It’s the weight-lifting badge of honor.
If you exercise to look good (no shame in it), you’re probably aware of how important it is to have a large chest. Of course, not everyone is in it just for the aesthetics. Having a nice looking chest is great, but having powerful chest muscles is important if you’re hoping to fully develop your entire body.
So, is it possible to get the best of both worlds? Having a large chest that has plenty of power? Well, if you’re hoping to build that physically/visually impressive chest, here are three things to keep in mind on your journey towards a bigger and better chest.
Breaking Down the Bench Press
The Flat Barbell Bench Press is generally what people visualize whenever they think about someone doing chest exercises. While the Flat Barbell Bench Press is an excellent chest exercise, it’s not the only way to develop a big chest. Honestly, it’s not even the best way.
Here’s why: a Flat Barbell Bench Press will certainly develop a solid amount of strength. While it does engage your triceps, deltoids, lats and a variety of other small stabilizer muscles, it still manages to develop your chest quite a bit (if you’re using proper form, of course).
That being said, the Flat Barbell Bench Press has a hard time targeting what is commonly referred to as the ‘upper pec’ area (the space between the center of your pec and your clavicle). Without targeting that upper pec area, you’re going to have a tough time getting that fully developed look (or fully develop your anterior deltoids).
Sidenote: when it comes to understanding the difference between barbell and dumbbell exercises, there’s just one rule you always need to keep in mind: if you have little or no experience with weight-lifting, use dumbbells. Frankly, they’re safer — you can’t get pinned under them — and they help you identify and fix any muscular imbalances that you might have.
If you’re a bit more experienced? Try using the dumbbells at least once every week, just to make sure you’re functionally symmetrical. That being said, an exercise like the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press is a great place to start off when it comes to chest training.
Understanding Supplementary Exercises
Speaking of managing muscular imbalances, understand that your pecs need to be attacked from several different angles if you’re hoping to maximize your development. Just doing the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press every week isn’t going to give you massive results. To get those results, you’re going to have to incorporate a variety of different exercises (based off your particular needs).
Generally, people have ‘lagging’ body parts. While their chest may be ready to attack that next heavy lift, one of the other muscles that’s engaged in the lift just hasn’t caught up yet. So, when it comes to chest exercises, it could be something as simple as triceps that need to be more developed. By taking extra time to exercise those muscles, you’re able to properly execute that heavy lift with proper form (and avoid an injury in the process).
Beyond that, let’s say you’re looking to develop your upper pec area a bit more. Using cables to target that area is a great way to switch things up and supplement your growth in the process.
The Dumbbell Fly is an awesome exercise for the novice and veteran alike. First off, it helps you identify any muscular imbalances you have. As if that wasn’t enough, it essentially demands that you engage your chest muscles in a unique and challenging way.
Respecting the Functional Movement
Now, if you’re just interested in the aesthetic development of your chest, you’re probably a bit confused by all this ‘building a stronger chest’ nonsense. Why would I spend so much time talking about how to build strength if I know you’re only here for the looks?
Well, here’s the thing about the chest: if you want size, you’re going to have to develop strength. Of course, you can prioritize size as you exercise more and more. But, there really is no way to build the kind of size you want without taking the time to build strength as well.
Of course, I’m pretty sure I know what you want. If you’re like most guys, you want a chest that looks natural while still being impressive. Sound good? Great. If you’re looking for that natural look, nothing is going to help you as much a functional movements.
I know, I know. Functional movements are designed almost exclusively to prioritize strength in day-to-day activities and completely ignore aesthetic pursuits. But, think about it for a second. Functional movements incorporate multiple muscles in a natural process, right? So, if you want your body to develop that effortless, natural look, you’re going to need to take some time to focus on two major exercises: Dips (which target your triceps and pecs) and Pushups (which target your chest, triceps, deltoids and a ton of other stabilizer muscles).
So, to recap:
- Take the time to try different forms of the bench press, and alternate dumbbells and barbells in your workouts.
- Use supplementary exercises to develop lagging body parts.
- Use functional movements to get that natural look you’re after.
If you do all that, you’ll be well on your way to getting the chest you’ve always wanted.