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The Ultimate Guide for Chest Workouts: (Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Building a Monster Chest FAST! – The Ultimate Guide for Chest Workouts
You’d be hard-pressed to find even just a handful of athletes (or people getting geared up for beach season, even) that aren’t looking for new ways to build a bigger, stronger, wider chest!
There’s a reason why everyone in the fitness world gets asked “what’s your bench?” at least a half a dozen times a week!
Everybody – EVERYBODY – serious about fitness is looking to create a better, smarter chest workout routine, too. It turns out that benching alone won’t drive the results folks are looking for (though it’s a big piece of the puzzle for sure).
Anybody with even a little bit of experience lifting knows that the chest can be pretty “stubborn” to grow if you aren’t really strategic about how you attack it.
Luckily, if you want to come up with the best chest workout with bands, with barbells, and with dumbbells (or your body weight) you’ve come to the right place. We have all the inside information you need to rock and roll!
In the rest of this quick guide we are going to knock out (almost) everything you need to know about putting together a serious power chest workout that’s going to:
So if you’re ready to hit the ground running let’s get right into this, shall we?
Before we start to really dive deep into the specific exercises and movements you’re going to want to do to build that big, strong, super wide chest it’s important to go over a bit of basic anatomy.
This will help you to understand the fundamentals of how your chest operates and why certain exercises are better than others to target these muscles.
The “big enchilada” of your chest muscles, the pectoralis major is split into two large, fan shaped muscles that span your chest area.
This muscle group has a sternocostal head and a clavicular head, both of which are incredibly important to target if you’re going to build a lot of size and a lot of width in your chest area.
Unsurprisingly, though, this is the chest muscle group that is most often targeted by popular chest workouts – bench presses and the like, the kinds of chest exercises that most people are knocking out every time they slide into the gym.
If you’re doing any chest targeted exercises whatsoever the odds are pretty good that this part of your chest is going to get hammered, and you’re going to almost force it to grow.
At the same time, though, the clavicular head of your chest muscles (up near your clavicle) may not get targeted quite as much with regular bench work.
You’ll have to do incline work to really slam this muscle group, which is always a good idea as it helps develop the “top ridge” of pectoral muscles that often go under developed by amateur and newbie lifters just getting into the swing of things.
If you have been working on your chest for a while and feel like it really isn’t looking all that impressive yet, or that it’s a bit “bottom heavy” – or super wide without a lot of pop to it – the chances are good you need to work in some movements that target the clavicular head to add a bit of extra depth.
The pectoralis minor muscle group sit underneath the major muscle group, attaching these muscles to your rib cage. This can make it next to impossible to see unless you are looking at your body sideways.
Because this muscle “hides” underneath the major muscle group mentioned above it usually doesn’t get a whole lot of attention or a whole lot of intentional development.
But if you’re really looking to lift your pecs off of your chest – creating that depth that Arnold Schwarzenegger really made legendary – you’re going to want to devote a bit of attention to this muscle group for sure.
Deeper flys (we are talking about really, really deep flys) are a great way to target this muscle group. Heavy lifting that pushes you to cultivate more of your stabilizing muscles (and this minor muscle group definitely falls in that category) will go a long way towards triggering growth year, too.
You’ll want to make sure that your form is nice and tight when going super heavy, though. That’s usually the first thing that flys out the window and causes all kinds of trouble (and potential injuries) that you want to avoid at all costs.
This little gem of a muscle group is so often overlooked by amateur bodybuilders and athletes alike that it’s a bit of a “secret weapon” for those in the know.
You’re definitely going to want to train it up if you want a monster chest.
Invisible to the human eye (it literally sets underneath your pectoralis major muscles), the only way you’d ever get your eyeballs on this muscle group is if you conducted an autopsy. But it’s the “whole shebang” for pulling together a big, wide, super developed chest for sure.
If you target this muscle group and really train it up you’re going to push the minor muscle group on your pecs forward and up, which in turn rotates your major pec muscles up and out as well.
