by Will Grumke July 19, 2019 7 min read
When you think about workout out your chest, the first workout that comes to mind is likely bench press. However, there are a wide variety of workouts that can help you improve your chest muscle definition.
In this article, we’ll show you why you should be interested as well as some of the best ways to start improving your chest workouts and fitness routine.
The chest is an important group of muscles. It’s important for both functional and aesthetic reasons.
While the chest muscles are larger than a lot of the other muscle groups, it's actually considered a medium-sized muscle group. It only contains two muscle groups. These muscle groups are the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.
Here’s what you need to know about them.
Pectoralis major: Your pectoralis major muscles are the larger chest muscles. The pectoralis major is responsible for four primary movements.
First, your pectoralis major helps you with humerus (the long bone in the arm that runs from the shoulder to the elbow) flexion. This is what you use to either throw a ball or lift something like a toddler.
Second, it abducts the humerus. You use this motion whenever you flap your arms. Think about swimming.
Third, pectoralis major help you rotate your arm medially, which is a motion you do when arm wrestling, for example.
And fourth, your pectoralis major muscles keep your arms attached to your body.
Pectoralis minor: The pectoralis minor muscles are found underneath the pectoralis major muscles. They deal primarily with arm movement. They help lift, lower, and steady your arms so they can do whatever it is they need to do.
Even though the pectoralis minor muscles are the smaller muscle groups, you won’t want to neglect them by only focusing on the pectoralis major muscles. Working out your pectoralis minor muscles can add a real depth and fullness to your chest.
Since your chest is involved in so many movements, whether you want to grow a larger chest or not, it is still a great idea to train it on a regular basis.
So let’s spend some time talking about what chest workouts exactly can and can’t do for your body, as well as how to optimize your next chest workout.
So, what exactly do chest workouts do? And the answer might seem pretty obvious at first.
Chest workouts make your chest muscles bigger, or stronger, or add shape to them. And that’s true, but for many people, their chest is a sensitive subject when it comes to their body. This goes for both male and females.
Here are some common questions people have about chest exercises and how those exercises will affect their bodies.
Question 1: Will chest exercises make my breasts bigger or smaller?
Answer 1: There are a lot of women who are very aware of their breast size and shape. Some wish they were smaller, and others wished they were larger. You’ll hear conflicting answers on whether or not chest exercises will make your breasts bigger or smaller, but we’re here to tell you that it probably won’t make much of a difference one way or the other.
Visual muscle definition is at least partly determined by body fat.
The more body fat you have, the less definition there will be.
So even though a habit of great chest workouts would, in theory, make your chest bigger, since breast tissue generally contains more fatty material than the rest of your body, it’s unlikely that you will notice a big difference one way or the other.
Question 2: Will chest workouts get rid of “man boobs”?
Answer 2: This is a question I received a lot as a trainer, here at customer service, and personally something I asked when I was 50 pounds heavier. Men who are on the heavier side eventually start to develop some fatty tissue around their chest area.
Oftentimes men feel self-conscious about it, I know I did. But there are various factors that come into play here.
Sure, building muscle mass will help make your chest look better, but if you collect fat around your chest, what’s really going to help you is a caloric deficit and working on fat loss.
By lowering overall body fat, you can help lose fat in your chest. You can’t necessarily do spot reduction, say …. just doing 1000 push-ups a day to burn fat around your chest… but by getting in better shape it will help reduce man boobs.
One thing to also consider is that some men tend to store more fat in those areas, therefore it might be more challenging for them to get rid of man boobs. It’s not impossible, just might take longer or require a more diligent plan to do so.
Question 3: Why don’t I feel chest workouts?
Answer 3: If you’re doing a chest workout, and you don’t think you’re feeling the workout, there could be a variety of things going on.
You might not be pushing your body enough.
You could be using the improper form and working your shoulders, arms, or other muscle groups too much to complete the rep.
