THE 11 BEST CHEST EXERCISES THAT NEED TO BE IN YOUR WORKOUT

THE 11 BEST CHEST EXERCISES THAT NEED TO BE IN YOUR WORKOUT

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Building a strong chest is vital to any fitness routine, especially if you’re looking for workouts for beginners.

Heavy benching builds a big chest—that’s a saying you commonly hear around the gym. Pressing movements should form the backbone of your chest routine, and the bench press done on the flat bench is without question the king. While there’s no doubt that starting off with the bench press in your workout will result in making excellent gains, that still doesn’t mean you should rely on it exclusively. In fact, decline presses emphasize the lower chest region, and incline presses the upper chest, so not only should you be including these two presses at different angles in your workout, on occasion you should be doing them first when your muscles are fresh.

You can also substitute dumbbells for the barbell version and vice versa.

The two movements are remarkably similar, but dumbbells require better coordination, because each side is working independently. This ultimately offers a slightly greater range of motion and for some bodybuilders with shoulder problems, provide less stress.

Throw in flye movementscable crossovers, and/or pec-deck flyes at the end of your workout. These are isolation exercises, good for targeting the chest but won’t force you to go too heavy unless, with good form, you’re really looking to pack on the size with heavy weights.

Beginners can do 2-3 chest exercises of 2-3 working sets (which means, don’t count your warm-ups) of 10—15 reps. Experienced bodybuilders can do 4-5 total exercises, starting with various angled presses using a variety of equipment (barbell, dumbbells, machines) for 3-4 working sets. Heavy sets should go down to 6-8 reps. Finish up with the isolation exercises (choose 1-2) with a relatively lighter weight, doing three sets of 10-12 reps.

Keys to building size and strength in your chest are to challenge yourself with weights that keep the reps on the lower end early in your workout when your strength is high (after warming up), hitting your pecs from a variety of angles, and pumping through those last isolation movements until you’ve given it your all.

1. Barbell Bench Press

Muscles involved: The major muscles involved are the pectoralis major (middle portion), the coracobrachialis and anterior deltoid.

The large pectoralis major covers the front of the chest. Its two basic sections, the upper (clavicular) and the lower (sternal), work together but have separate actions. The coracobrachialis is a small muscle located deep beneath the deltoid and pectoralis major on the front inner side of the arm. The deltoid is a triangular muscle located on the shoulder. Only the anterior and middle heads are involved in the bench press.

The triceps, which covers the entire back side of the upper arm, is involved in elbow extension — a secondary action in the bench press. The pectoralis minor located under the pectoralis major, and the serratus anterior under the armpit, play roles in pulling the scapula forward to allow you to fully extend your arms in front.

HOW TO DO THE BARBELL BENCH PRESS

  • Lie faceup on bench with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Your head, shoulders and glutes should rest on the bench, with a slight arch in your lumbar spine.
  • Position yourself so the barbell is on the rack directly above your head. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away), hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the barbell off the rack or have a spotter assist in handing it to you. Hold the barbell with extended arms (without locking your elbows) over your chest. This is the start position.
  • Inhale as you lower the barbell until it touches your lower chest. At this point, hold your breath and push the barbell up and away from your body, moving it back slightly toward the rack until your arms are fully extended.
  • Exhale as you pass the most difficult portion of the positive (up) phase and pause momentarily in the straight-arm position.
  • Don’t stop in the bottom position; quickly reverse directions and repeat for reps.
2. Incline Bench Press

Muscles involved: The shoulder-joint muscles responsible for moving the arms include the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid.

The serratus anterior and pectoralis minor of the shoulder girdle, together with the upper and lower portions of the trapezius, rotate and move the scapula to accommodate the arm movements. The pectoralis major is a large muscle that covers the chest; the anterior deltoid is found on the front of the shoulder. The serratus anterior is located on the side of the torso directly under the armpit, and the pectoralis minor is under the pectoralis major.

The trapezius is a large muscle covering the middle upper back, and only the upper and lower portions are involved in upward rotation of the scapula. This exercise also involves the medial and lateral heads of the triceps brachii, which covers the entire back of the upper arm.

HOW TO DO THE INCLINE BENCH PRESS

  • Lie on an incline bench set at approximately a 30-45-degree angle. Spread your legs slightly with your feet flat on the floor to maintain balance. Your hips, shoulders and head should be resting on the bench.
  • Grasp a racked barbell with a pronated (overhand, palms-away) grip. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Unrack the bar and lower it to your upper chest, then inhale and hold your breath as you press the weight upward. Keep your elbows pointed out to your sides.
  • Exhale as you pass the most difficult part of the up phase or as your arms become fully extended.
  • Pause in the overhead position with your arms fully extended and vertical.
  • Inhale and hold your breath as you lower the weight under control to your upper chest.
  • If you prefer to stop and pause at the bottom, exhale after you reach the bottom position, then inhale and hold your breath as you press the barbell upward.
  • Use a moderate rate of speed, keeping the weight under control at all times.
3. Decline Bench Press

Muscles involved: The pectoralis major, coracobrachialis and anterior deltoid are involved in shoulder-joint movement.

