Follow these steps to grow your chest muscles!
Most of us are looking to build a bigger chest, right? As a personal trainer, I have helped clients create perfect chiseled chests that fill out shirts. While at the gym, I have seen countless people doing exercises incorrectly, which is one of the reasons why I decided to become a personal trainer. In this article, I not only show the exercises to create a big lean muscular chest, but I explain the human anatomy of the chest and the best way to stretch and break down the muscle. This Ultimate guide is an excellent source for chest muscle growth.
Disclaimer – Although I am a Certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not establish any kind of personal trainer-client relationship with me. I am not liable or responsible for any damages or injuries resulting from or related to your use of this information. You should consult a physician, a nutritionist, or a registered dietician prior to starting any workout or nutrition program.
You need to understand several keys points before working out your chest muscles. These are points that I try to instill in every client I train, as well as things that are a foundation to my own workouts. To maximize your chest muscle growth, you need to do the following steps:
- Research and understand the Insertion Point and Origin of the chest muscle
- Understand how to “Follow the Fibers” of the chest muscle
- Warm-up the chest muscles
- Break down the muscle fibers with the appropriate exercises
- Feed the chest muscles
- Rest the chest muscles
Research Your Muscles to Maximize Chest Muscle Growth!
I want you to look at human anatomy diagrams that show the “Insertion Point” and “Origin” of any muscle that you are working out. Because I am explaining the chest muscle, I will focus on that alone.
The Insertion Point
The insertion points is defined by Sports-Health as:
A muscle has two ends that each attaches to the bone: the muscle’s origin and the muscle’s insertion. At both of these points, tendons attach the muscle to bone.
Muscle insertion refers to a muscle’s distal attachment—the end of the muscle furthest away from the torso. For example, the bicep insertion occurs at the elbow.
The origin is defined by Sports-Health as :
Muscle origin refers to a muscle’s proximal attachment—the end of the muscle closest to the torso. For example, the bicep muscle’s origin is located at the shoulder.
The Upper Chest Insertion Point and Origin
The origin point of the upper pec is at the collar bone or clavicale (kenhub)
The Insertion point is the same for the entire pectoral muscle at the humerus bone.
The Lower and Middle Chest Insertion Point and Origin
The Insertion point of the lower chest and middle chest originates from three areas (wikipedia)
- Outside of the sternum
- The cartilage of the top six ribs
- External Oblique
The Insertion point is the same for the entire pectoral muscle at the humerus bone.
Why do you need to know about the Insertion Point and Origin?
Knowing this will help you maximize the growth of your muscle because you will know which direction to move in order to contract the muscle properly. Whenever you are contracting the muscle, focus on bringing the Insertion Point to the Origin. As I tell my clients, visualize contracting those two points together, slowly.
Follow the Fibers for Chest Muscle Growth
To illustrate, pay particular attention to the way in which the muscle fibers are running. In short, these are the striations of the muscle.
Why do you need the about following the fibers?
Similar to knowing about the insertion point and origin, following the muscle fiber is equally as important. I constantly remind my clients to follow the fiber. In addition, as you are working out the muscle, remember to contract the muscle in direction of the muscle fibers. To understand the direction in which they are going will allow you to maximize chest muscle growth.
In addition, I tell my clients to research the particular muscle before the training session. Make it a habit to look online prior to working out the way in which the muscle fibers run, then apply that to your workout. It will make a huge difference in chest muscle growth! Even prior to the exercise, I will spend a few moments online with my client searching for the term “Insertion point of Chest muscle,” or “Origin of the chest muscle,” or “Muscle fibers of the chest muscle.” You can also find these diagrams on this blog post on my website at www.fitmanfitness.com.
Now that you know about the insertion point, origin, and how to follow the fibers, you now can apply that to your workout. Before you begin any rigorous exercise it is best to consult a physician. You never know what is going on internally with your body, such as high blood pressure.
To begin your workout you must warm-up the muscles
Warm-up your chest muscles to begin your chest muscle growth
Warming up your muscles is essential to having a great workout. If you do not warm up your chest muscles prior to applying resistance training, your muscles are more susceptible to muscle strains and pulls.
In addition, your “endurance will be compromised.” 1 Cramp and muscle fatigue can occur because you will experience a buildup of lactic acid more rapidly.
