The Only Exercises You’ll Ever Need to Build a Bulletproof Chest
In all honesty, building a chest worthy of a superhero is easy. It just takes is basic exercises … and time. A lot of time. However, almost everyone (including you!) should be able to develop powerful pectorals that deserve to have an “S” stamped across them. You can build a bulletproof chest. You just have to be persistent.
Want a Bulletproof Chest? Stick to the Basics.
Building a superhuman chest may take quite a bit of time, but the movements are simple. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who managed to develop the greatest chest in history (no, there’s no argument), stuck with basic movements throughout his entire training career. Yes, he had outstanding genetics; but his legendary pecs were the result of hard work and consistent training. The exercises below were staples in every single one of his chest workouts. If you’re smart, you’d include them in your program as well.
Exercise #1 For a Bulletproof Chest: The Bench Press
No exercise is more popular in the gym than the Bench Press. Hearing “How much do you bench?” while walking to the locker room is more common than hearing the “F” word while listening to rap music. Guys love the thought of moving massive amounts of weight, and this is one exercise that allows you to do that. In fact, it’s one of the big 3 (along with the Squat and Deadlift) that are tested during power lifting competitions. A word of caution though: incorrect form can cause serious shoulder injuries such as a blown rotator cuff and/or AC joint separation, so increase the weight slowly. This is one exercise where “slow and steady” certainly wins the race. At the same time, this will be your strongest chest exercise. So enjoy feeling as powerful as a superhero and the pump that comes along with it!
Exercise #2 For a Bulletproof Chest: Incline Bench Press
In my opinion, this is the most important of all the chest exercises. While the flat bench press works primarily the lower part of your pectorals, raising the bench causes that focus to shift upwards. The rule is simple: the greater the incline, the more intensity you place on the upper chest and shoulders. However, because the upper chest is weaker overall compared to the lower portion, this exercise is one that is skipped far too often (even by athletes who work out consistently)! This results in the upper chest becoming a weak point for almost all competitors. The normal incline at the gym seems to be about 30%, but I use this exercise at all sorts of different angles to make sure that I develop a chest that is balanced and powerful at every position.
Exercise #3 For a Bulletproof Chest: Dumbbell Chest Flys
Your chest has two main functions: 1) to push things outward (away from your body) and 2) to move your arm across your body. If you want a functional, well balanced chest then you must train it both ways. In other words, bench pressing is not enough. Let me say that again for those of you didn’t hear me: BENCH PRESSING IS NOT ENOUGH! To build an outstanding chest you must learn to fly. The dumbbell chest fly is an outstanding exercise, and probably my favorite chest exercise overall. It not only allows me to get an excellent stretch (in the lower part of the motion), but it also allows me to keep constant tension on my pectorals throughout the entire set. I like to perform this exercise towards the end of my workout, and many times I’ll choose to superset it with flat or incline bench presses.
ADVANCED TIP: Lower the weight slowly in order to get a good stretch at the bottom part of the movement. When lifting the weight, focus on squeezing your elbows (rather than the dumbbells) together. This will help you keep tension on your chest throughout the entire set!
Exercise #4 For a Bulletproof Chest: Incline Dumbbell Chest Flys
Similar to the Incline Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Flys should be used to make sure your upper chest is fully developed. Having lower pectorals that are over-developed and dominate your upper pecs can leave you looking like a 95 year-old woman in a tank top! To avoid that look, make sure to use Incline Chest Flys and work your chest at multiple angles. As a general rule, the greater the incline, the more you emphasize your upper chest and shoulders. Look in the mirror to determine where your chest is lacking, and adjust your workout accordingly.
Exercise #5 For a Bulletproof Chest: Parallel Bar Dips
Dips are an outstanding exercise that can be used for power (3 – 5 reps per set), mass (6 – 10 reps per set), or as a finishing movement (12 – 15 reps per set) towards the end of your workout. I love this exercise because it allows me to fully stretch my pectorals and develop strength during each phase of the movement. As an added bonus, you are also able to work your front deltoids and triceps to a great degree. At the beginning you may need someone to hold your feet to take away some of the resistance; however, once you develop your strength you will probably want to purchase a belt so that you can add extra weight and reach failure within the desired rep range.
TIP: WHEN PERFORMING THIS MOVEMENT, LEAN FORWARD TO PLACE MORE FOCUS ON YOUR CHEST. If you want to place more focus on your triceps, keep your body perpendicular to the ground (straight up and down for all of you who barely passed geometry).
Exercise #6 For a Bulletproof Chest: Dumbbell Pullovers
It’s not enough to have great pecs … you also have to have an outstanding rib cage to hold them up! When it comes to the size of your rib cage, most people believe that genetics are the determining factor; however, Arnold was convinced that doing pullovers could actually expand your rib cage. Who am I to argue with the big guy? This exercise was a staple in his workout, and that’s good enough for me. Make sure to include it in yours.
Of Course, There Other Factors to Consider …
If just knowing which exercises to do were enough, everyone would be walking around looking like a Greek God (or Goddess). There are other exercises (such as decline presses, machine presses, machine flys, cable crossovers, and pushups) that have their place, and other topics (such as ideal rep range, burnout sets, and sets per workout) that will certainly be discussed in future posts.
Above all, your mindset determines your long term success (or failure) more than anything else.