The pectoralis major covers the entire chest on each side of the sternum; the lower portion attaches to the sternum while the upper portion attaches to the clavicle. The muscle inserts fairly close to the insertion of the deltoid. The coracobrachialis lies in the upper middle portion of the arm, and the anterior deltoid constitutes the front of the shoulder.

Other muscles involved in the decline press include the pectoralis minor and serratus anterior. The pectoralis minor is a small muscle covered by the pectoralis major. Covered by the scapula at the rear and the pectoralis major in front, the serratus anterior lies on the outer surface of the ribs just below the armpits.

Also involved is the triceps brachii, which covers the entire back of the arm. The muscle’s medial head has a major role, although all three heads come into play when the weight is heavy and the speed of movement increases.

HOW TO DO THE DECLINE BENCH PRESS

  • Set the angle of a decline bench between 30 and 45 degrees
  • Lie faceup on the bench, securing your feet under the rollers. Your head, shoulders and glutes should touch the bench with no arching or rounding of your back.
  • Grasp a barbell with a grip just wider than shoulder width. Take it out of the rack and begin the exercise with your arms fully extended.
  • Inhale and hold your breath as you lower the barbell at a slow to moderate speed. At the bottom, your elbows should point out to your sides.
  • Just before the barbell touches your chest, push it up until your arms are again fully extended.
  • Exhale forcefully after you pass the most difficult portion of the up phase.
  • The descent and ascent of the weight should be continuous, with no pausing or holding.
  • After you reach the top position, pause momentarily and then repeat.
4. Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press

Muscles involved: In the shoulder joint, the anterior deltoid, coracobrachialis and middle pectoralis major muscles are involved. The three-headed deltoid covers the front, top and back of the shoulder; this exercise involves mainly the anterior and middle heads. The coracobrachialis is a small muscle located deep underneath the deltoid. The large pectoralis major covers the chestfrom the clavicle, the whole length of the sternum and the cartilages of the first six ribs near the sternum. The fibers converge and attach to the humerus near the deltoid.

In the shoulder girdle, the pectoralis minor and serratus anterior are the major muscles involved. The small pectoralis minor is in the upper chest, covered by the pectoralis major. Lying on the outer surface of the ribs at the sides (just below the armpits), the serratus anterior is covered by the scapula at the rear and the pectoralis major in front.

In the elbow joint, the triceps brachii, which covers the entire back side of the upper arm, is the only major muscle involved. All three heads— the lateral head on the outer surface, the medial head on the inner side and the long head in the rear — run into a common tendon that attaches in the forearm.

HOW TO DO THE FLAT-BENCH DUMBBELL PRESS

  • Lie faceup on an exercise bench, with your head, shoulders and glutes in contact with it. Keep your legs slightly apart, knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a pronated grip (your palms face your feet), arms fully extended so the weights are directly above your chest and touching each other.
  • Inhale and hold your breath as you lower the weights, keeping your elbows pointed out to your sides as the dumbbells approach the sides of your chest in the bottom position.
  • Quickly reverse directions and press the weights back up until your arms are completely extended, following basically a straight line to finish directly above your chest.
  • Exhale forcefully as you pass the most difficult point on the ascent.
  • Pause in the top position with the dumbbells together, then repeat for reps.
5. Incline Dumbbell Press

Muscles involved: The shoulder-joint muscles responsible for moving the arms — the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid — are assisted by the coracobrachialis and short head of the biceps. The shoulder girdle’s serratus anterior and pectoralis minor, together with the upper and lower portion of the trapezius, rotate and move the scapula to accommodate arm movements.

The pectoralis major is the large muscle of the chest, and the pectoralis minor is found under it. The anterior deltoid covers the front of the shoulder. The serratus anterior is located on the sides of the torso directly under the armpits. The trapezius is a large muscle covering the middle upper back; only the upper and lower portions are involved in upward rotation of the scapula.

Also involved are the medial and lateral heads of the triceps muscle.

