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Exercises To Develop Pecs

MAYBE AFTER SEEING some photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime bodybuilding days, you've decided you want to build up your chest, says Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT, founder of BuiltLean. Not a bad idea. After all, some men stand a bit taller and prouder when they've developed a pair of muscular pecs.

But what exercises, exactly, help you build your chest the fastest? And should you only hit your chest once a week?

While the bodybuilding approach of 'chest day' is conventional wisdom, it may not be the optimal method to gain muscle mass, Perry says. In fact, research shows training your muscles more frequently yields greater gains.

So, work your pecs more than once a week using the exercises on the following slides. If you choose to create your own chest routine that seriously maximizes muscle growth, Perry suggests keeping these research-backed principles in mind:

1. Do multiple sets per exercise
2. Perform some sets to muscle failure
3. Make sure your exercises are varied in a multiplanar, multiangled fashion to ensure the most stimulation of all muscle fibers
4. Employ a repetition range of 6–12 reps per set
5. Use rest intervals of 60–90 seconds between sets
6. Complete concentric reps at fast to moderate speeds (1–3 seconds) and eccentric reps at slightly slower speeds (2–4 seconds)

If you currently work out 3 days a week, you can hit your chest every workout, Perry says. The goal, he adds, is to hit your pecs just enough so you can recover in time for your next workout. The sweet spot is a total of 5 sets with a compound movement. (You can also consider adding a finisher after each workout such as a few sets of cable crossovers, pec deck, pushups, wide-grip dips, or racked kettlebell carries to failure—more on those in the slides that follow.) Perry suggests aiming for 5x12 reps of a compound chest move—like a bench press variation—first when you're adding them to a full-body routine (you may only get to five reps on the last set which is fine); if you're trying to build a bigger chest, you want to hit these muscles when you're fresh to see the fastest results and biggest impact.

If you're not a DIY guy, don't worry: on the last slide, you’ll find a dedicated chest day workout that's already optimized for the biggest benefits.

Final note: Keep in mind, while building your chest muscles can make you appear bigger and stronger, your grip strength, core, and glutes are far more important for developing maximal strength, power, and function, Perry says. Pecs can sometimes be overdeveloped if you put all your efforts on them, so keep that in mind as you build your routine. But if you’re lacking in chest strength and muscularity, these 10 exercises will help your chest grow—no doubt about it, Perry concludes.

*Barbell Bench Press

How to do it:
Lie on a bench with your eyes in line with the bar. Position your hands slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width apart and get a good, strong grip. Lift the bar off the rack. Take a deep belly breath in so you feel your diaphragm push your stomach down and air fill your rib cage. Pull the bar toward your lower ribs, making sure to keep your elbows in at your sides, then push the bar forcefully back up as you exhale.

Why they're effective:
“The barbell bench press allows you to press the maximum amount of weight,” Perry explains. “More weight means more intensity and muscle stimulation.”

Expert tip:
“Keep your shoulders retracted and close to your body to prevent shoulder strain,” Perry says. Also make sure you stretch after your workouts to maximize and maintain shoulder flexibility. “Stiff shoulders and bench pressing are an injury waiting to happen,” Perry adds.

Prescription:
Complete 3-5 sets of 10 at the beginning of your workout.

*Barbell Incline Bench Press

How to do it:
Lie back on an incline bench. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and make sure your glutes are in direct contact with the bench. Place your hands on the bar an inch or two wider than shoulder-width apart. Unrack the bar, then pull it down to the top of your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body and locking your shoulders down. Press firmly up so the bar is over your eyes, then repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Why they're effective:
“Like the flat barbell bench press, the incline barbell bench press allows you to press a significant amount of weight, though not quite as much,” Perry says. Your pecs will get a great pump as a result.

Expert tip:
“Avoid bouncing the weight off your chest,” Perry recommends. “Control the descent, then forcefully push the weight back up.”

Prescription:
Complete 3-5 sets of 10 at the beginning of your workout.

*Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

How to do it:
Start by sitting up on a flat bench holding a pair of dumbbells on your thighs. Lie back and bring the dumbbells into place—palms facing out, elbows bent at 90 degrees, hands and arms positioned slightly below and wider than your shoulders. (If you’re working with really heavy weights, kick your knees back so the weights have some momentum to get into the starting position and you take some of the strain off your joints.) Push the dumbbells straight up with a forceful motion that resembles an arc. At the top of the movement, the dumbbells will hover over your chest. Pull your shoulder blades together on the way down, maintaining control as you repeat.

Why they're effective:
“Dumbbells allow you to address possible muscle imbalances between your right and left sides and also allow for a greater range of motion than a barbell,” Perry says.

Expert tip:
“Be sure to use a full range of motion if you have adequate shoulder flexibility,” Perry suggests. To do so, bring the dumbbells all the way down so that they come close or even touch your chest, then forcefully press them back up.

Prescription:
Complete 3-5 sets of 10 at the beginning or middle of your workout.

*Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

How to do it:
Position the bench so it's at a 30 to 45 degree angle. Start by sitting up, holding a pair of dumbbells on your thighs. Using your knees, kick up one of the dumbbells at a time to shoulder level. In the starting position, your hands and arms should be positioned slightly below and wider than your shoulders. Push the dumbbells swiftly to create a motion that resembles an arc. At the top of the movement, let them hover over your chest. Pull your shoulder blades together on the way down.

