The chest is a complex muscle which can be hard to target directly unless using the correct technique. This will usually involve pressing movements that keep your shoulder blades retracted. This helps zero-in on the pecs while ensuring maximum stretch is achieved on the negative part of the rep for complete chest training and development. Top 5 Chest Exercises now explains more!
1. Dumbbell Bench Press (any angle)
The purpose of this exercise is to push the dumbbells out in front of your chest using your chest muscles. The reason using dumbbells is more advantageous than a barbell is that the left and the right pectorals work independently in order to get the weight up.
With the barbell, one side can work harder than the other in order to complete the movement but by using dumbbells, you won’t develop a weaker side.
In order to get the best contraction, on the eccentric (negative) part of the movement allow an emphasised stretch on the chest by pulling the shoulder blades back. On the concentric (positive) part of the movement, allow a slight bend in the arms, do not straighten them as this takes the tension off your chest.
Dips for me is the ultimate exercise for developing the lower chest. It’s often under-utilised and only usually performed with bodyweight. Progression onto a weighted belt is definitely an option for this exercise.
This movement involves the triceps and it’s better to avoid full extension of the arms. While also leaning forward into the dip movement it can reduce tricep activation and increase the tension on the chest. For me this compound movement is a must for a complete looking chest.
3. Dumbbell Flyes (any angle)
These are the primary exercise for stretching the chest and the angles should be varied using incline, flat and decline bench in order to target the upper and lower portion of the chest.
To put optimal tension on the chest, perform this exercise with straight upper arms and a slight bend at the elbow. One tip is to perform this exercise first in a chest workout in order to pre-exhaust your chest for the pressing movements.
4. Lying Dumbbell Pullover
This is another exercise that is often left out but one of the only exercises that stretches the top of the chest. These will help increase chest muscle density in the middle and upper portion of the chest.
Dumbbell pullovers should be performed with a straight arm, bringing your arms to head height and/or a little lower but make sure you’re contracting your chest and not your triceps and lats in this movement.
5. Reverse Grip Barbell Press
This one is my secret to top class development in the upper chest. Increasing muscle fibre recruitment by 10-30% just by reversing your grip! This can be your new secret weapon.
Performing this exercise on a flat bench with a wide hand grip and the bar high on your chest on the eccentric phase, is sure to hit your upper chest like no other exercise. It may feel awkward at first and a little harsh on your wrists but after a few weeks you will definitely see an improvement in your upper chest and in the amount of weight you can lift.
These 5 exercises are what I include to hit my chest from all different angles; especially the reverse grip barbell press, which I would include in any chest workout. So to recap, without involving your shoulders and triceps, it’s important to stimulate all the areas of the chest if you want to develop yours fully!