Once upon a time, men were the only ones in the gym working on their pecs. They’d grunt and groan while doing bench presses. Then they’d pound on their chests and whoop. Ok, so maybe they didn’t do that last part (or only a handful of them did), but in more recent years, women have learned that building pecs isn’t just a guy thing.
The fact is, well-developed chest muscles are important for both guys and gals. It provides upper-body strength, poise, good posture, and confidence. And for the ladies, it keeps your breasts from sagging. Who needs cosmetic surgery when all you need is to devote a little time every week to working this muscle group?
Building your pectoral muscles isn’t very difficult. Just look at the guys on the chest press bench. You can even do it at home with minimal equipment if you’re not keen on hitting the gym. A little understanding of how the pecs work will serve you well when working this muscle group so you can maximize your efforts and get the results you want, whether you want to firm things up or you want to really define those chest muscles.
Check Out these 22 Pieces of Gym Equipment to get you started.
- 1 Understanding the Anatomy of Your Pecs
- 2 Why It’s Important to Build Chest Muscles
- 3 Exercises You Can Do to Build Chest Muscles
- 4 Other Things You Can Do to Build Chest Muscles
Understanding the Anatomy of Your Pecs
If you know about what your chest muscles are what they do, it’s easier to develop them. Plus, it’s fun to trot this kind of stuff out at parties when people start talking about politically-charged or religious topics to lighten the mood.
– Pectoralis Major
The biggest pectoral muscle is pectoralis major. It doesn’t just affect your chest either. It controls several motions in your shoulder including medial rotation, abduction, and flexion.
– Clavicular Bundle
Often, this is called the upper pec. It attaches to the bottom of your clavicle (collarbone), as the name suggests, and your sternum (breast bone).
– Sternal Bundle
Another that is obviously named for where it attaches, the sternal bundle is attached to your sternum.
– Costal Bundle
Often referred to as the lower pec, it attaches to the ribs between the 2nd and 6th rib, known as the costal portion of your body.
– Pectoralis Minor
Just think of this small, triangular muscle as the little brother to the pectoralis major. It’s under the major, and when it’s contracted, it pulls the shoulder blade down and forward.
Why do you need to know this? To entertain at parties, and to know how these chest muscles serve you and which exercises you can do to serve them for your best results.
Why It’s Important to Build Chest Muscles
Now you know what your chest muscles are, but why are they so important? They help you move your arms up and down and all around. The chest muscles are the largest in your upper body, and you’re using them all day, whether you realize it or not.
Every time you push open the door to the stairwell and bolt to your car from the office. Every time you style your hair or put on makeup. Every time you pick up your kids. Even when you lift a forkful of food to your mouth, you’re engaging those chest muscles.
Don’t believe it? Try overworking the chest muscles and you’ll feel it in every slight move you make.
Exercises You Can Do to Build Chest Muscles
Because your chest muscles enable you to do great things and keep your overall body strong, you’ll want to work them. Maybe you do a few exercises here and there for your chest muscles, but you’re likely not doing enough to keep your upper body strength in mint condition.
That ends now. Here’s how to build those chest muscles with a range of exercises you can do in the gym as well as some you can do anywhere. You can train this muscle group up to three days per week as long as they are non-consecutive days. Your body needs the recovery time.
The exception to this rule is if you’re trying to get all “Beefcake” as Cartman would say and are lifting heavy weights that only allow you to complete anywhere from 6 to 8 repetitions. In that case, you’ll need two or three days of rest between each session of working your chest muscles.
The easiest thing you can do to build chest muscles is something you can do anywhere. Get your sets of push-ups done while you’re at the gym, or work them in at home while you wait for your laundry to spin or your kids to put on their shoes (each will offer ample time for a few sets). Push-ups are fantastic because there are so many varieties of them.
In it’s most basic form, a push-up requires you to push yourself up and down from the ground. You get into a plank position and then lower yourself down without smashing your body into the ground, then push back up again. It’s helpful to watch a perfect push-up in action as proper form is key.
If this is too hard for you, you can do them on your knees instead of your toes, and if you have bad knees, you can do wall push-ups too. However you need to vary it for your strength, adding push-ups into your weekly workouts will help boost those chest muscles.
