Building a bigger chest enhances your physique and makes you stronger in exercises like the push-up and bench press. The chest muscles are an aesthetically pleasing muscle because they are right in the front of your body and you can see them if you're wearing a tight shirt. A muscle that noticeable deserves a specific workout.
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Sets and Reps
Generally, if you want to make your muscles bigger do between six and 12 repetitions of an exercise, concluded researcher Brad Schoenfeld in a research review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2010. This is known as the "hypertrophy range." Hypertrophy basically means that the muscle is getting bigger.
This repetition range is a sweet spot for muscle growth because it allows you to use enough weight in an exercise to stimulate the muscle, but the weight is light enough to allow you to do multiple repetitions. If the weight is too heavy, you won't be able to perform enough reps to maximize muscle growth.
Once you have figure out how many repetitions you're going to do in a set you don't need to worry specifically how much weight you use. Simply choose a weight that allows you to stay in the repetition range for as many sets as you plan to perform the exercise. If you can easily do 12 reps, increase the weight. If you fail to reach six repetitions, decrease the weight.
The number of sets that you do is also important. There isn't a clear sweet spot for the amount of sets that you should do, but increasing the number of sets that you do in a workout will increase the amount of muscle you gain. At a certain point, though, it's not worth continuing.
A 2011 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested subjects to see if one set, four sets or eight sets resulted in the most muscle growth. They found that eight sets were far superior to one set, but only slightly superior to four sets of an exercise. Four sets appeared to stimulate muscle growth but the workout didn't take nearly as long to complete as eight sets, so it's much more efficient. If you have the time, feel free to do more than four sets, but it's not necessary.
Read more: Definition of Reps & Sets
One of the best ways to fatigue a muscle quickly is by performing a super-set. In a super-sets, you combine two exercises for the same muscle and perform them back-to-back. In this case, the first super-set will be the bench press and push-up.
Aim for a super-set chest workout two to three times per week, on non-consecutive days. Both the bench press and push-up work the chest while incorporating other muscles like the deltoids and triceps to help with the movement.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared a band-resisted push-up to the bench press and found almost no difference in terms of muscle activation as long as the resistance was equivalent. Pairing these exercises together back-to-back will quickly fatigue your chest and work on your deltoids and triceps.
1. Bench Press
This is one of the most well-known chest exercises. Perform three sets of six to 12 repetitions.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie down on a bench. Grip the barbell above you with your hands 6 inches wider than shoulder-width apart. Take the barbell out of the rack and hold it over your shoulders with your elbows straight.
Lower the bar to your chest. The bar should touch the bottom of your chest muscles. Press back up until your elbows are straight and the bar is over your shoulders.
Read more: Overhead Press vs. Bench Press
Immediately after the bench press, drop down to the floor to do six to 12 push-ups.
HOW TO DO IT: Get on the ground in a push-up position with your arms straight and legs straight. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.
Lower your body, maintaining a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles, until your chest is just above, but not resting on, the ground. Press yourself back up until your elbows are straight.
After doing three sets of these exercises, back-to-back, it's time to move on to the next super-set. For this pairing, you're going to do a dumbbell pullover and incline dumbbell press to work the upper portion of your pectoralis major.
3. Dumbbell Pullover
This exercise works your back, chest and triceps muscles. Perform three sets of six to 12 repetitions.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie down on a bench. Hold the top portion of one dumbbell with your hands under the weighted part. Your hands should form a triangle with your thumbs and index fingers touching each other.
Press the dumbbell up so that it's hanging directly over your chest. Reach your arms back over your head with your elbows almost completely straight. Keep reaching the dumbbell back until your arms are parallel with the floor. Raise the dumbbell back up until it's hanging over your chest.
4. Incline Dumbbell Press
This exercise targets the upper portion of your chest muscles. Perform three sets of six to 12 repetitions.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie down on a bench inclined to 45 degrees. You'll need a dumbbell in each hand for this exercise. Press the dumbbells up towards the ceiling until your elbows are straight.
Lower the dumbbells until they touch the sides of your chest muscles. Press the dumbbells back up until your elbows are straight.