So, I usually advise my clients to get on the treadmill for 15 minutes, and as you are walking contract their chest muscles by opening and closing your arms. If you do not have a treadmill, do several sets of jumping jacks or high steps, but as you are jumping, bring your arms in front of you and contract your chest muscles. This will help to get your heart rate up, which delivers more oxygen to the muscles and organs, and it opens up capillaries for additional blood flow.
Remember, stretching and warming up are two different things. Stretching refers to stretching the chest muscle to prevent muscle strains and pulls, and warming-up refers to raising the temperature of the body.
Now, on to the exercises!
Attain Chest Muscle Growth with the Appropriate Exercises
Upper Chest Muscle Growth Exercises
THE INCLINE PRESS
This is a great compound exercise to use as your first exercise after you have warmed up and stretched. follow the steps to perform this exercise:
Firstly, prepare the bench and place the appropriate weight on the bar. Next, put the incline bench at a 45-75 degree angle. You can use a smith machine or a regular bench. Also, if you are using an unassisted barbell, please use a spotter. And more importantly, start light with the weight selection if you are just beginning.
Sit on the bench and prepare for the sets! When sitting on the bench, make sure you “pack your shoulders,” meaning put your shoulder back and down. Your body needs to be positioned correctly as this will help you gain lean muscle. Also, keep your feet planted on the ground, as your planted feet act as a foundation for your to push the barbell up.
Perform the set – Put your hands slightly past shoulder-width apart, shoulders packed, tighten your core. Push the barbell off the hooks and lower weight to your chest. You should lower the weight to mid-chest and don’t lower the weight all the way to the chest. You should be able to get a fist between your chest and the barbell. Then, slowly push the weight up.
Continue contracting the muscle and follow the fiber! Push the weight all the way up, but DO NOT lock out your elbows. You want to have continued resistance on the muscle. This is one of the keys to building lean muscle. Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
The machine shown in the illustration below is one of my personal favorite machines. You will be able to stabilize your back, and most times you do not need a spotter. Make sure you keep your shoulders back as you press the weight up, and don’t forget to follow the fibers and contract slowly! The best thing about this machine is that with most weight you don’t need a spotter.
THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS
This is a great exercise to perform after a compound exercise like the Incline Press.
Prepare the bench and weight set. Put the incline bench at a 45-75 degree angle. You can a regular incline bench. If you are using heavyweight, please use a spotter. Start light with the weight selection if you are just beginning.
Sit on the bench and prepare for the sets! When sitting on the bench, make sure you “pack your shoulders,” meaning put your shoulder back and down. Your body needs to be positioned correctly as this will help you gain lean muscle. Keep your feet planted on the ground as your planted feet act as a foundation for you to push the dumbbells up.
Perform the set! While seated on the bench, place both dumbells on your knees. If using heavyweight, pop each weight up in the air from your knees, or use the spotter. Pay attention to where you place your hands. Keep your hands at a 90-degree angle as you lower the weight. Bring the weights down to about chest level, then push up. Contract your hands up and together. Focus on following the fiber and contacting the upper chest muscle.
The Incline flyes exercise is a great finishing exercise; an exercise that you help you get to muscle failure.
Prepare the bench and get a set of medium to light dumbbells. Put the incline bench at a 45-75 degree angle. You can use a regular bench.
Ly on the bench, put your shoulders back and down. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and put the weights out to your sides. Keep your elbows slightly bent through the exercise
Bring the weight together. Focus on contracting your upper chest muscle. Don’t bring the weight all the way together at the top. Go slow on the contraction and follow the fiber. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps or until failure
CABLE CROSSOVER FROM LOW TO HIGH
This is a great exercise to really contract the muscle. You will need a cable machine in order to perform this exercise.
Set the Weight and Prepare – Set the weight at a lower weight. I need you to do this so that you can feel the contraction. Put the handles on the cable machine and set the cable machine at a low height.
Stand between the cables and several feet ahead. Position one foot in front of the other and keep your torso slightly forward. Keep a slight bend in your elbows. The starting point is about an arm’s length from your body.
Perform the set! Now, focus on bringing the insertion point of the pec to its origin. Contract the muscle and bring the handle from a low position up to about head height. That is one rep. Lower the weight to your sides, then bring it up again. Always follow the fiber of the upper chest muscle. Check out the photo above. This is the final position of this exercise.
