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Better than the Bench Press? 5 Highly Effective Other Ways to Force Chest Muscle Growth

Upgrade your chest training.

Although the Bench Press is an excellent way to strength your chest and build muscle, many other chest focused movements also offer precise other benefits that can often be overlooked, yet highly useful.

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In this article we will dive into other chest exercises and explain how these particular benefits has be brought into your training.

Fitness benchmarks Biggest Bench Press Mistakes to Avoid Barbells vs Dumbbells for Muscle GrowthSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Remember that the most effective chest workout will incorporate a variety of exercises and training techniques, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and try different exercises to see what works best for you.

What are the Benefits of a Strong Chest?

Having a strong chest offers a number of benefits, including:

Improved Upper Body Strength: The chest muscles are a key component of upper body strength, and a strong chest can help improve overall upper body strength and performance in activities such as lifting, pushing, and pulling.

Better Posture: Strong chest muscles can help improve posture by pulling the shoulders back and opening up the chest, which can reduce the risk of rounded shoulders and a hunched posture.

Increased Athletic Performance: A strong chest can help improve athletic performance by enhancing power, explosiveness, and speed in activities such as running, jumping, and throwing.

Reduced Risk of Injury: Strengthening the chest muscles can help improve stability and reduce the risk of injury, particularly in the shoulders and upper back.

Improved Appearance: A strong chest can help enhance the appearance of the upper body, by creating a more defined and toned look.

Improved Confidence: A strong chest can also help improve confidence and self-esteem, as it can provide a sense of physical and mental strength and empowerment.

Overall, having a strong chest can help improve overall physical performance, reduce the risk of injury, enhance appearance, and boost confidence and self-esteem.

What are the Chest Muscles?

The chest muscles, also known as the pectoral muscles, are a group of muscles located in the chest area. There are two main muscles that make up the chest:

Pectoralis Major: This is the larger of the two chest muscles and is located on the front of the chest. It is responsible for the majority of chest movements, such as pushing and lifting.

Pectoralis Minor: This is a smaller muscle located underneath the pectoralis major. It is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder blade and aiding in certain chest movements.

Other muscles that are involved in chest movements include the anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder), triceps (back of the upper arm), and serratus anterior (located on the side of the chest and upper back).

Together, these muscles work to perform a variety of chest movements, including pushing, lifting, and pulling. By strengthening these muscles through targeted exercises, you can improve overall chest strength and size, as well as enhance upper body performance and functionality.

1. Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press and the barbell bench press are both effective exercises for building chest strength and size, but they have some key differences:

Range of motion: With the dumbbell bench press, you have a greater range of motion because you can lower the dumbbells farther than the barbell. This allows you to stretch your chest muscles more, which can lead to greater muscle activation.

Stability: The dumbbell bench press requires more stabilization than the barbell bench press because you have to balance two separate weights instead of one. This can make the exercise more challenging and also engage your core and shoulder stabilizer muscles.

Muscle activation: The dumbbell bench press allows for more individual muscle activation because each side of your chest has to work independently. This can help correct muscle imbalances and promote overall muscle development.

Grip: With the barbell bench press, your hands are fixed in place on the bar, whereas with the dumbbell bench press, you have more freedom to adjust your grip. This can allow you to target different parts of your chest and also make the exercise more comfortable for your wrists and shoulders.

Overall, both exercises are effective for building chest strength and size, and it’s a good idea to incorporate both into your workout routine to take advantage of their unique benefits.

2. Push Ups

Push-ups and barbell bench press are both effective exercises for building chest strength and size, but they have some key differences:

Equipment: Push-ups require no equipment, whereas the barbell bench press requires a barbell and weights, or a machine. This makes push-ups a convenient exercise that can be done anywhere, whereas the bench press requires access to a gym or equipment.

Range of motion: Push-ups have a greater range of motion than the bench press because your hands can move freely and you can lower your chest closer to the ground. This can provide a greater stretch to the chest muscles and potentially greater muscle activation.

Stabilization: Push-ups require greater stabilization because you are supporting your own bodyweight rather than lifting a barbell or machine. This can engage your core muscles and also improve overall stability and balance.

Muscle activation: Push-ups can activate more muscle groups than the bench press because they work not only the chest, but also the shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. This can provide a more complete workout and also improve functional strength.

Load: The load on the chest muscles is typically lower with push-ups compared to the bench press, since you are lifting your own body weight rather than an external weight. However, push-ups can be modified to increase the load, such as by doing them with a weighted vest.

Overall, both exercises are effective for building chest strength and size, and incorporating both into your workout routine can provide a well-rounded workout for your chest and upper body.

Technique

To perform a push up, follow these steps:

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your feet together.
  2. Lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows, while keeping your core engaged and your body in a straight line.
  3. Pause briefly when your chest is just above the ground and then push your body back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

3. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

The incline dumbbell bench press and the barbell bench press are both effective exercises for building chest strength and size, but they have some key differences:

Muscle activation: The incline dumbbell bench press targets the upper portion of the chest muscles, whereas the barbell bench press primarily targets the middle portion of the chest muscles. This makes the incline dumbbell bench press a good exercise for developing the upper chest muscles.

