Category Archives: chest

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

by Ben Bruno – 9/12/2012

Several years back, T Nation contributor Chad Waterbury wrote a cool article about what he believed to be the best exercises for each major muscle group. I really liked the idea because I’m always interested in how different coaches think, so I thought I’d take a stab at it myself.
However, a small catch – I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a ubiquitous “best” exercise, so instead I’ll simply share my favorites for each group.
Narrowing it down to one exercise though is like trying to pick the hottest girl out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog. There are just so many good choices. In the end it boils down to basically my opinion, but I’ll also share the why behind my choices to give you a look into my rationale.
I’ve also shared a couple runner-ups in case you can’t do one due to injury, equipment limitations, etc.

Back

When it comes to back development, I could’ve picked any heavy deadlift variation and felt good about my choice – but since I had to narrow it down to one, I chose the snatch grip rack pull from mid-shin height.

The wider grip puts significantly more stress on the upper back, traps, and rear delts, while pulling from the pins with the bar elevated a few inches off the floor allows for heavier loading.
I’m generally a huge proponent of full range of motion lifting and usually advocate increasing the range of motion before increasing the load; however, I’ll make an exception in this case for two reasons:

To that end, a snatch grip deadlift from the floor is really more like a conventional deadlift from a deficit, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, most people just don’t have the requisite hip mobility to do it safely without rounding their lower back something awful.
If you can, more power to you, but if I’m making a general recommendation for the majority, then elevating the bar a couple inches is a much better and safer option.

Deadlift variations aside, my runner-ups for back are chin-ups and inverted rows.

Chest

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

The overwhelming majority of my chest work comes from heavy pressing and push-ups, but if I had to single out the best exercise for chest development, it’d be ring flyes.
I thought long and hard about a good rationale. Sure, I could talk about how the scapulae is free to move, compared to where it’s pinned down during bench press variations, or the fact that it doubles as a hell of a core exercise, but we’re talking more about chest development here.
To that, I’d just ask that you try them for yourself – because I think after just one shot you’ll realize exactly where I’m coming from. These will fry your pecs like no other.
It’s a very advanced exercise though, so don’t just jump right into it without proper preparation or you’ll end up hurting and/or embarrassing yourself. Before you even attempt ring flyes, you should be able to do at least 25 ring push-ups first.
From there, begin with bent-arm flyes with your arms bent to approximately 90 degrees. That may seem easy, but it’s actually a big jump, so you may want to start on your knees. Don’t laugh; I’m dead serious.
Once you can manage those, progress to full flyes, making sure to keep a slight bend in your elbows to protect the shoulders and keep the tension on your chest.
The video below shows all three variations in reverse order: full flyes, bent-arm flyes, and push-ups. Each of these exercises is great in its own right, so take your time and don’t rush the progression. Once you can knock out full flyes though, this makes for one hell of a mechanical drop-set.

If you don’t have access to rings, you can do something similar using Valslides or furniture sliders. These may be even harder due to the increased friction.

My runner-ups for chest are low incline dumbbell presses (both single and double arm) and weighted push-ups.

Biceps

Let me preface this one by saying that I don’t do a whole lot of curls, and I have the results – or lack thereof – to show for it. Let’s just say that if I started selling tickets to the gun show, my water pistols would draw a smaller crowd than a WNBA game.
It’s not that I’m anti-curls by any means, it’s just that I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with chin-ups and find that when I try to add curls into the mix on top of all the chin-ups I do, my elbows quickly start to hate me.
That brings up an interesting point, though. Many people will tout chin-ups as the best biceps exercise going and tell you curls are a waste of time. To that I’d respectfully disagree. About two and a half years ago I ditched curls altogether and went on a steady diet consisting of approximately a shitload of chin-ups each week.
My lats grew a ton, as did my forearms, but my biceps stayed about the same size.
I’d even argue that if you’re feeling chin-ups a ton in your biceps, you probably aren’t doing them right. My goal is to feel them almost entirely in my upper back and lats – of course the biceps will be working, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a superior biceps exercise when done correctly.
Moral of the story:  The majority of your workout should obviously be based around heavy compound movements (such as chin-ups, for example), but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with tacking on a few sets of curls afterwards.
What type of curls you choose is up to you. In my mind, they’re all basically the same. I like barbell curls, incline dumbbell curls, and hammer curls.

Triceps

As mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of doing tons of direct arm work. It’s not that I’m opposed to it or think it’s detrimental by any means, I just don’t enjoy doing it very much so I look for any excuse I can to skip it. Just being honest.
With that in mind, I generally let all the heavy pressing I’m doing for chest and shoulders take care of the triceps as well, but if I’m looking to really smoke the triceps, my number one go-to exercise is bodyweight triceps extensions using suspension straps.

I like this exercise because it also serves as a great anti-extension core exercise, and since I’m also not a big fan of doing tons of core work either, it allows me to kill two birds with one stone.
If you don’t have suspension straps, it’s not the end of the world and you can get a similar training effect using a bar in a power rack or Smith machine. However, the straps add a nice dimension to the exercise if you’ve got them.
When using a bar, the range of motion is limited because you’re forced to bring your forehead to the bar, much like traditional skullcrushers. With the straps though, you can extend your arms out further away from your body, which increases the demand on the core while also enhancing the stretch on the long head of the triceps and taking stress off the elbows.
It also allows you to rotate your hands as you move through the rep, which I find feels better on the elbows and increases the contraction in the triceps.
Be sure to keep your body straight and avoid piking at the hips. While this is ostensibly a triceps exercise, from a core standpoint, it should feel similar to an ab wheel rollout.
This one also lends itself very well to burnout sets at the end of the workout. Start with the straps adjusted lower and step forward as you start to fatigue. You’ll probably be cursing my name after that.
My runner-ups for triceps are close-grip bench presses and chain bench presses.

Shoulders

I love the overhead press and think it’s the best exercise going for building big shoulders, but it can be tricky for folks with shoulder and/or lower back issues.
If the overhead press doesn’t bother you, definitely do that.
If it does, the staggered stance landmine press can be a great joint-friendly alternative since it allows you to press on an angle and use a neutral grip.

I also really like this band pullapart variation that I picked up from Joe Defranco. It’s much harder than it looks, so don’t knock it until you try it.

Quads

This one was a toss-up between Bulgarian split squats and front squats, but in the end, Bulgarian split squats get the nod.
I know this won’t sit well with some of you – and I myself would’ve considered it blasphemy a few years ago before I really tried them – but the more I do them and use them with my athletes, the more I’m convinced that it’s a better way to load the legs for most people.
We’re consistently seeing athletes do Bulgarian split squats with 70-90% of the loads they can front squat, and sometimes more. Here’s a video of a college hockey player doing Bulgarian split squats with 235 pounds for 5 reps like it’s an empty bar.

As a point of reference, he back squats 300 for 5. I think it’s clear the legs are getting more loading in the Bulgarian split squat.
Furthermore, with the front squat, the limiting factor is usually the upper back, whereas with Bulgarian split squats you’re able to hone in more directly on the legs. What’s more, since you aren’t loading the spine as heavily, it doesn’t take as long to recover, meaning you can do them more frequently, which could potentially lead to greater gains.
The big caveat is that you have to take the time up front to get good at Bulgarian split squats before they’re a viable size and strength builder, but that’s true of any exercise. Truth be told, most people get good at Bulgarian split squats much faster than they become good squatters.
If you have a good build for squatting and can squat well, it’s an absolutely phenomenal quad exercise, but if you aren’t built for it, well, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle. It’s easier to target the quads in a Bulgarian split squat regardless of your anthropometry, making it a good choice when I have to choose one exercise to fit everyone.
I’m often asked if I think you could build absolutely massive quads using Bulgarian split squats; the kind of size you see from elite bodybuilders and Olympic lifters. I’m honestly not sure because I’ve never known anyone to do it, so at this point it’s mere conjecture.
My hunch though is that huge guys may not do as well with it – at least initially – because they tend to struggle more with balance and coordination, so the transition may take longer and it may not end up being the best choice. Again, I’m not sure though because I don’t know many huge guys that use them.
As for Olympic lifters, I think their massive legs are more a result of their loading parameters than their exercise selection. If they did Bulgarian split squats extremely heavy on a daily basis like they do their squats, I bet their legs would be just as big, if not bigger.
For the average-sized guy reading this article though, I think Bulgarian split squats are an awesome choice for building up the quads. Even if you think I’m completely off base, at least give them an honest try before calling for my head. I think you might be singing a different tune once you do.
My runner-ups are front squats and reverse sled drags.