DECLINE PUSH UP
This exercise is great to do when you don’t have a gym membership or bench and weights. If you are doing regular push-ups in your routine, then you should be doing decline and incline pushups. The angle of the pushup works different parts of your chest muscle.
Grab a chair or a bench and a comfortable place to place your hands. Anything that you can put your feet on will suffice for this exercise.
Place your hands on the floor then put your feet up on the chair. Put your hands slightly outside of shoulder-width on the floor.
Begin your pushup at a decline. This decline exercise is just like doing an incline press, only you are using your own weight instead of barbell weight.
MIddle Chest Exercises
THE BENCH PRESS
We have all been there, done that, right? I need you to change up your regular bench press, by slowing down and most importantly packing your shoulders. When you do this, you will see growth in your chest because you will be getting a full stretch and contraction of the chest muscles.
If you have never benched before, then I suggest getting a spotter. Place equal weight on each side of the bar.
Prepare yourself for the exercise. Ly down on the bench, and place your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart onto the bar. Now, there are a few things you need to do that I see many people do wrong. Be sure to pack your shoulders back.
You want to get a full stretch of your chest muscles, so you want to get your shoulders far back on the bench. You will have a slight arch in your back, your shoulders will be pressing against the bench, and your feet firmly planted on the ground. Keep in mind, your feet create a foundation for the press, so keep your feet planted.
With your core activated, push the bar off the stand and push all the way up. Do not lock out your arms. Once you are to the top, stop, and bring the weight down. You do not want to bring the bar all the way to your chest. Bring the bar about a fist away from your chest, then push the bar back up.
I believe many people underestimate the effectiveness of the Push-up. Like other exercises, this is one that can be done incorrectly, but with a few tweaks, you can utilize this exercise as one of your finisher exercises to really break down your chest muscle fibers. To target the chest, you must do this exercise correctly, or you can seriously injure yourself.
When doing the pushup, I want you to visualize as if you were doing a Bench Press exerciser. Your feet should be slightly apart, and be sure to tighten your core through this entire exercise. Your hand placement is really important in a pushup. If they are too close to your body, you will be working out your triceps. If your hands are too far in front of your head, you will be working out your shoulders. Get in the plank position.
Your hands should be placed on the sides of your body in line with the Insertion point of your chest muscle. If you do not know where this is, then you need to check out the diagram above. In addition, I need you to visualize your chest muscle from insertion point to origin throughout this entire exercise. Also, your shoulders need to be packed, meaning they should be all the way back. So, think about keeping your entire back flat, and your shoulders should be in line with your back.
Now, Push up. But, don’t just push up fast. Think about the movement and muscle contracting. Go slow, and bring the insertion point to the origin. You want to get a full contraction. Doing so will ensure that you are working out the muscle.
Lower Chest Exercises
This exercise can be done with or without weight. When first starting, I suggest using no weight. Check out the machines in your local gym as some gyms have a dip machine that will assist you with weight. These machines are great starters until you work your way up to your own body weight. The dip is performed on two horizontal bars.
To begin with, place your hands on top of the bars. Next, you need to lift your body weight up. When you get to the top of the exercise, protract your shoulders, and you need to push away from the bars. As a result, this protraction will allow you to really fire up your lower chest muscles.
Lower yourself down so the back of your arm is parallel to the bar. Lastly, You will want to always keep a slight angel as you are performing this exercise, and if you keep an upright posture, you will be working on your triceps more.
CABLE CROSSOVER FROM HIGH TO LOW
This exercise can be done with resistance bands or a cable machine, but if you don’t have a set of resistance bands, yet, then I highly suggest you check out my article, “Best Tool to Have to Retain Muscle till Gyms Open”
You will want to drop the ego on this one when it comes to how much weight you will use. Also, there are too many videos out there of guys doing the entire stack of weights on this. That may be suitable for them, but for most of us just trying to build a nice physique, we do not need that much weight. With this in mind, I suggest going light and work your way up.
Also, notice that this exercise is going from high to low whereas the upper chest had an exercise from low to high. this is where “following the fibers” comes into play. Once you understand this, you have much better results in your workout.
