For many lifters, chest day is a Monday ritual. For others, creating the perfect blend of upper body strength, hypertrophy, mobility, and pec definition is critical.
But… which of the wide range of exercises we have for the chest works best? Typically, when we think of chest-heavy exercises, most people’s minds drift towards the bench press. But there are a plethora of options besides this old-school classic, most of which fall into a couple of categories, press and lat pulldowns, that will allow you to hit all the right angles and give you a solid chest and chest contraction. pectorals
Here, Men’s Health Director of Fitness Ebenezer Samuel and celebrity trainer and MH Advisory Board member Don Saladino break down their top five moves to include in your chest workout.
The 5 exercises for the chest that you must do
1- Machine press
Considered a last resort for training day, chest machines have improved dramatically over the years (one in particular is the Hammer Strength incline press machine). Samuel and Saladino say machine presses are now a great addition to your chest workout, especially if the rest of your training focuses on free weights and “functional” movements.
What makes machine presses beneficial? One reason, according to Saladino, is that the stationary motion of the machine allows you to push a heavier load past your limits, creating a safer workout during those fatiguing supersets. Machines are also a better and safer option for incorporating rest-pause sets.
2- Alternate incline press with dumbbells
Sometimes this exercise can seem too easy for the first few reps and you forget how effective it can be, until you build up the time under tension to create a fantastic chest challenge. Unlike the traditional incline dumbbell press, in which both arms move simultaneously, the staggered motion of this variation allows you to double the time under tension on each set. If building muscle is your goal, this exercise is perfect.
3- Pulley crosses
There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do this exercise: high cable, low cable, medium height – each cable variation targets a whole set of different muscle fibers. Samuel’s Pro Tip: Look down at your chest to see how it contracts.
This isolation movement allows you to maintain constant tension throughout the range of motion. Cables are also a more comfortable and joint-friendly alternative to traditional dumbbell flyes, which can be tough on your shoulders.
The most basic and universal exercise for the chest is possibly the movement that is most often performed incorrectly. Think of push-ups like a plank in motion: your glutes squeezed, lats engaged as you externally rotate your hands to create as much tension throughout your body as possible. A repetition should be seen as a fluid pressure movement. After you’ve done a perfect rep, make sure you don’t dial and drop your hips. Push-ups: how to do them well and benefits for your muscles.
5- Dumbbell bench press
The most effective of all exercises, according to Samuel and Saladin, remains this classic chest staple. What makes the dumbbell press more effective for most athletes in general than the barbell variation is that you can focus on the unique aspects of your anatomy, making it a safer option for pushing more weight without compromise the safety of your shoulder. You also don’t have to worry about the fixed position of your hands, and since your goal is to build muscle, not press weight, you can more safely fail on a rep. However, according to Saladino, keep your feet flat on the ground when you do this if your ultimate goal is to build pectoral muscle. Even though you may think you are activating your core, instead you are creating instability that will only limit your goals. The correct technique to bench press chest.
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