And now, for some variations. If you want to work the different parts of your pecs, trying out different types of push-ups is a good idea. Again, you can modify them for your strength level by using your knees instead of your toes. Some to try are Crucifix Push-Ups, Narrow Push-Ups, Archer Push-Ups, Incline Push-Ups, Decline Push-Ups, Uneven Push-Ups, Scorpion Push-Ups, and Single-Leg Push-Ups.
– Bench Presses
If you’re in the gym, doing the bench press is one of the best ways to target pectoralis major and the other chest muscles. Some gyms have bench press machines where you won’t need someone to spot you. If you’re working with free weights though, make sure you have a buddy to keep you from getting hurt. Other things to keep in mind are not pressing to your neck or with your elbows out. You can wind up with a shoulder injury that way. Remember, if you want your chest muscles to get bigger, you have to be able to do at least 5 sets of 5 reps of your own body weight.
– Dumbbell Presses
When working out at home, if you don’t have a bench press set, you can easily boost your pecs by doing dumbbell presses. There are Flat Dumbbell Presses, Incline Dumbbell Presses, Decline Dumbbell Presses, Dumbbell Flyes, Incline Dumbbell Flyes, and Decline Dumbbell Flyes. During these, you want to always keep your back flat as you go through each range of motion. Watching these in action is a great way to ensure you’re doing them with proper form and technique.
– Weighted Dips
Dips are wonderful for triceps, but few people realize they’re fantastic for building your chest and shoulder muscles too. It helps to think of them as a vertical form of bench pressing. Make sure you engage in them properly!
Here’s a great workout regime to build muscles and lose weight, Insanity Max 30.
Other Things You Can Do to Build Chest Muscles
Building chest muscles isn’t all about hitting the gym or even doing home workouts though. There are other things you need to do to improve the strength of your chest muscles and see the definition you’re hoping to see.
– You must eat more
Perhaps the ladies that just want to keep their breasts from getting saggy don’t need this tip, but the guys that want the kind of big, muscular and manly chests that will get all the girls need to start eating more. If you’re puny, you’re going to stay that way if you don’t eat. You have to start eating more calories than your body burns. Plain and simple, if you’re not bulking up and gaining weight, you’re not eating enough. Try eating more meals, eating more calorie-dense foods, and incorporate more protein.
– Bring in heavy compounds
You can’t just work the chest muscles and leave it at that. Heavy compound exercises use multiple joints while using free weights. So you’re maximizing your muscle recruitment, stimulating your nervous system, and stimulating growth no matter what stage of fitness you’re in. These help you build overall bulk and strength.
– Make sure to rest
It sounds crazy and completely counterintuitive, but resting is when your muscles grow. Don’t over-train your chest muscles. Fuel your body properly with good foods and allow this muscle group the time it needs to recover. Additionally, make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night.
– Practice proper technique
When you use poor form or you only partially do the moves, you’re not giving your chest muscles the full range of motion. Always perfect your technique first for every exercise (that goes for all other muscle groups too). It’s better for a beginner to only do a few of them correctly than to do a bunch of sets and reps the wrong way. If you can’t get a trainer to help you at home or in the gym, watch videos on these exercises to master the technique. It makes all the difference in seeing the results you want to see.
– Be realistic about your goals
Building chest muscles takes time. You must be willing to put in the work or it’s not going to happen. Conversely, rushing things is never the answer. You can’t cram 4 weeks’ worth of chest exercises into one week. All that will do is lead to injury and muscle fatigue and put you right back at square one. Think about what you really want from your chest muscles. If you want to be a chick magnet, then take your time and really work them the right way without cutting corners. If you want to keep your physique looking sexy and youthful without seeking out cosmetic surgery, keep at the chest exercises to build your body the way you want it.
– Patience pays
Going along with the last point, you’ve got to exercise your patience as well, especially if you’re a beginner, or you’ve never put in any effort on working your chest muscles. Don’t get upset with yourself if you can’t do a basic push-up. Many people can’t! Do them at home if you worry about everyone watching you at the gym, and modify them to accommodate your strength until you can do them on your toes. If you keep at it, you will build chest muscles that will help you pump out major reps without blinking an eye, but it’s not going to be tomorrow.
Line up your patience with your goals and work toward them to get that healthy, fit body you want, whether it’s big, bulging muscles, or just to be strong enough to keep up with your kids like a boss.