The best chest exercises for men and women
Presses (compound exercises for mass growth)
Flyes (muscle shaping exercises)
Depending on the chest exercise tools we are using, Bench Presses are divided into:
- Barbell Bench Presses
- Dumbbell Bench Presses
- Machine Bench Presses
Depending on the bench angle (the way we perform presses) they can be:
- Flat or Horizontal (bench is parallel to the floor)
- Incline (head is higher than legs: different angles are possible) Upper chest exercises
- Decline (head is lower than legs). Lower chest exercises
Dumbbell Flyes (main exercise tool)
Machine Flyes (meaning such chest exercises as Crossovers, Pec Deck, Flyes and their analogues)
- Flat or Horizontal (bench is parallel to the floor)
- Incline (head is higher than legs: different angles are possible)
- Decline (head is lower than legs).
The majority of the best chest exercises for man are compound ones and actively involve the following three muscle groups:
- pectoral muscles (chest)
- front deltoid muscles (shoulders)
When workout it’s very important to know how to limit the work of triceps and deltoids in order they don’t steal workout loads intended for chest. To do it you can manipulate:
- the width of your grip
- the incline angle of a bench.
Grip width in chest exercise:
- wide grip – outer chest areas; triceps muscle is working little; the movement amplitude is short (muscle chest contraction is incomplete);
- middle grip – the whole chest; triceps is working more intensively; the amplitude is optimal;
- close grip – maximum contraction of chest muscles with an emphasis on middle areas; triceps takes the most part of the workout load and limits the working weight.
- Incline position (head is higher than legs) – minimum load on triceps but front deltoids take the most part of the workout load.
- Flat (Horizontal) position – theoretically, this bench position together with middle grip guarantee the load emphasis on your chest while triceps and deltoids are working moderately. In practice, horizontal chest exercises work in favor of your chest not that good as they are supposed to do.
- Decline position (head is lower than legs) – the load emphasis in case of presses is on your triceps. Chest work is minor; that’s why if your target is chest, use wide grip for Barbell Presses or Dumbbell Flyes: this will help you exclude triceps from work.
When performing presses try to hold your arms crosswise (elbows are close to your ears): it will help you concentrate the workout load on your chest because if you keep your elbows closer to the torso the main load will fall on your triceps.
Chest exercises and anatomy.
Chest muscles are divided into two groups:
1. Muscles of the shoulder girdle and upper limbs (large and small pectoral muscles, subclavian muscle and anterior serratus muscle) and
2. Proper chest muscles (outer and inner intercostal muscles) that fill intercostals spaces.
Large pectoral muscle (lat. musculus pectoralis major) is a massive fan-shaped muscle that occupies the bigger part of the front thorax wall. Its main function is to lower and adduct a raised arm and at the same time to turn it inwards. Large pectoral muscles are pair muscles that are used to hypertrophy very well.
Small pectoral muscle (lat. musculus pectoralis minor) is a flat triangle muscle that is situated right behind the large pectoral muscle. It is attached with its one end to ribs and with the other one – to the shoulder blade. The main function of small pectoral muscles is to drag the shoulder blade forward and downward.
Anterior serratus muscle is situated on the side chest surface. It is attached to upper ribs and the shoulder blade edge. Its main function is to drag the shoulder blade forward and turn it.
Subclavian muscle is situated between the upper rib and the shoulder blade; it’s responsible for moving the shoulder blade downward.
Intercostal muscles (outer and inner) are attached to different rib sides and take part in breathing in and out.
Subcostal muscles are situated on the inner side of lower ribs and differ from intercostal ones due to the fact that their fascicles are attached over a rib.
Diaphragm (lat. musculus phrenicus) is the main respiratory chest muscle that appears to be a mobile musclular-tendinous septum between the thoracic and abdominal cavities. When contracting the diaphragm moves away from thoracic cavity walls; its cupula flattens and this leads to increase of the size of the thoracic cavity and reduction of the size of the abdominal one – inspiration takes place. When contracting together with abdominal muscles the diaphragm assists increase of the intra-abdominal pressure that is extremely important when working with heavy weights.
What conclusions should we come to?
When chest workout doing you need to put emphasis on the most appropriate chest muscles: large and small pectoral ones.
Composition of pectoral muscles is unique: different fibers are positioned in different directions – it means that incline chest workout is necessary.
Pectoral muscles are very large in size – it means that they are capable of performing hard power work.
Bench press – The best chest exercise
Bench Presses belong to the group of basic bodybuilding compound exercises aimed at building strong and large chest muscles. There are a lot of kinds of Bench Presses.
Depending on the bench angle (the way we perform presses) they can be:
Horizontal (bench is parallel to the floor)
Incline (head is higher than legs: different angles are possible)
Decline (head is lower than legs).
I think that present bodybuilding tends to overestimate the efficiency of such chest exercise as horizontal Barbell Bench Press; it’s even considered to be the main one for chest workout. I really don’t understand why this exercise is so popular: you can open any bodybuilding handbook or a magazine and see that it’s recommended for everyone to press Barbell when lying on a flat bench because this chest exercise is supposedly the best one for chest muscle growth! But this statement is rather questionable, I dare say. For example, nowadays I don’t perform Barbell Bench Presses at all; and I know a lot of other people who don’t like this classic exercise and still have well-developed chest muscles.
