If you’ve read any of my articles on arm training you know I’m all about building big, muscular arms that ooze power and look great! But to look and feel your very best you’ve got to balance those GUNS with a thick, muscular chest.
Many beginning bodybuilders mistakenly believe that barbell bench press is all they need to build a massive chest. And some guys love to impress themselves by bragging about how much they can “bench.” Hopefully you’re not in this crowd because you simply can’t build truly awesome pecs with barbell bench press alone. The standard bench press is a compound exercise that involves coordinated work from the chest, triceps and shoulders. While this exercise is great for building overall upper body strength, it’s not enough for getting maximum growth, shape and muscularity in the entire pectoral region.
If you really want a big, muscular chest with well defined pecs that look like tectonic plates, you should try the 5 chest building exercises I’ve listed below. I’ve chosen these exercises because they’re simple and effective for beginners who need a solid foundation in chest-building fundamentals to achieve long-term bodybuilding success. The equipment needed for each exercise is generally available at any gym or health club. Each of my Top 5 chest-building exercises will help you simultaneously build mass, shape and power in your chest. The entire pectoral area is directly targeted during each exercise to maximize growth and efficiency from your workouts.
Now, here’s my list of the Top 5 starter exercises for building the big, muscular chest that you desire! They’re not listed in any particular order, so there’s no reason to think that one particular exercise is better than another. You must decide what works best for you by experimenting with each exercise. But rest assured that any chest-building program that includes all of these exercises will definitely add inches, symmetry and power to your pecs.
1. Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Bench Press is one of my favorite exercises for building mass, shape and power in my pecs. Try it and you’ll soon feel this way too! Unlike barbell bench press which often causes shoulder pain and risks rotator cuff injury, this exercise allows you to comfortably stretch your pecs through a greater range of motion to stimulate more muscle fibers for enhanced growth and shape.
And if you really want to build strength in your chest, balancing and controlling each dumbbell during high intensity sets requires considerably more power than it does to complete the same motion with a barbell. If you don’t believe me, consider the following. If your one-rep maximum in the barbell bench press is 250 pounds, you might logically assume that you could work with two 125 dumbbells for your Dumbbell Bench Press. But if you actually tried to do this you’d be in for a big surprise! Bench press with dumbbells is harder and requires more strength than the barbell variety. I recommend it for beginners because the difficulty lies not in the technical aspects of the lift, but in the strength required to complete it. And the sooner you start developing the strength in your chest necessary to effectively complete this exercise, the better.
2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
The size, shape and strength building benefits of Incline Dumbbell Bench Press are basically the same as discussed in Exercise #1 above. The basic difference is that these benefits are concentrated in the upper portion of your pecs. If you’ve never done this exercise before or if you’ve only done it with a barbell, remember that Incline Dumbbell Bench Press requires and builds more strength than doing the same movement with a barbell. That means you’ll need to experiment initially with different poundage to find the amount of weight that you can lift with proper training technique. Remember, don’t try to impress or keep up with anyone else in the gym – especially when you’re first starting out. And don’t worry about those guys doing nothing but incline barbell bench press. They’ll be shocked when they see your chest after disciplined and consistent training with this exercise.
3. Parallel Bar Dips
Parallel Bar Dips are great for shaping and building mass in the entire pectoral region. Grasp the handles of a parallel dip apparatus and hold your body suspended between them. For primary training emphasis on your chest, lean forward as you perform this exercise (holding your torso erect puts primary resistance on your triceps). Inhale as you lower yourself as far down as you can comfortably descend and then exhale as you push yourself back up to the starting position. This exercise is a great bodyweight chest buailder as long as you watch your technique and lean forward throughout the movement.
For an overload effect or to pyramid your work sets, use a harness to hang a barbell plate or dumbbell from your waist for added resistance. Most commercial gyms and some health clubs have these harnesses, so if you need one, ask for it.
4. Flat Bench Dumbbell Flys
Flat Bench Dumbbell Flys are designed to build well defined, massive pecs by isolating resistance on the chest as much as possible with strict training technique. Such technique requires the controlled movement of the dumbbells over your chest with your back and shoulders planted firmly on a flat or incline workout bench. This means you shouldn’t try to do this exercise with excessively heavy weight (I suggest poundage that allows you to do 10-12 reps). Make sure that you don’t jerk the dumbbells together with bodyweight or shoulder assistance. This type of cheating on training technique deprives the chest of the work it needs to grow and simply wastes time. If done properly, this exercise will thicken and shape the “pec-delt tie-ins” where your chest and shoulders meet to give your pecs a full and wide frontal appearance.
5. Weighted Pushups
Standard pushups are a compound exercise that involves the triceps, chest and shoulders in the “pushing” motion. If you can do 3 sets of 15-20 pushups with little or no difficulty, you should try Weighted Pushups to increase resistance on your chest. For proper performance, take a standard pushup position with your hands and arms extended and shoulder-width apart. Have a training buddy gently place a 5-10 pound barbell plate on your back to force your chest to work harder than it would with a standard pushup (you can increase the amount of weight as needed).
Make sure you keep your back straight and your head up to balance the weight and put maximum resistance on your chest. Slowly lower your chest to nearly touch the floor and then push yourself back up to the starting position. Try this and you’ll be amazed at the results you can get from such a simple exercise!