Chest: Workouts, Training Tips & Anatomy (for Men)

Chest: Workouts, Training Tips & Anatomy (for Men)

Chest: Workouts, Training Tips & Anatomy (for Men)

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               In this article I will introduce you to chest anatomy and some good quality chest workouts, as well as some training tips. Knowledge about the anatomy and understanding how a certain muscle works is a crucial part of your training.

Chest Anatomy

               The chest or thorax is part of the human anatomy located between the neck and the abdomen. The thorax includes the thoracic cavity and the thoracic wall and also, it contains organs including the heart, lungs and thymus gland, as well as muscles and various other internal structures.

                Pectoralis Major

               The pectoralis major, commonly referred to as “pecs” or “chest muscle” is a thick muscle, located at the chest of the human body, therefore, it lies superficial to the entire pectoralis minor and subclavius, and part of theserratus anterior. Your pectoralis major, which is your biggest chest muscle, actually has three sub-heads: the clavicular head, the sternal head, and the abdominal head.

Image showing the locations of the three pectoralis major muscle heads on the chest: clavicular head, sternal head and abodminal head

Your pectoralis major, which is your biggest chest muscle, actually has three sub-heads: the clavicular head, the sternal head, and the abdominal head.

  • Clavicular head. It is the upper part of the pectoralis major. Originates ftom the medial half of the clavicle and inserts into the intertubercular groove of the humerus. Because this muscle is located close to the deltoid  muscles as a result, it helps in flexion, horizontal adduction, and inward rotation of the humerus.
  • Sternal Head. The sternal head is quite a bit larger than the clavicular head. It originates from the costal cartridges of the ribs and from the sternum; insets into the intertubercular groove of the humerus. The sternocostal part is antagonistic to the clavicular part, therefore, contributing to flexing the humerus and inward rotation when accompanied by adduction.
  • Abdominal head. The abdominal head runs from your rectus sheath, which is a big piece of connective tissue that surrounds your abdominal muscles, continues up and across the bottom portion of your chest, and attaches to your humerus.

                  Pectoralis Minor

Graphically showing the locations of the pectoralis minor muscle on the human chest. Where it originates and where it inserts.

The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle, situated at the upper part of the chest, beneath the pectoralis major in the human body.

               The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle, situated at the upper part of the chest, beneath the pectoralis major in the human body. Furthermore, it originates from the third to fifth ribs, near their costal cartilages and inserts into the medial border and superior surface of the coracoids process of the scapula. Most of all, there is no exercise you can include in your workouts that targets these muscles directly. However, the pectoralis minor is trained indirectly with exercises for latissimus dorsi, some pec major exercises and some serratus anterior exercises.

               In conclusion, the pectoralis major are used in flexing and extending the humerus, as well as adducting and medially rotating the humerus. Also, it draws the scapula anteriorly and inferiorly. The pectoralis minor stabilizes the scapula by drawing it inferiorly and anteriorly against the thoracic wall and to a minor degree it helps in inspiration. As a result, in more simple terms, the pectoralis muscles have the ability to bring your arm up and down at your sides and do the classic arm wrestling motion.

Training Tips

               My advice for you is to train chest (you mainly train the pectoralis major) in three individual parts: upper, middle and lower chest, which you best stimulate with training from different angles. The upper chest is best stimulated when exercises are done at 30%- 45% incline bench. You can use barbell for more of a compound movement or dumbbells if you want to isolate the chest only. The middle chest is best stimulated when exercises are done on a flat bench. As I said before, you can use barbell for more of a compound movement or dumbbells if you want to isolate the chest only. Last but not least is the lower part which is best stimulated with exercises done on a 30%-45% decline bench. You can also use barbell or dumbbells depending on how you want to train, with compound movements or isolation movements.

               Beginners should choose one heavy compound movement (any barbell bench press variation). In addition, choose 1 to 4 other chest exercises to more directly target the chest (any non-barbell press). In reality, one additional chest exercises is plenty to train your chest with sufficient volume and to hit it from multiple angles. The only reason to do more exercises would be to introduce variety and make your workouts more fun.

               Intermediate or advanced lifters should train chest twice a week. One day you should train strength with heavy weights and low reps (4-6) and the next time hypertrophy with moderate weight and moderate reps (8-12). Especially relevant, use full range of motion on the negative rep to get a full stretch in your chest. On the positive rep, you should lockout when training your main strength lift; you can stop just short of lockout when doing hypertrophy exercises to keep tension on the chest throughout the lift.

