Welcome back to the second weekly edition of Muscle Talk, where we will get into the specifics of training our chest muscles, because what guy doesn’t want a big chest? Or what fitness minded gal doesn’t want a strong chest? It seems that in this day in age – for males anyway, a big chest is a sign of virility, strength, and to some degree, status. Part of the reason being because the pectoralis major is located anteriorly, and is highly visible even underneath a shirt. That visibility gets the pecs their fair share of attention from the opposite sex, and that alone is reason enough for most males to train the hell out of it. I think the females that train their chests with just as much enthusiasm have different reasons that are probably a little less driven by hormones to build a strong chest. Likely more out of a desire to have a balanced physique. Either way, the muscles of the chest will always dominate the weight room training sessions.
In the first part of Muscle Talk: Chest Muscles, we talked about these muscles, including the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle within the pectoral girdle. The other two we discussed were the pectoralis minor, and the subclavius. The pectoroalis minor sits deep to the pectoralis major. Its function is to act synergistically with the pectoralis major in all pushing, punching, and climbing motions. The subclavius originates on the first rib, and inserts on the inferior surface of the clavicle. This muscle helps to stabilize the chest.
We also talked about the fascicles of the pectoralis major, and how they are arranged in a convergent manner. We are going to focus on this particular point today as we continue to talk about the chest, and how best to train for a stronger, and bigger set of chest muscles. The structure of the pectoralis major dictates that a different approach be taken to training it, than other muscle groups.
The pectoralis major is spread out like a fan, and because of this we can actually target specific areas of the pectoralis major by simply changing the degree of angle on the bench. This differs from other muscle groups in that with other muscle groups, we use different exercises to hit different muscles, but we don’t use different angles necessarily to do so. I’m sure we are all aware of the three angles that we have to choose from; incline, flat, and decline bench press. These can either be performed with a barbell, or dumbbells.
Many people do not train as hard on the incline as they do on the flat bench. This is a mistake, as all portions of our chest should be trained with equal intensity. Training our upper chest hard will give the upper portion of our chest a much more rounded, and fuller appearance. The flat bench effectively trains the pectoralis major as a whole, but the incline press puts much more emphasis on the upper portion of the chest, and as such is a great exercise for isolating that particular portion of the pecs. These upper chest muscles are not commonly used in daily activities, and if this is coupled with little or no training, the upper chest will become weaker than the rest of the chest. As this exercise is half way to a shoulder press, it also targets the anterior deltoid. This exercise is a must for chest days, whether it is performed with either a barbell or dumbbells.
The next exercise is a classic, and probably the most recognizable exercise in the gym. Everyone knows and loves the flat bench press. This exercise is probably the most common exercise in any gym in any part of the world. There is no doubt that the flat bench press is a must do exercise when developing the pectoralis major. The flat bench targets the pectoralis major as a whole, and develops it evenly. Barbell bench presses are great, but dumbbells work just as well. The advantage to dumbbells in a press whether it’s incline, flat or decline is the fact that it automatically increases the range of motion. With that comes increased muscle recruitment, and that my friends is exactly what we want. The goal is always to train as many fibers as we can so we can stimulate as much growth as possible.
The last exercise I want to talk about are standing cable fly’s. The reason I like this exercise as opposed to a pec deck is simple; angles. Going back to what we talked about earlier, the fan shaped (convergent) fascicles of the pectoralis major – whose muscle fibers run at various angles, are perfectly suited for pulley machines that can be setup at low, medium, and high positions. This feature allows us to focus on the pecs like the angles of the three presses. For this particular exercise I typically do the low, medium and high angles, for two sets each of 8-12 reps – depending on the weight. Start with a comfortable weight that you can complete the same number of reps for all three positions. The reason for this is because we want all around, balanced muscle growth.
There are many other options that I also employ on chest day, and I add one or two of these each session. I like to do one arm dumbbell presses on a Swiss ball, as well as dumbbell fly’s on the Swiss ball. The one arm press is great for developing shoulder stability, as well as core strength. Both of these assets transfer well to the basic compound lifts. Dumbbell fly’s are another variation of what could also be performed on a bench, but with the added needs of balance and stability, which will be reliant on your core to provide.
If you’re really up for a challenge, try power-overs on a bosu ball. Start with one hand on the floor, and one hand on the bosu. As you push up, launch yourself over the bosu so you land with the alternating hand on the ball, and the other hand on the floor. Repeat this motion back and forth for as many reps as you can do before tiring. Done in this manner it is both a great finisher and a great pre – exhaust exercise. This is a plyometric variation, and these exercises are very effective for building explosive power that will carry over into the basic, compound lifts.
Another good plyometric exercise that involves the bosu ball are to simply do plyo push-ups on the bosu while it is upside down. Simply grasp the edges of the bosu, and as you are pushing up, launch yourself into the air and pull the bosu off the ground with you. Land on the bosu on the way down, and continue with this motion of pushing yourself into the air while bringing the bosu with you. Any explosive plyometric exercise will benefit any other lifts that are similar.
That is some of the basic exercises with some of the more advanced exercises as well. Combine a few from each and you have a very well rounded chest training routine. I was speaking to Carlos yesterday, and we loosely discussed that in a few weeks we may begin putting together actual routines that include the exercise, weight percentages, and rep ranges, as well as warm up and cool down options for each body part we have covered.
The names and functions of the muscles have been discussed as well as general training exercises to develop these muscles. Perhaps it is time to get specific with regards to laying out an effective training day for each body part that includes, power, strength, function, conditioning and agility. If any of you would like to see this please let us know in the comments section. I’m always flattered and honored when anyone takes the time to comment there. The sign in has been disabled (just ignore it), so no hassle there.
Tomorrow of course, the Fat Loss Facts of life will continue. The moment I’m finished writing this paragraph I intend to get on that immediately. I’m thoroughly enjoying the series and will use any and all methods to extend it as far as I can – so long as the information offered is of use to those interested in shedding body fat. I hope to see you here then my friends,