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The best science-based chest training program for building impressive chest muscles (chest exercises)

Das beste wissenschaftlich basierte Brusttrainingsprogramm für den Aufbau einer beeindruckenden Brustmuskulatur (Brustübungen)

After looking at the anatomy of the pectoral muscles and the most common mistakes in pectoral muscle training in the first part of this article series and discussing the scientific principles of effective chest training and taking a look at the first of the 10 most effective chest exercises in this second part, in this third and final part of this article series I will look at the remaining 9 best chest muscle exercises and provide you with a template for a chest training session.

2. incline bench press

The good old flat bench press is the foundation of most upper body workouts, but it's usually accompanied by a few variations.

The incline bench press is one of the best of these variations as it helps to build the upper and middle part of the pecs better than the flat bench press (1).

When performing this exercise, the incline of the bench should be between 30 and 45 degrees. For my part, I prefer 30% but some exercisers prefer an incline closer to 45 degrees. I would recommend that you try different settings between 30 and 45 degrees and see which incline you prefer.

3. close barbell bench press

The close bench press is a variation of the bench press that works the chest muscles, but focuses slightly more on the triceps than the regular bench press.

Close bench presses are also particularly effective when it comes to activating the upper chest, making this one of the most well-rounded upper body exercises you can use (2).

At the bottom of the movement, the close bench press is not much more than a regular bench press with a tighter grip. Apart from the grip variation, you should perform close bench presses just like regular bench presses.

In terms of grip width, your grip should be slightly narrower than shoulder width. For most exercisers, this means moving the index fingers 5 to 10 centimetres closer together than in a regular bench press.

Some exercisers place their hands very close together to maximize triceps activation, but this puts their shoulders and wrists in a potentially dangerous position. If your shoulders or wrists don't feel good at the lowest point of the movement (when the bar touches your chest), then simply use a hand spacing that is 2 fingers wider. Repeat until your grip feels good in this position.

4. bench press with reverse grip/underhand grip

Bench press with reverse grip - also known as bench press with an underhand grip - is an often overlooked variation of the bench press that also has its own benefits.

In this variation, you grip the bar with an underhand grip so that your palms are facing your face. Scientific research shows that this variation of the bench press is not only easier on your shoulder, but is also particularly effective for targeting the upper chest.

A study conducted by scientists at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College with 12 trained men examined 5 different variations of the flat bench press (3). The scientists measured muscle activation of both pectoral muscle heads, the biceps and the triceps during exercise performance.

They found that when using a reverse grip, activation of the upper chest was 25 to 30% greater than when using a regular grip. In addition, biceps activation was twice as strong when using a reverse grip as when using a regular grip.

Although reverse grip bench presses will feel strange at first and you may use significantly less weight at first, once you get used to this exercise, many exercisers can use as much or more weight than a regular grip bench press.

And here's another tip: grip the bar so that it runs diagonally across your palm instead of across your palm. The diagonal grip is much easier on the wrists and elbows of most people.

5. dumbbell flat bench press

Dumbbell flat bench presses are quite similar to barbell bench presses except that you press a dumbbell with each hand instead of holding a barbell with both hands.

Although the dumbbell bench press is often seen as a second choice version of the bench press after the barbell bench press, scientific research shows that this exercise is more or less just as effective for the pecs (with one caveat).

In a study conducted by scientists at Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, 12 23-year-old men with weight training experience had to work their way up to their 1RM weight on three different exercises with 3 to 5 days rest between exercises (4). The exercises were:

  1. Bench press on the multi press
  2. Barbell flat bench press
  3. Dumbbell flat bench press

The scientists attached electrodes to the torso and arms of the test subjects to measure the activation of the different muscle groups while they performed their exercises.

After analyzing these measurements, the scientists found that dumbbell flat bench presses resulted in the same activation of the chest muscles, less activation of the triceps and more activation of the biceps compared to bench presses on the multi-press and barbell flat bench presses.

Dumbbell flat bench presses also have several advantages over barbell flat bench presses:

  1. It allows the use of a greater range of motion
  2. It allows the use of the position of the wrists that feels most comfortable and natural
  3. It is gentler on the joints

However, there are also disadvantages that you should be aware of:

  1. It requires more balance, which means you can't use as much weight as with the flat bench press.
  2. It takes a good amount of energy to get the dumbbells into position.

The second point becomes more pronounced the stronger you get. Once you are using 40 kilo or heavier dumbbells, you will probably lose at least one repetition even if you can perform this movement smoothly due to the effort required to get the dumbbells into position.

For this reason, I recommend performing dumbbell bench presses after your heavy barbell workout.

6. dumbbell incline bench press

Dumbbell incline bench presses are identical to dumbbell flat bench presses except that they are performed on an incline bench with a 30 to 45 degree angle.

This exercise gives you many of the benefits of incline bench presses and dumbbell flat bench presses: greater range of motion, emphasis on the shoulders, use of a more comfortable grip, and joint relief from heavy barbell bench presses.

7. dips

Dips are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do for your upper body. Dips work your chest, shoulders and triceps and you can use a dip belt to increase the difficulty.

Dips are easy to learn and can be performed in practically any reasonably well-equipped gym.

8. flying movement standing on the cable pulley (low cable chest fly)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1N804yWA-8

Flying movements are not as great a chest exercise as many people think, but they are one of the better chest isolation exercises you can incorporate into your training program. I prefer the version with ropes passed over the lower pulleys of the cable pulley, as this minimizes the strain on the shoulders.

