A massive, well-defined chest takes any physique to the next level. It shows power and oozes masculinity. Whether you’re just looking to fill out a t-shirt, or you’re on an epic quest to looking like a Greek god; you need to build an impressive set of pecs.
However, the bodybuilder’s obsession with the bench press has caused many a shoulder injury and doesn’t fully stimulate the muscle group. The old-school approach is just that, old. I’m going to give you five little-known ways to add strength and size to your chest, without damaging your body irreparably.
1. Attack Every Angle
In everyday life, your chest muscles are responsible for a huge variety of movements, not just pressing on the single plane of a bench press. So, why would you focus so much on one movement in the gym? In order for a muscle to grow in strength and size, you need to work the muscle group from every angle, using a variety of different exercises.
To sufficiently stress the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, you must perform exercises at an incline to hit the upper chest, flat to stimulate the middle chest, and decline to beat the lower chest. This may not be new to some of you, but you actually need to incorporate these variations into your routine to see new gains. Here are two ways to hit the pecs from every angle:
a) If you’re doing a traditional gym workout, then on a weekly basis, include incline, decline, and flat chest pressing so that you attack your chest muscles from all angles. Do exercises like decline push-ups, incline bench press, and dumbbell chest press.
b) Do flyes in addition to pressing. Flyes help develop the inner pec muscles that presses and push-ups simply have a hard time targeting, and there are many variations you can use, including decline fly, lying fly, seated fly, and standing fly.
2. Push-ups with Rotation
In the article, Why Are Push-ups Such A Good Exercise?, you learn the benefits of the standard, often over-looked push-up. It requires contraction of the muscles around the knee joints, hip joints, pelvis, and spine to maintain a straight line from your head to your feet. Combine that with activation of the muscles on the back of your arms, chest, shoulders, biceps, upper back, lower back, and legs, and you get full body workout with one simple exercise. This spurs muscle gain and fat loss.
Push-ups are very versatile, and can be used to not just build muscular strength, but also to improve power (e.g., a “clap” push-up) and increase muscular endurance (e.g., doing X number of push-ups in four minutes). By altering your hand and foot positions, you can change muscle recruitment patterns and joint stresses of the push-ups, making the movement harder, easier, or simply stressing different muscles.
But when it comes to taking full advantage of the push-up for developing a rock hard chest, there are two exercises that I like the best. One you will learn about later in this article. The other is the push-ups with rotation.
Simply get into a standard push-up position, do a push-up, then rotate your entire body to one side while reaching for the sky with one arm. Then rotate back until you’re facing the ground, do another push-up, and rotate in the opposite direction. When you rotate to the side, you can “stack” your feet on top of one another, or you can space them next to each other. Here’s a video to show you what I mean.
Click next, if you want a bigger chest…
3. Rowing and Retraction
Slouched shoulders create an inward curvature of the chest, rather than the full, lifted look of a well-built chest. The excessive sitting and screen time of modern day has most of us walking around with a slight hunchback, so when you’re working on getting a rock-hard chest, you must include shoulder posture, rowing, and shoulder blade retraction exercises.
My favorites are the push-up row, seated rows, lat pull-downs , and pull-ups. As a matter of fact, even if you’re targeting your chest, you should think about a simple rule when you’re at the gym: pull twice as much as you push. We live in a “shoulders forward,” pushing dominant culture, so if you want to stand tall and lead with your colossal chest, remember the importance of posture and proper shoulder alignment.
4. Suspended Push-ups
Here it is, my other favorite push-up variation. A recent study titled Muscle activation during push-ups performed under stable and unstable conditions, looked at a variety of push-up variations (wobble board, stability disc, fitness dome, etc.) using electrical equipment to measure muscular contractions. They found that in order to get maximum contraction of your chest muscles, the best exercise you can do is a “suspended push-up.” I prefer using something like a TRX, or other form of a suspension strap. Here’s what it looks like:
Want even more push-up variations? Check out my article “Top 16 Push-Up Variations Two Part Article Series.”
5. Grease the Groove
Ask five bros at the gym what the best muscle-building program is, and I bet you’ll get five different responses. You’ve got bodybuilders doing their body part splits, destroying their chest once a week. The full body workout, three times per week folks, who are probably only doing one chest exercise. And, everything inbetween. You obviously need to choose a program based upon your personal goals and stick to it. However, my favorite way to work the chest is to “grease the groove” by doing a number of different push-up variations every day, 365 days a year.
For example, before I have my cup of coffee in the morning, I do three sets of 10 push-ups on my fists. Later in the day, I’ll drop and do 50 standard push-ups. Then, as part of an evening workout, I’ll finish with 5 solid minutes of push-up rotations. In other words, I’m constantly working my chest in “mini-doses” of exercise, rather than having a devoted, structured chest workout. This approach works quite well for my busy schedule, and results in far less pec soreness too.
Last thing, if you’re struggling with excess fat and man boobs, you should read my article Should You Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time?
There you have it! Go hammer your chest, then use these 7 Cutting-Edge Physical Therapy & Recovery Techniques You Can Use to Heal Your Body Faster that are discussed in a recent podcast.