Those going for a Sylvester Stallone in Rambo II (or any of the Spartans from the 300 movie) would do well to laser focus on this muscle group for sure. Incline flys, pressing flys, or dumbbell pullovers will help knock this out of the park (but that’s something we highlight later on).
At the end of the day, it’s important that you are putting together the ultimate chest workout routine that targets all three of these major muscle groups and not just one or two.
Get sloppy and focus only on a chest pump workout, an inner chest workout, and upper chest workout, or a lower chest workout and you’ll end up really unhappy with the overall development of your chest for sure.
Now that we have squared away the importance of targeting all of your major muscle groups in the chest area when you’re building the ultimate guide for chest workouts is time to focus on some key foundational fundamentals.
Get these four things right and you’ll be well on your way to building a big, bold, beautiful chest with all the strength and power you’re after!
Though it’s never a bad idea to shake up the exact amount of weight you are working with when you’re doing a massive chest workout, it’s (generally) advised that you work with heavier weights for a lower amount of reps when you’re shooting for mass and strength gains.
This doesn’t mean that you need to knock out your one rep maximum every time you do incline chest workouts.
It does, however, mean that you’re going to want to be working with anywhere between 75% and 85% of your one rep maximum most of the time. Add in a couple of really heavy days of between 90% and 100% of your one rep maximum every couple of weeks or so, too.
At the end of the day, the important thing to focus on is not necessarily the exact amount of weight you are throwing around in the gym but instead that you are intentionally lifting heavy when you do a chest workout with dumbbell, barbell, or cable equipment.
Tempo and form are hugely important, and not just when you are going through a beginner chest workout, either.
As we mentioned a moment ago, there’s a lot of temptation to get kind of sloppy when you are working heavy – even with extra help and stability like in a lower chest cable workout or upper chest cable workout.
That’s the last thing you want to have happen.
You need to make sure that your form is dialed in and that you aren’t ever sacrificing form just to squeeze a couple of extra pounds onto the bar or with the dumbbells that you are working with.
The second your form collapses you’re no longer targeting specific muscle groups and are instead just chucking iron all over the place.
You might be able to (accidentally) get halfway decent results with this kind of at-home chest workout, but you are much more likely to stall your progress and risk real injury.
As far as tempo is concerned, keeping things nice and steady – coming down slowly and then exploding at the top before resetting and repeating the process all over again – works best.
Get into a groove during the warm-up part of your chest workout with bands and your tempo will immediately transfer over when you start to get into the heavier stuff.
It is hugely important to remember that every single second you spend in the gym or working out is designed to do one thing and one thing only:
Absolutely destroy your chest muscles, ripped them into tiny little shreds, and stress them out to the max!
Truth be told, your chest isn’t ever going to grow inside the gym or at home when you are working out.
No, that’s time for absolute destruction where you’re looking to overload, blowup, and breakdown your muscles so that they have to rebuild stronger, bigger, and faster than ever before.
This is why it is so hugely important to leave plenty of time between your chest workouts for rest and recovery.
One of the biggest mistakes that a beginner chest workout usually includes is trying to squeeze three or four different “chest days” into a single week, just hammering that major muscle group over and over again.
If you’re doing things right – really stressing out this major muscle group (all three of the muscles in this group, really) – that’s way beyond overkill.
Train intelligently but leave plenty of time to rest, recover, and recoup before you get right back into the action.
While everyone’s fat loss rate is different, this quote is beneficial for us to manage our expectations. The simple point here is this: give your efforts a couple of weeks to show you some progress.
Eating to fuel a massive chest is a little bit beyond the scope of this ultimate guide for chest workouts, but it is a major piece of the puzzle.
You’re going to want to flood your body with protein before and after your grueling workouts, but you’re also going to want to make sure that you are fueling your rest and recovery as well.
Get smart about your macros, pay attention to how much protein you need to be pumping into your body on a day-to-day basis, and look to find effective supplements that’ll actually work to build a bigger, wider, stronger chest.