Hamstrings

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

While quads were my toughest choice, hamstrings may be my easiest. It’s hard to argue against RDLs.
The biggest drawback of RDLs is that they can be tough on the lower back. If that’s the case, try doing them with a trap bar, or if that’s not possible, from a dead stop in the power rack.

You can also try doing them for higher reps at the end of your workout so you don’t need as much weight, which even with lighter loads serves as one hell of a brutal finishing exercise.

If back issues prevent you from doing them in any capacity, my runner-ups are single-leg RDLs, glute-ham raises, and sliding leg curls.

Glutes

I make no bones about it; glutes are my favorite body part. As such, I feel they warrant their own section.
You may feel the glutes get more than enough work from your quad and hamstring exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, but I believe that if you aren’t doing specific glute exercises like bridges and hip thrusts, you’re leaving a lot on the table as far as glute development is concerned.
My personal favorite is single-leg barbell hip thrusts.

I like the single-leg version because even though the loads pale in comparison to what you can handle in the bilateral version, I feel an even bigger contraction in my glutes when I do them, all without feeling any stress in the lower back.
Moreover, because the loads are lighter, it’s more comfortable on the hips and you don’t have to bother with loading and unloading such a heavy bar.
The bodyweight-only version is a great exercise in its own right, so start there and add weight slowly as you improve.
My runner-up is the single-leg shoulder and foot elevated hip lift. It can be tricky to add weight to these, so if you’re looking for a way to make them tougher, try using “1.5” reps, like this:

If these two exercises don’t have your booty begging for mercy, I don’t know what to tell you.

Calves

I’ve never been able to crack the code to get my calves to grow much. I’ve tried a slew of different exercises and techniques, but to no avail.
I think the next thing I’ll try is getting some new parents.
(Don’t worry mom, I’m totally kidding.)
Seriously though, don’t go to a guy with puny calves for advice on how to get huge calves.
That rules me out.

And I’m Done

These are some of my favorites. Give some of them a try if you aren’t already and see how you like them.
I believe in rotating exercises from time to time though, so I’m always on the market for new choices to keep in the ol’ toolbox. So I now turn it over to you. What are some of your favorites?

Inside the Muscles: Best Chest and Triceps Exercises


Editors Note:
 If you haven’t yet read Inside the Muscles: Best Shoulders and Trap Exercises you may want to give it a quick look as it’ll clear up any questions you may have regarding electromyography (EMG) and the experiments.

First, I apologize if I left out one of your favorite exercises. Don’t take it personally. I performed these experiments in my garage, and while I have one of the baddest garage gyms in Arizona, I don’t have a lot of machines. So you pec-deck folks can drop me some hate mail.
I’m also sorry I couldn’t test more individuals. These experiments are very labor-intensive; in order to measure every exercise on every muscle part using a variety of subjects would be a project of colossal proportions. (And one I’d need a few thousand dollars and a keg of Guinness to perform.) Just remember this: people are different, but  not that different. What’s true for me is probably true for you.
Finally, I’m not going to make any judgments regarding the safety of any exercise. I realize that certain exercises pose greater risks to the joints than others, but every guy has the right to train however the hell he chooses. As lifters, we can choose to assume a lot of risk or little risk since we’re the owners of our bodies.
Oh, one more thing: good form, a natural tempo, and a full range of motion were always used in these experiments.
Now that the pre-flight safety announcement list of warnings is over, let’s get to it. Are you ready to build some huge pecs and horseshoe triceps?

What You’ve Been Waiting For! The Exercises.

Since this is a bodybuilding experiment, I never used a weight that was too heavy to perform at least five repetitions. The mean number is on top and the peak number is on bottom. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please read “What Are Mean and Peak Activation?“)

Exercise Upper Pec Mid Pec Lower Pec Tri Long Head
135 lb Bench Press 53.8
111.0
69.5
157.0
42.0
82.7
14.3
51.2
225 lb Bench Press 125.0
230.0
181.0
408.0
116.0
347.0
47.8
109.0
275 lb Bench Press 109.0
198.0
177.0
288.0
130.0
345.0
73.5
153.0
135 lb Incline Press 87.1
157.0
68.3
197.0
25.3
60.2
18.9
42.7
225 lb Incline Press 135.0
222.0
133.0
374.0
69.4
249.0
48.7
84.0
245 lb Incline Press 130.0
261.0
156.0
422.0
89.4
337.0
55.8
109.0
100 lb DB Bench Press 122.0
192.0
204.0
451.0
88.1
252.0
43.7
128.0
90 lb DB Incline Press 128.0
310.0
124.0
286.0
59.0
172.0
35.5
98.9
BW Dip 73.7
164.0
105.0
234.0
124.0
266.0
73.9
150.0
115 lb Dip 140.0
232.0
192.0
332.0
214.0
418.0
124.0
217.0
225 lb Close Grip Press 106.0
211.0
137.0
229.0
77.5
217.0
52.6
107.0
225 lb Wide Grip Guillotine Press 114.0
302.0
176.0
511.0
169.0
502.0
61.9
142.0
225 lb Floor Press 106.0
197.0
148.0
248.0
121.0
255.0
52.2
112.0
275 lb Floor Press 132.0
265.0
197.0
356.0
154.0
347.0
64.8
170.0
50 lb Fly 116.0
226.0
165.0
354.0
150.0
387.0
13.2
26.1
60 lb Fly 133.0
231.0
195.0
493.0
160.0
450.0
14.9
31.3
50 lb Incline Fly 125.0
249.0
135.0
344.0
77.3
257.0
12.6
20.0
100 lb High Pulley Crossover 107.0
201.0
168.0
311.0
153.0
397.0
9.6
19.1
100 lb Mid Pulley Crossover 154.0
252.0
154.0
271.0
124.0
251.0
11.5
23.1
100 lb Low Pulley Crossover 135.0
233.0
78.6
249.0
36.9
74.8
20.2
77.2
BW Push Up 109.0
204.0
124.0
252.0
101.0
194.0
24.0
38.7
BW CG Push Up 103.0
188.0
118.0
188.0
70.7
119.0
22.9
43.2
BW Elevated Push Up 96.6
156.0
102.0
232.0
52.7
167.0
24.0
46.6
BW Blast Strap Push Up 113.0
206.0
166.0
363.0
177.0
352.0
35.3
107.0
Purple Band Push Up 115.0
168.0
125.0
294.0
113.0
217.0
51.8
78.7
Green Band Push Up 151.0
239.0
162.0
268.0
121.0
238.0
59.3
125.0
100 lb DB Pullover 55.7
119.0
88.6
186.0
53.8
164.0
66.9
153.0
JC Band Press 143.0
272.0
45.7
91.0
53.0
127.0
21.0
52.6
95 lb Skull Crusher 45.6
89.5
21.5
48.6
70.7
118.0
116.0
172.0
120 lb Rope Extension 6.9
14.9
5.4
21.9
36.1
82.5
135.0
276.0
140 lb Cable Extension 9.3
21.3
9.3
18.7
78.2
172.0
132.0
255.0
Purple Band Extension 11.4
27.4
10.7
19.5
69.4
174.0
120.0
221.0
140 lb Cable Overhead Extension 19.4
41.0
19.2
130.0
40.6
126.0
109.0
206.0

