A thick, muscular chest strikes admiration in the hearts of men and garners prolonged, feminine stares at the pool. The bottom line is, a well-developed chest is the cornerstone to a powerful and rugged physique.
Why is it then, with Mondays literally being international chest day at commercial gyms and so many guys so focused on training their pecs, that a big, strong, well-defined chest, outside of hardcore powerlifting and bodybuilding gyms, is like trying to find a needle in a haystack?
Assuming volume and intensity are sufficient and nutrition is on point—it’s the exercise selection.
Let’s take a look at six easy moves that target one of the most noticeable and the first muscle group to walk into a room—the chest!
Despite the loud protests from “the functional crowd”, the most well-developed chests of all-time have had this movement at the center piece of their chest training arsenal. Be it Ronnie Coleman or Arnold Schwarzenegger on the bodybuilding side, or Doug Young on the powerlifting side, these massive chests were built with the bench press at the nucleus of the chest-training program.
Everything is bigger in Texas! The two biggest chests I have ever personally seen belong to Texas powerlifting legends Anthony Clark and Jim Voronin. Both trained the bench press with a reverse grip. Recent research has confirmed that the reverse-grip bench press has higher levels of upper-chest activation than even bodybuilding’s infallible incline press.
Bodybuilding O.G. trainer to the stars, Vince Gironda, claims that dips are the most effective chest exercise and upper-body developer, period! To maximize chest overload, perform dips with a slight forward lean and the elbows flared out. Using an upright posture will emphasize the triceps to a greater degree. If you are able, add additional weight to your bodyweight. Dips allow more weight to be handled than any other upper-body exercise, including the bench press.
This chest-building goldmine has fallen out of favor with many bodybuilders; maybe it’s the pseudo-science, physical therapy influence or it’s been replaced by space-age workouts and shiny machines. But the who’s who of chest development swear by this exercise. Make sure to use a barbell or dumbbell; recent research has shown that machines shift the emphasis to the lats. Keep pullovers light in the 12-20+ rep range and emphasize stretch and range of motion over weight lifted.
Envision this movement as a giant bear hug with arms bent 15 to 20 degrees throughout the entire movement, with the elbow angle never changing. Do not extend or press the dumbbells, think squeeze. Take the dumbbells down to a comfortable stretch and from there squeeze them together, stopping six inches or so at the top from the dumbbells actually touching, to insure constant tension on the pecs.
In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I squeeze and crimp the pecs as hard as I can from all angles to bring out the height, thickness and shape. This not only gives me better control of these muscles, but it also brings out all the veins and muscular striations, which improves the definition.” Try this for 10 sets each side, holding each pose and contracting as hard as possible for 10 seconds. Science has even confirmed the efficiency of weightless bodybuilding posing for hypertrophy.