9. flying movements with dumbbells

Flying movements with dumbbells are similar to the variation on the cable pulley just described, but are performed with dumbbells lying on a bench.

The disadvantage of flying movements with dumbbells is that these exercises put a strain on the shoulders of some exercisers and it becomes more difficult to perform this exercise correctly with heavier weights. However, if you don't have a cable pulley, this exercise is a useful substitute.

10. push-ups

Push-ups are probably one of the oldest and most popular chest exercises in the world - and for good reason.

You can do push-ups anywhere, you don't need any equipment and you can make this exercise more challenging by putting your feet up, wearing a weight vest or backpack or bringing your hands closer to your hips.

The problem with push-ups, however, is that it gets harder and harder to increase the level of difficulty (and thus achieve progressive overload) as you get stronger.

This makes push-ups an excellent exercise for beginners, for maintaining fitness or for recovering from injury, but less suitable for slightly more advanced exercisers.

Here's what I recommend:

  1. Start, if you're too weak to be able to press a 20 kilo barbell, with push-ups to build up your upper body pressing strength.
  2. Work your way up until you can do 30 push-ups in a row.
  3. Once you can do 30 push-ups in a row, it's time to move on to an exercise with additional weight such as a barbell or dumbbell bench press.

If you can already do 30 push-ups in a row, then you are better off focusing on other exercises.

The three best training programs for upper and lower pecs

The following training programs take into account all the factors we have looked at in this series of articles:

  1. They include multi-joint exercises for both the upper and lower pecs.
  2. They include exercises with medium to low repetitions.
  3. They focus on progressive overload.

All of the following training programs include two multi-joint exercises for the chest muscles, followed by an isolation exercise.

Depending on how often you want to train your pecs, you can choose from one of the following training programs with one, two or three training sessions per week.

If you choose one of the programs with two or three chest training sessions per week, you should make sure that there are at least one or two days between the individual training sessions. These can be non-training days or days on which you train other muscle groups.

Here are the training programs:

1 chest training session per week

Training session 1

  • Barbell flat bench press: Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps with 80% of 1RM weight
  • Barbell incline bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Dumbbell flat bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Tricep press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight

2 chest training sessions per week

Training session 1

  • Barbell flat bench press: Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps with 80% of 1RM weight
  • Barbell incline bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Dumbbell flat bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Tricep press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight

Training session 2

  • Flat bench press with reverse grip: warm-up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Barbell flat bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Dip: 3 sets with body weight until muscle failure or 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Flying movements on the cable pulley or with dumbbells: 3 heavy sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with 70% of the 1RM weight

3 chest training sessions per week

Training session 1

  • Barbell flat bench press: Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps with 80% of 1RM weight
  • Barbell incline bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Dumbbell flat bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Tricep press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight

Training session 2

  • Flat bench press with reverse grip: warm-up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Barbell flat bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Dip: 3 sets with body weight until muscle failure or 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Flying movements on the cable pulley or with dumbbells: 3 heavy sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with 70% of the 1RM weight

Training session 3

  • Barbell flat bench press: Warm-up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of 1RM weight
  • Dumbbell incline bench press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Barbell flat bench press with close grip: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight
  • Tricep press: 3 heavy sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with 80% of the 1RM weight

If you have just started strength training, the program with one chest training session per week is a good starting point. However, if you want to get your chest growing as quickly as possible, or if you already have experience in strength training, you should give the programs with two or three chest training sessions per week a chance.

Here are some tips on how to perform the above workouts:

1. increase the weight once you reach the top end of the repetition range on a set

This is known as "double progression" and is one of the most effective ways to ensure that you progressively overload your muscles.

For example, if you can do 6 reps with 80 kilos on the bench press, this means you should increase the weight by 5 kilos on the next set. If you can do at least 4 repetitions with 85 kilos in the next set, then this is your new working weight until you can do 6 repetitions again and increase the weight.

If, on the other hand, you can only do 3 repetitions or less, reduce the weight by 2.5 kilos to 82.5 kilos and see how the next set goes. If you can only do 3 or fewer repetitions at 82.5 kilos, go back to your weight for 6 repetitions and continue working with this weight until you can do two sets of 6 repetitions before increasing the weight.

2. rest 2 to 4 minutes between sets

It is important that you feel completely ready to give your best on each subsequent set. Yes, it will feel like a lot of waiting, but resting sufficiently is an important part of a heavy weight workout.

This is the time during which your muscles recover their strength so that you can give maximum effort on each set.

3. make sure you are eating enough

You probably know that you should consume adequate amounts of protein to build muscle, but calorie intake also plays an important role here.

The bottom line on chest training

Many exercisers spend a huge amount of time on their chest training without really seeing any great results. And many women neglect chest training completely because they don't want to build a muscular male chest.

Most exercisers don't realize that with a few simple changes to their training plan and some hard work and patience, they can achieve the chest muscle development they've always wanted.

And for women, the right chest muscle workout will only improve the appearance of their upper body, rather than give them a masculine, beefy look.

The three keys to bigger, stronger and more symmetrical pecs are:

  1. Target the upper and lower pecs.
  2. Perform a lot of training with heavy basic exercises
  3. Perform 9 to 15+ heavy sets per week

References:

  1. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/abstract/1995/11000/effects_of_variations_of_the_bench_press_exercise.3.aspx
  2. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/abstract/1995/11000/effects_of_variations_of_the_bench_press_exercise.3.aspx
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095407
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21225489

Source: https://www.muscleforlife.com/chest-workout-best-chest-exercises/

By Michael Matthews

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