HOW TO DO THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS

  • Sit on an incline bench set at approximately a 30-45-degree angle. Place your feet flat on the floor; spread your legs slightly to maintain good balance. The hips, shoulders and head should be in alignment and touching the bench.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a pronated (overhand) grip. The palms should face in the same direction as you’re looking — directly ahead — during the entire movement.
  • Bring the dumbbells to shoulder level with your hands just outside your shoulders. When ready, inhale and hold your breath as you press (push) the dumbbells upward and inward. Keep your elbows out to your sides, in the same plane as your shoulders.
  • Exhale as you pass the most difficult part of the up-phase, when your arms become fully extended.
  • Pause in the overhead position. Inhale and hold your breath as you lower the dumbbells to your shoulders. When the dumbbells reach the bottom position, again press them upward until your arms are fully extended. Pause, then repeat the exercise.
  • To increase intensity, press the dumbbells close together (but not touching) in the overhead position,
  • Work at a moderate speed, keeping the weights under control.
  • Do single-arm incline presses for variety and a greater range of motion, raising the dumbbell as high as possible so your shoulder leaves the bench slightly.
6. Decline Dumbbell Press

Muscles involved: The main muscles involved in the shoulder joint are the sternal portion of the pectoralis major, a large musclethat covers almost the entire chest; the anterior deltoid located on the front of the shoulder; and the coracobrachialis, which is located deep beneath the deltoid and pectoralis major.

In the shoulder girdle, the serratus anterior and pectoralis minor are the major muscles involved. When well-developed, the serratus anterior — located on the sides of the body below the armpits — can be seen as fingerlike projections immediately above the external obliques. The pectoralis minor is located on the chest beneath the pectoralis major.

In the elbow joint, the main muscle involved is the triceps, a large, three-headed muscle that covers the entire backside of the upper arm.

HOW TO DO THE DECLINE DUMBBELL PRESS

  • Lie faceup on a decline bench set at approximately a 30-45-degree angle. Your torso should be fully supported from your head to your hips, with your legs bent and feet secured.
  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms to hold the weights directly above your chest so they touch. Your palms should face toward your feet. This is the starting position.
  • Bend your arms to lower the dumbbells toward the outsides of your chest, keeping your elbows pointed out to your sides. Inhale and hold your breath as you begin lowering the weights.
  • Reverse direction as the dumbbells approach chest level, fully extending your arms to bring the dumbbells back to the initial position in an arc.
  • Exhale forcefully after you pass the sticking point (the most difficult point in the range of motion.
7. Seated Machine Press

Muscles involved: The pectoralis major is a large muscle that covers the upper front part of your torso. It has two basic sections, the upper (clavicular) and the lower (sternal), which work together.

Comprising your shoulder, the deltoid has three heads — one in front (anterior), one toward the side (middle) and one in back(posterior). The front delt is mostly involved in the machine press.

The triceps brachii is involved in extending the forearm, and the pectoralis minor (located under the pectoralis major) and serratusanterior (located under the armpits) help pull the scapula forward to allow the arm to fully extend in front.

HOW TO DO THE SEATED MACHINE PRESS

  • Adjust the height of the seat so that the hand grips are at approximately shoulder level or slightly below.
  • Sit up straight with your back against the support pad. Place your feet flat on the floor directly under your knees and about shoulder-width apart.
  • Grasp the handles with a pronated (palms facing away) grip. Inhale and hold your breath as you push the handles away from you.
  • Exhale after you pass the most difficult part of the movement or when your arms are fully extended.
  • Pause momentarily, then return to the starting position.
  • As your hands approach the sides of your chest, quickly change direction and repeat the movement.
8. Flat-Bench Dumbbell Flye

Muscles involved: The muscles of the shoulder joint and shoulder girdle are involved in the dumbbell flye, namely the pectoralis muscles, anterior (front) deltoid, coracobrachialis and serratus anterior, The pectoralis major — the large muscle covering most of the chest — originates on the front border of the clavicle, the whole length of the sternum and the cartilages of the first six ribs near the sternum.

The anterior head of the deltoid is one of three that shapes the shoulder. The coracobrachialis is a small muscle beneath the deltoid and pectoralis major muscles on the front and inner side of the arm.

In the shoulder girdle, the pectoralis minor and serratus anterior are the major muscles involved. The small pectoralis minor is located in the upper chest and is covered by the pectoralis major. The serratus anterior lies on the outer surface of the ribs at the sides (just below the armpit) and is covered by the scapula at the rear and the pectoralis major in front.

HOW TO DO THE FLAT-BENCH DUMBBELL FLYE

  • Lie faceup on an exercise bench with your feet flat on the floor. Your head, back and glutes should all touch the bench.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each other, arms extended above your chest. Lock a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Inhale slightly more than usual and hold your breath as you lower your arms out to your sides.
  • As your arms approach shoulder level or slightly below, contract your pectoral muscles to reverse direction, maintaining the slight bend in your elbows. Follow the same arc to return to the arms-vertical position and exhale.
9. Incline Dumbbell Flye

Muscles involved: The incline dumbbell flye trains the upper chest, or pectoralis major, the large muscle covering most of the chest. It runs from the anterior border of the clavicle along the length of the sternum and the cartilages of the first six ribs to attach on the humerus, very close to the insertion of the deltoid.

