Many individuals – Weightlifters and Bodybuilders most especially – consider the chest or pectorals among the most important muscles to develop for all round strength and obvious aesthetics. This is why fitness enthusiasts are always searching for the best Pec exercises to strengthen their chest. But, before we go about presenting the best exercises for your pectorals, let us first take a look at how your chest muscles work so that you will know better how to target them for growth.
Anatomy and Functions of the Pectorals
Your chest muscles are composed of the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is located on the front part of your rib cage and originates from the breastbone in the centre. The fibres of this muscle group fan out across your chest, a structure that allows your humerus to move in a variety of planes across your body. The pectoralis minor can be found underneath the pectoralis major and originates from your middle ribs.
The primary function of your pectoralis major is to move the humerus across your chest, as demonstrated in the flye movement. The pectoralis minor, on the other hand, is used to move the shoulders forward as when you shrug your shoulders forward. Now that you know more about the anatomy and functions of your chest muscles, you are ready to learn about the five best Pec Exercises you can take advantage of.
1. Barbell Bench Press
This is considered as the king of all Pec Exercises and has been the standard for strength building for many years. In fact, even if we limit this list to the top three chest exercises, the barbell bench press would still be in it. Set up for the exercise by lying down on a bench with a 45-lb barbell. Make sure that the soles of your feet are comfortably flat on the floor. Be sure as well that when you remove the barbell from the rack, it will be positioned directly above your chest so that you don’t have to pull it over.
If you are doing a medium-grip bench press, then you’ll have to make sure that your elbows are neither flared out nor tucked in. Instead, they should be positioned about 45 degrees from your body. Once the barbell is unracked, lower it slowly until it touches your nipples. Be very careful not to bounce the weight on your chest. When you raise the weight back up, do it slowly and then hold the position for a few seconds when your elbows are completely straight before lowering it down to your chest again.
There are several variations of the bench press that you can try, among them the wide-grip, narrow-grip, and incline bench presses. You may also want to do board, floor, or pin presses. Among these variations, the incline bench press is considered very effective in targeting the upper pectorals (pectoralis major). While performing bench presses, remember to keep your butt, upper back, and head in contact with the bench at all times.
2. Dumbbell Bench Press
This is considered as one of the core pec exercises and is a very good way of ensuring that you do not have any strength imbalance between the opposing sides of your body. The dumbbell bench press is also advisable because it promotes the natural functions of your pectoral muscles by focusing on moving the weights towards the centre of your body.
The necessary first step is to find a bench that allows you to sit and lie comfortably with both feet touching the floor. Once you’ve found the ideal bench, grab a dumbbell in each hand and then stand about six inches in front of the bench. Slowly move into a sitting position on the bench while letting the flat side of each dumbbell rest on your thighs. Now, lie back slowly and make sure that your butt, upper back, and head touch the bench all throughout the exercise.
Position the dumbbells at shoulder height, just slightly touching your shoulders and then push up until your elbows are straight. Lower the weights slowly back to shoulder height to complete a rep. You can choose to do a flat, incline, or decline dumbbell bench press.
No matter how many bench presses you perform, you really can’t do away with the ever-reliable push-ups. This is one of the most effective pec exercises for developing explosive chest, shoulders, and triceps power. To set up for this exercise, you should decide whether to do the push-ups on your knuckles or your palms. Lie on the floor with your body in a straight line, with only your hands and toes actually touching the floor. Female beginners may start by doing push-ups on their knees and then move up to doing push-ups on their toes as their strength increases.
Position your hands about 2-3 inches outside shoulder width. Position a large hardcover book or weight plates on either side of your hands. Make sure that the books or plates are at least an inch thick. You may increase the height of these objects as you get better at this exercise.
Lower your body as near to the ground as possible without actually touching your chin, chest, abdomen, or legs to the floor. Push yourself up off the floor with a force that is intended to propel your body up into the air. The movement should end with your arms straight and hands on top of the books or weight plates. You may then “walk” your hands back to the starting position before lowering yourself for another rep, or immediately drop into the beginning of another rep.
4. Chest Dips
This exercise is similar to a decline bench press, except for the fact that decline presses work more for strengthening the triceps than the pectorals. It is best to skip this exercise if you have a bad shoulder or at least just limit yourself to shallow dipping. Set up for chest dips by grabbing a weighted belt and dumbbells and then finding a dip station.
Start the dips with you arms almost fully extended. Lean slightly forward so that tension is built more on the pectorals rather than your triceps. Dip down slowly until your arms are parallel to the floor. Pause for about half a second at the bottom of the movement and be careful not to bounce. Squeeze your pecs and push yourself back to starting position. Be careful not to lock your elbows at any time during the exercise.
5. Dumbbell Flyes
This may not be as important as the other pec exercises on this list, but it is the perfect complement to the four exercises discussed above. Some people even claim that this is the key to muscle growth and flexibility. To set up, you need to assume a position identical to that of a flat bench press, with one dumbbell in each hand.
Start the exercise by holding the weights straight overhead. Lower the weights slowly to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor. Pause for about half a second and then bring the dumbbells immediately back up without bending your elbows. Make sure that the entire flye motion is controlled by your chest muscles rather than your triceps.
Instead of performing dumbbell flyes at the end of each chest workout, it is best to do this a day or two after your workouts. It serves as an excellent recovery exercise because it allows you to stimulate your sore muscles with free weights that are considerably lighter than what you used in your workouts. This exercise is also a good way of increasing blood flow to all areas of your chest.