Many weightlifters desire a defined chest. This involves strengthening the pectoralis major and minor muscles, as they are the large muscles that make up the chest. The pectoralis major aids in adducting the arms and moving them in front of the body and works with the teres major and latissimus dorsi muscles to pull the trunk upward. The pectoralis major extends across the width of the chest and attaches at the rear of the humerus bone. The pectoralis minor lies just beneath it and aids in pulling the shoulder down and forward. There are several exercises you can do to strengthen these muscles.
A pushup is one of the single best exercises to work the pectoralis major and minor muscles. Best of all, it doesn't require any equipment, just your own body weight. Begin with hands directly under your shoulders as you kneel with your legs straight behind you. Push your body up, keep your back straight and slowly lower down to the mat, keeping your head neutral. As you lower, keep the arms at a 90-degree angle. Lower until you are hovering just above the mat and then push your body back up. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on non-consecutive days.
This move works the outer pectoral muscles and requires two dumbbells. Lie down on a bench with your feet flat on the bench. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand vertically above your shoulders. Slowly lower the dumbbells down to your sides, keeping your arms slightly bent, then lower your arms to shoulder level or just below. In a smooth, even movement, raise your arms back to the starting position, contracting your pectorals at the top. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on non-consecutive days.
Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press works the upper pectoral muscles near the collarbone. Begin by lying on an incline bench set at 30 to 45 degrees with both feet flat on the floor. Grasp the barbell with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you. Lower the bar until it is just above the chest, inhaling as you lower it. Exhale as you press the bar back to the starting position. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on non-consecutive days.
Decline Bench Press
This move works the lower pectoral muscles. First, set the bench so it is in a decline position of 30 to 45 degrees. Grab two dumbbells or use a barbell. Raise the weight directly over your head, arms straight. Slowly inhale, lowering the weight until it is just above the chest. Exhaling, press back up to the starting position. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on non-consecutive days.
Standing Cable Cross-Over
To work the inner pectorals, perform a standing cable cross-over. Using a cable machine, stand in between the two cables. Grasp each cable so that your palms are facing toward the floor. Lower the handles toward each other until they cross. Keep the arms in a somewhat locked position and flex the chest as the cables cross. Return to start and alternate which arms cross as you perform the rest of your repetitions. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on non-consecutive days.