With the exception of parents who are asked which of their children they love more, very few things in life are neutral. The same thing goes for training. Just about everything we do or don’t do for our bodies — nutrition-wise, exercise-wise, brain-wise — either helps or hurts.
Why’s that important? Because a lot of people don’t understand how to exercise perhaps the most popular, yet most poorly trained, area of the body: the chest. And the mistakes you’re making can hurt your development of a Hulk-like upper body.
Many people think that the chest has zero role in performance, unless you’re a football player. They say the pecs, like the biceps, are all about vanity. While having a big chest and a strong bench press doesn’t mean you’ll be an unstoppable athlete, building “pressing strength” can help you in just about any game you play — and also improve upper-body muscle mass (and by extension, your looks).
But even though so many gym goers dedicate so much exercise time to the chest (does “Monday-Thursday-chest-day” sound familiar?), it often doesn’t translate to better performance — and that makes your pecs an area of the body that can be improved. The program below will change that game, giving you more results in less time. But for it to work, follow these six principles.
Balance Push and Pull
For a balanced look (and to reduce the risk of injury), you need to do as many pulling exercises as you do pushing ones. Not only will increasing your pulling strength lead to more muscle mass, but it will help your pressing strength as well. Use a similar number of reps for both directions. You’ll also want to balance angles of movement, i.e. the vertical pull of a chin-up is not the opposite of a horizontal bench press. So if you’re pushing up, balance by pulling down. Push forward, pull back.
Work the Cuff
Without a strong rotator cuff, your pressing movements will suffer because your cuff helps stabilize your shoulder joint. And you need those strong pressing movements to develop your chest completely. Include cuff exercises in your training.
Ring Them Bells – All of ‘Em
Besides barbells, use dumbbells and even kettlebells, which change the stability and demand of chest exercises. By varying the equipment you use, your muscles are forced to adapt to constant change.
Vary Your Grips
By changing the width of your grips, you’re essentially changing the exercise (a wide grip targets different muscles than close grip). When using dumbbells, turn your hands in or out to change the angle of the press and stimulate your chest differently.
Use What Momma Gave You
Body-weight exercises like push-ups may not have the glamour of bench press or cable crossovers, but they’re still powerful tools to develop the chest muscles. Before you pass up the push-up for iron, drop down and see if you can bang out 40 quality reps. If you can’t, this might be the place to start.
Stay With the Tempo
Most people count the reps they perform, but they pay little attention to the speed of those reps. To maximize results, pay attention to the tempo of each repetition. For this workout, the lowering phase of each rep should take two full seconds, then pause for one second at the bottom of a rep, and then press each rep as quickly as possible. By slowing the rep, the muscles spend more time under contraction and ultimately, do more work.
This workout is to be performed on two separate days a week. Make sure your chest is no longer sore from Workout 1 before performing Workout 2.