Unless you are genetically gifted and your pectoral muscles respond rapidly to exercise, you can easily spend countless hours working your chest with negligible results. Writing for "Iron Man Magazine," fitness trainer and natural bodybuilder Doug Brignole, says the key to building a bigger chest is performing exercises that put your pectorals through a full range of motion. These exercises ensure a full stretch at the beginning, and a full contraction at the top of the movement.
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Myth of the Bench Press
The bench press is generally considered the king of upper body exercises, and the mainstay for building a powerfully-muscled chest. However, according to Brignole, the bench press doesn't allow for a full contraction of your pectorals as you lock out your arms at the top of the movement. The bench press makes you stronger and stimulates some muscle growth. But as you progress, you need to perform more effective exercises to maintain growth.
Sparing Your Shoulder Joints
The bench press engages your anterior deltoids and triceps more than your pectorals, according to strength coach and exercise physiologist Chad Waterbury. However, don't neglect the bench press as it offers some benefits. Use a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip with your forearms perpendicular to your upper arms. A wider grip than that places excessive stress on your shoulder joints, reduces your range of motion and activates fewer muscle-fibers.
Waterbury recommends ring flys to build a big chest; however, if you don't have access to gymnast rings, other exercises can effectively work your chest. Brignole recommends exercises such as flat and incline dumbbell presses, bench flys, converging chest presses, cable crossovers, pec dec flys and butterfly machine flys. These exercises allow you to bring your hands together in front of your body, achieving full contraction of your pectorals.
Making Your Chest Grow
Don't try to do all the recommended exercises on each chest workout. If doing a full-body workout, do three sets of a multi-joint exercise such as the flat dumbbell press, incline dumbbell press or converging chest press. These pushing exercises also engage your triceps. Next, do three sets of an isolation exercise such as flat bench flys, cable crossovers or butterfly machine flys. For a split routine, choose two multi-joint exercises and one isolation exercise. Do three to five sets of each multi-joint exercise, and three sets of your chosen isolation exercise. Use a heavy weight for eight to 10 reps for your multi-joint exercises, and a weight that allows you to perform 12 to 15 reps for your isolation exercises. The last two or three reps should leave your chest burning. Allow a minimum of one rest day between workouts.