Strong pecs feature prominently in firemen's calendars and on fitness magazine covers, but they're more than just pretty to view. Both men and women benefit functionally from building up the muscles of the chest.
What are the Pecs?
The pecs refer to the primary muscles of the chest, the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is the large, fan-shaped muscle that comprises most of the chest wall. In addition to keeping your arm attached to your body, the muscle is responsible for flapping, pressing and lifting actions. The pectoralis minor is considerably smaller and flatter; it lies underneath the pec major and is intrinsic to functioning of the shoulder.
Strong pecs encourage you to stand tall to show off sculpted muscles. For women, strong pecs add height to the chest wall, lifting otherwise droopy breasts.
Be careful, however. Strengthening the chest at the expense of other upper body muscles can leave you slouched forward. Tight pec muscles may give you the appearance of a rounded back.
To benefit the most from your strong pecs, ensure you also have a strong back -- particularly the muscles of the posterior deltoids, which is the back of the shoulders -- and upper back, including the trapezius and rhomboids. For every chest-strengthening move you do, plan to include a rowing-type action. Therefore, if you complete three chest exercises on Monday -- such as the bench press, dumbbell flyes and push-ups -- plan to do bent over rows, rear deltoid flyes and pullovers on Tuesday for a back workout. Alternately, do a total upper-body workout that includes an equal number of moves for the chest and back.
Stretching your chest is also essential in keeping it supple enough to show off. Cobra pose and a doorway stretch are two ways to loosen up your pecs after a workout.
Strong pecs contribute to your overall upper body strength. They improve your ability to push things -- whether that's a heavy barbell, a couch or a stalled car.
Pecs, along with your shoulders, are also intrinsic in throwing and swinging actions. Strong pecs can help you in your weekly softball league, a weekend tennis game or when you hit the golf course with work buddies. Strong pecs help you win a friendly arm-wrestling match or lift a small child into your arms.
Men who are hitting the pool on a hot day know the value of strong pecs. They look strong and confident, and may catch the eye of the opposite sex. A study published in Plos One in 2012 actually found that women's and men's perception of the ideal male body, designed using 3D computer modeling, includes a muscled, wide chest circumference that creates an overall V-shaped torso.
The attractiveness of strong pecs on a woman shouldn't be ignored either. As mentioned before, upper-body strength can improve posture and lift the breasts. Curves are high on the list of attractive female features, according to the Plos One study.