We may poke fun at or joke about those beefed-up men at the gym who bench press twice their body weight while grunting, groaning and making other strange sounds through every rep. But while we may jest, there is something to be said about working your chest muscles — especially for women. After all, with so much going on in that area already, some extra strength and support couldn’t hurt!
The key to working your chest is to hit it at every angle since it is made up of two parts: pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. Because the chest is a big muscle, doing standard chest presses is simply not enough. Incorporate each of these moves for a well-rounded chest routine that is sure to perk up your pecs.
1. Bench Press: If you're at the gym, lie flat on a bench with your feet firmly planted. Use an overhand grip that is just outside of your shoulders, and press the weight (either dumbbells or a barbell) straight up over your chest and lower it slowly back down. Be careful not to lower the weights too much or your upper back will arch and you will be placing too much stress on your shoulders. Lift and lower in a slow, controlled motion. If you're at home, try this Chest Press with Leg Raise for a similar workout without a bench!
2. Decline Press: In keeping with the need to work the chest from every angle, these presses will be a bit more challenging than a flat bench press. Make sure the bench is at a forty-five degree angle so that your head is on the bottom part and angled toward the floor. Again, simply press the weights up and down over your chest in a controlled manner. You may have to go a bit lighter with your weights on this exercise compared with a regular flat bench press. If you're looking for a similar workout at home, try this Decline Press on Step using your body weight!
3. Incline Press: As opposed to decline presses, here you will reverse your position by having the bench angled upward at forty-five degrees. Again, you may need to use lighter weights on incline presses, which are a bit more challenging than a flat bench press. If you'd like to perform this exercise without a bench, try this V-Sit Incline Press! Engage your core as your balance for an added ab workout, too.
4. Fly: Lie down on a flat bench while holding a set of weights over your chest with your palms facing each other. Extend your arms out as you lower them to shoulder level but with a slight bend in your elbow. As you lift the weights back up, make sure to squeeze your chest muscles. Without a bench, this Lying Chest Fly will do the trick or, for an added challenge, the Side Fly Extension will work your chest well. See a video of the move below!
5. Pushup: Nothing works your entire upper body like pushups. Sure, you will be working a lot more than your chest with this exercise, but after completing full sets of the other exercises, push-ups are a fantastic way of maxing out those chest muscles to get that final burn. To check your form on standard pushups, click here for details. If you're up for an added challenge, incorporate these 7 moves to get more out of you pushup!
If you perform all of these exercises for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps each, you will be working your chest muscles to their fullest. If you find that you can complete more than twelve reps on any exercise, it is time to use a heavier weight. With the pushups, you can work them with a standard sets and rep scheme or do them Tabata style (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest for eight rounds). You can even try seeing how many you can complete in a minute or longer.
With any weight lifting routine, be sure to begin with a few warmup sets to get the muscles ready. You can use light weights and perform two sets of regular presses or begin with a modified version of pushups—whatever gets those chest muscles primed to work.
When you really want to perk up those pecs, this routine will do the trick. Just remember to go slow, maintain good form and always increase the weight as you get stronger. Who knows? Maybe one of those grunters will be you one day as you show off your great strength and super physique!