Chest muscles are among the largest in your upper body, and that is why it is better to perform more sets of exercises with these muscles than with the smaller muscle groups. Do 7 to 12 sets of chest exercises per workout, although true beginners should start with one set. By the way, 12 sets doesn't mean a dozen sets of the same exercise; you may want to do 3 or 4 different exercises. Also, remember to begin each exercise with an easy warm-up set.
There are 3 parts to an overall good chest workout. One exercise needs to be a size builder; a compound movement where you use as much weight as you can and still do 6-10 controlled reps. The most effective exercise for this is either flat bench presses or dumbbells. I don't think you can go wrong either way as long as your watching you're form.
Second, every chest routine needs an exercise for the upper chest. Incline flies, incline dumbbell press or incline barbell press all work well.
Finally, to carve out the valley between your pecs, no chest routine should would be complete without some sort of cross-over movement. Experienced bodybuilders who already have a good base of mass can go into cable movements. For the rest of us who are still building a base of muscle, dumbbell flies work best here.
The general rule for the number of repetitions is 8 to 15. However, if you want to find out what your max bench press is (one of the oldest bodybuilding traditions), you need to press the maximum amount of weight in one rep. If you're going for your one-rep max, do a few warm-up sets and gradually increasing the weight.
For dumbbell press, start seated on a bench with the weights resting up and down on your quads. Lay back and swing the weights back to the point where the corners of each dumbbell are just touching your outer pecs. Push the weight up, bringing them slightly closer together at the top of the movement. Lower the weight back down slowly; two seconds on the way down for every second on the way up. Repeat.
For barbell press, Lie on your back on a flat bench, feet flat on the floor either side. Grip barbell with hands a little more than shoulder width apart. Hold barbell above your upper chest, arms straight. Bending elbows, slowly lower barbell towards your chest without touching it. Push barbell straight up over your chest; straighten arms and lock elbows. Slowly lower barbell and repeat. Use a spotter to hold the barbell for you at the start and end of this exercise.
You may want to try alternating between the barbell and dumbbells to get the best of both worlds. If you have symmetry problems then use the barbell. The bar will keep your hands the same distance apart and force your arms to go through exactly the same motion. By keeping the bar straight, you will distribute the load more evenly and allow the weaker side to catch up.
Incline Bench Press
For dumbbells, lie squarely on an incline bench set at about 40 degrees, dumbbells should be no wider than shoulder width, grasp the dumbbells with an overhand grip. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Now for the motion, press slowly upwards toward the ceiling, just until your arms lock out, Pause, and then lower the dumbbells until they reach chest height. Repeat movement. For barbell press, lie back on an incline bench set at about 40 degrees, with your back and head on the incline, feet flat on the floor. Grip barbell with hands a little more than shoulder width apart. Hold barbell above your upper chest, arms straight. Bending elbows, slowly lower barbell towards your upper chest just enough to make light contact. Push barbell straight up over your chest; straighten arms and lock elbows. Slowly lower barbell and repeat. Use a spotter to hold the barbell for you at the start and end of this exercise. arms and lock elbows.
Slowly lower barbell and repeat. Use a spotter to hold the barbell for you at the start and end of this exercise.
This is the exercise to do for upper pec mass.
Lie back on a decline bench. Grip barbell with hands a little more than shoulder width apart. Hold barbell above your lower chest, arms straight. Bending elbows, slowly lower barbell towards your lower chest, about level with the lower limit of your pectorals. Push barbell straight up, slowly lower and repeat, keeping your head and back flat on the bench. Use a spotter to hold the barbell for you at the start and end of this exercise.
Decline bench press works mostly your lower pecs. This exercise is not necessary for a complete chest routine. Most bodybuilders have a much harder time developing the upper pecs compared to the lower pecs. This exercise is good to throw you're your workout as a substitute for incline or flat presses just to add some variety. Variety is good up to a point because it prevents your muscles from getting use to the same routine.
Lie back on a bench grasping two dumbbells, arms straight above your shoulders, palms facing inwards. Keeping straight arms but elbows unlocked, slowly lower dumbbells in an arc out and down to either side, stretching your chest muscles. Slowly lift dumbbells in the same arc, lower back to starting position and repeat, keeping your head and back flat on the bench. Release weights by sitting up and positioning on top of knees before putting them down. This ensures no injury will take place.
Dumbbell flies will mostly work your outer pecs. I always include a crossing movement in my chest routine, I feel as though it provides the largest pump for my chest.
Really, the only thing to remember about dips is that you need to go all the way down to see the full benefit of the exercise. If you're getting sets of 10 and 15 without straining Too hard then you probably need to add some more resistance. Do this by either attaching a plate to your belt with a cord of some sort or by simply cradling a dumbbell between your legs.
To increase the role the pecs play in this movement, point your elbows outward. Keeping them tucked in and pointed back forces your triceps to bear the brunt of the load; not necessarily bad, but you need to decide whether you're doing it for your chest or your triceps.
This excercise works particularly outer pecs, strong emphasis on triceps. Don't become so fixated on reps that you try and whip them out super-fast by dropping down quickly and bouncing back up to the top. Keep the motion slow, especially on the negative portion of the rep.
Now standing in the center of a cable rack. Make sure both attachments are connected to the upper cable pulleys. Always keep one leg in front of the other. Now keep your arms slightly bent, this helps contracts the chest muscles, when you bring the cables to the middle of your chest. Never cross your hands as this decreases emphasis on the chest. Once you have done this slowly take them back to the starting position, and repeat.
Bend your elbows slightly and lean forward at about a 60 degree angle. Pull your hands across your body so that they meet in front of you. For an even greater squeeze, cross one hand under the other and alternate which hand goes on top each rep.
This excercise works particularly inner pecs. There are so many variations on this movement. It would be impossible for me to describe all of them. If you have already built massive pectorals and you're concentrating on developing the striations, then by all means experiment with this movement.
Bent Arm Dumbbell Pullovers
Lie on your back on a flat bench, feet flat on the floor either side, and your head at the end. Grasp a dumbbell with both hands. With elbows slightly bent and kept in, lift the dumbbell up over your head in a semi-circle and slowly lower towards floor as far as comfortable. Keeping your head down, back flat and elbows in, lift dumbbell back over your head in the same semi-circular path.
Bent arm dumbbell pullovers is a great exercise to mix things up.
Mistakes to Avoid When Pumping Your Pecs
Always remember that safety is more important than lifting heavy weights. In addition to lifting the proper amount of weight, take the following precautions when working your chest:
Don't lock your elbows. In other words, don't straighten your arms to the point that your elbows snap. This puts too much pressure on the elbows and can lead to tendonitis or inflammation of the elbow joint itself. When you straighten your arms, keep your elbows slightly relaxed.
Don't arch your back. In an effort to hoist more poundage, some people arch their backs so severely that there's enough room between their back and the bench for a Range Rover to drive through. Sooner or later, this position causes a back injury. Plus, you're doing nothing to strengthen your chest muscles. Instead, you're overstraining your lower back.
Don't stretch too far. When you lie on your back and perform the Bench Press, you may be tempted to lower the bar all the way to your chest. Similarly, when you perform a Push-up, you may want to lower your body all the way to the floor. Don't. Instead, follow the instructions we provide for these and similar chest exercises.