I won’t repeat it once again that you need to perform all chest exercises correctly. According to my experience it’s simply useless. There will always be those who perform Bench Presses disgustingly: making a barbell jump from the chest and lifting the bottom from the bench (even when being assisted by partners). It’s no use to teach such ‘athletes’ because the only result will be its absence.
But when people perform such chest exercises correctly it’s absolutely another story: to watch them training is a pure aesthetical pleasure: their shoulder blades are together, chest is protruded, feet are firmly pressed against the floor; they raise and lower their barbell smoothly without pauses. It looks very nice as if a handbook description is visualized. But still, quite often their result is just the same as one of the first group. Isn’t it a pity? – I’d say it is; especially when these people perform this chest exercise not only correctly but with really heavy weights. You also saw such people: remember power lifters that do Barbell Bench Presses with unreal heavy weights. But how many of them possess large attractive overall chest muscles? – Now you should understand what I mean!
So, you can ask, ‘Are Bench Presses are totally useless’? Oh no. Definitely not: Bench Presses is a classic compound exercise that can be very effective for both strength and chest muscle mass development. But if your priority is the size of your muscles the classic variant of Bench Presses when you straighten your arms completely and use horizontal bench is not for you.
If you want to have massive chest muscles flat Bench Presses are just not enough. If you want to develop your chest you need to stick to a limited amplitude of this chest exercise:
• reduce the barbell weight
• don’t touch your chest with the bar in the amplitude lowest point
• don’t straighten your arms completely in the amplitude upper point
• hold your hands crosswise against your torso
The value of working weights is a question of minor importance while the most important thing is the exercise movement biomechanics.
Another good chest exercises for men and women.
I consider myself a practitioner but not a theoretician; that’s why I won’t name dozens of low-efficient chest exercises. It’s better to use few but really effective ones. Below you’ll find information on three ‘bomb’ chest exercises and one – for muscle shaping that you won’t need during the first training year. All these chest exercises are performed on inclined benches but this doesn’t mean that you need to stick to the same incline angle when performing them.
Barbell Incline Bench Presses
This is a compound chest exercise for development of strength and general mass of your pectorals. You use the heaviest weights in this exercise and due to this fact this exercise is very effective for training of pectoral muscles. It’s actually the most powerful chest exercise and the ‘initial point’ for loading your chest. If you perform this exercise in the very beginning, you kill three birds with one stone:
1. you put an emphasis on upper parts of your pectorals that grow very slowly;
2. you are able to watch over the basic load very easily with the help of additional plates on the barbell;
3. incline bench angle ‘steals’ the load from your triceps in favour of your pectorals.
Grip width variation allows you to put emphasis on particular chest areas: for example, a grip when your hands are a bit wider your shoulder width is used mostly for an emphasis on outer, middle or inner areas of the upper part of your chest. The incline level is 35°; the exercise amplitude is limited: don’t touch your chest with the bar in the lowest point and don’t straighten your arms completely in the upper point.
Dumbbell Incline Bench Presses
It’s an effective chest exercise that develops your muscle size and shapes them nicely. As well as Barbell Incline Bench Presses, this one develops all muscles of the upper shoulder girdle, though the main load emphasis is put on the upper chest part.
Don’t limit the exercise amplitude when pressing dumbbells: they aren’t a barbell – so, extension in the lowest point is obligatory. In order to do everything correctly it’s advisable to choose heavy but controllable dumbbell weight. The incline angle is usually the same as for Barbell Incline Bench Presses.
Dumbbell Incline Bench Flyes
This chest exercise trains and shapes the upper chest part. The main secret of this exercise lies in renunciation of ‘crosswise’ position of arms that’s obligatory for other chest exercises.
Having pressed the dumbbells, try to lower them very slowly with your hands straight in the direction of your pelvis. On reaching the point lower which you can’t hold the dumbbells any more, you receive the projection point (downward along the gravity vector) of the movement plane. Performing this exercise in such movement plane significantly loads the upper chest part (especially in the extended position).
The exercise amplitude is complete; extension in the lowest point is obligatory. Incline bench angles can be different; from decline ones (-30°) to incline ones (35-45°). It’s recommended to change incline angles regularly and you shouldn’t strive for too heavy weights.
It’s a great shaping chest exercise for the very end of chest workout. Still, for you it’s better to forget about it during the first training year till you gain enough muscle mass.
Crossovers maximally extend the upper chest part without additional load put on your joints. It can be performed both in standing position and on an inclined bench. The last variant loads to the maximum the most problem chest area – the middle upper part of pectorals near your neck.
You have to perform this chest exercise in a slow tempo. It’s good to make a pause and strain your muscles to the maximum extent in the squeeze phase. Crossovers can be performed using both upper and lower rollers.
Possibly you were able to notice that my list of chest exercises doesn’t include any exercises on a flat bench (even such classic exercise as Barbell Bench Presses is not present). It’s because I don’t believe in efficiency of this variant and don’t consider it necessary to describe it.
There are two more good exercises that are not included into this list. These are compound exercises that engage triceps apart from chest. I mean Close-Grip Barbell Bench Presses and Dips: we are going to discuss these exercises thoroughly when we start talking about arm training.
The best chest exercises for men and women. Written by: Dennis Borisov
© June 2009 www.gymper.com. All rights reserved. Reprint article with link only.