers from High to Low Cables (Exercise 5)

The final exercise will focus more on the sternal head of the pecs. As a result, both the middle and lower chest will be highlighted.

A few studies, including this one by Schanke et al., have demonstrated that high to low cable crossovers are just as effective as the bench press at activating the pecs.

As a result, it’s a fantastic finishing move that you can perform to failure. Another advantage of this exercise is that it allows you to accomplish something that most other workouts do not allow you to do. That is, it allows you to cross your hands at the bottom position in order to allow for *greater horizontal adduction* at the shoulder. This will improve chest activation.

Example Chest Workout & Exercise Sequence

So, to sum up, here’s a sample chest workout that you may do with the movements I previously explained.

Incline 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions on the dumbbell press

Bench Press with a Barbell OR Dumbbell: 3 sets of 6-10 reps

Dips: three sets of eight to twelve reps.

Push-ups with a band: 3 sets of 6-12 reps (or to failure)

Crossovers from high to low cable: 3 sets of 10+ reps

It is important to perform the exercises in the correct order.

However, one thing to keep in mind is the order in which you complete the exercises. Several studies have found that lifters achieve more hypertrophy and strength when they perform workouts early in the session. That is, you want to prioritize activities based on your talents and weaknesses. As a result, here’s how you should plan your workout.

Upper Chest Lagging

3 sets of 6-10 repetitions on the incline dumbbell press

Bench Press with a Barbell OR Dumbbell: 3 sets of 6-10 reps

Dips: three sets of eight to twelve reps.

Push-ups with a band: 3 sets of 6-12 reps (or to failure)

Cable from High to Low Crossovers: three sets of ten or more reps

Inadequate Mid-Chest Thickness And Overall Thickness

Bench Press with a Barbell OR Dumbbell: 3 sets of 6-10 reps

3 sets of 6-10 repetitions on the incline dumbbell press

Dips: three sets of eight to twelve reps.

Push-ups with a band: 3 sets of 6-12 reps (or to failure)

Cable from High to Low Crossovers: three sets of ten or more reps

Lower Chest Lagging

Dips: three sets of eight to twelve reps.

Bench Press with a Barbell OR Dumbbell: 3 sets of 6-10 reps

3 sets of 6-10 repetitions on the incline dumbbell press

Crossovers from high to low cable: 3 sets of 10+ reps

Push-ups with a band: 3 sets of 6-12 reps (or to failure)

This will help you prioritize your weaknesses and better balance your chest.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot of individual diversity when it comes to the best chest exercises, based on my personal experience and a review of the research. Anatomical variances like how far down your pecs insert on your humerus, for example, can decide whether or not bench press is a good option for you. As a result, while the findings of research will apply to the majority of people, they will not account for every person.

This is why I propose that you experiment a lot and feel free to substitute out exercises for others that you feel more activation with, as well as break the workout in half and fit them in with other workout days (e.g. PPL split). That’s all there is to it. I hope this is of assistance to you.

Also, keep in mind that your nutrition during this period, as well as your overall workout/training, will always be the most significant aspect in building your chest.

2 “Must-Do” Exercises to Build a Massive Chest (Based On Science)

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This article is for you if you’re having trouble building your chest. I demonstrate the two workouts that you MUST do (and pair together) for remarkable chest improvements. And it’s all supported by science.

One of the most pleasurable muscle areas to train is the chest. At the same time, it appears to be a muscle area that many people have difficulty developing. This often leads to them doing all of the chest workouts available in the gym in the hopes that it will expand. However, the truth is that this frequently causes more harm than good. Today, I’m going to show you how to get the most bang for your money when it comes to chest gains. And guess what else? There’s nothing complicated about it. I’ll show you how focusing on and combining two simple yet extremely effective chest workouts may make a major difference in your chest development.

Exercise 1: Dumbbell Press on a Low Incline

The low incline dumbbell press is the first exercise.

Chest pressing exercises are required. It allows us to build up a lot of tension in our chest over time since we can: lift heavier loads with it AND

With greater weight, you can easily progress it over time.

However, dumbbell presses have an advantage over barbell presses. This is due to the fact that it enables us to accomplish two critical goals. First, our chest fibers have a broader range of motion. Second, we have more flexibility with our elbow and wrist posture as we press. This allows us to fine-tune our form to better suit our specific chest fibers and what feels most comfortable on our joints.

Why is the low incline press included in this list of chest exercises?

For a few of reasons, a low incline press is used here.

As a result, the entire chest is more activated.

The first reason is that we want to make sure we’re working each part of our chest properly. The upper, middle, and lower fibers are referred to as such. And, in general, we witness a lagging upper chest with chest growth.

And this is frequently attributable to a large proportion of level pressing versus uphill pressing.

In fact, in a recent 2020 research in which patients simply performed the flat bench for 8 weeks, the middle and lower sections of the chest expanded significantly faster than the upper portion. However, this does not exclude us from performing a standard incline press.

