The chest: a group of muscles that is to the gym-goer what a Ferrari is to a car club. Not far into any conversation about workout routines is the burning question: how much can you bench? For guys, a powerful chest is a status symbol that makes long hours and explosive chest workouts worthwhile. Chest workouts for women can make physical tasks easier, improve posture, and add tone and definition to back, arms, and breasts.
And it’s not just about sharing numbers. A powerful chest might just help you get numbers as well. Studies seeking to understand male attractiveness have isolated waist-to-chest ratio as one of the greatest indicators of male attractiveness. Building a bigger, stronger chest helps give the appearance of a thinner waste—and can make you quite popular in the process.
Interestingly enough, chest workouts for women can lead to more turned heads as well. This is for a number of reasons. Stronger back and shoulder muscles are proven to improve posture, while a more toned chest adds support to make breasts appear larger and more perky. Oh, and a stronger chest won’t hurt when it comes to bringing in groceries or other physically demanding tasks.
Of course, upper body exercises that focus on the back and shoulders can help you build that desirable v-taper. A powerful upper body is not without high-intensity back and bicep workouts. But that’s not what this article is about. We’ve put together tips for dangerously effective chest workouts to get you the results you’re looking for.
Prioritize compound movements first
Compound lifts are some of the most effective for muscle building. Simplicity is bliss. An explosive chest workout that has you feeling, and seeing, the burn begins with heavy compound exercises. The most effective exercises in building a stronger chest are those that every gym goer is familiar with: the bench press and the dip.
The power-lifting folks are right to focus on the bench press. It’s an excellent way to build mass and strength where it counts. The bench press might not be the center of the weight-lifting world like it once was, but it should be.
To build a strong chest and get the mass you’re looking for, hit the bench often and with heavy weights. There’s differing opinions about how many sets and of what weight is the most effective, so find what works for you. As for us, we’re trusting the power-lifters chest workouts are effective: 5x5 at 80% of your max.
Just because bench pressing is common doesn’t mean it has to be mundane. Taking your reps on an incline or decline can help you build tone without sacrificing the bulking benefits of the bench.
Dips are the second exercise to prioritize before considering total gym chest workouts. They might even be the best chest workout. Partially because they’re so easy to do. When you make dips a habit, you’ll find yourself doing dips in all sorts of places—the kitchen counter, the couch, or anywhere else parallel objects are found.
Before dropping into your first dip, remember to lean forward to target your chest. If you’re at a dip station in the gym, you’re going to need to move your hands to the front of the bars. This will put more weight on your chest and bring you greater results. The alternative is called a triceps dip and—while a great way to tone your arms—won’t do so much for your chest.
The problem with dips—and most body weight exercise—is that you’ll eventually reach a plateau. Start with sets of 10-15 until you can’t do anymore. Use a machine assisted dip if you can’t get through three sets just yet. While it may be counter intuitive, don’t be afraid to go into high rep “burnout” workouts. But when you start to plateau, add weight to continue reaching muscle failure and seeing results.
The upper-chest is real, and it matters
It’s not an area we talk about enough. The upper-chest can make all the difference between looking bulky and looking fit. And the best part might be how easy it is to target this key area.
Incline is everything here. The gym is full of places to target the upper chest, such as incline benches for both barbells and dumbbells. Start with these compound exercise to bulk up your chest and improve tone in related muscle groups.
The upper-chest is a stubborn area to train. But that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. Upper-chest workouts can be done at home in the form of incline push-ups.
If you find this to be a challenge, use a medicine ball to support yourself and make the motion easier. If incline pushups sounds too easy, try doing it one handed. A no weight chest workout might be more effective than you’d expect, but stick to the heavy weights if bulk is your goal.
Isolate to round off the look you want
In the beginning, it’s all about bulk. If you want to build a powerful chest, you need to be eating like you mean it and staying consistent with the heavy weights. It won’t be easy—but it will be worth it.
However, there will come a day when the bulk is there and tone becomes priority. Not early on, because you don’t want to burn too many calories (unless you do). You’ll know when you’re ready.
Carving a toned chest is where the electric cable exercises come it. This is where the superset chest workouts start to make sense. Think of it as a sculptor finally siting down at a block of marble: the mass in front of you has to be built before you can chisel it away.