Building your chest isn’t easy.
There is a tendency to think that leaning back on a bench and pressing until you can press no longer is the only way to bump up your chest muscles, but this isn’t true.
In fact, there are lots of great exercises to work out all the muscles of your chest.
But before we get into them, let’s start at the beginning and take a look at what exact muscles you are trying to build.
What Muscles are in the Chest?
There are four major muscles in the chest, and these are:
The pectoralis major is often abbreviated to ‘pecs’. The goal for most gym-goers who are looking to strengthen their chest is to build these muscles.
This is the largest and most superior muscle in the anterior chest wall and is one of the most powerful in the body.
They are located at the top of the chest, lying under the breast, and are triangular in shape. Flowing backwards, the pectoralis major helps to boost flexibility and power in the upper body.
Situated just underneath the pectoralis major, is the minor.
This muscle is used to draw the shoulders back, or to lift the ribs up when taking heavy breaths.
It is also triangular, but this muscle is much smaller than the major.
Ever wondered why some people’s chest seems to spread under their armpits?
Chances are you are looking at the serratus anterior. This is often seen in boxing, as the movement of the scapula when punching provides a good workout for this muscle.
Moving down the ribs and spreading around the back, this is a muscle that again assists in raising the ribcage to assist respiration and can often be overlooked when bulking up the chest.
Because of their look when enlarged, these are sometimes referred to as the ‘wing muscles’.
Just underneath the clavicle (more commonly known as collarbone) runs a thin muscle called the subclavius.
This, along with your pectoralis muscles, forms the base of your ‘pecs’.
This muscle again provides strength and flexibility when moving the arms and shoulders.
So, now you know the muscles, what are the best exercises you can do to build them?
Let’s start at home.
How to Build Chest Muscles at Home: The Push-Up
They say you can’t beat a classic, and so we start with the push-up.
Push-ups are a great way to test your strength, hence why the military, fire and police service use them as strength tests regularly.
The standard push-up works your pec muscles as well as your serratus anterior and is a handy exercise that you can do anywhere, anytime.
What is important to remember with a push-up is that form is everything.
Do it wrong, and the workout will be much less effective.
So, what makes the perfect push-up?
Well, your body needs to be straight, with no bending at the hips. You should be on your toes and begin the push-up with your arms outstretched and your hands just outside the line of your shoulders.
To really work your pec major muscle, make sure your elbows are slightly pointed out, but staying beneath the shoulder line. A good rule of thumb for a strong pec workout is to aim to have your arms at a 45-degree angle from the body. One thing to be sure of is to not hold your arms too far out so that they are in line or above your shoulder as this could lead to injury in the long term.
Push-ups are a really accessible workout. Set yourself targets to do so many every couple of hours throughout the day and soon you will see your strength begin to rise.
And when you’ve got bored of the traditional push-up, why not try out some of these variations?
The Spiderman push-up is so named for the resemblance to the superhero as he climbs up a building or wall.
The appearance of crawling is achieved by raising your right knee as you bend your elbows in the traditional push-up position.
Alternate between your knees to make sure you work every chest muscle you can.
To get the perfect form, go as low as you can go, and try to turn your head and look at the knee you’re raising.
If you feel strong when performing a traditional push-up, why not make it a little tougher?
By raising your feet (you can use a chair, a box, or anything that is handy and safe) you are emphasising the pressure and weight on your chest muscles and giving them a tougher workout.
It’s important to maintain form, so make sure you keep your body straight and try to keep your arms at 45 degrees from your body. A good way to remember to keep the perfect form is to shape your body in a way that if someone is looking down on you from above, you would resemble an arrow.
Time to give yourself a round of applause.
When pushing yourself up from the lower stance of a push-up, try and raise your body from the ground for long enough that you can clap.
When you land, make sure your elbows aren’t static and that you can have a soft landing, before lowering down into a traditional push-up once again.
This is great for working your chest muscles as they are put under real strain, firstly when pushing the body off the ground, and secondly when maintaining your posture as you land.
So, there you have it, you can start building on your chest from home, right away.
But the truth is, there’s no better place for building chest muscles than the gym, and if you’re in the Northwood, Ruislip or Harrow area, why not take a look at Trojan Fitness?