The Winners

Based on this experiment, here are the top three exercises in terms of mean and peak activity for each muscle part:

Upper Pec

Mean   Mid Pulley Crossover, Band Push Up, JC Band Press
Peak    DB Incline Press, Guillotine Press, JC Band Press

Mid Pec

Mean   DB Bench Press, Floor Press, Fly
Peak    Guillotine Press, DB Bench Press, Fly

Lower Pec

Mean   Weighted Dip, Blast Strap Push Up, Guillotine Press
Peak    Guillotine Press, Fly, Weighted Dip

Medial Triceps

Mean   Rope Extension, Cable Extension, Weighted Dip
Peak    Rope Extension, Cable Extension, Band Extension

Confirmations

It’s important to know that I used a powerlifting-style bench press: arched low back, good leg drive, arms at a 45-degree angle, slightly narrower grip, bar lowered to the lower chest. The form used for the guillotine press was straight from late Iron Guru Vince Gironda: feet on the bench, no arch, elbows flared out, wider grip, bar lowered to the neck. It’s no surprise the guillotine press works much more pec than the bench press.
Looking at the entire pecs, we find much variety in movements. This jives with the old bodybuilder theory that the best workout should hit muscles from a lot of angles with different forms of resistance. We’ve always known the pecs respond to a good stretch, as shortened ranges of motion rarely build a nice chest.
I’ve long-suspected that pec isolation movements can rival compound movements in terms of pec activity. This study confirms that suspicion. Powerlifting gurus like Louie Simmons and Dave Tate have always discussed the importance of triceps specialization for a strong bench. This experiment lends support to their recommendations.

Surprises

Although I knew that the guillotine press worked much more pec than a bench press, I was surprised to find that a guillotine press with 225 pounds worked more pec than a bench press with 275 pounds! I found it very surprising that the floor press and band push up squeaked their way into the winner’s circle, as they’re the only movements in the entire winner’s group that do not move the pecs into a stretch position.
Although I’ve always felt the JC band press worked a ton of pec (the bands typically place the most stress in the contracted position), I didn’t expect it to work as much pec as it did. I can walk out really far with the JC bands and get a ton of tension in the movement, and the increased stabilization efforts may focus more tension on the pecs and less on the triceps. I was surprised that the barbell incline press and incline fly didn’t make it into the winner’s circle, especially for upper pec activity.
The pullover always gets the long head of my triceps very sore, so I was wondering if it would top the charts in muscle activity. But activation does not always equate to soreness, as stretch position exercises produce more soreness while contracted position exercises produce more of a pump.
I was actually very surprised at how much better triceps isolation exercises seem to work the triceps in comparison to compound movements. However, the body likes to grow proportionately; you rarely see a guy with huge arms and a puny torso, so don’t neglect compound movements for triceps development.

What If?

During experiments like these, one is often left with much curiosity. What if I would have gone heavier on the guillotine press? I could have gone much heavier, as 225 is a relatively light weight for me on that exercise. The same goes for dumbbell bench press—I could have gone heavier.
How would the pec deck have faired? What if I would have placed the electrodes on the inner and outer pecs? Would the activity be the same, or can we isolate those areas as well? (Doubtful.)
What if I would have performed wide-grip weighted dips? What if I would have worn a weighted vest during blast strap push-ups? What if I would have measured the activation in the lateral head of the triceps? Would it have matched the activity in the long head of the triceps, or do they function much differently? What if Miley Cyrus was 18? Would she date a musclehead from Arizona?
Clearly more research is needed, as it’s impossible to anticipate everything prior to an experiment, no matter how prepared and organized you seem.

The Best Damn Pec and Triceps Workout

Based on the results of this experiment, I bet the following would be one kick-ass workout that’d target the upper, mid, and lower pecs as well as the triceps. Enjoy!

The dumbbell bench press had more muscle activation than the traditional barbell bench press.
Inside the Muscles: Best Shoulders and Trap ExercisesThe Guillotine Press
Inside the Muscles: Best Shoulders and Trap ExercisesRecommended: Weighted dips. Not Recommended: Short-shorts.

Screw the skull-crusher. Do rope extensions to really hit the triceps.

About Bret Contreras

Inside the Muscles: Best Shoulders and Trap Exercises

Bret Contreras received his master’s degree from Arizona State University and his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Bret invites you to follow or join him on his blog. You can download his e-book here.

© 1998 — 2010 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

Building a Bodybuilder Chest

For some people, building a full, round chest is as simple as doing a few sets of barbell bench press. For those of us who have the pectoral genetics of a mere mortal, it takes a bit more of a precise, methodical approach to build pecs that resemble slabs of striated beef from top to bottom.

Assuming you’re not one of the aforementioned genetic freaks (a.k.a. lucky bastards), then this article is for you! You’re going to learn some scientific principles, tips, and tricks that, along with some hard work, will serve as your genetic equalizer.

Let’s get started!

Anatomy and Biomechanics

I’m a meathead just like you. So from one meathead to another let’s go over the chest muscles themselves and what they do. Then you’ll be able to make intelligent choices when it comes to exercise selection and execution.

The chest is comprised of three separate muscles: the pectoralis minor (which is of little concern to us for now), the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, and the sternal head of the pectoralis major.

Because of its position up near the clavicle (collarbone), the clavicular head of the pec major is often simply referred to as the “upper chest.”

Although many anatomists refer to the sternal portion of the pectoralis major as the “lower chest,” for advanced physique-enhancement purposes we need to further divide this into two regions — the middle chest and lower chest.

When the entire pectoralis major works together, it produces a movement called horizontal adduction. In other words, it brings your arm across the front of your body, as occurs when doing a flye movement.

A lesser-known function of the pecs is to internally (or medially) rotate the humerus. Hold your arms out straight with your palms up, then rotate your arms such that your palms are facing down. That’s one example of internal rotation of the humerus.

Now let’s look at the actions of the upper, middle, and lower pectorals when they work in (relative) isolation as this is where things get tricky.

In addition to horizontal adduction and internal rotation, the clavicular pectoralis functions to flex the shoulder joint. In other words, it (along with the anterior deltoid) raises the arm to the front. When you consider the origin and insertion of the clavicular pectoralis, this makes perfect sense.

The lower portion of the sternal pectoralis is situated such that it helps to extend the shoulder joint — the opposite of shoulder flexion.

Since we’ve covered the upper and lower chest, let’s look at the portion that we’ll call the “middle chest.” Since the muscle fibers of the middle chest run horizontally, they don’t contribute significantly to shoulder flexion or extension. Instead, they simply horizontally adduct the humerus.

Here’s a nifty little chart that summarizes the anatomy and biomechanics of the 3 regions of the chest:

Chest Region Muscle Fibers Involved Action
Upper Chest clavicular pectoralis, superior fibers of sternal head of pec major horizontal adduction, flexion, internal rotation
Middle Chest middle portion of the pectoralis major horizontal adduction, internal rotation
Lower Chest inferior portion of the pectoralis major horizontal adduction, extension, internal rotation

“All or None” Confusion

You may have heard of the “all or none” principle of muscle contraction. Essentially, here’s what it means: When stimulated, a muscle fiber will either contract or it won’t.

Some people have erroneously adapted the all-or-none principle to mean that an entire muscle will either contract or it won’t. These confused individuals will go on to tell you that exercise variations are practically pointless when training the chest because the entire pectoralis major will either contract or it won’t.

This is some seriously misguided logic to say the least.

For starters, although still considered part of the pectoralis major, the clavicular pectoralis is actually a separate muscle with a separate nerve innervation.

