Chest Building Basics

Ever wonder why most people, whether they are a beginner or an experienced body builder, start their fitnessprogram with a good chest workout?

Maybe it’s the feeling of blood engorging the chest that makes it feel so good. Or perhaps it’s the fact that no other body part gets a better pump than that of the pectoral muscles. Regardless of what the reasons may be, if the chest is worked hard enough and worked right, there is no greater feeling than that moment when the chest is so full and tight that it feels as if it is about to burst.

We all agree that a strong and muscular chest is a prominent part of one’s appearance. So much of our physical presence has a lot to do with how we see ourselves and how others perceive us. If we look at our favorite superheroes or mythological characters, we find that a strong and chiseled chest is a representation of power and heroism – and who would not want to look and feel heroic! Furthermore, a well-defined chest accentuates confidence, competence, and a strong presence – a message that we want to send to everyone we encounter. A powerful chest is something that everyone recognizes. Someone with a powerful chest is often viewed as someone to be reckoned with.

Sculpting a muscular chest applies not only to men but to women as well. The pectoral muscles are related to all major muscle groups in the upper body including the abdominal, shoulders and back muscles. A toned and well-worked chest aids in good posture while the muscles work to lift and sculpt a woman’s breasts. It is important to keep in mind that lifting weights does not by any means transform a woman’s physique like that of a man’s. Different goals require different actions. While a man’s goal would be to have a muscular and heroic physique, a woman’s goal may be more along the lines of being toned. The term “feminine masculinity” – a hard body while maintaining the curves of a feminine body – is commonly used.

To achieve a strong and muscular chest, the following exercises were put together as part of a routine that will be the basis for developing a sculpted and toned chest. For those whose goal is to add more size and strength, concentrate of performing low repetition with heavy weights with the proper form. For those for those whose goal is to be lean and toned, focus the concentration on high repetition and low weights with the proper form.

• Dip (Assisted / Unassisted)
• Flat Barbell / Dumbbell Bench Press
• Incline Barbell / Dumbbell Press
• Flat Dumbbell Flyes

Dips
After you completed you stretches and have warned-up for 5-10 minutes on the bike or stair-master, a good way to loosen the chest muscles is to perform 3 sets of dips.
Make sure to keep your elbows pointed out during this exercise. Keeping the elbows pointed out isolates the chest muscles and only a small bit of the triceps are used.
Perform the dip in a slow controlled fashion. If possible, go slow as you can on the way down (inhale) and as slow as you can to rise up (exhale). Perform about 3-4 sets, with at least 8-12 reps with a two-minute break between each set. If you’ve never done dips before you’ll be surprise at how effective this exercise is and how sore you’ll be the following day. You’ll wake up the next morning saying, “What the @#$%^&#* did I do to myself?”

After you finish with the dips, take a few minutes to stretch and then be ready to step it up a notch and hit the free weights starting with the barbell bench press.

Bench Press
When people think of chest exercise, people think of only one thing, the bench press. The bench press remains the most popular choice of building a muscular and chiseled chest as it not only shapes your chest but also adds density to the shoulders and triceps. So to get most out of this exercise, be sure to pay attention to proper form.

Starting Position
Lie on a bench with both feet firmly grounded on the floor, about shoulder width apart. Keep your hips on the bench with your back slowly arch. Since you will be concentrating on the chest, it is best to use a shoulder width grip. The narrower the grip the more you’ll be working on your triceps and anterior deltoids (front shoulders). If you are using a high amount of weights, ask for someone to spot you – remember you are not there to give your ego a boost but to develop your chest. On the lift, hold the barbell with your elbows locked out, over the middle of your chest.

The exercise
Start by lowering the weight slowly to the middle of your chest or until your upper arms are about parallel to the floor. When performing the pressing movements, complete the set in a slow controlled fashion taking about 3-5 seconds to lower the weight and about 2-3 to raise it. Do not bounce the weight off your chest as this can injure your sternum. Drive the weight back up to the starting position with your arms straight and elbows locked out and repeat.

Sets
Try to do three to four sets, where you can squeeze out 8-12 repetitions with good form while increasing the weight slightly in each successive set. Take about two to three minute rest in between set and stretch during the rest period to keep the muscles loose. Remember: do not sacrifice good form in place of doing more reps, as this can lead to serious injuries. If 8-12 reps is unattainable, either lower the weights or go to failure.

Tips
• Keep your hips on the floor
• Limit the arch on your back
• Do not lift your head – keep it still and on the bench
• Inhale on the way down – exhale on the way up
• Do not bounce the weight off your chest

Incline Dumbbell Press
Like the flat bench press, this exercise can also be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells. Whatever your preference, this is arguably the second most popular and one of the best exercises to target the upper chest area. The best thing about this exercise is that you may vary the incline angle so as to hit the muscles in varying degrees

Starting Position
Set the angle of the adjustable bench at about 25 – 30 degrees where you’ll get the most emphasis in developing your upper pectorals. Pick up a pair of manageable weights (lift them using you legs and not your back). Place the dumbbells on your thighs and “kick” them up one at a time. Lift the weights to about shoulder level with your upper arms parallel to the floor with your feet firmly planted on the floor and your spine and neck straight and abs tight.

The Exercise
Follow a triangular motion as you lift the weights. Your palms should be facing away from you at the start of the exercise and the weights should meet at the midline of your body above your shoulders and chest where your palms can then either face each other or keep facing away from you. Exhale when pushing the weights up and focus on the squeeze at the top. Inhale when bringing the weights down slowly to avoid possible injuries.

Sets
Try to do three to four sets of 8-12 repetitions in a slow and controlled manner. If possible increase the weight in each successive set and ask for a “spot” whenever performing this exercise with heavy weights. And as before, if 8-12 reps is either unattainable or easily achieve, go to failure using proper form.

Tips
• Keep your spine and neck straight and stable
• Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor
• Keep your hips on the bench with a slight arch on your back
• Do not go lower than when the dumbbells are about to hit your outer pecs. That will be a sign to drive the weights back up
• Use your legs and not your back when lifting the weights to start the exercise.

Dumbbell Flys
This is an excellent exercise for promoting a more rounder and fuller pecs. Unlike the bench press and incline press, you cannot use heavy weights when performing this exercise. Be sure to perform this exercise correctly.

Starting Position
Pick up a couple of manageable weights and place them on your thighs. Lie back and keep the dumbbells close to your chest. As usual, keep your feet firmly on the floor and your hips on the bench.

The Exercise
The first movement is to push the weight up using a pressing motion with your palms facing each other. With your elbows slightly bent, lower the weights slowly until you feel a stretch on your chest. Be careful not to use too much weight or go to low as you will tear your arms right out of your shoulders. Inhale and concentrate on lowering the weights in a slow and controlled manner. On the way up, exhale and again concentrate on a slow and controlled motion, imagine hugging a tree and once the weights meet at the top remember to squeeze.

Sets
As usual, try to do three to four sets of 8-12 reps using proper technique. For this exercise use weights that are fairly light.

Tips
• Keep your spine and neck straight and stable
• Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor
• Keep your hips on the bench with a slight arch on your back
• Keep the weights fairly light
• Imagine hugging a tree

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