A little bit of research can go a long way. Combine a really dialed in diet and nutritional plan with the right chest workout and you’ll be unbeatable!
We spent enough time hashing over the fundamentals and foundational principles of building a really great chest pump workout. Now it’s time to get into the meat and potatoes of actually fleshing out the best chest workout components you’ll want to mix and match moving forward.
Build your workout routines from these exercises and your chest will get a whole lot bigger a whole lot faster than you would have thought possible before!
Far and away the first exercise that people think of not only when you tell them that you are building your chest but when you are working out in general, there may not be a more effective exercise to grow your chest than the barbell bench.
In fact, researchers from the American Council on Exercise discovered that (stacked up against eight other moves specifically designed to target the chest) the bench press was the most effective for targeting the main muscle groups in your chest area.
You’ll want to start with a standard flat bench for sure, but don’t be shy about moving into incline or decline barbell benches in short order, either. The incline is a fantastic inner chest workout and the decline will hit your lower chest like a champion, helping you build that thicker, wider, “popping” kind of chest most folks are after.
Why It Works So Well:
This one move targets your pectoralis major, minor, and the stabilizing serratus anterior muscles all at the same time.
Dumbbell chest presses can be great for a high volume chest workout or for a heavier weight “blowout” kind of workout, depending on the dumbbells that you’re using.
It’s not a bad idea to do just one dumbbell at a time, using just one arm and one side of your chest to move the weight around before swapping to the other after you’ve maxed out your reps for that set.
Why It Works So Well:
The reason this chest workout with dumbbells works so well is because you are addressing your pecs independently from one another, addressing instability and activating more of your support muscle groups, too.
It’s hard to imagine that there’s a better lower chest workout (or outer chest workout) than good old-fashioned dips!
Beloved by athletes and bodybuilders alike that are looking to build their chest, their strength, and their overall athletic capability and endurance at the same time, dips are super versatile and are going to help crank out bigger triceps and shoulders for you, too.
Why It Works So Well:
The beautiful thing about dips (especially as a lower chest workout) is that they force you to activate the minor and serratus anterior muscle groups in your chest more than anything else out there (though cable lower chest workouts come close).
The deeper you go and the slower you go the more you’ll activate these key chest muscle components. Really try to explode and pop when you push yourself up from the dip and you’ll put yourself through the paces in a hurry.
Another great outer chest workout (as well as a fantastic upper chest workout, too), when done correctly you’re going to be able to target your pectoralis major, minor, and serratus anterior muscles all at once.
Why It Works So Well:
The versatility of doing dumbbell flys is the major advantage here.
You can do them standard (flat), in incline or decline, and can also knock out a great cable upper chest workout if the dumbbell station isn’t available but a machine is.
This movement really cultivates and activates the supporting muscle groups (not just in your chest but in your shoulders, clavicle area, and even in your back) which helps trigger extreme growth in these areas, too.
High-volume work with the dumbbells can be a savvy move if you need to shake things up a little bit or feel like your chest growth has stalled out. Drop weight down to 60% or 70% of your one rep maximum for a couple of weeks and bump up your individual reps by four or five (or more) and you’ll be able to kickstart your body again.
Absolutely perfect for grabbing a workout on the go (as well as for designing and at home chest workout when you don’t necessarily have a lot of equipment available), you can’t go wrong with “old-fashioned” push-ups!
Why It Works So Well:
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science showed that you’ll be able to activate the most chest muscle action possible with push-ups when you keep your hands about halfway inward from their “traditional” position.
This means you’ll want to bring your arms (and your elbows) and so that you are more in line with your shoulders – maybe an inch or two outside of shoulder width – when knocking out these kinds of chest exercises.
Go low, go deep, and hold when your nose touches the ground (while keeping your back flat) and then pop up with a little bit of force to reset and restart all over again.