Although the entire sternal head of the pectoralis major does share a common nerve innervation, the angle of the muscle fibers varies tremendously from top to bottom. For that reason, the line of pull is different throughout different areas of the muscle.

Luckily for us, your body (or brain rather) will recruit or call upon the portion of the muscle that’s best suited to perform the movement in question. So if you were to do a movement in which the lower fibers of the pectoralis major are in the best mechanical advantage to execute the movement, then those will be the primary fibers recruited to do the work —thank goodness!

So yes, you can emphasize different sections of the chest from top to bottom. But notice I said emphasize, not isolate!

Assess Your Chest

Before you can build a bad-ass chest, you have to know the visual strengths and weaknesses of your pecs.

There are basically four variations of chest development:

For the record, variation number four certainly appears to be the most common. However, many people mistake fat in the lower chest region as being great lower pec development. So, if you really want to assess your development precisely, get striations in your chest first, then assess!

Once you’ve identified your type of chest development, then you can intelligently plan your chest training accordingly.

Training for a Full, Round Chest

More times than not, I’d recommend performing three exercises for chest as part of a body part split in which you train chest every five to seven days. When training more frequently and/or utilizing high-intensity techniques, doing less exercises may be warranted. Likewise, in certain instances doing four chest exercises is a good call.

When selecting your exercises, make sure to take into account the desired outcome of your training. In other words, if your upper chest is weak (and I bet it is), then why in the world would you do two exercises that emphasize the middle chest and one that emphasizes the lower chest? This would only perpetuate the muscular imbalance that you already have!

Instead, consider doing two exercises that emphasize the upper chest and one that emphasizes the middle and/or lower chest. This will help to even out your chest development sooner rather than later.

Another good rule of thumb is to target the weakest portion of your chest with your first exercise, when you’re at your strongest.

Let’s look at four different chest training routines that address each of the four different types of chest development mentioned above.

Chest Routine for Individuals with Even Development

This routine starts off with decline dumbbell presses which target the lower chest but also stimulate the middle chest very well.

The shallow incline dumbbell press is a great way to target the upper pectoralis while making it easier to keep the anterior deltoid out of the movement. To accomplish this, set the angle of incline between 15 and 20°.

Flat dumbbell flyes hit the chest right square in the middle. And contrary to popular belief, flyes can definitely be a mass-building movement. Just make sure to let your elbows bend naturally (about 30 to 45°) at the bottom of the movement. Doing so enables you to reduce the stress on the anterior shoulder and use dumbbells of respectable weight.

Chest Routine for Individuals with Poor Upper and Lower Development

Decline dumbbell presses are a good addition to practically any chest training routine. They’ve been shown to activate more motor units (muscle fibers) in the pectoralis major than any other chest exercise around.

The incline barbell press is a great exercise for the upper chest… if you do it properly. Make sure to keep your chest lifted “up” throughout the movement. This helps to keep the stress on the upper chest as opposed to the anterior deltoids.

Likewise, shorten the range of motion by about 2 or 3 inches on each end. In other words, stop a couple of inches short of lockout and a couple of inches before touching your chest. Avoiding these portions of the ROM (range of motion) keeps constant tension on the upper chest and prevents the anterior delts from taking on the brunt of the load.

Dips hit the chest, anterior deltoids, and triceps — there’s no way around that. However, by using a grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder width and tucking your chin to your chest/leaning forward, you can shift some of the stress from your triceps to your chest.

Chest Routine for Individuals with Poor Upper and Middle Development

Years ago I had a conversation with IFBB pro-bodybuilder, Johnnie Jackson, that enlightened me regarding how well floor presses stimulate the upper chest. Allow me to explain.

At least one study has shown that using a slightly narrower grip improves upper chest activation even more so than an incline bench angle. This is because using a slightly narrower grip forces the elbows to come slightly in toward the sides (adduction of the humerus) as opposed to them being flared. Subsequently, this puts the clavicular pectoralis in a better mechanical advantage to do its primary function(s): flexion and horizontal adduction.

Do the floor press with a grip width that’s just outside of shoulder width and that places your upper arms about 30° away from your sides in the starting position. Then push the barbell up and back in a slight arc such that it ends up over your upper chest.

On the shallow incline dumbbell flyes, set the angle of the bench to between 15 and 20°. One way to accomplish this is to put two or three Olympic plates under the “head” end of the bench.

Chest Routine for Individuals with Poor Upper Development

Recalling that the most natural function of the upper chest is flexion and horizontal adduction, use the same grip width mentioned in the floor presses above, just slightly wider than shoulder width.

Low to high cable flyes perfectly mimic the line of pull (and action) of the clavicular pectoralis. It’s one of the best exercises around for “filling in” the upper chest up near the collarbone.

To do the movement, start with two pulleys set in the bottom position and have your palms facing forward. Your upper arms (humerus) should be at about a 30° angle away from your sides.

Using your upper chest to pull your arms up and in, raise the handles up and together so that they come together at shoulder level or slightly higher. The path of the cables will draw an upside down V.

Train Smart

When it comes to training (and life in general for that matter), many people erroneously think that all you have to do to succeed is work hard. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. You have to work intelligently.

Your body is simply a dynamic, ever-changing organism that adapts to the stimulation and stress you place upon it. That’s why it’s important to purposefully select the right exercises that will stimulate your body in such a way as to visually enhance the appearance of your physique.

No longer will you think of chest training as a haphazard collection of press and flye movements. Instead, each and every chest workout is an opportunity to build bigger, more balanced pecs that are full and round from top to bottom!

Now, go to it!

Building a Bodybuilder Chest

Dexter Jackson. Clavicular pectoralis outlined in blue.

Building a Bodybuilder Chest

The upper, middle and lower chest.

Building a Bodybuilder Chest

Dip with forward lean.

Floor Press

Low to High Cable Flyes

About Dr. Clay Hyght

TAG

Dr. Clay’s new book, Set Your Metabolism on Fire, is more than 100 pages long, and packed with fat-burning, muscle-building information, including complete meal plans. Whether it’s because he’s a really nice guy or an idiot, he’s giving it away for free! Visit DrClay.com to get your copy before he comes to his senses.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

Big Back, Big Chest, Real Fast

I get bored easily.

That’s why I’ve spent the last few years augmenting my training toolbox. There’s only so much I can say about training for bigger muscles before I unleash a barrage of Hulk Hogan-style leg drops on my keyboard. I know what your muscles need to grow. But I can’t guarantee that you’ll have the time and energy to get the job done. So the ball’s in my court to make the process as user-friendly as possible.

Now that I can do more to help clients, I’ve taken on more esoteric cases. In the last few months I’ve had three interesting clients come to me for help.

First was Tracy. She was born with spina bifida, a nasty neural defect that mandated four major spinal surgeries by the age of 24.

She had lost the mind-muscle link to most of her core, hip, and lower body muscles, and this made her so weak that she couldn’t stand up from a Barca lounger unless she used her upper body strength to hoist herself up as if she was escaping a swimming pool after mistaking little Billy’s half-eaten Snickers bar for something far more ominous.

So I designed a program to strengthen and reprogram her atrophied muscles.

Second was Heidi Montag, the star of MTV’s hit reality show, The Hills. She definitely wasn’t born with any physical disadvantage, except that her butt was too flat for the Playboy centerfold shoot that’s currently on the newsstands.

Not only did she want a curvier caboose, but she also wanted to look like an athlete — not an emaciated starlet with breast implants. Her goal for the shoot was to expose powerful curves, and she needed them fast. So I designed a workout to give her, and any other female, a sexy, bikini body.

Then there was Alex. He’s the only one of the three that you can probably relate to. He had no physical limitations, and he didn’t give a rat’s ass about making his ass look better. He just wanted bigger pecs and lats so he’d look better without a shirt while he scoped out chicks along the beach.

