When you think of the gym, the first thing that you most probably think of is the bench press. It’s the one exercise that everyone loves. You’ll find some people that don’t like to squat or deadlift but it’s really, really hard to find someone who doesn’t like the bench press. It’s a great way to test your strength, build a big chest and you get something to brag about to your bros.
The bench press may be the most popular exercise, but it’s not the only exercise that can build a great impressive chest. In fact, even the normal bench press has a few variations that you can use to improve your overall chest growth.
How do you grow those pecs?
First off, just like any other body part, it is always important to have a proper warm up. Pectoral tears, shoulder and rotator cuff injuries are all too common when working out your chest and they are easily avoided with a proper warm up. Start with a set of 12 reps using just 25% of the weight that you will be working with. In the next set take it up to 50 percent and then 75 percent in the third. Then you can begin your working sets.
Work it twice a week
This advice isn’t so much for the beginners but for those who feel that their chest growth has slowed down or come to a halt completely. If so, training your chest twice a week might just give your gains a quick start. Keep one day for heavy low rep training and another for moderate weights with higher reps (10-12 reps). Just make sure to keep your chest workouts at least 2-3 days apart to allow for proper recovery.
Strengthen your shoulders and triceps
The bench press, as well as some other chest exercises, don’t just rely on the pectoral muscles to lift the weight, the shoulders and triceps also do a considerable amount of work in these movements. To ensure that you are able to maximize your chest growth and strength, strengthen your shoulders and triceps. There are articles on this website to help you with those.
The bench press- is probably the best way to build strength in your chest. Whether it’s the best for muscle growth is debatable but for strength, nothing beats it. Set up your weights on the barbell then lie down on the bench, plant your feet firmly on the ground and arch your back slightly. This helps to take some pressure off your shoulders. Grab the barbell with your hands just slightly wider than shoulder width, lower the weight to your chest, just below the nipples and push it up in an explosive but controlled manner. Lower it again for a count of 2-3 seconds. Do 6 sets of 6-8 reps using a moderate-heavy weight. Never bench for your ego, remember the bench press uses other muscles as well and even though your chest might be able to handle the weight, your shoulders or triceps might not.
Incline bench press- The incline bench press is performed the same way as the regular bench press but the only difference here is that the bench is raised up slightly. This puts more tension on the upper chest which helps greatly in getting rid of a droopy chest and building up those upper pecs which create a more defined well rounded look. Aim for a slight incline as a higher incline will involve more of the shoulders than the pecs and do 4-6 sets of 8-12 reps using moderate weight.
Dumbbell Flies- This exercise can be tricky at first because its sometimes can be confusing to get the form right but it’s actually very simple. Lie down on the bench and hold the dumbbells over your chest with your palms facing each other really squeezing your pecs. Slowly lower the weight on your sides and feel the stretch in your chest. Make sure to not lock your elbows and keep a slight bend to take off any extra stress. Start off with very light weights until you get the hand of it and then you can move up. This is more of an isolation exercise than a compound lift, so do 4-6 sets of 8-12 reps.
Dumbbell bench press- The dumbbell bench press is performed in the same way as the bench press with the only difference being the dumbbells. So why should you perform both? To balance things out. Most of us have a dominant side and when you’re benching with a barbell, your stronger side can compensate for the weaker one and this will just further the imbalance. By using dumbbells, each side is responsible for lifting the same amount of weight and this helps to fix the imbalance and any other hidden weaknesses.
You’ll notice that I didn’t add pushups to the list. This is because I feel that they cause too much stress on the wrists, especially if you are overweight. They can, of course, be done safely here and there but I wouldn’t do them on a regular basis until you have a stronger chest and are at a lower body fat level.