We have all the equipment available for you to start growing your strength in your chest today, and you can start with these five super-effective exercises.
Growing Chest Muscles in the Gym: 5 Exercises
1. Bench Press
Let’s start with the iconic bench press.
This workout has been done for centuries and there’s a reason for that.
It works. In fact, every muscle mentioned above gets a serious workout when undergoing a bench press.
Lay back on a bench and load up the right weight for you. Get hold of the bar, which should be running just below your shoulder line, and push up, performing as many reps as you can before failure.
It is wise to always have a spotter to help take the weight in case you struggle to hang it back up on the bar.
Like the push-up, there are a bunch of variations you can use to change this exercise such as incline and decline bench pressing.
The possibilities are endless, as are the benefits.
This is a workout that focuses heavily on the chest muscles. If you can become a master of this, you are sure to see bigger muscles before too long.
2. Machine Chest Press
If you are working out alone, a safer option to the bench press is the machine chest press.
This is an exercise where you sit with a straight back and push weight outwards. This is often done on a machine in the gym, and by using two handles that are both just below shoulder height.
This is a great exercise as you can easily alter the weight until it is perfect for you.
The amount of tension this exercise puts on the muscles all depends on the amount of weight you select. Whereas most people assume there is less pressure due to it being a machine, this kind of workout can sometimes isolate muscles and actually increase the load on them
When performed at a low weight, this is a great exercise for beginners and can produce some big effects. If you are looking to build muscles from a beginner stage, it’s always a good idea to speak to a personal trainer who can create the perfect workout plan for you.
Alongside the pectoral muscles, a chest press is also a good workout for the front deltoids and triceps, making it a great all-round exercise.
3. Crossover Cable Fly
An exercise that is often overlooked but packs a real punch when it comes to building muscles in your chest is the cable crossover.
Standing in-between two pulleys, you will have a handle on either side of you. Grab both handles so that your arms are outstretched. Stagger your feet slightly and make sure to keep your back straight.
Now you must pull both handles across, until they reach the middle of your body. As with all great workouts, you should be able to feel the tension in the activated muscles.
Once your arms are crossed, you should slowly reverse back to the start position to start the next rep.
To get the most out of this exercise, make sure you keep your core engaged and your chest tensed as you are at the point of maximum strain.
This is the perfect exercise for building chest muscle if done correctly, it puts a lot of pressure on the pectoralis muscles.
Performing this type of exercise alongside the bench press will give a great workout to these muscles and is sure to provide some great results.
4. Chest Dips
The chest dip is another exercise you can do alone, and that also provides a good workout for your whole upper body.
This is done on two parallel bars. Firstly, you should grip each bar with one of your hands and raise your body. As your body is raised, make sure to lean forward. This will make the exercise focus primarily on your chest instead of your triceps.
As you are leaned forward, with feet tucked backwards so as not to touch the floor, lower your body down until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Once you reach this point, push your arms back up and repeat.
By leaning forward, you are ensuring you are using your upper chest muscles to propel your body up, and this action makes this a great workout for building strength in your chest.
5. Incline Chest Press with Barbell or Dumbbell
An incline exercise is a great inclusion to any chest workout. This is because these types of exercise focus on the upper pec fibres, which can be overlooked during a workout but need to be covered.
The incline chest press can be performed with a barbell or dumbbell and is similar to the bench press. The main difference is that you are not laid back on a bench but sat at a roughly 30-degree angle.
The angle of the bench must be right. If you are sat too high, you will focus more on the shoulders and less on the pec muscles.
When sitting back, bring your equipment in line with the top of your chest, and push upwards. Your weights should stay in line with each other, and you shouldn’t be rotating your wrists as you push.
Once the weights are up, lower them and repeat the exercise. For maximum effect, try not to rush the workout and take both the incline and decline slowly.
Building chest muscles isn’t easy, but by performing these exercises, you are sure to start seeing some results over a period of time.
Want to build your muscles today? Why not get in touch with the team at Trojan Fitness, or even better, pop down to our gym in Northwood. From losing weight to building chest muscle, our team of training professionals can help you with your body transformation.