These seem like three specific cases that all require a unique training strategy. Interestingly enough, I used the same training approach for all three clients. Whether I needed to rehabilitate injured muscles or sculpt a bikini body or add muscle to a guy’s upper body, the most important component I had to get right was their training frequency. Put simply: the more they train a movement, the faster they’ll get results.

You know that saying, “If something is worth doing, do it every day?” Well, I can tell you that this mantra does carry over to hypertrophy training. Indeed, the reason why trainers say that you need months to gain appreciable amounts of muscle is not because your body can only manufacture a few pounds of muscle each month — it’s because it takes months’ worth of workouts to see results.

So what if you could cram two or three months worth of training into three weeks? Provided you can recover from each workout, I think you’ll agree that you’ll gain muscle faster than ever before.

This is exactly what I did with Alex. He wanted a bigger chest and upper back, and he wanted it, like, yesterday. I designed a simple plan to do it. And it worked! It wasn’t easy, but it was certainly simple. He gained over two inches of chest girth in less than a month.

So I’m here to share the chest and back HFT plan that I gave him.

The Exercises

For three weeks you’ll focus on the push-up and wide-grip pull-up for the majority of your upper body work. These two exercises will take the place of all your upper body pushing and pulling requirements. If you add in exercises like the bench press or seated row, you’ll burn out in no time. You can add 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps for the lateral raise, biceps curl, face pull, and triceps extensions for three workouts each week, but it’s not necessary.

The great thing about the two primary exercises is that they require very little equipment. You’re born with everything you need for the push-up. The pull-up, on the other hand, isn’t quite as simple since you probably don’t have a pull-up bar hanging in your doorway, but the solution to that dilemma is simple: get one.

The Equipment

These days, there are a plethora of pull-up bars that can be hinged to your doorway. I won’t list all of the companies here, but I’ll just say that I have the Total Upper Body Workout Bar by Iron Gym in my place.

It only takes a few minutes to assemble and it doesn’t require any drilling. Just position one end of the apparatus over the molding around the top of a doorway in your house, and you’re good to go. (Note: if you happen to have a home that doesn’t have wood trim molding around your doorways, you’ll need to buy the version that screws into the sides of the doorway.)

The Training Parameters

Six days each week you’ll do 100 push-ups and 50 pull-ups. Why the seemingly unbalanced parameters? Because a push-up only engages about half your body weight; the pull-up uses all of your body weight. So that’s why you need twice as many push-ups to keep the strength in balance around your shoulder joints.

Again, each day, for six days a week, you’ll do 100 push-ups and 50 pull-ups. I don’t care how many sets it takes to complete either, just get them done. For example, you could do five pull-ups every hour for 10 hours. Or you could do 10 pull-ups five times per day. Or you could do 13, 8, 7, 6, 6, 5 and 5 reps over the course of three hours. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

The same is true with push-ups. 100 reps are required each day and it doesn’t matter how, or when, you get those reps.

Granted, this whole thing sounds ridiculously simple (conceptually, not in the execution), but it works. What have you go to lose?

Technique Tips

1. Your chest must touch the floor with each push-up, and you should push your shoulder blades apart at the top of each rep to engage the woefully disrespected serratus anterior. (Doing your push-ups this way will improve your shoulder health.)

2. The pull-ups are to be performed with a wider-than-shoulder width hand position with your palms facing away from you. Every rep must start from a full hang and you should touch your chest to the bar with each pull.

3. Perform each rep of each exercise as fast as possible. Don’t go to failure on any set — always keep at least one rep in the hole. This will allow you to maintain your strength throughout the day.

4. If you can do more than 30 push-ups in one set, perform each set with your feet elevated on a flat bench, chair, stool, or a stack of encyclopedias (I prefer the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition).

More to Know

During the first week your chest, lats, and serratus anterior muscles will be screaming in agony. No worries. By week 2 the soreness will be virtually gone since your localized muscle recovery will skyrocket to meet the demand.

Do this program for six days each week for three weeks straight. Then, refrain from any upper body pushing or pulling movements for five full days. This will allow for any supercompensation that might be lagging behind. In other words, many people get bigger during the five days off.

What can you expect? At least two inches of new girth added to your chest measurement. You’ll have trouble finding a training system that will build muscle faster!

Big Back, Big Chest, Real Fast Big Back, Big Chest, Real Fast <!–Big Back, Big Chest, Real Fast–>

About Chad Waterbury

Big Back, Big Chest, Real Fast

Chad Waterbury is the author of Huge in a Hurry and Muscle Revolution.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

Best of Chest

Take a look at a Roman suit of armor. What do you notice?

You probably notice that the armor is, well, jacked. It has rock-hard abs, sculpted lines, and it’s inevitably topped with a powerful chest. No doubt about it, the pecs have been a symbol of strength and power for thousands of years. No wonder Mondays are International Chest Day in gyms all over the world.

What do these modern iron warriors do to build their chests? They bench press, of course. But do you want to know the truth? Can you handle the truth, Lieutenant Kaffee?

Okay, here it is: While the bench press is a fine exercise, it’s actually not the most effective chest builder for the aesthetic lifter.

A standard barbell bench press uses, by nature, a limited range of motion or ROM. The bar simply hits your chest and limits your effective range of motion. And since most lifters see the bench press as a chance to flex their egos, they use tricky body positions and even shorter ROMs so they can press more weight, making it less effective for muscle-building.

Oh sure, that’s fine for a powerlifter in competition who wants to use every trick in the book to shorten the ROM so he can push more weight, but not so fine for a person wanting to target the pecs and body build.

Add to that the fact that a lot of people are triceps benchers. In other words, their tri’s are so strong that they tend to take over for the pecs in the bench press. Many lifters even bring their anterior delts into the equation.

Well, we have a crazy idea: Let’s get back to building the pecs, shall we?

Here are a few of the best chest exercises and techniques we’ve seen for doing just that.

#1: The Chest Dip

Remember the rules for getting the most out of triceps dips? To emphasize chest hypertrophy, reverse those rules:

Unless you’re very new to resistance training — or very fat — or very female — you’ll need to add weight for chest dips. A dipping belt, a weighted vest, or simply holding a dumbbell between your feet will do the trick. We like the latter because it allows you to quickly drop the additional load if needed, which is handy for this pec-destroying favorite:

The Jettison Technique for Dips

No training partner? Well, we’re not crazy about those Gravitron-style assisted dip/pull-up machines, but use one of those for this step if needed. Just don’t let us see you. We will point and laugh.

Here’s another great chest dip technique we picked up from Chad Waterbury:

Flying Dips

“These are great for chest and core development,” says Waterbury, and he’s right. Think of this as an exaggerated chest dip with an athletic bonus.

Here’s how you do it: Start in the top position of a dip. Lower your body straight down. When you reach the bottom, shift your body forward as you push up. You’ll need to keep your body rigid from head to toe, just like a gymnast on the rings.

#2: “Next-Level” Push-ups and Flyes

Here at TMUSCLE we’ve seen just about everything when it comes to training. So how do we separate the truly effective stuff from the sounds-good-on-paper-but-doesn’t-work junk? We look for patterns.

One such pattern occurs with something we call the “next-level” push-up. Several performance coaches and hypertrophy experts have “discovered” this method of turning the boring and often too-easy push-up into a chest-building powerhouse. And when that many experts independently discover something, it usually means it’s going to be damned effective.

Basically, this exercise involves doing push-ups on a set of gymnastic rings (such as the pair we reviewed HERE) or similar devices such as Blast Straps. Dave Tate calls these suspended push-ups.

To perform, simply attach your rings or straps to the top of a power rack or cable crossover machine and lower them until they’re just off the floor. Get into a push-up position while holding the rings or handles and get to work.