               Whether you should train with barbell or dumbbells it is really up to you. In general, barbells are superior for developing overall strength in your pressing. On the other hand, dumbbells are superior for stimulating growth in your chest. The reason why I prefer dumbbells for growth is because they allow you to go through a greater range of motion than barbells, thus you can fully stretch your chest. For best result, you should include both in your workouts.

Showing the differene between supinated, neutral and pronated hand position.

At the top of the movement you should fully contact your muscle and pronate your arms. On the other hand, when you lower the weights you should fully stretch your muscles and supinate your arms.

               Great trick to make your dumbbell exercises more effective is to pronate your arms. The reason for this relates to the anatomy of the pec major. It attaches on the humerus and plays a role in medial rotation of the arm. Therefore, when using dumbbells in your workouts (dumbbell bench press, include dumbbell bench press etc) at the top of the movement you should fully contact your muscle and pronate your arms. On the other hand, when you lower the weights you should fully stretch your muscles and supinate your arms.

Chest Workouts

               I will post two types of workouts. First, I will post workouts that put emphasis on the three parts separately. Second, I will post few workouts that train all three areas in one workout. I will make sure I post another article with few more workouts for training your chest separately for all three parts, and all areas included workouts.

                Workout 1

Upper chest focused workout:

1.Incline bench press (4 sets of 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 8-10 reps)

               This develops the mass and strength of the pectoral muscles (upper and middle regions) and front deltoids. You should not let the bar touch your chest to lower the stress on your shoulders. As a result, the incline angle of this press hits the upper pecs really hard.

2.Semi inclined dumbbell press (3 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

               Put the bench on 30-degree angle. This exercise is the same as the incline bench press, just the bench is lowered a bit more. As a result, you lower the work of your deltoids.

3.Leverage incline press (3 sets of 8-10, 10-12, 10-12 reps)

               The handles should be near the top of the pectorals at the beginning of the motion. After a brief pause at the top, return the weight just above the start position. In addition, try and keep the tension in the muscle by not returning the weights to the stops.

4.Incline cable flye (3 sets of 12 reps)

               With a slight bend of your elbows (in order to prevent stress at the biceps tendon), lower your arms out at both sides in a wide arc until the elbows get slightly lower than shoulder height position. Consequently, you should feel a stretch on your chest.

 

                Workout 2

 

Middle chest focused workout:

1.Barbell bench press (4 sets of 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 8-10 reps)

               This exercise focuses on the chest and places secondary emphasis on the triceps and anterior deltoids. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). With this bench press you should allow the bar to touch your chest.

2.Slightly inclined dumbbell press (3 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

               Put the bench about 15-20 degree higher than flat bench. With bench position you target the chest a bit more, but the deltoids also.

3.Leverage press (3 sets of 8-10, 10-12, 10-12 reps)

               This exercise focuses on the pecs and keeps our body set in the prescribed movement pattern. When doing this exercise your chest and head should be up and your shoulder blades retracted

4.Pec- deck machine (3 sets of 12, 12, 12 reps)

               This exercise works and stretches the chest. It is excellent for gaining strength before advancing to more complex movements. You can use pulleys or an exercise band to perform this movement. Also, there is a variety of the Pec Deck Machine where you place your forearms on the pad.

 

                 Workout 3

 

Lower chest focused workout:

1.Decline bench press (4 sets of 6-8, 6-8, 8-10, 8-10 reps)

               This exercise works the lower part of the pectoralis major muscle, triceps and deltoids. It places secondary emphasis on the lower fold of the pecs. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). Due to the angle of this bench it a bit harder to balance it. In order to protect your rotator cuff, it is best if you have a spotter help you lift the barbell off the rack.

2.Slightly declined dumbbell press (3 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

               Lower the bench 15-20 degrees lower than flat bench.

3.Leverage decline press (3 sets of 8-10, 10-12, 10-12 reps)

               This exercise focuses on the pecs and keeps our body set in the prescribed movement pattern. The handles should be near the bottom of the pectorals at the beginning of the motion. Your chest and head should be up and your shoulder blades retracted.

4.Cable cross-over (3 sets of 12 reps)

               With a slight bend on your elbows in order to prevent stress at the biceps tendon, extend your arms to the side (straight out at both sides) in a wide arc until you feel a stretch on your chest. Keep in mind that throughout the movement, the arms and torso should remain stationary; the movement should only occur at the shoulder joint.