Why they're effective:
Just like the flat dumbbell bench press, the incline bench press allows you to address imbalances and weaknesses.

Expert tip:
“Use a 30-degree angle instead of a higher angle for the bench to maximize chest muscle stimulation,” Perry recommends.

Prescription:
Complete 3-5 sets of 10 at the beginning or middle of your workout.

*Cable Crossovers

How to do it:
Place the pulleys of a cable machine to a high position (above your head). Select your resistance and hold the handles of the pulley in each hand using an overhand grip. Come into an athletic stance so one leg is in front of the other, there’s a soft bend in your knees, and you’re leaning forward a bit. With your arms outstretched toward each pulley, curl and pull them together in an arc so your hands nearly touch. Slowly resist the tension until your arms are about to straighten, then repeat.

Why they're effective:
“One of the key functions of your chest muscles is to pull your arms toward your body—like you’re hugging something,” Perry says. Cable crossovers hit your chest from a different angle and train it as it was designed to function.

Expert tip:
“Avoid using too much weight,” Perry recommends. “Cable crossovers are not an intense strength-training exercise, but more of a burnout exercise.” Use lighter weight and keep your form.

Prescription:
Complete 3 sets of 15 at the end of your workout.

*Pec Deck

How to do it:
Set up the pec deck so the vertical bars are positioned close to the machine. Adjust the seat so the handles are roughly chest height. While facing away from the machine, reach back with one hand to grab one handle, then the other. Pull the handles together and resist tension on the way back.

Why they're effective:
“Similar to the cable crossover, the pec deck trains a different movement pattern then most pushing chest exercises like bench press, or push ups.

Expert tip:
Hold your hands together at the top of the rep for a second or two to help create an intense chest contraction deep in your muscle fibers.

Prescription:
Complete 3 sets of 15 at the end of your workout.

*Pushups

How to do it:
Position your body so your wrists are aligned under your shoulders, arms straight, abs tight, and fingers spread wide to support your weight. Lower your body until your chest is an inch, or two above the floor. Push away from the ground until your arms lock.

Why they're effective:
Pushups are a proven muscle-builder because they directly target your pecs—among other muscles—and add more volume to your chest routine.

Expert tip:
“Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your hands below your shoulders to maximize chest stimulation,” Perry says.

Prescription:
Complete 3 sets of max reps at the end of your workout.

*Racked Kettlebell Carries

How to do it:
Clean two heavy kettlebells into a racked position across your chest. (You can clasp your hands if you need.) Keep your chest and back upright, and walk 25 meters.

Why they're effective:
Because you have to hold the weights close to your chest to prevent them from falling off the sides of your body, the strain on your chest muscles and abs is substantial, Perry says. This exercise stimulates your chest muscles differently then a pressing movement.

Expert tip:
“Stay tall and upright as you carry the kettlebells together in front of you; avoid slouching or leaning backwards,” Perry says.

Prescription:
Complete 3 sets of 25 meters at the end of your workouts to failure

*Wide Grip Dips

How to do it:
Keeping your arms straight, hold your body up on two parallel bars that are a couple inches wider than shoulder-width apart. Descend until your chest is roughly in line with your hands, then push back up to the starting position, locking out your elbows.

Why they're effective:
“Dips allow you to create a large range of motion at the bottom of the exercise and a powerful contraction at the top,” Perry says. They can help you create that zipper effect in the middle of your chest, too.

Expert tip:
“Descend while keeping your torso slightly horizontal to the ground, which emphasizes the chest muscles over your triceps,” Perry says. And if you have elbow issues, don’t lock your elbows at the top of every rep.

Prescription:
Complete 3 sets of max reps at the middle or end of your workout.

*Machine Press

How to do it:
Select your desired weight and adjust the bench so the handles are roughly in line with the middle of your chest. Press the weights, keeping your head, neck, and back neutral; keep your shoulders, back, and abs tight.

Why they're effective:
“Because the machine is fixed in place, your chest muscles—not the smaller stabilizer ones—are primarily involved in pushing the weight,” Perry says.

Expert tip:
Take your time to position the bench so it feels more natural to you, he recommends.

Prescription:
Complete in the middle or end of workouts for 3 sets of 12-15.

*Chest Day Workout

This workout requires 12 total sets for your chest, 9 of which are compound pushing exercises that hit your chest at different angles to recruit maximum muscle fibers, Perry says. If 10 reps are listed, choose a weight that allows you to complete all 10 reps on your first set, he suggests. You may only get 6 reps on your 3rd set. That's totally okay. In fact, it's expected.

Directions: Rest 60-90 seconds between sets. You can superset biceps exercises for the first two exercises (let's say barbell curls and alternate dumbbell curls, respectively), Perry says. The last two exercises are a superset, which means you'll perform them back to back with little to no rest between, which helps maximize muscle stimulation. You're starting with the toughest exercise (barbell bench press) where you can lift the most weight, then finishing with more targeted exercises and lighter weight, Perry says.

Barbell Bench Press - 3x10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press - 3x10
Superset:
Cable Crossovers - 3x15
Pushups - 3x max reps

Source: http://www.mensfitness.com/training/workout-routines/10-exercises-develop-best-pecs-gym
Image: pixabay.com