That’s it! But don’t be surprised if you shake like Candlestick Park during the ’89 World Series when performing suspended push-ups.

The Suspended Flye

If the push-ups get too easy, try some suspended flyes, a favorite of Coach Christian Thibaudeau, who places them into his strength-stability workouts.

Using the same push-up position, imagine doing a flat bench dumbbell flye, only instead of facing up, your body will be facing down. And instead of holding dumbbells for resistance, you’ll be holding rings or Blast Straps and using your body weight.

This one can be intense. You may want to begin by doing suspended flyes on your knees, you know, like how your little sister does push-ups in PE class. Not that you’re a weak little girl or anything. No way, not you.

The Slide Push-Up

Finally, here’s one more variation from the same basic school of thought: the slide push-up.

“The slide push-up applies resistance to the horizontal adduction action of the pectorals,” notes Waterbury. “This is one of the best chest-building exercises I’ve ever come across, and very few people even know about it!”

Slide push-ups can be performed on a linoleum or wood floor with a small towel under each hand. A set of ValSlides, a favorite of Coach Mike Boyle, will do the trick, too. (We bet a pair of furniture sliders would work as well, for a fraction of the price.)

With slides or towels under your hands, assume a traditional push-up position. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself until your chest touches the floor, then push up while simultaneously pulling the hands together. At the top position, the thumbs should almost be touching.

Next, “walk” your hands out to the original starting position and continue for the desired reps. “If you’re advanced,” says Waterbury, “push your hands out to the starting position instead of walking them out.”

#3: Triple Dumbbell Press

We first read about this one back in the 90’s, and it probably existed before then. Whatever the origin, it works!

Thibaudeau notes: “This might just be the most complete and effective way to train your chest. It will thoroughly stimulate most of the muscle fibers of the pectorals, causing them to grow out of proportion at an alarming rate! Sound good? Wait until you’ve tried it to thank me; the effectiveness of the exercise comes with a price to pay: pain!”

The exercise is really a combination of three exercises:

All three are performed as one set, using the same weight. You first perform high incline dumbbell presses until you reach muscle failure. Then you rapidly adjust the bench to a low incline and continue to perform reps until failure. You once again adjust the bench, this time to a flat bench position, and rep out. This is one set.

Note the little trick that’s happening here: You’re starting with the weakest position: high inclines. You’re fatiguing as the set continues, sure, but you’re also moving to a stronger position each time — low incline, then flat, which is your strongest position. Cool, huh?

“This is a very intense method,” warns Thibaudeau. “For most people, two or three such sets will be more than enough. Do not use this powerful technique too frequently as it’s tremendously stressful on the body — which is why it’s so effective!”

#4: Eccentric Incline Dumbbell Press on Swiss Ball

Long ass name, but an extremely effective rut-breaker that’s been field-tested by Charles Poliquin on numerous athletes.

Situate yourself on a Swiss ball. Press the dumbbells up as if you were doing conventional dumbbell bench presses. Once you get close to locking out, keep your torso stable, but lower your hips as much as possible. Now lower the dumbbells in this incline position.

Since you’re weaker in the incline press than in the flat press, you’ll use the strong leverage from the flat position to help you get the load up in preparation for the eccentric (negative) part of the movement. In effect, you’re doing a flat bench on the way up, and an incline bench on the way down, thus overloading the clavicular pecs without the need for a spotter.

#5: Fly-Aways

We learned this one from Igor Svendleton, the legendary European bodybuilding coach who can put 100 pounds of pure, drug-free muscle on any bodybuilder in only four weeks.

Thing is, Igor lives in a remote mountain cave and leaves it only to hunt musk-ox. Bodybuilders who want to train with him have to climb the mountain naked and beg him for his tutelage. But, those who are accepted come back down hyoooooge!

Okay, we made that up.

Sorry, it just sounded more interesting than saying that fly-aways are the invention of an exercise scientist named Jerry Telle. We mean, really, what can a guy named Jerry teach us?

Actually, quite a lot! Telle explains: “The wider the dumbbells, the more tension experienced by the pecs. Why, then, not start a set with heavy flyes and, as the athlete fatigues, gradually move the dumbbells closer to the body? That way, you get max tension on every rep.”

So, begin with a set of flyes (flat, incline, or decline). When you feel you’re a rep or two shy of failure, change your arm position into a position mid-way between a flye and a bench press. Knock out a few more reps in this stronger position. When you’re about to fail again, switch into a standard dumbbell bench press position and rep out until failure. That’s one set, nancy-boy.

Now, we’ve found that you can modify this extended set by using as many arm position changes as possible. Start with a very wide flye, moving the hands in a little each time and putting more bend in the elbows. Each stronger position will allow you a few more reps until you’re finally just performing a dumbbell bench press. Ouch.

Final Tip

Now, we’re not saying to completely give up the good ol’ barbell bench press, but if your goal is building a big chest, remember that there are other options. And if you just can’t not bench, here’s a final tip from strength coach Ian King:

“Many lifters with superior triceps strength fall into a trap by using the closer-grip bench press too often. It certainly builds great triceps, but it’s not the best for chest development. To balance chest development, you need to spend as much time with an extra-wide grip as you do with the extra-narrow grip. Those with strength ‘in close’ need humility to train bench with a wider grip.”

Now, go build your own suit of armor!

Jettison Dip

Best of Chest

Flying Dip

Best of Chest

Suspended Pushup

Best of Chest

Suspended Flye

Best of Chest

Slide Pushup

Best of Chest

Triple Dumbbell Press

Best of Chest

Eccentric Incline

Best of Chest

Fly Away 1

Best of Chest<!– Best of Chest–>

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

Best of Chest

Take a look at a Roman suit of armor. What do you notice?

You probably notice that the armor is, well, jacked. It has rock-hard abs, sculpted lines, and it’s inevitably topped with a powerful chest. No doubt about it, the pecs have been a symbol of strength and power for thousands of years. No wonder Mondays are International Chest Day in gyms all over the world.

What do these modern iron warriors do to build their chests? They bench press, of course. But do you want to know the truth? Can you handle the truth, Lieutenant Kaffee?

Okay, here it is: While the bench press is a fine exercise, it’s actually not the most effective chest builder for the aesthetic lifter.

A standard barbell bench press uses, by nature, a limited range of motion or ROM. The bar simply hits your chest and limits your effective range of motion. And since most lifters see the bench press as a chance to flex their egos, they use tricky body positions and even shorter ROMs so they can press more weight, making it less effective for muscle-building.

Oh sure, that’s fine for a powerlifter in competition who wants to use every trick in the book to shorten the ROM so he can push more weight, but not so fine for a person wanting to target the pecs and body build.

Add to that the fact that a lot of people are triceps benchers. In other words, their tri’s are so strong that they tend to take over for the pecs in the bench press. Many lifters even bring their anterior delts into the equation.

Well, we have a crazy idea: Let’s get back to building the pecs, shall we?

Here are a few of the best chest exercises and techniques we’ve seen for doing just that.

#1: The Chest Dip

Remember the rules for getting the most out of triceps dips? To emphasize chest hypertrophy, reverse those rules:

Unless you’re very new to resistance training — or very fat — or very female — you’ll need to add weight for chest dips. A dipping belt, a weighted vest, or simply holding a dumbbell between your feet will do the trick. We like the latter because it allows you to quickly drop the additional load if needed, which is handy for this pec-destroying favorite:

The Jettison Technique for Dips

No training partner? Well, we’re not crazy about those Gravitron-style assisted dip/pull-up machines, but use one of those for this step if needed. Just don’t let us see you. We will point and laugh.

Here’s another great chest dip technique we picked up from Chad Waterbury:

Flying Dips

“These are great for chest and core development,” says Waterbury, and he’s right. Think of this as an exaggerated chest dip with an athletic bonus.