Range of motion: The incline dumbbell bench press has a greater range of motion than the barbell bench press because you can lower the weights farther than the bar. This can provide a greater stretch to the chest muscles and potentially greater muscle activation.

Stabilization: The incline dumbbell bench press requires more stabilization than the barbell bench press because you have to balance two separate weights instead of one. This can make the exercise more challenging and also engage your core and shoulder stabilizer muscles.

Grip: With the incline dumbbell bench press, you have more freedom to adjust your grip compared to the barbell bench press. This can allow you to target different parts of your chest and also make the exercise more comfortable for your wrists and shoulders.

Load: The load on the chest muscles can be different between the two exercises depending on the weight used. However, with the incline dumbbell bench press, you have the ability to adjust the weights on each side separately, which can help correct muscle imbalances and promote overall muscle development.

Overall, both exercises are effective for building chest strength and size, and it’s a good idea to incorporate both into your workout routine to take advantage of their unique benefits.

4. Cable Crossover

The cable crossover and the barbell bench press are both effective exercises for building chest strength and size, but they have some key differences:

Direction of resistance: The cable crossover provides resistance from a horizontal angle, which can stimulate the chest muscles differently than the vertical resistance of the barbell bench press. This can provide a more complete workout for the chest muscles and potentially greater muscle activation.

Range of motion: The cable crossover allows for a greater range of motion compared to the barbell bench press because you can move your arms in a more natural, circular motion. This can provide a greater stretch to the chest muscles and potentially greater muscle activation.

Stabilization: The cable crossover requires greater stabilization compared to the barbell bench press because you have to control the movement of the cables and maintain balance throughout the exercise. This can engage your core and shoulder stabilizer muscles and improve overall stability and balance.

Muscle activation: The cable crossover can activate more muscle groups than the barbell bench press because it involves the use of multiple joints, including the shoulder and elbow joints. This can provide a more complete workout and also improve functional strength.

Load: The load on the chest muscles can be different between the two exercises depending on the weight used. However, with the cable crossover, you have the ability to adjust the weight and the angle of the cables to target different parts of the chest and also to make the exercise more challenging or easier.

5. Chest Dips

Chest dips are a bodyweight exercise that primarily targets the chest muscles, along with the triceps and shoulders.

To perform chest dips, follow these steps:

  1. Find a dip bar or parallel bars that are sturdy and can support your body weight.
  2. Stand between the bars and place your hands on each bar, with your palms facing down and your fingers pointing forward.
  3. Lift your feet off the ground and straighten your arms, keeping your elbows slightly bent to avoid locking them out.
  4. Lean your torso forward slightly and bend your elbows, lowering your body towards the bars. Keep your chest up and your shoulders back.
  5. Lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the ground or lower, feeling a stretch in your chest muscles.
  6. Push yourself back up to the starting position by straightening your arms, keeping your chest up and your shoulders back.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Chest dips can be modified to make the exercise easier or more challenging. To make the exercise easier, you can use a dip machine that supports part of your body weight, or you can do assisted dips with a band or a partner.

To make the exercise more challenging, you can add weight by using a weight belt or holding a dumbbell between your feet.

How are Chest Dips Different from the Barbell Bench Press?

Chest dips and barbell bench press are both effective exercises for building chest strength and size, but they have some key differences:

Load: In the barbell bench press, you are lifting an external load such as a barbell or dumbbells, whereas in chest dips you are lifting your own body weight. This means that the resistance in the bench press can be adjusted more easily, while in chest dips you can vary the resistance by adding a weight belt.

Muscle activation: Chest dips primarily target the lower portion of the chest muscles, while the barbell bench press targets the middle portion of the chest muscles. This makes chest dips a good exercise for targeting the lower chest muscles.

Range of motion: Chest dips provide a greater range of motion than the barbell bench press, as your body moves through a larger range of motion during the exercise. This can provide a greater stretch to the chest muscles and potentially greater muscle activation.

Stabilization: Chest dips require more stabilization than the barbell bench press, as you have to control your body weight and maintain balance throughout the exercise. This can engage your core and shoulder stabilizer muscles and improve overall stability and balance.

Joint stress: Chest dips place more stress on the shoulder joint than the barbell bench press, particularly if your shoulders are not strong and mobile. Therefore, it is important to use proper form and avoid dipping too low to prevent shoulder injuries.

What Sets and Reps Build Chest Muscle?

The number of sets and reps that you should perform to build chest muscle will depend on a number of factors, including your fitness level, training goals, and the specific exercises you are performing.

However, as a general guideline, the following set and rep ranges can be effective for building chest muscle:

  • Sets: Aim for 3-5 sets per exercise.
  • Reps: Aim for 8-12 reps per set for building muscle size and hypertrophy. For more strength-focused training, aim for 4-6 reps per set.
  • Rest: Rest for 1-2 minutes between sets to allow for adequate recovery.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines and the ideal set and rep range for you may vary based on your individual fitness level and goals.

Additionally, it’s important to vary your training program over time to prevent plateaus and keep challenging your muscles.

This can include changing the exercises you perform, the weight or resistance used, and the number of sets and reps.

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