Check out these 5 simple rules for a great chest workout.
The chest is a large muscle group, but we in the fitness industry tend to divide it into three parts: lower, middle and upper chest. This happens mainly because the muscle fibers are angled differently than the lower, middle and upper ones. To target each part specifically, you should track the muscle fibers and apply progressive overload.
To develop the upper chest, exercises that involve a higher degree of shoulder flexion such as incline bench presses, incline dumbbell presses, and incline flyes may help. These exercises target the upper fibers of the pectoral muscle and can help create a more defined and aesthetically pleasing chest.
Now, no matter what type of exercise you will be doing, when training your pecs, there are 5 simple rules to make the session great. Or, as Mike Israetel says, these aren’t rules, but rather helpful tips for your chest success.
Dr. Mike Israetel, PhD in Sports Physiology and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, is a well-respected professor in the bodybuilding community. He doesn’t just talk about workouts and fitness tips, he often dives deep into health and nutrition.
What are these rules for a great chest workout? Watch them below.
5 simple rules for a great chest workout
1. Nothing beats deep presses
Big heavy compound presses really are an almost certain ticket to big chest, says Israetel.
There’s a reason why the barbell bench press is hands down the best exercise for your chest. By being able to easily and safely overload, you can crunch the numbers and fully target your bibs. Flies are good, but isolation exercises for the chest aren’t what’s likely to give you a huge chest, unless you’ve already developed them enough.
2. Pressure under the chest promotes greater hypertrophy through weight-bearing stretching
Although science is still proving it, most muscles gain more hypertrophy while deeply stretched and loaded with tremendous amounts of resistance. That’s certainly the case with your chest.
Deep stretch is key under load. If you can stretch your pecs further by pressing below the chest line, you can stimulate the chest greatly. How can you do it? With a camber bar while bench presses, deficit push-ups, some chest machines are prepared for this and the obvious dumbbell bench press.
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Train this, don’t do tons of sets in the beginning because, absolutely, it’s going to screw you in the best possible way with muscle soreness and growth.
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3. Flat and multiple lean angles, all good
There are multiple content creators trying to tell you to do one exercise over the other for better chest gains. For example, flat or slanted flies are great, flat or slanted presses are also great.
Press, press, press go. Decline, flat, inclined. It’s all right, says Israel.
4. Arch your back and pull your shoulders in for a better chest stretch
By arching your back and pulling your shoulders in, as most powerlifters do, you end up putting yourself under the most hypertrophied range of motion that promotes muscle growth.
You don’t need to arch your back excessively, but rather think about leaning out and lifting your chest. Then slide your shoulder blades back and under you. When you press, lift your chest up to the bar through the sky, slowed and controlled.
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5. Control your eccentric movement and pause your presses
This will keep your body in that stretched position longer, which you now know is the best way to stimulate muscle growth.
Simply slowly lower the barbell or dumbbell or bodyweight, pause at the bottom of the movement when your chest is mostly stretched for 1 to 2 seconds, and then press back up.
This way you will increase the quality and safety of your reps in one session beyond what they normally would be. Even if you’re not putting in the same amount of effort, your effort is more effective and safer.
For a full explanation, check out the video below.
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How much weight should you lift when training for muscle growth?
When training for muscle growth (hypertrophy), the weight lifted, often referred to as training load or intensity, is an important factor to consider. Here are some guidelines to help you determine how much you should lift:
Use a weight that challenges you: To promote muscle growth, it is important to use a weight that challenges your muscles. That means selecting a weight that allows you to complete your desired number of reps within the hypertrophy rep range (generally 8 to 12 reps) with proper form, while also feeling challenging near the end of each set.
Choose a weight that causes fatigue: The selected weight should cause fatigue in the target muscles by the end of each set. You should feel a sense of muscle burn or fatigue during the last few reps, indicating that the weight is suitably challenging.
Progressive overload: In order to continue building muscle, it is essential to gradually increase the demands on the muscles over time. This can be achieved through progressive overload, which involves a gradual increase in the weight lifted as the muscles adapt and get stronger. Try to progressively increase the weight as you become more comfortable within a certain weight range to continue stimulating muscle growth.
Form and technique: While it’s important to challenge yourself with heavier weights, it’s just as important to prioritize proper form and technique. Lifting weights that are too heavy and compromising your form can increase your risk of injury and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Focus on maintaining good form during each rep, even when using challenging weights.
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Individual capabilities: Appropriate weight will vary depending on individual ability, strength level, and experience. What may be heavy for one person may be light for another. It’s important to listen to your body and select the appropriate weights for your current fitness level.
Variation in training: Incorporating a variety of rep ranges and training modalities can be beneficial to overall muscle development. While rep range for hypertrophy (8-12 reps) is commonly associated with muscle growth, include both higher rep ranges (12-15+) and lower rep ranges (6-8) in your workout it can provide different stimuli and promote all-round muscle development.
Remember, finding the right weight is a trial and error process. Start with a weight that challenges you within the recommended repetition range and adjust as needed based on your individual ability and progress. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can also provide guidance and help you determine the appropriate weight selection for your specific goals and needs.
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