Building up a Common Weak Point – The Chest

So many people write in asking for exercises that can improve their chest muscles.  The chest is a rather large muscle group on our body that is prone to various areas of weakness.  Some may have a well-defined chest, but weak in the upper portion.  Others may be weak throughout and lack size.  Still others may have no definition or strength in the inner part.

A strong chest shouldn’t be the goal exclusively reserved for men or even bodybuilders.  Women can benefit from building up their chest muscles for several reasons.  First off, it provides a solid base for the rest of your upper body.  Want that lean, pilates look?  Start with a solid chest which will give you a good foundation to build off of.  Considering the chest is such a large muscle group, adding muscle to the chest will undoubtedly help raise your metabolism more significantly than adding muscle to your biceps, for instance.  This of course, will help you burn fat at rest.

The most common exercise in all of weight lifting is probably the bench press.  Sure, this is a great move for adding strength and size to your chest, but it cannot be the only move you use.  To train the chest properly, you need to hit it from various angles.  This will help you avoid weak points, i.e. upper chest, inner chest, outer chest, etc.

In addition, keeping proper form throughout the movement is key.  Doing just 5 reps with perfect form is immensely better than doing 15 half-assed reps.  You want to feel the muscle working while you are lifting.  Take a slow, deliberate pace up, and an equally controlled pace down.  Tighten the muscle at the top of the movement and keep tension on the way down.  Your goal is to exhaust the muscle.  If something feels too easy, it’s either time to bump up the weight or check your form.

To build a strong and lean chest, try doing the following exercises.  One thing to remember though, is overtraining is a sure-fire way to diminish any gains you are making.  If you are sore, don’t work that muscle.  Allow yourself time to rest and recuperate.

  • Bench Press – Perform 4-5 sets of 6-8 with heavier weight than normal.  You are doing less reps per set, so you should be able to handle the added weight.  This will help make more progress than doing 3 sets of 15 with those dinky pink dumbbells you’ve been using.
  • Incline Dumbbell Fly – On an incline bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand.  With a very slight bend in the arms lift the weights from about shoulder height until they are directly over your chest, hands together.  During this move especially, focus on the tightening of the chest muscles.  Squeeze them intensely throughout the lift.  Hold for a second at the top of the lift, and then slowly lower them back to your sides.  Aim for 4-5 sets of 6-8
  • Incline Bench Press – Similar to the flat bench press, just on an incline.  You will have to use slightly less weight as the angle makes it more difficult.  Slow up, slow down.  Keep a steady pace and try to hit the same sets and reps as the above exercises.
  • Bench Negatives – You’ll need a partner or a chest press machine for this one.  Stack on more weight than you could ever handle.  Have your partner or use the leg assistance on the chest machine help you get the weight up.  Once it’s up, you want to slooowly lower the weight.  Count to 8 seconds in your head on the way down.  Don’t cheat.  By doing a negative lift you are really going to be hitting your muscles in a way they haven’t seen before.  You will surely be feeling this tomorrow.  Go for 10 reps of 8 second negatives.  Repeat 3 times.

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