You might have to change up your workout by varying your exercises, rest, sets, and rest between sets.
But also keep in mind, depending on how seasoned of a weight lifter you are, and how often you train chest will play a roll in how you feel during and afterward as well.
Let’s look at a few solid exercises that can be good additions to your chest workout.
If you’re looking to work on your chest, try adding these exercises to your next workout.
How you do it: You know the barbell benchpress. You lay down on a bench, place the weighted barbell over your chest and you push straight up into the air and then let it fall back down into position in a controlled manner.
What does it do: Several sets of barbell bench presses work out your pectoralis major as well as your triceps, deltoids, and traps.
How you do it: The dumbbell bench press is done just like the barbell one, only you have a dumbbell in each arm instead. Remember, like many exercises, the slower you do the lift, the more you’re working those muscles.
What does it do: It works out all of the same muscles as the barbell bench press. But since your hands are working independently from one another, your body uses a lot more of those stabilizer muscles found in your pectoralis minor muscle group. You most likely won’t be able to do as much total weight, and that is 100% ok!
Personally, I am a big fan of Dumbbell Bench Press over the barbell, but no matter which you prefer … having at least one of them into your chest workout should be a staple movement you do (unless you have an injury preventing it).
How you do it: Dips are great for chests. You generally hold on to two bars and suspend yourself in the air so you’re not touching the ground. From there you lower yourself down and push to get yourself back up into position. Can be performed on a stable chair or bench as well.
What does it do: Dips are great for triceps, your chest (specifically your lower), and your shoulders.
I would like to note that on this, make sure you don’t go too low in the bottom of the dip. Doing so puts an added unneeded strain on your shoulders.
How you do it: Cable flyes require pully lines. You stand between the cables, grabbing one each arm. Your arms should be out to your side. Then by activating your chest and focusing on bringing your arms together out in front of you as you work to squeeze your arms together until they almost touch. Then under a controlled motion allow your arms to be pulled back a part by the Cables.
There are a variety of different cable exercises you can do to isolate specific muscles.
What does it do: Cable flys are another great way to exercise your pectoralis major muscles. You can also target your deltoids as well.
How you do it: Everyone knows what a push-up is. Even if you’re not into working out, you’ve definitely done push-ups in gym class when you were in school. You just lay down with your arms slightly to your side perpendicular with your body. You push your body weight up and lower it down.
What does it do: Push-ups are great for both your chest and your core. They can also strengthen your deltoids.
Push-ups are great for at-home workouts while traveling or a great exercise to add in at the end of your workout to really “burn out” your chest!
How you do it: The Arnold chest press is a variation of the dumbbell chest press where you start with your arms down, palms face toward your head, and as you lift, you twist your arms around so your palms are facing your feet by the end.
What does it do: This is a great chest exercise to do if you also want to really work out your shoulders as well.
Adding in these different exercises into your chest workouts is a great way to help you progress.
Whether you want to help stimulate muscle growth, increase strength, or help reshape your chest these 6 exercises should make appearances in your plan.
Keep in mind though, your intensity and effort while training, your recovery after training, and your nutrition plan will play the most dominant roles in you achieving your goals.
Like any good workout, Chest workouts can be and should be challenging. However, challenging does not mean you HAVE to go super heavy … or that you HAVE to train for hours on end … or do hundreds of sets, or anything else.
Challenging should be relative to the person. Meaning that if you base your chest workouts around the exercises above, and add intensity and effort… you should feel tired and worn out when you are done.
If you are finding that you're running out of fuel — getting fatigued early on ... or your goal is performance, then you can consider taking an intra-workout to help fuel your workout.
By going into your workout fueled up and/or utilizing supplements intra-workout, you can help keep your intensity high and get the most out of your workout time… then when you recover properly and follow an appropriate nutrition plan for your goals will lead to better results!
And that’s what we all want! If you're looking for an easy and effective way to stay on track with your nutrition and workouts, then check out the 1st Phorm App!
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer