You mostly use your chest muscles (pectorals) when you push objects away from you. So the most obvious exercise to build up your chest is the bench press. In this you use your pectorals, serratus, front shoulders and triceps to press a heavy bar directly above your chest from a lying position.
The bench press has long been considered the main test of upper-body strength for men, which is why every gym has a queue for the bench press rack and why a certain type of gym-goer always opens every conversation with the question: “What do you bench?”
You should make the bench press the cornerstone of your chest workout, but don’t focus on this one exercise at the expense of all others. Like any muscles, the pecs need to be worked from a variety of angles to get the maximum growth stimulation and simply changing the angle of the bench, or opting for dumbbells instead of a barbell, can make a world of difference to the development of your chest.
The pectoralis major is a large block of muscle that attaches to your ribs beneath the collarbone. Although it is one single muscle, you can target the upper, middle or lower portions of your chest muscle depending on the angle from which you attack it. An incline bench press will focus most of the effort on the upper portion of your pecs, for example, although it will still work the entire pectoral muscle.
Below you’ll find six of the best chest exercises that will work your chest from all angles.
Why Dumbbells take more effort to stabilise than a bar, making the move tougher.
How With your head and shoulders supported by bench, your knees bent 90˚ and your feet flat on the floor, hold the dumbbells at chest level. Brace your core muscles, then press the weights straight up with palms facing forward. Lower slowly. Don't arch your back.
Why Place the focus on the upper part of your chest by tilting the bench upwards.
How Set the bench at 30-45˚ and sit with your feet flat on the floor. Grip the bar with hands wider than shoulder-width apart, brace your core muscles and remove the bar from the rack. Hold the bar directly above your chest, elbows to the sides. Lower the bar slowly to your chest and press up powerfully. Don't arch your back.
Why By angling the bench downwards you target the lower portion of your chest.
How Set the bench at 30-45° and lie with your head and shoulders supported by the bench and your feet secured beneath pads. Grip the bar with hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Bracing your core muscles, lift the bar from the rack and hold it directly above your chest. Lower the bar slowly to your chest and press back up powerfully. Elbows to the sides. Don't arch your back as you press up.
Why You use only your chest muscles to lift the weights, not your arms, so your pecs get a thorough workout.
How Lie with your head and shoulders supported by bench and your feet flat on the floor. Hold the dumbbells directly above your chest, palms facing each other, then lower the weights in an arc out to the sides as far as is comfortable. Use your pectoral muscles to reverse the movement back to the start. Keep a slight bend in your elbows and don't arch your back.
Why This move develops your unilateral chest strength.
How Hold your body in a straight line from head to heels, with both hands and feet shoulder-width apart and elbows close to your body. Don't let your hips sag. Grip the dumbbells with straight wrists, then press up powerfully. Twist your body and raise a dumbbell overhead with your arm straight. Roll onto the sides of your feet but keep your body straight. Go straight into the next press-up, lifting the opposite arm on the next rep.
Why A single-joint move that hits your lower chest, lats and triceps.
How Lie with your head and shoulders supported on a bench and your feet flat on the floor. Grasp a dumbbell in both hands over your chest. With your core muscles engaged, lower the weight slowly behind your head. Use your pecs to draw your arms back over your head. Keep a slight bend in your elbows and don't arch your back.
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