Bodybuilding Chest Exercises
The muscles of the chest span the width of the upper torso, and when developed the chest can portray muscular strength, power and aesthetical appeal. When it comes to bodybuilding, the chest can be developed with the execution of pressing variations, dips, and flys. Bodybuilding chest exercises aim to stimulate the chest fibres for muscle hypertrophy, a process of provoking muscular stress, inducing anabolic hormones, and the consumption of nutrients to aid in the muscle building process. The following bodybuilding exercises can be performed to build the muscles of the chest.
Chest pressing exercises
Flat bench press
The flat bench press can be performed with either dumbbells or with a barbell. The dumbbells offer a unilateral method of training the chest, ensuring equal stress to both chest muscles, whilst also stimulating the dynamic stabilising muscles which are recruited during the dumbbell bench press. The barbell bench press is often seen as the bread and butter chest exercise, offering an easier option for spotting by a training partner compared to the dumbbell variation.
The flat bench press stimulates the clavicular and sternal heads of the pectoralis major, with the opportunity to use a relatively high load, which makes the bench press the major chest exercise for muscle growth and strength gains. The bench press also recruits the deltoids (shoulders), and triceps brachii, although proper form can ensure maximum load on the chest and away from the additional muscles.
Incline bench press
The clavicular head composes the upper region of the chest, and is optimally recruited by performing an incline bench press variation. It is therefore said that the incline bench press is the best option for stimulating the upper region of the chest for muscle growth. This bench press variation can be performed with either dumbbells or a barbell, depending on the equipment available and preferences.
The degree of the incline should not be excessive, with the load being shifted onto the weaker deltoids (especially the front head) when the incline is in excess of 40-45 degrees.
Many gyms offer a variety of machine options, including the machine press. It is usually recommended that machines should be limited in a bodybuilding routine, with free weights offering a greater option, although machines can be supplemented into a plan when they offer a benefit. The machine press mimics the action of the bench press, although providing a safer option if training alone. The machine press also allows for easy changes to the resistance being applied, and therefore is a great option for drop sets and other advanced bodybuilding training methods.
Dips offer a way of effectively stressing the chest, triceps and deltoids. Dips can be performed leant forward with the arms flared outwards to stress the chest to a greater degree, compared to the torso upright and tucking the upper arms into the torso to stress the triceps more.
Dips can be performed on purpose made dipping machines, although it is recommended to switch to the bodyweight exercise once the strength has been built up to perform over six bodyweight repetitions. Once the required number of repetitions can be performed using bodyweight as resistance, belts can be purchased with allow for greater resistance to be added to the body to aid in progression.
Chest fly exercises
The dumbbell fly is a chest exercise which has been around for just as long as the bench press, which is a great option for pre-exhausting* the chest prior to bench press, or as a finishing exercise to stretch out the chest fibres.
Excessive weight is not required with the dumbbell fly, with the feel of the exercise important to ensure maximum muscle contraction, and for an effective stretch to the muscle at the bottom of the exercise.
Sample bodybuilding chest workout
Dumbbell flys 4 sets x 12 reps (one warm up set)
Flat barbell bench press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Incline dumbbell bench press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Dips 3 sets 8-12 reps
Finishing with intense chest stretches.
* Pre-exhausting is the process of beginning with an exercise which directly isolates the target muscles to stress the fibres greatly prior to executing an exercise which incorporates a variety of muscles which could overpower the exercise. The aim is to allow the target muscle to be tired before compound exercises, to ensure the muscle fails before the assisting muscles on the compound exercise.