Monday, October 10, 2016
Chest Training Tips
For men it is the need for density, thickness and size of the chest muscle, for women it is tightening,
toning and firming of the chest area. One quick note is that these exercises may not be suited to everyone,
those with shoulder, rotator cuff or similar injuries may worsen them so please consult your physician if
you fall in this category.
Considering you are already reasonably fit and are familiar with training, I am a firm believer that in order
to attain maximum gains in chest development for men or women you have to hit those pecs twice per
week (3 weeks out of 4) with preferably 2 to 3 exercises. Choosing exercises and alternating them is just
one of the important things to look at. Without proper form and technique you can go home because in my
programs you use freeweights for 98% of the training unless you are an unfit beginner or a rehab client.
There are a few program styles I prefer to use, reasons for which I will get into as we move on. The first
one is using a 6 day split in order to hit each muscle group twice per week but I don't use this style
A sample of the most common 6 day split would be Day 1+4 - back + biceps, Day 2+5 -
chest + triceps, Day 3+6 - legs + shoulders. The other style I like to apply sometimes is Supersetting
which is 2 exercises done back to back usually upper body and lower body, or front and back (in my case
the muscles I would be working that day, for example 'chest and triceps'). Supersets minimize your time
in the gym and hits the muscles hard but it is good to do days where all the chest exercises are done
consecutively with bouts of rest in between the sets and exercises, called straight sets. Alternate your styles to keep growing!
In order to keep a well rounded routine you must balance the training to hit the 3 major areas of the chest.
Pectoralis major starting at the shoulder joint spreads out to cover most of the upper chest area, serratus
anterior located just under your armpit (not to be confused with the lats), and the pectoralis minor just
under the pec major running from the clavicle bone (shoulder to neck) to the sternum (center breastbone).
The main concern with the pectoralis minor is to keep it well stretched; this muscle being tight will help
promote rounded shoulders. Just consciously keeping your shoulders back and down, chest out and head
up, you will get a stretch happening. To accentuate this stretch, hold your hands behind your back at the
same time. This is a simple stretch that can be done anywhere, anytime and in little frequent bouts. A
more effective stretch would be to get the hand just below shoulder blade, one hand at a time, then lie on
it while concentrating on relaxing and try to press the shoulder blade flat to the mat. For upper body
alignment to be at its best this muscle should be stretched.
The serratus anterior is that great looking muscle just under the armpit, the lats sit behind. In keeping this
muscle strong you can avoid those pointy shoulder blades. Another muscle that can affect your posture if
it is not kept strengthened.
Chest dips are a must in every program. The bars can vary in shape from parallel to 45% angled bars
which are effective to suit different width needs. There are 2 main styles with this dip, one would be to
keep the knees bent and feet back, this style works well for spotting or adding hanging weight plates. To
make things even harder, keep the legs straight out slightly in front rather than directly under the body, this
is good but hard to use weight plates with this particular exercise.
The key with dips is to come down to a 90 degree angle (at least) at the elbows and keep those elbows
back. You can do it with elbows out on occasion for variety. Use complete control down and up, don't
go too fast and never bounce. Momentum is only at a minimum and for those of you who can do it
without losing the tension on the muscle. This indicating there is some control involved with momentum
Your basic chest press as shown in the title picture is another must in your training, but alternate from dumbbells to bar, close grip to
wide, and incline to decline to flat. You don't have to bring the dumbbells or bar to the chest level but if
the weight allows this safely, then work through full range of motion. Getting your elbows bent to a 90
degree angle is a minimum depth.
Another bodyweight exercise that everyone should have as a basic skill is push ups, and I don't believe in
girl or guy push ups, there is only one way to do it and that is on your toes so if you are still doing them
on your knees it is time to start doing 2 or 3 on your toes and work up slowly! The goal here is to get
strong enough with many reps on the ground that you can start to do push ups with your feet elevated
at a higher angle than your head, maybe using the bench to prop your feet with your hands on the ground.
Your hand width should be just outside the shoulders, hands between chest and shoulder area. Your body should be like a plank of wood, no bends. Solid core engaged, no drop in belly.
The chest fly (comparable to pec dec or cable cross) is usually one of the last chest exercises and done
with a lighter weight considering the compromising position your shoulder is in with this exercise. You
keep your arms out to your side at a 90 degree angle to the body as you are lying on the bench with palms
up, but your elbows are not bent too much, just a little, like you are going to hug a huge barrel. When you
bring the arms/hands up above your chest, turn the pinkies in toward each other while on the last half way
up. Even at the top your elbows don't lock or straighten, they remain so slightly bent. If you find you
have to bend your elbows as you open, you are using too much weight and should lighten up the
dumbbells. This exercise is a great finisher (not exclusively) and works up a nice line down the centre of
your chest. I like to work different angles here, hands higher for a set, hands lower for a set, it makes a slight difference and worth it for those who are training regularly.
Your standard sets would be between 2 to 4 with reps from 6 to 25 depending on the exact results you are
looking to obtain.
Always stretch in betweens sets and/or exercises to keep from getting rounded shoulders from tight pecs.
To effectively stretch the pec muscles, put your hand and elbow of one hand against the door frame,
standing in line with the wall. Keep shoulder in line with elbow and turn away from that arm slowly this will
give you a good stretch along the chest area. Hold your stretches from 15 to 30 seconds for best results.
The stretching will also help minimize muscle soreness and help get blood to the muscles. You can use
stretches as a cool down after cardio work while the muscles are warmest and easily stretched.