It's Monday morning, and your alarm just went off. It's that annoying iPhone alarm that isn't too abrasive, but isn't too pleasant either.
Your first thought is "Uhhh, Monday."
Your second thought, ".....Chest Day!"
What better way to kick off the week than by training your favorite muscle group, with your favorite exercises, at your favorite place? (the gym, in case that wasn't obvious)
Maybe you don't follow a body part split. That's OK, this info is still going to be useful. I'm here to make sure you're training your chest effectively.
Let's fast forward to workout time. You wander into the gym, and where do you go?
Let me take a wild shot in the dark.
Is it the bench press? Of course it's the bench press.
The bench press is most people's first movement of choice when it comes to training their chest. There are a few reasons for this:
1) Of all the pressing exercise choices, this one allows you to move the most weight.
2) Just as chest day landing on Monday is something of a tradition, the bench press being the first movement is an almost-equally important part of that tradition.
3) The bench press, somehow, has become the ultimate measure of manhood. Next to a big bank account, a big truck, a big bench press is next in line as the manhood measuring stick.
Now, I'm not going to outright tell you to stop. The bench press has plenty of merit as an upper body strength and muscle builder. It also will hit your chest. Just not as effectively as some other movements.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is this. Do you want to build a bigger chest, or do you want to build a bigger bench?
Both are perfectly respectable, noble, and awesome goals. But which one is for you?
For the sake of staying on track, I'm going to assume building a muscular chest is the priority. And with that as a priority, I'm going to suggest you change things up in the name of progress.
The first thing we will change is your first exercise selection.
The bench press does have its place, but for the goal of a muscular chest, it's not ideal.
The bench press relies heavily on the shoulders and triceps to move that weight. The chest is engaged, but not adequately through the whole range of motion.
If you're arching your back, and bringing the bar low on your chest (which you really should be) then you're really not hitting your chest very effectively.
What you're doing is hitting your triceps and shoulders really hard, and your chest is awake and doing stuff, but it's yawning.
Here are a list of exercises that I recommend you use to make up your chest focused training.
Incline Barbell Press
The incline bench press looks a lot like the bench press, and it actually engages your shoulders quite a bit as well. The big advantage the incline press has over it's flat angled cousin is the range of motion it offers at the bottom of the movement.
It's that range of motion at the bottom of he movement that stretches the muscle fibers out in the chest, which engages the muscle and prepares them for war. No more yawning. That exaggerated range of motion will also force the chest to do a lot ore work than it does during a flat bench, even with less weight.
Flat or Incline Dumbbell Press
Pick your poison. Both are amazing chest builders.
The big advantage the dumbbells have over the barbell is two-fold.
First, the range of motion thing again. The dumbbells allow you to get a deep stretch, which again mans a great engagement of the muscle, at the bottom of the movement. Without a bar across your body to limit the range, your own mobility is the only limiting factor.
The second advantage is the path of movement your hands will follow when they are free to move naturally. When your hands aren't stuck on a barbell, they will follow a slightly different path. It's not a huge difference when you're on the outside looking in, but when you're doing the movement, you'll feel what I'm talking about.
At the bottom of the press, your hands will move away from each other as they come down. As you press the dumbbells back up, they will move towards each other. This slight change in course will force your chest to do much more work, which would have otherwise been placed n the triceps.
Parallel Bar Dips
This exercise is the sleeper that no one expects to see in a chest building article. Christian Thibadeau, world renowned strength and conditioning coach calls it the best chest builder there is. That is pretty high praise.
For this exercise to be the effective chest builder it's touted as, you need to consider a few key aspects when doing the movement.
1) Tuck in your chin. and angle your body over top of your hands.
2) Initiate the movement by bending your elbows, instead of the shoulders.
3) Get a full range of motion. I'm talking forearms against biceps (as long as your shoulder mobility allows).
When done this way, dips are an amazingly effective chest building exercise.
Honorable Mention: Dumbbell Fly's, or Pec Deck
Fly's are a must. Be sure to use a lighter weight than you can handle, get a stretch at the bottom and feel the muscle contract and and stretch throughout the movement. Keep constant tension on the chest during the exercise, and this movement is a gold mine of chest gains.
Next time you train your chest, give these movements a shot. You may be cursing my name the next day, but you'll be thanking me later.
"Mitch is an encouraging, reliable and knowledgeable trainer. I used to always dread working out but I actually found myself looking forward to my sessions with Mitch. Each workout was different, challenging and enjoyable" - Ashley
The Jacked Hipster is dedicated to inspiring your personal progress and evolution. We do this through fitness, nutrition and lifestyle changes.
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