Two of the best exercises for strengthening your pectoral muscles are the push-up and the bench press. When deciding which exercise to include in your workout, examine your training goals and time for exercise. If you are looking to build or maintain general fitness and have limited workout time, doing push-ups is the best choice because they simultaneously work your chest, arm, shoulder and core muscles. However, if you are looking to focus on increasing your chest size and have the time to focus on training individual muscle groups, perform the barbell bench press, which is the most effective exercise for chest muscle development.
How to Perform Push-Ups
Lower yourself to the ground on all fours, with your hands placed directly under your shoulders. Keep your fingers facing forward. Brace your abdominals by drawing your navel up toward your spine.
Straighten your legs and come up on your toes so that you form a straight line from your head to your heels with only your hands and toes touching the floor. Keep your gaze toward the floor and keep your abdominals engaged.
Bend your elbows and lower yourself toward the floor with control. Maintain a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Do not allow your lower back to sag or your hips to rise. Lower yourself until your chest hovers above the floor or you feel your form begin to deteriorate.
Press upward and straighten your arms to return to the starting position. Maintain the straight line with your body and keep your abdominals engaged during the completion of the movement.
How to Bench Press
Lie on your back on a weight bench. Position yourself so that the barbell is directly over your eyes. Keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back and your navel pulled in toward your spine. Grasp the bar with your palms facing forward and your wrists in a neutral position.
Use a spotter to help you unrack the bar and position it over your upper chest.
Inhale as you lower the bar with control to just above the middle of your chest. Keep your forearms perpendicular to the floor and your wrists in a neutral position. Do not allow your back to arch off the bench.
Exhale as you straighten your arms and press the bar back to its original position above your upper chest.
Signal to your spotter when you are finished with your set so that you have assistance in safely racking the weight.
Things You'll Need
If you are unable to perform a push-up with proper form, regress the exercise by keeping your knees on the floor rather than performing the exercise on your toes. You can also perform push-ups against an elevated surface such as a weight bench or a countertop to make the move easier.
If your wrists hurt during push-ups, use dumbbells or grip handles instead of placing your hands directly on the floor. This will help take the pressure off the wrist joint.
Consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.
Always use a spotter when performing the barbell bench press.