 

                 Workout 4

 

Rotating workout 1:

1.Flat bench press (4 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 8-10)

*barbell or dumbbell

               This exercise focuses on the chest and places secondary emphasis on the triceps and anterior deltoids. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). With this bench press you should allow the bar to touch your chest.

2.Incline bench press (3 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

*barbell or dumbbell

               This develops the mass and strength of the pectoral muscles (upper and middle regions) and front deltoids. You should not let the bar touch your chest to lower the stress on your shoulders. As a result, the incline angle of this press hits the upper pecs really hard.

3.Decline bench press (6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

*barbell or dumbbell

               This exercise works the lower part of the pectoralis major muscle, triceps and deltoids. It places secondary emphasis on the lower fold of the pecs. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). Due to the angle of this bench it a bit harder to balance it. In order to protect your rotator cuff, it is best if you have a spotter help you lift the barbell off the rack.

4.Flat bench dumbbell fly

               This exercise should never be performed with heavy weight. It isolates the pectoralis major and is excellent movement for improving flexibility. You should slightly bend your elbows to decrease the tension on the biceps tendon. Lower your arms out at both sides in a wide arc until you feel a stretch on your chest. Throughout the movement your arms should remain stationary.

 

                 Workout 5

 

Rotating workout 2:

1.Incline bench press (3 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

*barbell or dumbbell

              This develops the mass and strength of the pectoral muscles (upper and middle regions) and front deltoids. You should not let the bar touch your chest to lower the stress on your shoulders. As a result, the incline angle of this press hits the upper pecs really hard.

2.Decline bench press (6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

*barbell or dumbbell

              This exercise works the lower part of the pectoralis major muscle, triceps and deltoids. It places secondary emphasis on the lower fold of the pecs. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). Due to the angle of this bench it a bit harder to balance it. In order to protect your rotator cuff, it is best if you have a spotter help you lift the barbell off the rack.

3.Flat bench press (4 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 8-10)

*barbell or dumbbell

               This exercise focuses on the chest and places secondary emphasis on the triceps and anterior deltoids. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). With this bench press you should allow the bar to touch your chest.

4.Incline bench dumbbell fly (3 sets of 12 reps)

               Never perform this exercise with heavy weights. This exercise isolates the upper part of the chest. With the pullover, it is one of the basic exercises to stretch your rib cage. Keep in mind that the movement will only happen at the shoulder joint and at the wrist. There is no motion that happens at the elbow joint.

 

                 Workout 6

 

Rotating workout 3

1.Decline bench press (6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

*barbell or dumbbell

               This exercise works the lower part of the pectoralis major muscle, triceps and deltoids. It places secondary emphasis on the lower fold of the pecs. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). Due to the angle of this bench it a bit harder to balance it. In order to protect your rotator cuff, it is best if you have a spotter help you lift the barbell off the rack.

2.Flat bench press (4 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 8-10)

*barbell or dumbbell

               This exercise focuses on the chest and places secondary emphasis on the triceps and anterior deltoids. Use a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms). With this bench press you should allow the bar to touch your chest.

3.Incline bench press (3 sets of 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps)

*barbell or dumbbell

               This develops the mass and strength of the pectoral muscles (upper and middle regions) and front deltoids. You should not let the bar touch your chest to lower the stress on your shoulders. As a result, the incline angle of this press hits the upper pecs really hard.

4.Decline bench dumbbell fly (3 sets of 12 reps)

               Never perform this exercise with heavy weights. This exercise isolates the upper part of the chest. With the pullover, it is one of the basic exercises to stretch your rib cage. Keep in mind that the movement will only happen at the shoulder joint and at the wrist. There is no motion that happens at the elbow joint.

Conclusion

               There you go. Now you have the knowledge and ammo to build your pecs too! If you are a beginner in weight lifting I recommend that you do the rotation workouts. When doing the focused workouts, do each for 4-6 weeks. If you want to do all of the focused workouts in one week then I should warn you that they require much more time invested in training and a lot more going to the gym on a weekly base. Therefore, I recommend doing the focused workouts all in one week when you get to intermediate/advanced level. In addition, when you pair them with other muscle groups they require much more energy and your nutrition should be pretty much on point. Now off you go to make them pecs more noticeable.

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1 Comment

  1. Willa91  - 3rd November 2016 - 12:03
    Reply /

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