REMEMBER – contract slowly, squeeze the contraction and follow the fiber
Firstly, you need to get a strong split stance between the cables, keep your core activated, and keep a slight bend at the waist. Also, the cable machine placement should be just above the head or slightly higher. And, remember that we are focusing on the lower part of the chest, so the movement is going to be going from top to bottom. Also, remember to keep a slight bend in the elbow so that you do not cause trauma to the bicep tendon.
Move the cables together in a slow and controlled manner. When performing the exercise, focus on bringing your elbows together, not your hands. When you do this, the leverage will be bringing your chest muscles together which will give you a full contraction. You can either cross the cables or not. If you decide to cross the cables once you have contracted the weight, be sure to cross them slightly.
Once you have contracted the muscle, focus on bringing your arms back. You can get a pretty good stretch of the muscle with this exercise. Don’t bounce the weight when you bring it back. Pause for a second then bring your arms back to the front of you.
Above all, I cannot stress enough the importance of control with this movement from top to bottom. If you let the weight swing back, you could seriously injure your muscles, and you will be out of the gym for a while. So, take your time and contract slowly.
How to incorporate these exercises in your workout program
If I have time, or if my clients have time, I will focus on hitting the chest by splitting the exercises up between the upper, middle, and lower chest muscles. So, a typical workout day for someone that has been working out for a while would look like this:
- Incline Press – 3 sets of 8
- Dip Machine or Dips – 3 sets of 8
- Cable Crossover – 3 sets of 8
- Pushup – 3 sets to failure
If you feel that you are lagging in one particular part of your chest, then I would suggest adding another exercise for that part of the chest. Most would find that they want to build up their upper chest. If that is the case, then include the “Cable Crossover from Low to High.” Once you have broken down the muscle, it is important that you feed the muscle.
Feed the Muscle for Chest Muscle Growth
All in all, nutrition is such an important part of your entire workout regimen. For this reason, you need to feed your muscles the appropriate foods at the right times. Thus, nothing beats a well-balanced meal. I am not a nutritionist or a registered dietician. The information I am providing is for educational purposes only, and my own opinion. If you want a prescribed meal plan, then I suggest seeking a nutritionist.
The information provided here can be found on any of my free workout plans at fitmanfitness.com.
Follow these steps to make sure your nutrition is on point.
This will ensure chest muscle growth
Create a MyFitnessPal.com, download the app, and then you will begin inputting your information. Now, this process may take some time, but you need to do this in order to track your calories. But, this will help you find out how many calories you are consuming on a daily basis.
You may be really surprised at how many or how few calories you are consuming. But, you do not have to do weeks or months of inputting information. I would suggest at least three days of inputting your information. Once you have inputted your information, scroll down to the bottom of the day you are on, and look at the pie graph. Afterward, you will now be able to see how many carbs, proteins, and fats you are consuming.
Utilize the Myplate Calorie Calculator to find out how many calories you should be consuming.
Input your information, and then you will find out how many calories your body needs to lose or maintain weight. Afterward, the calculator will populate a caloric amount that you should shoot for daily. But, DO NOT drop your calories to that amount immediately. Keep in mind, the calculator gives a general amount of calories.
Eat Healthy food – This is not anything new. If you are serious about making a complete lifestyle change, then do it! Therefore, don’t have cheat meals. Also, if you have a goal, stick to it. Also, you need to be consuming lean meats, fresh vegetables, and low fatty foods. You can find great information on particular foods at Myplate.gov. The food does not need to be bland, instead, season it up!
Rest The Chest Muscles for Chest Muscle Growth
“Resting is essential for muscle growth.”(1)
Resting your muscles provides the following benefits:
- Supports healthy sleep
- Improves performance
- Prevents muscle fatigue
- Reduces risk of injury
- Allows time for recovery of the muscle fibers
If you are unsure weather or not you need a rest day, here are some signs that you may need to rest:(1)
- Sore muscles
- Emotional Changes
- Sleeping Issues
- Reduced performance
In summary, following a structured plan is essential to obtaining your goals. Over the years, I have tried countless exercises, I have experimented with different nutrition plans, and I have spent many hours at the gym. In addition, what I have learned is that it takes knowledge and time to accomplish what want. If you have read this guide, then you have taken the first step to reach those goals. I commend you on that, and I know you can reach your goals! If you have any further questions, please check out my website at www.fitmanfitness.com. I provide free workout programs as well as free fitness calculators for your journey.