Here’s how you do it: Start in the top position of a dip. Lower your body straight down. When you reach the bottom, shift your body forward as you push up. You’ll need to keep your body rigid from head to toe, just like a gymnast on the rings.

#2: “Next-Level” Push-ups and Flyes

Here at TMUSCLE we’ve seen just about everything when it comes to training. So how do we separate the truly effective stuff from the sounds-good-on-paper-but-doesn’t-work junk? We look for patterns.

One such pattern occurs with something we call the “next-level” push-up. Several performance coaches and hypertrophy experts have “discovered” this method of turning the boring and often too-easy push-up into a chest-building powerhouse. And when that many experts independently discover something, it usually means it’s going to be damned effective.

Basically, this exercise involves doing push-ups on a set of gymnastic rings (such as the pair we reviewed HERE) or similar devices such as Blast Straps. Dave Tate calls these suspended push-ups.

To perform, simply attach your rings or straps to the top of a power rack or cable crossover machine and lower them until they’re just off the floor. Get into a push-up position while holding the rings or handles and get to work.

That’s it! But don’t be surprised if you shake like Candlestick Park during the ’89 World Series when performing suspended push-ups.

The Suspended Flye

If the push-ups get too easy, try some suspended flyes, a favorite of Coach Christian Thibaudeau, who places them into his strength-stability workouts.

Using the same push-up position, imagine doing a flat bench dumbbell flye, only instead of facing up, your body will be facing down. And instead of holding dumbbells for resistance, you’ll be holding rings or Blast Straps and using your body weight.

This one can be intense. You may want to begin by doing suspended flyes on your knees, you know, like how your little sister does push-ups in PE class. Not that you’re a weak little girl or anything. No way, not you.

The Slide Push-Up

Finally, here’s one more variation from the same basic school of thought: the slide push-up.

“The slide push-up applies resistance to the horizontal adduction action of the pectorals,” notes Waterbury. “This is one of the best chest-building exercises I’ve ever come across, and very few people even know about it!”

Slide push-ups can be performed on a linoleum or wood floor with a small towel under each hand. A set of ValSlides, a favorite of Coach Mike Boyle, will do the trick, too. (We bet a pair of furniture sliders would work as well, for a fraction of the price.)

With slides or towels under your hands, assume a traditional push-up position. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself until your chest touches the floor, then push up while simultaneously pulling the hands together. At the top position, the thumbs should almost be touching.

Next, “walk” your hands out to the original starting position and continue for the desired reps. “If you’re advanced,” says Waterbury, “push your hands out to the starting position instead of walking them out.”

#3: Triple Dumbbell Press

We first read about this one back in the 90’s, and it probably existed before then. Whatever the origin, it works!

Thibaudeau notes: “This might just be the most complete and effective way to train your chest. It will thoroughly stimulate most of the muscle fibers of the pectorals, causing them to grow out of proportion at an alarming rate! Sound good? Wait until you’ve tried it to thank me; the effectiveness of the exercise comes with a price to pay: pain!”

The exercise is really a combination of three exercises:

All three are performed as one set, using the same weight. You first perform high incline dumbbell presses until you reach muscle failure. Then you rapidly adjust the bench to a low incline and continue to perform reps until failure. You once again adjust the bench, this time to a flat bench position, and rep out. This is one set.

Note the little trick that’s happening here: You’re starting with the weakest position: high inclines. You’re fatiguing as the set continues, sure, but you’re also moving to a stronger position each time — low incline, then flat, which is your strongest position. Cool, huh?

“This is a very intense method,” warns Thibaudeau. “For most people, two or three such sets will be more than enough. Do not use this powerful technique too frequently as it’s tremendously stressful on the body — which is why it’s so effective!”

#4: Eccentric Incline Dumbbell Press on Swiss Ball

Long ass name, but an extremely effective rut-breaker that’s been field-tested by Charles Poliquin on numerous athletes.

Situate yourself on a Swiss ball. Press the dumbbells up as if you were doing conventional dumbbell bench presses. Once you get close to locking out, keep your torso stable, but lower your hips as much as possible. Now lower the dumbbells in this incline position.

Since you’re weaker in the incline press than in the flat press, you’ll use the strong leverage from the flat position to help you get the load up in preparation for the eccentric (negative) part of the movement. In effect, you’re doing a flat bench on the way up, and an incline bench on the way down, thus overloading the clavicular pecs without the need for a spotter.

#5: Fly-Aways

We learned this one from Igor Svendleton, the legendary European bodybuilding coach who can put 100 pounds of pure, drug-free muscle on any bodybuilder in only four weeks.

Thing is, Igor lives in a remote mountain cave and leaves it only to hunt musk-ox. Bodybuilders who want to train with him have to climb the mountain naked and beg him for his tutelage. But, those who are accepted come back down hyoooooge!

Okay, we made that up.

Sorry, it just sounded more interesting than saying that fly-aways are the invention of an exercise scientist named Jerry Telle. We mean, really, what can a guy named Jerry teach us?

Actually, quite a lot! Telle explains: “The wider the dumbbells, the more tension experienced by the pecs. Why, then, not start a set with heavy flyes and, as the athlete fatigues, gradually move the dumbbells closer to the body? That way, you get max tension on every rep.”

So, begin with a set of flyes (flat, incline, or decline). When you feel you’re a rep or two shy of failure, change your arm position into a position mid-way between a flye and a bench press. Knock out a few more reps in this stronger position. When you’re about to fail again, switch into a standard dumbbell bench press position and rep out until failure. That’s one set, nancy-boy.

Now, we’ve found that you can modify this extended set by using as many arm position changes as possible. Start with a very wide flye, moving the hands in a little each time and putting more bend in the elbows. Each stronger position will allow you a few more reps until you’re finally just performing a dumbbell bench press. Ouch.

Final Tip

Now, we’re not saying to completely give up the good ol’ barbell bench press, but if your goal is building a big chest, remember that there are other options. And if you just can’t not bench, here’s a final tip from strength coach Ian King:

“Many lifters with superior triceps strength fall into a trap by using the closer-grip bench press too often. It certainly builds great triceps, but it’s not the best for chest development. To balance chest development, you need to spend as much time with an extra-wide grip as you do with the extra-narrow grip. Those with strength ‘in close’ need humility to train bench with a wider grip.”

Now, go build your own suit of armor!

Jettison Dip

Best of Chest

Flying Dip

Best of Chest

Suspended Pushup

Best of Chest

Suspended Flye

Best of Chest

Slide Pushup

Best of Chest

Triple Dumbbell Press

Best of Chest

Eccentric Incline

Best of Chest

Fly Away 1

Best of Chest<!– Best of Chest–>

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

>Best of Chest

>

Take a look at a Roman suit of armor. What do you notice?

You probably notice that the armor is, well, jacked. It has rock-hard abs, sculpted lines, and it’s inevitably topped with a powerful chest. No doubt about it, the pecs have been a symbol of strength and power for thousands of years. No wonder Mondays are International Chest Day in gyms all over the world.

What do these modern iron warriors do to build their chests? They bench press, of course. But do you want to know the truth? Can you handle the truth, Lieutenant Kaffee?

Okay, here it is: While the bench press is a fine exercise, it’s actually not the most effective chest builder for the aesthetic lifter.

A standard barbell bench press uses, by nature, a limited range of motion or ROM. The bar simply hits your chest and limits your effective range of motion. And since most lifters see the bench press as a chance to flex their egos, they use tricky body positions and even shorter ROMs so they can press more weight, making it less effective for muscle-building.

Oh sure, that’s fine for a powerlifter in competition who wants to use every trick in the book to shorten the ROM so he can push more weight, but not so fine for a person wanting to target the pecs and body build.

