The main job of the chest muscles – the pectorals or pecs – is to push your arms in front of you. They are also used when bringing your arms down from above you. The pectoralis major is a large muscle that attaches to your collarbone, breastbone and ribs. Although it is a single muscle, most experienced weight trainers divide the chest into three portions: upper, middle and lower.
Any chest exercise will work the entire pec muscle, but by varying the angle of attack, by doing incline or decline bench presses, for example, it is possible to target the upper or lower portions of the muscle and build a bigger chest.
RECOMMENDED: The Only Home Chest Workout You’re Ever Going to Need
Top 10 tips for getting bigger pecs
1. Give yourself a round of applause
Research in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance has revealed that you can make yourself stronger in just 10 seconds. How you ask? By performing two clap press-ups, 30 seconds before any given chest exercise. This will help you to push more weight by engaging the chest muscles prior to your big push.
2. Engage your core
When performing any chest press exercises try tensing your abs for added power. Also, try performing 10-second sets of the plank in between your chest press exercises. This will keep your chest and your core engaged throughout the workout, building a stronger chest.
3. Switch your grip
Hitting your upper pecs isn’t easy, so to make sure they’re being worked hard switch to an underhand grip when you’re bench pressing. It’s likely you’ll have to lower the amount of weight used but it’ll activate 30% more of your upper chest muscles than a normal overhand grip bench press.
4. Finish with loaded stretching
AKA fascial stretching. Using light weights and slowly lowering yourself into the end point of a chest move will send strong signals to the paper like structure known as fascia that surrounds your chest. As you begin to open up your chest fascia you’ll begin to increase your chests growth potential.
5. Get eccentric
We don’t mean shouting random facts out at the gym or dressing in ’60s tie-dye for your next workout, we’re referring to eccentric movements. Try adding a couple of really slow sets of barbell press at the end of your workout, slowly lowering the weight for 10 reps of 5 seconds each.
6. Start throwing your weight around
An instant strength builder, and a great way to feel like Superman. Next time you’re using a Smith machine, explode (a lighter weight), preferably around half your one-rep maximum, upwards. Studies have shown that this will increase the explosive power in your chest muscles quicker.
7. Start strong
For quicker gains, ensure that you’re always working the part of your chest that you’re concentrating on improving at the start of your session.
8. Destroy the bar
Not literally. You can engage more chest fibres by squeezing the barbell as though you’re trying to pull it apart. The isometric that this creates activates your pecs before you’ve even started to perform any reps.
9. Incorporate the kettlebell
The biggest advantage that you get from the kettlebell press is that the bell falls past your shoulder during the eccentric portion of the lift as opposed to a dumbbell that stops parallel with the joint of your shoulder. This puts your chest at a mechanical disadvantage and requires more force production to drive the weight back up.
10. Incline it up
Set the incline bench at a 44-degree angle to engage the most amount of muscle in your chest, according to a study found in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. How you measure exactly 44 degrees we’re not sure. You’d better bring your protractor.