Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA
To maximize the speed at which you can build size in your pectoralis major, or pecs, follow a weight-training program that’s designed to stimulate increases in muscle mass. The program should consist of high-volume workouts that break down your chest muscle tissue, as well as adequate periods of rest. While your workouts are what trigger the muscle-building process, it’s during the days off between your workouts that your pecs increase in size. Therefore, to most efficiently build your pecs, focus on completing quality workouts and then provide your muscles the rest and fuel they need to grow.
Participate in a weight-training workout that targets your pecs two days per week. To increase the size in your pec muscles, your workouts must be of high enough volume to overload the muscle tissue in order to stimulate growth. However, just as important to their development is providing them enough rest in between training sessions for them to heal and subsequently grow. Schedule two to three days of rest in between sessions. For example, lift on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Do three to six sets of each chest exercise you incorporate into your workout. Strength and conditioning professional Dr. Helen M. Binkley recommends this volume for those looking to build muscle size. As you’re starting out, begin with three sets and then gradually work your way up to four, five and then six. Each set should include six to 12 reps. Keep your rest periods between sets relatively short: 30 to 90 seconds.
Select an appropriate amount of weight for each exercise. You want each set to be challenging to complete. Therefore, adjust the weight you’re using if you’re unable to reach six reps or you’re able to perform 12 or more reps with no difficulty.
Choose three to five chest exercises to include in your workout. A 2012 study funded by The American Council on Exercise found that the barbell bench press was the best chest exercise for targeting the pectoralis major. Other quality chest exercises include dumbbell chest presses, incline chest presses, chest flyes, pushups and cable crossovers.
Fueling the Muscle-Building Process
Increase your daily protein intake. Protein is instrumental in the muscle-building process. Dr. Joseph A. Chromiak of the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that you consume 0.65 to 0.80 grams of protein for every pound that you weigh, daily. For example, if you currently weigh 150-pounds, you’ll want to take in 97.5 to 120 grams of protein every day.
Have a post-workout meal ready. Eating a meal or snack consisting of lean protein and carbohydrates will help fuel muscle-building by increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown. The American Council on Exercise recommends foods such as non-fat greek yogurt with fruit, a banana with peanut butter and tuna on whole wheat bread after a workout.
Take in more calories everyday. To put on a pound of muscle, you have to consume an excess of 3,500 calories. However, taking in that excess too quickly can lead to fat instead of muscle gain. Take in an additional 250 calories everyday, which will set you up to put on a pound of muscle every two weeks.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association's Performance Training Journal: Rest and Recovery
- National Strength and Conditioning Association's Performance Training Journal: Strength, Size or Power?
- ExRx.net: Chest Exercise Menu
- National Strength and Conditioning Association's Performance Training Journal: Strength Training for Muscle Building
- American Council on Exercise: 7 Smart Post-Workout Snacks and How to Know When You Really Need One
- American Council on Exercise: ACE-Sponsored Research: Top 3 Most Effective Chest Exercises