According to research, even an elevation of up to 30 degrees (usually just two notches up from the bottom of a level bench) results in:

However, there is a greater activation of the upper chest.

It comes at the expense of A) significantly increased front delt activation and B) significantly decreased mid and lower chest activity… In comparison to a flat press. With an incline of up to 45 degrees proving to be much more difficult.

Whereas a low incline of up to 15 degrees results in:

However, there is a considerable increase in upper chest activation.

With a decrease in A) front delt involvement and B) a decrease in activation of the middle and lower sections of your chest

And I’d further argue that if you then perform this action with a tiny arch in the upper back and tuck the elbows in somewhat, you’ll be aligning the resistance with even more of your chest fibers. As a result, your entire chest will be activated even more.

Provides a comfortable, externally rotated position for the shoulders.

However, aside from chest activation and growth, the second reason this exercise is good is comfort. This is because the flat dumbbell press causes your shoulder to be internally rotated at the bottom position. This can cause problems or discomfort on your shoulders. Especially if you don’t have enough shoulder mobility.

However, by adding a tiny incline, your shoulders will now be slightly externally rotated. For many people, this is a much more comfortable pushing posture for the shoulder. This is not to argue that flat dumbbell pressing is unhealthy and should be avoided. Instead, it’s merely another distinct advantage of the low inclination press. That is why I strongly advise you to incorporate it into your routine.

Exercise 2: Banded/Cable Movement

The following exercise will be a cable or banded movement. As an example, consider a seated cable fly.

If you don’t have access to wires, you can substitute banded push-ups or banded flyes.

The idea behind this action is related to the strength curve from our prior workout. The bottom stretched position of a dumbbell press provides the most resistance to our chest. However, when you press the weight up, the resistance gradually reduces. When you reach the highest position, the chest receives relatively little stimulation.

Why Should I Be Concerned With the Strength Curve of an Exercise?

What is the significance of this? Because we know from research on muscle growth that exercises with varying strength curves will likely result in different amounts of muscle growth in each part of our muscle. A 2015 paper exemplifies this. Subjects not only experienced different amounts of muscle growth in each of the numerous quadriceps muscles, but also different amounts of growth within the distinct muscle regions, by merely changing the strength curve of a knee extension.

This means that if we merely did the dumbbell press or added in additional chest exercises with a comparable strength curve, such as the dumbbell fly, we wouldn’t be sufficiently training and stimulating our chest in the locked-out position. That is, some muscle fibers in our chest may be under-stimulated. As a result, we may miss out on some extra chest gains.

Constant Tension is provided through cable/banded chest exercises.

The cable fly compensates for this by applying sufficient strain to the chest throughout the whole range of motion. Especially when the employment is fully contracted. You can also experiment with the movement’s angles to accentuate the top, middle, or lower areas of your chest.

Similarly, if you don’t have cables or access to a gym, a banded push-up or banded fly is a good substitute. This is due to the fact that the resistance applied to your chest will be lowest at the bottom position, but will gradually increase as you lockout and reach the fully contracted position.

Takeaway

You won’t miss out on any possible chest growth if you combine these two motions and their unique strength trajectories.

What you do with these two exercises is entirely up to you. For the reasons stated earlier, I would strongly advise incorporating them into your current chest program as you see fit.

And if you’re currently doing a plethora of various chest workouts and volume… but you’re not seeing any results? Simply transferring more of that volume and effort to these two motions, while focusing on perfect technique and increasing them over time, will do wonders for your chest development.

3 OF THE WORST (AND BEST) CHEST EXERCISES TO PERFORM IN YOUR WORKOUT FOR MASS

Could your present chest workout be slowing rather than speeding up your gains? Find out more here. In this essay, I will discuss the worst (and best) chest exercises for maximum mass.

In this article, I’ll go through the three most prevalent – yet WORST – chest workouts that are delaying your progress. Don’t be concerned if they occur in your training program. I’ll also demonstrate what you should be doing instead. More precisely, I’ll show you the greatest chest exercises (suited for both men and women) that you can use into your gym session for maximum mass. You’ll find that these are far more effective than the:

Bench press with an inclination

Flying dumbbells

Pinch and squeeze… To expand your chest. Begin practicing the greatest chest workouts I discuss in this post, and you’ll be able to expand your chest faster than ever before.

Before that, if you’re seeking a training program that will guide you through the process of selecting only the BEST exercises for optimal muscle growth (not only for the chest, but for ALL muscle groups! ), I’ve got just the thing for you. The Unorthodox Training Membership Program is intended to be an all-in-one, science-based procedure that will bring you to your ideal physique as quickly as possible. And the best part? Everything is based on science. We also mix in some more fun stuff too, and the membership is extremely affordable!

