Whether you want to build chest muscles to compete in bodybuilding events or you want to create a more athletic physique, certain exercises work well to add bulk to your chest. The key to seeing results in building chest size is to work muscles to the point of fatigue, and allow your chest muscles one full day of rest before working them again.
The first chest exercise to include in your chest-pumping plan is the barbell bench press. Former bodybuilders Lee Labrada and Clay Hyght suggest starting with the bench press to work your pectoral muscles early in your workout before fatigue hits, to maximize the number of muscle fibers affected by your training. Also, bench press involves a wide range of motion for chest muscles, so doing it first will warm up your chest for more isolated moves later in your workout. Labrada and Hyght suggest using a grip slightly wider than shoulder width while maintaining a modest arch to your back.
Both Labrada and Hyght recommend using cables to perform chest flyes above other flye methods because using cables provides resistance on both the beginning and ending portions of the movement, while traditional dumbbell chest flyes rely on the first part of the movement for most of the resistance. However, if you do not have access to two low pulley machines, dumbbells are a good alternative. Lie face up on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Lower weights to parallel with your chest, allowing your elbows to drop down below your body, then press the dumbbells together over your chest while contracting your chest muscles.
While research published in "Plos One" in August 2010 suggests that heavy weights are not necessary for muscle atrophy, bodybuilders such as Labrada and Hyght often suggest using the heaviest weights you can handle for a shorter workout. Mayo Clinic recommends doing a single set of 12 repetitions, using a weight heavy enough to be challenging on the last one or two reps. The "Plos One" study suggests that using lighter weights for more sets to reach muscle fatigue may be more effective. A combination of the two methods may be your best bet to obtain the benefits of cross-training and maximize your workout time.
If you are new to weightlifting, work out with a trainer to ensure you are using proper form to avoid injury while training. Start off slowly and do not compare the weight you are using to other people's. Choose the appropriate weight for your fitness level and increase your load when you are able to complete 12 repetitions without strain. Before weightlifting, warm up your muscles with a moderate aerobic exercise such as walking for a few minutes. Finish your workout by stretching. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
- BodyBuilding.com: Blast Your Chest
- Plos One: Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men
- Mayo Clinic: Weight Training: Improve Your Muscular Fitness
- American Council on Fitness: Cross-Training for Fun and Fitness