Add to that the fact that a lot of people are triceps benchers. In other words, their tri’s are so strong that they tend to take over for the pecs in the bench press. Many lifters even bring their anterior delts into the equation.

Well, we have a crazy idea: Let’s get back to building the pecs, shall we?

Here are a few of the best chest exercises and techniques we’ve seen for doing just that.

#1: The Chest Dip

Remember the rules for getting the most out of triceps dips? To emphasize chest hypertrophy, reverse those rules:

Unless you’re very new to resistance training — or very fat — or very female — you’ll need to add weight for chest dips. A dipping belt, a weighted vest, or simply holding a dumbbell between your feet will do the trick. We like the latter because it allows you to quickly drop the additional load if needed, which is handy for this pec-destroying favorite:

The Jettison Technique for Dips

No training partner? Well, we’re not crazy about those Gravitron-style assisted dip/pull-up machines, but use one of those for this step if needed. Just don’t let us see you. We will point and laugh.

Here’s another great chest dip technique we picked up from Chad Waterbury:

Flying Dips

“These are great for chest and core development,” says Waterbury, and he’s right. Think of this as an exaggerated chest dip with an athletic bonus.

Here’s how you do it: Start in the top position of a dip. Lower your body straight down. When you reach the bottom, shift your body forward as you push up. You’ll need to keep your body rigid from head to toe, just like a gymnast on the rings.

#2: “Next-Level” Push-ups and Flyes

Here at TMUSCLE we’ve seen just about everything when it comes to training. So how do we separate the truly effective stuff from the sounds-good-on-paper-but-doesn’t-work junk? We look for patterns.

One such pattern occurs with something we call the “next-level” push-up. Several performance coaches and hypertrophy experts have “discovered” this method of turning the boring and often too-easy push-up into a chest-building powerhouse. And when that many experts independently discover something, it usually means it’s going to be damned effective.

Basically, this exercise involves doing push-ups on a set of gymnastic rings (such as the pair we reviewed HERE) or similar devices such as Blast Straps. Dave Tate calls these suspended push-ups.

To perform, simply attach your rings or straps to the top of a power rack or cable crossover machine and lower them until they’re just off the floor. Get into a push-up position while holding the rings or handles and get to work.

That’s it! But don’t be surprised if you shake like Candlestick Park during the ’89 World Series when performing suspended push-ups.

The Suspended Flye

If the push-ups get too easy, try some suspended flyes, a favorite of Coach Christian Thibaudeau, who places them into his strength-stability workouts.

Using the same push-up position, imagine doing a flat bench dumbbell flye, only instead of facing up, your body will be facing down. And instead of holding dumbbells for resistance, you’ll be holding rings or Blast Straps and using your body weight.

This one can be intense. You may want to begin by doing suspended flyes on your knees, you know, like how your little sister does push-ups in PE class. Not that you’re a weak little girl or anything. No way, not you.

The Slide Push-Up

Finally, here’s one more variation from the same basic school of thought: the slide push-up.

“The slide push-up applies resistance to the horizontal adduction action of the pectorals,” notes Waterbury. “This is one of the best chest-building exercises I’ve ever come across, and very few people even know about it!”

Slide push-ups can be performed on a linoleum or wood floor with a small towel under each hand. A set of ValSlides, a favorite of Coach Mike Boyle, will do the trick, too. (We bet a pair of furniture sliders would work as well, for a fraction of the price.)

With slides or towels under your hands, assume a traditional push-up position. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself until your chest touches the floor, then push up while simultaneously pulling the hands together. At the top position, the thumbs should almost be touching.

Next, “walk” your hands out to the original starting position and continue for the desired reps. “If you’re advanced,” says Waterbury, “push your hands out to the starting position instead of walking them out.”

#3: Triple Dumbbell Press

We first read about this one back in the 90’s, and it probably existed before then. Whatever the origin, it works!

Thibaudeau notes: “This might just be the most complete and effective way to train your chest. It will thoroughly stimulate most of the muscle fibers of the pectorals, causing them to grow out of proportion at an alarming rate! Sound good? Wait until you’ve tried it to thank me; the effectiveness of the exercise comes with a price to pay: pain!”

The exercise is really a combination of three exercises:

All three are performed as one set, using the same weight. You first perform high incline dumbbell presses until you reach muscle failure. Then you rapidly adjust the bench to a low incline and continue to perform reps until failure. You once again adjust the bench, this time to a flat bench position, and rep out. This is one set.

Note the little trick that’s happening here: You’re starting with the weakest position: high inclines. You’re fatiguing as the set continues, sure, but you’re also moving to a stronger position each time — low incline, then flat, which is your strongest position. Cool, huh?

“This is a very intense method,” warns Thibaudeau. “For most people, two or three such sets will be more than enough. Do not use this powerful technique too frequently as it’s tremendously stressful on the body — which is why it’s so effective!”

#4: Eccentric Incline Dumbbell Press on Swiss Ball

Long ass name, but an extremely effective rut-breaker that’s been field-tested by Charles Poliquin on numerous athletes.

Situate yourself on a Swiss ball. Press the dumbbells up as if you were doing conventional dumbbell bench presses. Once you get close to locking out, keep your torso stable, but lower your hips as much as possible. Now lower the dumbbells in this incline position.

Since you’re weaker in the incline press than in the flat press, you’ll use the strong leverage from the flat position to help you get the load up in preparation for the eccentric (negative) part of the movement. In effect, you’re doing a flat bench on the way up, and an incline bench on the way down, thus overloading the clavicular pecs without the need for a spotter.

#5: Fly-Aways

We learned this one from Igor Svendleton, the legendary European bodybuilding coach who can put 100 pounds of pure, drug-free muscle on any bodybuilder in only four weeks.

Thing is, Igor lives in a remote mountain cave and leaves it only to hunt musk-ox. Bodybuilders who want to train with him have to climb the mountain naked and beg him for his tutelage. But, those who are accepted come back down hyoooooge!

Okay, we made that up.

Sorry, it just sounded more interesting than saying that fly-aways are the invention of an exercise scientist named Jerry Telle. We mean, really, what can a guy named Jerry teach us?

Actually, quite a lot! Telle explains: “The wider the dumbbells, the more tension experienced by the pecs. Why, then, not start a set with heavy flyes and, as the athlete fatigues, gradually move the dumbbells closer to the body? That way, you get max tension on every rep.”

So, begin with a set of flyes (flat, incline, or decline). When you feel you’re a rep or two shy of failure, change your arm position into a position mid-way between a flye and a bench press. Knock out a few more reps in this stronger position. When you’re about to fail again, switch into a standard dumbbell bench press position and rep out until failure. That’s one set, nancy-boy.

Now, we’ve found that you can modify this extended set by using as many arm position changes as possible. Start with a very wide flye, moving the hands in a little each time and putting more bend in the elbows. Each stronger position will allow you a few more reps until you’re finally just performing a dumbbell bench press. Ouch.

Final Tip

Now, we’re not saying to completely give up the good ol’ barbell bench press, but if your goal is building a big chest, remember that there are other options. And if you just can’t not bench, here’s a final tip from strength coach Ian King:

“Many lifters with superior triceps strength fall into a trap by using the closer-grip bench press too often. It certainly builds great triceps, but it’s not the best for chest development. To balance chest development, you need to spend as much time with an extra-wide grip as you do with the extra-narrow grip. Those with strength ‘in close’ need humility to train bench with a wider grip.”

Now, go build your own suit of armor!

Jettison Dip

Best of Chest

Flying Dip

Best of Chest

Suspended Pushup

Best of Chest

Suspended Flye

Best of Chest

Slide Pushup

Best of Chest

Triple Dumbbell Press

Best of Chest

Eccentric Incline

Best of Chest

Fly Away 1

Best of Chest<!– Best of Chest–>

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

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