How To Build Chest Muscle: The Big Chest Workout

For thousands of years, a broad muscular chest has been the representation of a powerful physique. This physical trait conveys confidence and strength.

Today this idea is as prominent as ever in the portrayal of muscle-bound superheroes on the big screen. More and more people are heading to the gym to chase this ideal physique by building a big chest.

Arguably, the chest is the most commonly trained muscle.  Just try finding an open bench press on a Monday afternoon!

Despite all this effort few actually obtain a herculean chest. However, a big chest doesn’t have to be the stuff of mythology and fantasy.

Unless you’ve been dealt a very unlucky hand genetically, you can build a big chest too!  Chances are you simply haven’t structured your training for maximum growth.

In this article, you will learn how to build chest muscle with a killer chest workout designed for optimal growth.

how to build chest muscle

Chest Exercises

If you want to know how to build chest muscle, you have to know the basic chest exercises.  So let start by listing some of the most effective chest exercises for growth.

  1. Bench Press
  2. Incline Bench Press
  3. Decline Bench Press
  4. Flys
  5. Dips
  6. Push-Ups

The table below provides more detail on the different variations, form, and technique for each.

chest exercises

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.

how to build chest muscle - inner chest

How to Build Chest Muscle Symmetry

Symmetry is another feature of a great chest. In other words, the perfect balance from left to right.

Like a mirror image. Similar to the shape, symmetry is also dictated to a great extent by genetics. But once again, there are some exercises and techniques that allow you to build a balanced chest within your genetic framework.

The best strategy for creating a symmetrical physique is to let each side work independently. This can be done using dumbbells, cables, or machines where each arm is allowed to move on its own.

By contrast, exercises that essentially lock the arms together (like barbell bench press) prevent this independent movement. By working as one unit, the stronger side is allowed to take over.

Resulting in less work by the weaker side. Which means less growth that eventually leads to asymmetry. So be sure to incorporate plenty of independent cable, machine, and free weight chest exercises in your workout.

Now that we’ve covered the principles of how to build chest muscle, let’s dive into an example chest workout designed for growth.

Killer Chest Workout

This workout is comprised of many of the strategies we just covered.  It also includes other intensity techniques to maximize growth such as pre-exhaust, supersets, and drop sets.

  1. Incline Bench Press
    • Keep elbows perpendicular to body and back flat on the bench
    • 5 sets of 8-12 reps
  2. Machine Bench Press
    • After completing a set, reduce weight by 40-50% and immediately perform another set
    • 3 drop sets of 10-15 reps each
  3. DB Incline Fly into DB Incline Bench
    • Perform flys to failure, then immediately perform press to failure
    • 5 sets 8-12 reps
  4. Dips
    • Use wider handle position with a forward body lean
    • 5 sets reps to failure
  5. Cable Fly
    • Keep elbows up, forearms in line with cables, and focus on contraction
    • 7 sets 12-15 reps, short rest between sets
  6. Feet Elevated Pushups
    • Place feet on a box or bench with your hands on the floor
    • 3 sets reps to failure

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