The exercise also involves the major muscles of the shoulder joint: the anterior deltoid, anterior portion of the middle deltoid and coracobrachialis. The coracobrachialis is a small muscle located deep underneath the deltoid and pectoralis major muscles on the front and inner side of the arm.

In the shoulder girdle, the serratus anterior and pectoralis minor abduct the scapula during flyes. The serratus anterior lies on the outer surface of the ribs at the sides just below the armpits, and is covered by the scapula at the rear and pectoralis major in front.

The pectoralis minor, a small muscle located on the upper chest, is covered by the pectoralis major. The upper and lower portions of the trapezius located in the mid-upper back join the serratus anterior in upward rotation of the scapula.

HOW TO DO THE INCLINE DUMBBELL FLYE

  • Adjust a bench so that the incline is between 30 and 45 degrees. Don’t go above 45 degrees, which would increase deltoid involvement.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width or slightly more apart for stability knees bent.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (with your palms facing each other) and extend your arms above your chest. Bend your elbows slightly.
  • Inhale slightly more than usual and hold your breath as you lower your arms out to your
  • sides. Keep your elbows locked in the slightly bent position throughout the range of motion.
  • As your upper arms approach shoulder level or slightly below and you feel a strong stretch in your shoulders, slowly and smoothly reverse directions. Don’t stop in the bottom position.
  • Bring your arms back up to vertical, exhaling as you reach the uppermost position. Pause momentarily and then repeat. Be sure your arms remain in line with your shoulders throughout the movement.
10. Pec-Deck Flye

Muscles involved: Key shoulder-joint muscles in the pec-deck flye include the anterior deltoid, coracobrachialis, and pectoralis major.

The anterior deltoid covers the front of the shoulders, and is especially strong when the arms are in line with the shoulders. The coracobrachialis, which lies directly t beneath the deltoid and the pectoralis major, is fully targeted in this exercise. Most of its mass is below the deltoid.

This exercise involves both the upper and lower divisions of the pectoralis major, the large muscle covering the chest. You might also be able to emphasize development of the outer region of your pecs if you bring your arms back sufficiently or the inner region of your pecs if you bring your arms close together with a hard press.

In the shoulder girdle, the pectoralis minor and serratus anterior are the major muscles that become involved. The pectoralis minor is a small muscle located on the upper chest and covered by the pectoralis major. Covered by the scapula at the rear and the pectoralis major in front, the serratus anterior lies on the outer surface of the ribs just below the armpits.

HOW TO DO THE PEC-DECK FLYE

  • Adjust the seat of the pec-deck machine so that your upper arms are in line with your shoulders or slightly below. Sit firmly against the back support pad and place your forearms against the resistance pads on either side, Your entire forearm and elbow should rest against each pad as you grasp the hand grips.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart, your knees flexed about 90 degrees.
  • Inhale and hold your breath as you push against the pads to move them toward each other in front of you; exhale once you pass the sticking point of the movement.
  • In the end position, push hard and hold for 1-2 seconds to achieve a strong contraction.
  • Relax your pecs slightly and return to the x initial position. Keep the return movement under control at all times until your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
  • As you reach the start position, stop and reverse directions. Repeat for reps.
11. Cable Crossover

Muscles involved: The pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and coracobrachialis are the major muscles of the shoulder joint called into play in the cable crossover.

The pectoralis major covers the entire chest, but this exercise emphasizes the middle and lower portions, The deltoid musclecovers the entire shoulder and is divided into three sections: anterior, middle and posterior.

The crossover involves only the anterior or front portion. The coracobrachialis is a small muscle located deep underneath the deltoid and pectoralis major muscles.

In the shoulder girdle, the major muscles involved are the serratus anterior and pectoralis minor. The serratus anterior, located on the outer surface of the ribs, is covered by the scapula at the rear and the pectoralis major in front. Covered by the pectoralis major, the pectoralis minor is the small muscle located on the front of the upper chest.

HOW TO DO A CABLE CROSSOVER

  • Grasp stirrup handles attached to a pair of high cable pulleys with a palms-down grip. Stand equidistant from each pulley and take a short step forward with one foot for balance.
  • Bend forward at the waist about 15-30 degrees, maintaining normal spinal curvature.
  • In the starting position, your arms should be out to your sides and nearly perpendicular to your body, with your elbows bent slightly and locked in this position.
  • Inhale and hold your breath as you begin the downward-forward pull. Keep your elbows bent slightly.
  • Pull your arms forward in front of your chest until your hands come together or are slightly crossed in front of your body.
  • Hold the bottom position for a second as you exhale, then return to the starting position.
  • Hold your body stationary to keep the movement under control at all times.

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