Switch 1: Incline Dumbbell Press In Place Of Incline Bench Press

You should concentrate on developing the upper chest for a well-developed chest. It is responsible for filling out your chest and giving it a proportional appearance. You could believe that the incline bench press is the greatest option for this. While the incline bench press is one of the most popular upper chest workouts, it is far from the greatest. It may even be leaving money on the table due to two factors:

The seat

Your biceps

In a 2020 study, researchers assessed how active various areas of the chest and shoulder were when volunteers performed the incline bench press at different degrees: 15 degrees, 30 degrees, 45 degrees, and 60 degrees.

What were the results? They discovered that a bench angle of 30 degrees enhanced upper chest activity. At increasing angles, the front delts began to take over. This is then linked to a decrease in upper chest activity.

Furthermore, while decreasing the bench angle from 30 to 15 degrees resulted in a very tiny drop in upper chest activation, it did result in a significant increase in activation of the: Middle AND Lower portions… Concerning the chest

So, what is the main point here? These findings imply that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a very high bench angle to target the upper chest. In truth, 15 degrees allows you to activate your upper chest while reducing the utilization of the front delts. Furthermore, it helps you to keep the rest of your chest working as well. It’s a win-win situation.

Why Is the Low Incline Dumbbell Press a Good Chest Exercise?

Consider that for a moment. What role does the incline bench press play in your chest exercise program now that you’ve discovered this? Unfortunately, the majority of incline benches are pre-set. And frequently at an excessively high angle – around 30 degrees, with some as high as 45 degrees.

That’s why one of my personal favorites is a good option (and one of the greatest chest workouts). It’s an exercise I incorporate throughout many of my published workouts and within the Unorthodox Training membership program: a dumbbell press with a low gradient of about 15 degrees This is usually the first or second rung of the bench.

And why are dumbbells being used instead of barbells here? That’s because several muscle activation studies have discovered that keeping the elbows tucked to 45 degrees while you press helps dramatically improves upper chest activity – because it better aligns the arms with the upper chest fibers.

Instead of being locked into the barbell, you can alter your wrist position with dumbbells to whatever feels best. This means you may achieve this ideal elbow angle without putting undue strain on your joints.  

Exercise 2: Use a cable fly instead of a dumbbell fly.

I used to enjoy Arnold’s dumbbell fly as a fan. Is it, nevertheless, one of the best chest workouts available? It wasn’t until I studied more about the science behind the chest involvement during the dumbbell fly that I realized there was a better choice to incorporate into your chest day routine.

To be sure, the dumbbell fly isolates the chest. As a result, it appears to be a good alternative for chest building.

However, there is a drawback to this movement. The dumbbell fly only works the chest at the bottom of the action, when your chest is fully stretched and your arms are fully extended to your sides.

As soon as you cross this phase, your chest starts to become less involved. As a result, the workout is less helpful for overall chest growth. In fact, you’ve probably observed that there’s no tension on your chest while you’re in the top position, with your arms straight above you.

You could easily spend the entire day in that position.

Having stated that, we still want to do a fly movement for our chest. We’ll accomplish this by making one major alteration to your flyes, which will keep continual tension on your chest. And take it through its entire range of motion. We’ll perform the cable fly:

Keep the bench, but raise it up.

Place it between two cables at roughly the height of your chest.

Grab the grips, sit between them, and fly from there.

Don’t have any cables on hand? A similar setup can be achieved by putting a band over your hands and doing the dumbbell fly in this manner. This will help maintain a small amount of stress on the chest throughout the action.

It’s the little things that make a big difference.

My military training and experience taught me that details matter in a variety of situations. Working out properly and successfully is no exception.

3rd swap: Landmine Chest Exertion Instead of pinching, press instead.

This squeezy-pushy-thingy I’ll just call the pinch press is a ‘Instagram-famous’ chest exercise. Squeezing a weight plate or two dumbbells together while bringing your arms out and in is a common technique.

The overall goal is to target more of the inside chest.

Don’t get me wrong here. When you complete this exercise, you will notice that your chest muscles are really active. The issue here is that the chest is only keeping the weights pushed together. This sort of chest contraction is known as an isometric contraction. Which, sadly, isn’t very effective for muscle building.

The front delts and triceps are responsible for moving the weight out and then back in. They are benefiting and growing more from this activity than the chest.

So, what can you do in its place?

The cross-body press is a fantastic substitute for this exercise (which is also one of the best chest exercises available). This workout can be done with either a machine or a cable.

You will need to set up at a 90-degree angle to do this workout. Instead of pushing your arms in front of your body, you can push ACROSS your body, one arm at a time.

You don’t have a machine? You can achieve the same thing with a cable by attaching a handle and pressing across your body.

This can also be done using a band.

This exercise will still provide you with the same intense activation and squeeze on the chest as the pinch press. However, by utilizing your chest to push the weight away from you (rather than simply holding a weight in place), you’ll be supplying your chest with the appropriate type of contraction to help it grow.

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