You’ll get the best results when specifically looking to build a bigger, stronger chest if you focus on having “Chest Days” versus “Upper Body” days.
Naturally, your chest day workouts are going to target other areas of your upper body – especially your shoulders, your triceps, and your back.
But as long as the overwhelming majority of movements you use are tied to developing your chest, and then you give yourself plenty of time to rest before you get back after it, you’ll be able to grow your chest faster than you would have otherwise.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended that you do no more than four individual chest exercises per workout. A lot of bodybuilders and athletes don’t even like to do that many, but instead stick to just two or three (though they really hammer their muscles with heavyweights, intensity, and intentional focus).
Any more than four individual chest exercises are going to result in some serious diminished returns.
Your chest is going to be wiped out by the time you move on to the fifth movement, you’re going to start to slip when it comes to form, and you’re going to end up with some serious “trash” volume and only risk injury and setback.
On top of that, you want to be sure that you are giving your chest (one of the largest muscle groups in your body) plenty of time to recover. Giving yourself 48 hours (and ideally 72 hours, when possible) of cool down, rest, and recovery is the way to go.
As highlighted above in this ultimate guide for chest workouts you’re going to want to go relatively heavy most of the time when you are working your chest.
We are talking about 75% to 80% or so of your one rep maximum, mixing in some 90% to 100% of your one rep maximum every couple of weeks just to sort of “shock” your body.
It might not be a bad idea to throw in some high-volume chest workout days each month, either. That’s when you can drop your weight to 60% or so of your one rep maximum but push up the reps and the sets to failure a little higher.
That’ll help to confuse your body, too, helping to push off any plateau that might have otherwise occurred.
A lot of people say that you can turn into a monster while doing an at home chest workout without a bench, without dumbbells, and without any cables.
But if we are being honest here, that’s going to be a real uphill challenge.
Sure, push-ups and other body weight exercises have been proven to be world-class ways to grow your chest, to develop strength, and to better define your body if you don’t have any weights around. But you’re always going to shortcut your progress if you aren’t able to throw some iron around every now and again.
If you can’t spend money on a full-blown barbell set up, don’t be shy about using dumbbells only at first. There are a lot of great chest dumbbell workouts out there that can help you, especially in the early stages of this process.
Cable and band work can be a great alternative to just body weight alone, too.
As soon as you can, though, either get a gym membership where you can start using barbells and bigger dumbbells or save up until you’re able to fully outfit your home gym for dedicated home chest workouts.
If you are really wiped out (feeling particularly sore and fatigued to even 72 hours after your last chest workout) it’s never a bad idea to give yourself another 24 to 48 hours to come back around.
The last thing you want to do is push yourself when you are extremely stressed. That’s when you open up the door for injury, and every chest injury is going to set you back weeks (if not months) while whittling away all the progress you’ve already made.
If you are injured, though, you may not necessarily have to give up working out your chest completely – though obviously your doctor will be able to give you better advice than a stranger on the internet can (at least in this department, anyway)!
Squeeze presses, isolation movements, and even just a bit of stretching and light bodyweight work may be enough to avoid further aggravating your injury without allowing atrophy to set in while you are recuperating.
Again, though, you have to listen to your body (and your doctor) before you start to fool around with training with an injury.
At the end of the day, we hope you have gotten a lot out of this ultimate guide for chest workouts!
Obviously, there are other bits and pieces of the puzzle you’ll want to figure out as you go along – adapting different exercises, different movements, and even completely different workout routines based off of your results and how your body responds to the tips and tricks above.
At the same time, though, if you use the inside information we shared above to build out a gym or home chest workout (and train that routine for 48 weeks) it’ll be almost impossible for you to be unhappy with the results.
When you really break things down to the fundamentals like we have above you should find it’s a whole lot easier to build a monster chest than you ever thought possible.
Stick the building blocks, focus on your form, lift heavy (HEAVY), and give yourself plenty of time to rest and recover. Take care of those basics and you’ll be good to go!