Now that you know the chest exercises, let’s get into the details of how to build chest muscle.
How to Build Chest Muscle Size
Nearly everyone knows that lifting heavy weights will cause an increase in muscle size. This is why exercises like the bench press are so popular.
However, it’s possible to push such heavy weights on these exercises because they utilize multiple muscle groups. These types of movements are known as compound exercises. And it’s actually not ideal for maximum growth of a single muscle group.
Compound exercises do not effectively isolate one target muscle, such as pectorals. Which means less overload on the pectorals and less growth.
Especially when your primary goal is lifting as much weight as possible. As a former competitive powerlifter, I know that in order to maximize the weight technique changes to involve multiple muscle groups.
On the bench press, elbows draw in closer to the sides to utilize the triceps and shoulders. In addition, the back arches to shorten the range of motion and utilize the more powerful lower chest muscles.
This results in higher one-rep maxes, increased strength, as well as some increase in pectoral size. But, ultimately, it will not result in maximum chest muscle growth because the chest is not isolated.
To better isolate the chest, the elbows should be away from the torso almost perpendicular to the body. Additionally, the back should remain relatively flat on the bench, allowing maximum stretch at the bottom of the range of motion.
This technique places more stress on the pectoral and less on the supporting muscle groups, which results in maximum chest growth. It’s not ideal for maximum weight or strength but those aren’t the primary goals here.
When starting this technique you will most likely have to go back to the drawing board and remove a lot of weight from the bar. So check your ego at the door. But gradually increase the load while maintaining good technique and I guarantee you will see more gains in chest size than ever before!
In addition to the popular pressing movements, other chest exercises for isolation can be used to enhance growth. Fly movements using cables, machines, or dumbbells are excellent chest isolation exercises so be sure to include them in your routine.
How to Build Chest Muscle Shape
A great chest is proportionate from side to side and top to bottom. It should be noted that the shape of your chest is dictated largely by genetics.
The insertion points of the muscles and tendons are what give the pectorals their overall shape. That being said, there are some exercises and techniques that will result in small changes in the shape of your chest within your genetic structure.
Building the Upper Chest
Many weight lifters have a disproportionately small upper chest compared to the lower chest. This is the result of more focus on flat or decline movements because of the desire to lift more weight.
But once again, we’re not here to show off with super heavy weights – we’re here to grow. So get familiar with the incline exercises for the upper chest.
Simply throwing 1 or 2 incline exercises into your chest workout isn’t going to do much to build your upper chest. You must prioritize.
“Priority training” is the concept of training lagging muscles at the start of your workout when your power output is highest. So if you’re serious about building your upper chest, make it a priority and train it first!
Better yet, target your upper chest early and often with multiple exercises each workout.
Building the Inner Chest
Having a definitive separation between the pecs is another sign of a well-developed chest. Separation is more noticeable when body fat is extremely low. But it’s also possible to train your chest in order to build more size and shape in the middle.
The best way to build the inner chest is through contraction movements. For the pectorals, the contracted position is when the upper arms are closest together. So choose exercises where the load is maximized when the arms are in this position.
A good example of a chest contraction exercise is the fly. But not all fly exercises actually apply maximum load in the contracted position.
For example, when performing a lying dumbbell fly, the load is actually highest when the arms are fully stretched away from each other. This is due to the fact that free weight exercises rely on gravity for resistance.
So in this case, when the pectorals are in the contracted position the load is actually lowest because it’s straight down through the arms to the floor. For this reason, the best contraction exercises for the chest are cable or machine flys when the load is highest in the contracted position.