A well-shaped symmetrical chest is essential to a bodybuilder’s physique, and the flat bench press exercise is necessary for building size and mass in the pectoral muscles. However, limiting your chest workouts to the same version of the bench press can result in uneven chest development. It is possible to balance the chest muscles by stimulating them from a variety of different angles.
In bodybuilding, a perfect chest involves having a large rib cage, thick pectoral muscle with development of the inner, outer, upper and lower areas of the pectorals, notes Arnold Schwarzenegger, author of “The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.” Bench press and dumbbell chest press are essential in building size in the chest. However, when performing the bench press and any other chest exercise, it is essential to complete each exercise throughout its complete range of motion to ensure the entire muscle area is stimulated. Once you notice your chest is uneven, you will have to perform more exercises to stimulate the lagging area.
The pectoralis major consist of the two muscles: the clavicular and sternal heads. The clavicular part is the upper portion of your chest that attaches to the clavicle. This is often a weaker area for many bodybuilders and should be trained early in training to keep the upper chest balanced with the lower chest with exercises such as the incline barbell or dumbbell press in which the angle is set between 45 to 60 degrees. If this is your weaker area, perform the incline bench press, before or instead of the flat bench press, for three to five sets of six to 10 repetitions. Incline dumbbell flys are also effective at developing the upper chest.
The lower portion of your chest can be stimulated with decline pressing or fly exercises. If a decline bench is unavailable, target your lower chest with flat bench press by lowering the bar to the bottom of your rib cage, notes Frederic Delavier, author of “Strength Training Anatomy.” Include chest dips in your chest routine to target your lower pecs. Bending forward more in the dip will further engage your pectorals.
Target the inner chest by performing close-grip bench press, dumbbell fly’s or cable crossovers. Bring your hands together and squeeze at the top of the movement when performing dumbbell fly’s or cable crossovers to stimulate the inner chest.
Perform dips, dumbbell flies and incline presses to work the outer portion of the chest. Complete dumbbell flies throughout the entire range of motion concentrating on achieving a full stretch. Stimulate the outer chest with pressing exercises by using a wide grip on incline press, or with dumbbell presses focusing on the bottom of the movement and only coming up three-quarters of the way.
Opening your rib cage is essential in bodybuilding to show off your large pectorals. Include dumbbell or barbell pullovers to stretch and expand your rib cage. Lying across a flat bench with your hips lower than your chest allows for a greater stretch in your rib cages, notes Delavier.
- “Strength Training Anatomy”; Frederic Delavier; 2001
- “Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding”; Arnold Schwarzenegger; 1985
- ExRx.net; Pectoralis Major Clavicular Head