Muscle building series – Chest

Muscle building series – Chest

Training chest is one of the most popular things to do in the gym.  Everyone loves starting the week off by hitting the bench press, so much so that Monday’s have been titled international chest day! So why do people like training it so much and what are the best techniques for developing a great chest?

There is no question that chest is one of the most dominant and prominent muscles of the body.  It’s an area where we get instant satisfaction from training because we can physically see the changes or “pump” as we lift.  Most people head to the bench press as their main exercise and whilst I really rate that exercise, we need a more calculated approach to building the chest of our dreams.

Anatomy of the chest

To build a great chest it’s good to first have a basic understanding of how the muscles are all put together.

Pectoralis Major

This is the main muscle of the chest and the one we are going to mainly focus on when we’re training. The pec major originates from different parts of the body; the clavicular head comes from the middle of the clavicle.  The Sternal head comes from the sternum and the upper six costal cartilages.  These muscles all insert on to the humerus (arm bone) and the deltoid tuberosity (shoulder).

Pectoralis minor

The Pec minor lies beneath the pec major and is a much smaller muscle.  This muscle runs from the top of the shoulder blade and attaches on to ribs 3-5.  This muscle won’t play a major role in our chest workout.

Serratus anterior

This muscle goes from the inside of your shoulder blades and wraps round the body before inserting on to the front of the ribcage.  You often won’t see this muscle until you’ve achieved a certain level of leanness.  However it is very impressive on those that fully developed this muscle.


Exercises to build the chest

There are two types of movements needed to build the chest.  We must do both pressing and fly movements.  Within those two movements we have a choice of using barbells, dumbbells, cables and bodyweight exercises.  All of these tools work but you may prefer some to others.  For example, some people prefer doing a dumbbell press rather than the bench press.  The reason for this can sometimes be that they get a bigger stretch using dumbbells and that it’s easier on the rotator cuff muscles.  It all comes down to personal preference, however it’s imperative that you complete at least two pressing movements per workout to maximize muscle growth.  Pec fly movements are also very important but not as important as pressing for growth in my opinion.

My favourite chest routine

1 Bench press 4 sets with the rep range varying 5-15

2 Incline dumbbell Press 4 sets with rep range varying 5-15

3 Dumbbell pec flyes 4 sets with reps between 8-15

4 Cable cross-overs 4 sets with reps 8-15

5 Press-ups 4 sets to complete failure

Within this workout I also use other tools such as partial reps and time under tension to fully overload the muscle.  I will also switch between using barbells, dumbbells and cables on certain exercises as regularly as every other week.  This way I’m able to keep my body guessing and very rarely do I do the exact same workout two weeks in a row.  What you must remember is to target each area of the chest.  We must work the upper, middle and lower portion of the chest to get full development.  That is we must use a flat bench, incline bench and varying angles for cables and dumbbell flyes.  Ensure that you’re not just working the same area over and over again or you’ll never achieve the chest you want.  If you stick to the basics of this plan you won’t go too far wrong.

I hope this blog has simplified chest workouts for those reading and you now have a better understanding about what it takes to get the pecs you’ve always wanted!

Happy lifting

Derek Brettell