Like most muscle groups, the chest, or pectoral, muscles can often be strengthened with the help of natural resistance exercises. Strength training can reduce the loss of muscle mass that occurs as you age, while providing a beneficial boost to your overall health and fitness. While most athletes and exercisers are familiar with basic equipment-free exercises, such as pushups, many individuals overlook their ability to build strength and size in the chest muscles.
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The conventional pushup offers a powerful exercise to the chest, arms and shoulder muscles. Begin this exercise by lying face-down on the ground so that your feet are side by side and your legs fully extended. Place your palms on the floor or exercise mat directly next to your shoulders and lift yourself off the floor two to four inches. Exhale as you slowly lift your body off the floor and slowly return to the lowered position, making sure to keep your hips in a direct line from your heels to your shoulders. For best results, place a book or other small object beneath your chest to make sure you are lowering yourself far enough as you complete your pushups.
Diamond pushups modify conventional pushups, placing most of the impact on your chest muscles and elbow flexors. Attempt this difficult exercise by forming a diamond between your hands, with your thumbs and pointer fingers touching on the bottom and top respectively. Place the diamond directly beneath your chest as you slowly lift yourself off the floor and into the air as you would a normal pushup. Tighten your pectoral muscles as you complete the exercise and take your time to prolong the impact to your chest.
Although traditionally performed with a freestanding gym rack, dips can be performed anywhere that you can slowly lift and lower yourself from a suspended object. Dips are a highly effective exercise for strengthening the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor and deltoid muscle groups. Begin by placing two sturdy, heavy chairs shoulder-width apart so that you can easily reach back and grip the seat of each chair. Place a hand on the seat of each chair and slowly lift your feet and knees so that you are in a balled-up position suspended above the chairs. Bend your elbows so that your body slowly dips between the chair with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Return your body to the upright position and repeat 10 to 12 repetitions as needed.
Health and Safety Considerations
Talk to your doctor before beginning a strength training regimen if you currently do not exercise or do so at a low intensity level. While typically safer than lifting weights, resistance exercises using body weight can result in sprains or exercise injury if performed incorrectly. Make sure your doctor gives you the go-ahead before beginning any strength training regimen, and consult a personal trainer if you are unsure how to perform an exercise.