Training every body part is essential. However, much importance should be given to the selection of exercises. The chest is a big muscle, hence enough exercises should be done to train it. However, it’s easy to overtrain resulting in lesser gains. After all, the end goal is always that well-developed physique with enough muscle to show. Everyone wants to look good in clothes. Nobody wants a lanky chest. So, understanding the mechanics behind chest training is an important part.
Let’s look at the anatomy of the chest and the exercises to train every part of the chest.
1. Anatomy of the Chest
A human chest (also known as the “pectoral region”) is divided into four major muscles. They are named Pectoralis major, Pectoralis Minor, Serratus Anterior, and Subclavius. Let’s discuss all of them in brief.
1.1 Pectoralis Major
Most of your chest is comprised of this muscle. It is a fan-shaped muscle. Its main function is to adduct and rotate the upper limb. Whenever you flex your chest, this is the muscle that you mostly see.
1.2 Pectoralis Minor
This muscle is just located beneath the pectoralis major. This muscle starts from your third rib. Its main function is to provide stability to your scapula.
1.3 Serratus Anterior
This muscle is located laterally in your chest. It has striations. The main function of this muscle is rotating the scapula. It also helps your arm to be raised about the perpendicular position.
It is a muscle that has a clavicle above it. Subclavius has a horizontal shape. This is a small muscle whose main function is to depress the clavicle. It is located at the site of the first rib.
2. The Fundamental Exercises to Build the Chest
Now that we have discussed anatomy, let’s take a little step further. Let’s discuss the exercises to build the chest muscles and develop a well-balanced physique. There are four fundamentals to train the chest. A compound moment to work the whole pectoral region. A dumbbell-pressing moment to isolate the chest. Also, a fly moment should be performed to train chest muscles in a lengthened position.
2.1 Compound Movement
A compound moment is an exercise that is performed with a barbell. However, a few things should be kept in mind.
- The best compound builder for the chest is the flat bench press. It helps to work on the whole pec muscle and adds mass to the chest.
- In every workout, the upper chest should be kept on the priority list. The incline bench press is a great builder of the upper chest.
- While performing any bench press, make sure to progressive overload. It is done to grow stronger over time.
There’s no alternative for strength and muscle gain of the chest except bench press. The reps should be controlled and slow to activate the chest more.
2.2 Dumbbell Press
The best exercise to isolate your chest muscles is a dumbbell press. A compound movement involves the whole upper body. However, isolating and training the chest is important too. It helps to give an aesthetic shape to your chest.
- Like the bench press, the upper chest should be given priority. The incline dumbbell press helps to isolate the upper chest the most.
- A flat dumbbell press helps to isolate all of the pec muscles. It works on the upper middle as well as the lower pec. It should be a part of every chest routine.
- While performing dumbbell presses, make sure to stretch at the bottom and squeeze at the top. Perform it until the muscle failure is achieved.
2.3 A Fly Movement
It’s important to train your muscles in every position. Chest is no different. A fly movement helps to stretch your chest muscles and isolate your serratus anterior muscle. Stretching your chest and then contracting helps to open up the chest muscles.
- A dumbbell fly on an incline or a flat bench is probably the best option. Elongate the muscle and stretch as far as possible.
- Butterfly on a pec-dec fly machine helps you to focus on the movement rather than worrying about maintaining balance.
- A cable fly is also one of the alternatives which give more stretch to your muscles. Rather than loading plates, movement should be given priority.
2.4 A Body Weight Movement
The most basic movements are always the best ones. The good old push-up is a great way to start from. A well-developed base for a massive chest can be built up by push-ups. Try adding pushups to your workout routine. They can be performed as a warm-up too. To make it more challenging, keep some weight on your back while performing it.
3. How Many Chest Exercises Should You Do per Workout?
There’s a lot of information and studies out there claiming to be right. However, very few answer the question.
3.1 The Magic Number
The most accepted studies suggest that 4 to 5 exercises per workout for muscle hypertrophy are best. This is the right number because as discussed earlier 3 basic movements are required to build the best chest. However, how you distribute these exercises is up to you.
3.2 A Typical Chest Day
Now, it completely is up to an individual whether they train once or twice a week. Here are a few examples of the exercises to perform on a chest day.
- A specific chest day: Start by warming up with stretches and pushups. First, do a bench movement (incline or flat). This should be followed by the same dumbbell press movement according to the compound movement you chose. After this perform the dumbbell press on an incline or flat, opposite to what you chose for the bench. Follow it by doing cable, dumbbell, or pec-dec fly movement. End the workout with a pullover or pushups.
- An integrated push day: The chest can be trained twice a week by following the “PPL split”. On a push day the chest, the shoulders, and the triceps can be trained together. On the first push day, a bench press followed by a dumbbell press can be done. And on the other push day, a dumbbell press followed by a fly movement can be done.
4. Consistency and Nutrition Matters
Even if you train optimally, the muscle always comes with staying consistent and eating properly.
- The most optimal workout plan can be overpowered by consistency. Eating enough protein throughout the day should be the top goal. Also, being too heavy too soon only leads to injuries. Try staying consistent over the years and progressively.
- Muscles are built by the resistance you provide them. If the resistance is increased over time, the muscle fibers would break and build up stronger and bigger every time. Try adding a little more resistance every time you train.
- Give enough rest to your body so that it has time to recover after rigorous training. Aim to work out 4 to 5 times a week only. Sleep 7-8 hours every day. Muscles are in your sleep.
The chest is not different from any other muscle. But it’s one of the biggest muscles after the back. It is the most crucial muscle in the human body in terms of appearance. A well-developed chest is a sign of high confidence in a person.