By John Litteral 12-13-22
If your goal is to build a large and fully developed chest, then there are a few principles to follow.
- Use compound and isolation movements
- Train your chest muscles from all angles
- Train chest before shoulders and triceps
COMPOUND AND ISOLATION MOVEMENTS
Typically, powerlifters and those training under a strength training program will not include isolation movements because isolation movements do not make you stronger. But isolation movements are very important for developing a FULLY DEVELOPED CHEST. But let’s not put the cart before the horses. In order to build size and strength, compound movements are undeniably the most important part of the training. For my chest workout I do three compound movements.
- Flat bench press
- Incline bench press
- Low dips
BARBELL FLAT BENCH PRESS
The flat bench press is one of the most important exercises overall for building a big chest. It is a power movement because it not only works the chest, but it also works the shoulders and the triceps. GOOD FORM IS VERY IMPORTANT. It is vital to take the bar all the way down until it touches your chest. The first 6 inches of the movement from your chest and up is where your chest muscles get their most stimulation. Beyond that point up prior to about 6 inches from full extension is where your shoulders get the most stimulation during the movement. And about the last 6 inches to full extension is when your triceps get the most stimulation. So, when people do not take the bar all the way down to their chest, they are missing the whole point of the flat bench press exercise. Dumbbells are useful for the flat bench press because they allow you to take the weight down for an even deeper stretch of the chest muscles, which will help in development. It is good to alternate barbells and dumbbells occasionally to shock the muscles. The middle of the pec muscles gets the most stimulation from the flat bench press. With this exercise I recommend doing 5-12 reps per set.
INCLINE BENCH PRESS
The incline bench press is another power movement, but you typically cannot lift as much weight on the incline press as you can with the flat bench press because the angle of the lift puts more emphasis on the shoulders and the upper chest. The incline bench press is very important for developing the upper chest, which improves the appearance of the pecs and makes them look more full and larger. Many bodybuilders start their chest workouts with the incline bench press because they usually already have larger lower pecs due to years of doing the flat bench press first, therefore, they want to build up the upper chest to create better symmetry for their pecs. I occasionally start off with the incline bench press myself. I know from personal experience that it does help to improve the appearance of the upper chest. Incline dumbbell presses work very well too in developing the upper chest because you have a larger range of motion with dumbbells and get a better stretch at the bottom of the lift. With this exercise I recommend doing 5-12 reps per set.
There are two different types of dips that I do, that is, low dips and high dips. Low dips are for chest, and high dips are for triceps. I discussed the high dip exercise in my recent article one HOW TO GET BIG ARMS. Low dips are performed by going all the way down as far as possible without hurting your shoulders, and pushing yourself up short of full extension. Going down as far as possible stretches the chest muscles very well, and it stimulates the lower and side pecs very effectively. Sometimes people like to do the decline bench press to train their lower pecs, but I get better results from low dips. The reason why I do not go to full extension is because by doing that you are no longer stimulating the chest muscles but only the triceps, and that is simply unnecessary unless you are training the triceps. Once that you get good at this exercise and can do more than 10 reps with your own body weight, then you are ready to start adding extra resistance with either a weighted belt or stretch bands. With this exercise I recommend doing 6-12 reps per set.
There are numerous ways to perform flye movement exercises. This is an isolation movement exercise because you are only moving one joint throughout the movement. Flyes should be done with relatively light weight with a rep range of 10-15 reps per set. I recommend picking one flye movement to do at the end of your chest workout, and there are many to choose from. Most flye movement exercises stimulate the side of the pecs, depending on what angle that you perform them at. For example, you can do flyes with dumbbells on a flat bench, incline bench, decline bench, etc. There are flye exercise machines that are really good options. You can do flye exercises with cables such as cable crossovers. It really is not necessary to do more than one flye exercise per training session.
One thing that I like to do when performing flyes is do the last rep or two extremely slow, and holding it at some point within the negative of the rep. This stimulates the pecs like nothing else!
TRAIN YOUR CHEST MUSCLES FROM ALL ANGLES
By doing all those exercises that I listed above, this ensures that you are stimulating the pecs from all angles. This is very important for forming a FULL MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT. The flat bench press alone can help you build lots of strength and size, as powerlifters are living proof of that. But training all parts of the chest will maximize the size of your chest instead of emphasizing just one section of the chest, which bodybuilders are living proof of that.
TRAIN CHEST BEFORE SHOULDERS AND TRICEPS
The maximize your performance of your chest workout, make sure that you do not train your shoulders or triceps immediately prior to training your chest. The reason is because your shoulders and triceps play a large role in your lifts such as the pressing movements of the flat bench press and incline bench press. If you train the shoulders and triceps prior, it will pre-exhaust them and your chest presses will be done at sub-par performance.