Kenneth R. Hirsch
Often a symbol of beauty and brawn, a well-developed chest is a goal for many body builders and fitness enthusiasts. Along with the aesthetic appeal, the chest muscle group -- consisting of the pectoralis major and minor -- can help to improve the overall strength and agility of your upper body, especially the arms. Performing resistance-training exercises that target and stress both the pectoralis major and minor can help maximize muscle growth.
Warm your muscles before placing any stress on them by completing approximately 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, jogging, cycling or rowing. Follow the cardio with one or two sets of traditional push-ups -- doing 10 to 12 repetitions per set -- to activate the chest muscles.
Perform three or four sets of the barbell bench press to develop the entirety of the pectoralis muscle group. Load the barbell with an appropriate amount of weight. The resistance should allow you to complete at least eight repetitions but not more than 12. Lie on your back on a weight bench with the barbell positioned over your chest. Place your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent to 90 degrees. Pull your abdominal muscles in toward your lower back. Allow your lower back to flatten against the bench. Lift the barbell out of the rack and bring it to right above your chest with your elbows bent and pointing out to the sides. Push the barbell straight above you toward the ceiling until your arms are straight. Keep the elbows soft. Hold the contraction for one count and then slowly lower the bar back down to starting position. Complete three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
Complete three sets of explosive push-ups -- a challenging variation of traditional push-ups. Come to your hands and knees on the floor or on a firm exercise mat. Place your hands under your shoulders. Engage your abdominal muscles to protect and flatten your lower back. Slide your shoulder blades down your back. Tuck your toes and lift your knees until your body is in one straight line from your head to your heels. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor. Push against the floor with your hands using as much power as possible, so that your hands come off of the floor as your arms straighten. Bend your elbows slightly as your hands land back on the floor, and immediately go into the next repetition. Aim to complete two to three sets of six to 10 explosive push-ups.
Stretch your chest after your workout to release the muscles. Stand tall and clasp your hands together behind your lower back. Lift your chest. Raise your hands toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch in your pecs. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and release.