The typical question that is asked about any male’s activity in the gym is “How much do you bench?” Although I do believe that you have to “lift big to get big,” I do not believe that how much you can bench is a direct reflection on how well your chest is developed.
The key, in my opinion, to building a fully developed chest is to hit it with exercises that target all areas of the chest. The following takes you through one of my typical chest routines:
Incline dumbbell chest press: Done using an adjustable bench while using dumbbells with your palms facing the front. You will then raise and lower the weight directly over your chest.
2 warm up sets, 15-20 reps, 4 work sets, 8-10 reps – I like to get a good stretch with the warm up sets, so I tend to start with about 50-75% of my max weight. I go with a slight incline (30 degrees or so) however I do adjust the bench angle so that I am able to challenge my chest from different angles.
Flat bench press: This exercise is done lying on a flat bench with a barbell. I use a grip that is fairly wide (outside shoulder width), with my hands facing the front, while raising the bar directly over my chest.
4 sets, 12-15 reps – Focus is on getting a full range of motion. I tend not to go to heavy.
Decline machine bench press: I vary on whether I use a machine or a barbell (with a decline bench) on this one, but I want to make sure that I hit my chest from this angle as well. Depending on how the work out is going, I may drop this for dumbbell flyes, still using the decline bench.
3 sets, 15-20 reps – at this point, my chest is fairly fatigued, so I lower the weight, and really try to go to failure, especially when using a machine as opposed to free weights.
Cable crossover: Can be done at a two sided pulley station with D-handles attached in the high or low position. I like to superset them and hit both versions. Keep a slight bend in your arms throughout the movement. I also tend to step forward to help with the range of motion. Regardless of whether I have the cables high or low, I bring the handles directly in front of my chest. Focus on contracting your chest as you pull your hands together.
3 supersets, 10 reps each – I focus on keeping my arms in the same position and keeping the movement slow and controlled.
Dips: Done at a dip station, I bend forward slightly to bring the chest into the exercise more, and really squeeze at the top of the movement. The exercise is done by raising and lowering yourself between the bars.
3 sets to failure – I like to incorporate this bodyweight exercise to finish off the workout. If a dip station is not available, I will finish off with push-ups.
By hitting your chest from all angles, you can work towards building a fully developed chest. As always, you want to make sure that you are doing a weight that is challenging but allows you to continue to use correct form. Chest tends to be one of those body parts that people are willing to sacrifice form for additional pounds. So make sure that when using more challenging weights you are using a spotter for assistance to help you get those last few reps. Good luck!