When it comes to men, building the chest is of the utmost importance.
The chest (pectoralis major) is a critical part of the physique puzzle as a well-developed chest looks like an armor plate on the human body.
I had a bird chest for the vast majority of my life before my training evolved. Once I focused on getting stronger, the results flowed in smoothly like the Nile River.
With that said, many trainees in the iron game struggle to build a respectable chest because they waste time with movements and techniques like:
- Pec-dec flyes
- Cable crossovers
- Seated chest press
- Poorly executed bench presses
None of the movements above can get you to the pec promised land. A grown man sporting a teenage bird chest is about as noble as that same grown man sporting his teenage salary or clothing choices.
No More Half-Repping Chest Exercises
The worst technique for building bigger pecs is the usage of half-reps.
While using constant tension or 1 and 1/4 reps are great intensity techniques for making movements more difficult, relying on pure half-reps where you never reach the bottom of the movement, will prepare you for a total disaster when you finally perform a full rep.
I once saw a trainee on social media who had been performing half-reps in the bench press.
One day they had a bench press competition at the local commercial gym. He had easily performed half-reps with 315lbs, 355lbs, and 385lbs with little to no effort.
He was cocky and thought his strength matched that of Luke Cage.
The next weight up was 405lbs. The bench press rep had to be a full rep to the chest for the impromptu meathead challenge.
The second he passed the halfway point you saw his chest fold in and turn purple.
The man suffered a torn pec. His chest had never felt the full range of motion of a proper bench press and he paid a very steep price.
Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Practice performing the movements with a full range of motion but also utilize smooth, constant tension repetitions to build your best chest.
Top 3 Exercises for Building Your Chest
There are 3 movements that will guarantee that a flat chest will be a thing of the past:
The power of dips cannot be understated.
When you look at the upper body of a gymnast it should tell you all you need to know about the effectiveness of dips. Dips are a versatile movement that will also hit your triceps and front delts hard like a big hit from Brian Dawkins.
The problem that arises is that most trainees perform dips in an absolutely horrendous fashion.
The half-rep plague that infects most exercises inside the walls of the commercial gym, affects dips as well. There is no possible way for you to be a half-repper in the dip and expect your chest to truly grow.
To execute proper dips follow these steps:
- Grab the parallel bars and extend your elbows to get to the start position.
- On the descent, you will keep your elbows close to your body (not a pure full tuck like a close grip bench press).
- Lean slightly forward during the dip to put more stress on the pecs.
- When you reach the bottom, you are looking for the bicep to connect with the forearm.
- If the bicep does not connect with the forearm the repetition did not count.
- Push back up to the start position before performing the next rep.
Check out how to perform proper dips below:
2. Bench Press (barbell or dumbbell, flat/incline/decline bench)
The standard bench press is seen as the ultimate chest builder. For some men with great genetics that could be true.
The bench press is a phenomenal upper body strength builder, but when you perform a proper rep (medium grip, elbow half-tucked) the distribution of the muscular stimulation is balanced across the triceps, front delts, and chest instead of truly targeting the pecs.
Variations of the barbell bench press that hit the chest harder do exist. Incline barbell bench presses performed with a slightly wider grip on a low incline bench (15 degrees or the first incline setting) will add serious meat to your chest.
Another variation from the old school days of bodybuilding is The Gironda Neck Press. I promise you that the large majority of trainees have never seen this press in a gym before.
In his coaching prime, the Iron Guru Vince Gironda would have bodybuilders perform the neck press in an effort to truly isolate the chest. Using a wider-grip on the barbell and lowering the bar to your neck creates a pump in your chest that is downright ridiculous.
Your shoulders need to be strong before you perform the neck press, so do not jump into it blindly.
The flat and incline dumbbell bench presses are fantastic because using the dumbbells allows you to get a greater range of motion in the bottom of the movement when compared to the barbell versions.
All variations of barbell or dumbbell pressing will work wonders for your chest provided you use a full range of motion and do not press like you have the range of motion of an alligator.
Check out how to perform incline dumbbell bench presses below:
3. Push Ups
Push-ups are rather underrated but deadly like Paul Pierce.
Many trainees think that they are too advanced for push-ups but I have seen men who can bench 275lbs struggle to do 25 strict push-ups. This is asinine!
There are many variations that you can use to make push-ups more difficult once you are able to perform strong repetitions with the standard versions.
A few options you could use to increase the difficulty of your push-ups would be:
- Wearing a weighted vest or performing reps with a plate on your back.
- Use high-intensity rep styles like pause reps and 1 and 1/4 reps.
- Perform variations of the push-up like the Spider-Man or Gator Push Up.
Regardless of what you do, including the push-up as a part of your yearly training regimen will allow you to build a better chest.
Learn about to use proper form on the push-up below:
Workouts to Build a Superhero Upper Body
Meatheads disrespect the game. To them, training only chest and biceps 3 days per week seems like a good idea.
Even though our emphasis in this article is the chest, we will never strive to build an incomplete physique.
When we train our chest, we will also train our back. A balanced physique is always better than a Johnny Bravo-like physique.
- SS denotes Superset
- For the RP-21 movements, rest 30 seconds between movements and 1:30 minute between sets
- For the 6x5 movements, rest 15-30 seconds between movements and 1 minute between sets
- You should invest in a chinning/dip belt as your 7x3 sets will be using heavier loads for the dips and chin-ups. Beginners and half-reppers should first get through the sets with only bodyweight before adding weight.
- Perform each workout for 3 weeks followed by a 1-week deloading period.
- The upper body workouts should be separated by about 72 hours of rest for optimal performance.
Workout A: RP-21 Dips and Chins
|1b. Chin Ups||7||3|
|2b. Chin Ups||6||5|
|3b. Chin Ups*||1||Failure|
*Rest 1-2 minutes between movements.
Workout B: RP-21 Moderate Volume
|1a. Barbell Bench Press||7||3|
|1b. Pull Ups||7||3|
|2a. Incline Dumbbell Press*||5||10|
|2b. Dumbbell Bent Over Row*||5||10|
|3. Push Up Pyramid**||-||-|
*Rest 30 seconds between moves and 90-120 seconds between sets.
**For the push-up pyramid, start with 1 rep and add 1 rep each set until you reach 10 reps. Rest 10-60 seconds between sets.
Workout C: RP-21 High Volume
|1a. Incline Bench Press||7||3|
|1b. Chin Ups||7||3|
|2a. Barbell Neck Press*||8||8|
|2b. T Bar Row*||8||8|
|3. Push Ups||-||100 Reps|
*Rest 30-45 seconds between moves and 60-90 seconds between sets
**Use as many sets as needed to reach 100 reps in the push-up. If it takes you 10 sets week 1, make your goal to get to 100 in at least 9 sets the following week.
- Day 1: RP-21 Dips and Chins
- Day 2: RP-21 Lower Body
- Day 3: OFF
- Day 4: RP-21 Moderate Volume/Conditioning
- Day 5: OFF
- Day 6: RP-21 Lower Body/Conditioning
- Day 7: OFF
You can use these workouts for 2-4 training cycles, (3 weeks on and a 1-week deload) and you will witness healthy changes in your upper body strength and muscularity. You will wear tank tops this summer with confidence.
Unleash your inner greatness today.