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The Best Science-Based Chest Workout for Mass and Symmetry

Add this incredibly effective chest workout into your training if you want more muscle mass and perfect symmetry.

Add this incredibly effective chest workout into your training if you want more muscle mass and perfect symmetry.

Notes on the Workout

Jeremy Ethier explains, “When it comes to the “best chest workout”, it really comes down to choosing exercises that allow symmetrical growth in the upper chest, middle chest, and lower chest while still providing overall mass to your chest. If your chest workout is unbalanced and favours one portion of your chest over the other, overtime this will lead to imbalances and take away from the aesthetics of your chest. In this video I’ll show you guys the best workout for chest based on scientific literature and our anatomical understanding of the body. It includes the best upper chest exercises, middle chest exercises, and lower chest exercises to help evenly shape and build your chest.”

“The upper chest will be prioritized through movements that involve shoulder flexion. The middle chest will be prioritized through any horizontal adducting movements that don’t involve shoulder flexion or extension. The lower chest will be prioritized through movements that involve shoulder extension. Although the chest exercises in this video have been carefully chosen through my analysis of many studies, it doesn’t account for every individual. So feel free to swap out some exercises for other chest exercises that you feel better chest activation with.”

Workout Video and Timestamps

  • 1:55 incline dumbbell press
  • 3:22 barbell or dumbbell bench press
  • 5:00 dips
  • 6:06 Banded push-ups
  • 7:08 high to low cable crossovers

What are the Muscles of the Chest?

The chest, or pectoral region, contains several muscles that contribute to the overall appearance and function of the chest. The main muscles of the chest include:

Pectoralis Major: The pectoralis major is the largest muscle in the chest and forms the bulk of the upper chest. It originates from the sternum, clavicle, and upper ribs and inserts into the upper arm bone (humerus). The pectoralis major is responsible for movements such as flexion, adduction, and medial rotation of the arm.

Pectoralis Minor: The pectoralis minor is a smaller muscle located beneath the pectoralis major. It originates from the upper ribs and inserts into the scapula (shoulder blade). The pectoralis minor is involved in stabilizing the scapula and aiding in movements such as protraction and downward rotation of the scapula.

Serratus Anterior: The serratus anterior is a muscle located on the lateral surface of the chest. It originates from the upper ribs and inserts into the scapula. The serratus anterior helps to stabilize and protract the scapula, allowing movements such as reaching forward and pushing.

These are the primary muscles of the chest, but it’s worth noting that other muscles in the surrounding areas, such as the deltoids (shoulder muscles) and the intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs), also contribute to the appearance and function of the chest.

What are the Benefits of a Powerful Chest?

Having a strong and well-developed chest muscles offers several benefits, both in terms of physical performance and aesthetic appearance. Here are some of the benefits of having a powerful chest:

Upper Body Strength: A powerful chest contributes to overall upper body strength. Strong chest muscles allow you to perform various pushing movements effectively, such as pushing heavy objects, performing push-ups, bench pressing, and engaging in sports activities like boxing or swimming.

Improved Functional Movements: A strong chest helps with everyday activities that involve pushing or lifting. It enhances your ability to perform tasks like pushing open heavy doors, carrying groceries, lifting objects, and participating in activities that require upper body strength.

Alternative Chest ExercisesSource: Domagoj Bregant on Pexels

Enhanced Athletic Performance: Strong chest muscles are crucial for many sports and athletic activities. They play a significant role in activities like throwing, punching, swimming strokes, and pushing opponents in sports such as football, basketball, and rugby. Developing your chest muscles can improve your performance in these activities.

Posture and Upper Body Stability: A well-developed chest contributes to good posture and upper body stability. Strong chest muscles help support the shoulders, keeping them in proper alignment and preventing rounding of the shoulders. This can help alleviate issues like upper back and neck pain caused by poor posture.

Aesthetics: Having a powerful chest can improve your physical appearance. Well-developed pectoral muscles give your upper body a more defined and muscular look. This can contribute to increased self-confidence and a positive body image.

Injury Prevention: Strengthening the chest muscles can help prevent injuries. A strong chest provides stability and support to the shoulder joint, reducing the risk of shoulder injuries. Additionally, a balanced development of chest muscles can contribute to better overall muscle balance and reduce the likelihood of muscle imbalances and related injuries.

It’s important to note that developing a strong chest should be part of a well-rounded fitness routine that includes exercises for other muscle groups as well. A balanced approach to strength training will yield the best results and overall functional fitness.

Why are Cable Crossovers Such an Effective Exercise?

Cable crossovers are considered an effective exercise for several reasons:

Targeting the Chest Muscles: Cable crossovers primarily target the pectoralis major, the main muscle of the chest. This exercise allows for a full range of motion and provides constant tension on the chest muscles throughout the movement. It effectively isolates and engages the chest muscles, helping to develop strength and muscle definition.

Muscle Activation and Stimulation: Cable crossovers activate the chest muscles more effectively than some other chest exercises. The cable resistance provides a continuous tension on the muscles, ensuring that they are engaged throughout the entire exercise. This sustained tension enhances muscle activation and stimulates muscle growth.

Variation of Movement and Angles: Cable crossovers offer the flexibility to adjust the height of the cables and vary the angle of movement. By changing the cable position and adjusting the height of the pulleys, you can target different areas of the chest, such as the upper, middle, or lower chest. This versatility allows you to work on specific areas of your chest and develop a balanced and well-rounded chest appearance.

Stabilizer Muscle Engagement: Cable crossovers require stability and control during the exercise. The movement involves not only the chest muscles but also engages the stabilizer muscles, including the shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. This compound movement helps to improve overall upper body stability and strength.

Improved Range of Motion: Cable crossovers allow for a greater range of motion compared to some other chest exercises, such as bench press variations. The cables provide constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion, allowing you to stretch and contract the chest muscles fully. This can contribute to improved muscle flexibility and mobility.

Versatility and Convenience: Cable crossover machines are commonly available in most gyms and fitness centers. They offer a convenient and efficient way to target the chest muscles without the need for a spotter or heavy weights. Cable crossovers can also be easily adjusted to accommodate different fitness levels and can be modified to suit individual preferences and goals.

It’s important to note that while cable crossovers can be an effective exercise for chest development, a well-rounded chest workout routine should include a variety of exercises that target the chest from different angles and incorporate both compound and isolation movements. This approach ensures overall chest muscle development and prevents muscle imbalances.

Why are Push Ups such a Good Exercise to Do?

Push-ups are considered a good exercise for several reasons:

Full-Body Workout: Push-ups are a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, making it a full-body workout. While primarily targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps, push-ups also activate muscles in the core, back, and legs. This means you can strengthen and tone various muscle groups simultaneously.

Convenience and Accessibility: One of the biggest advantages of push-ups is their convenience and accessibility. They can be performed anywhere, requiring no special equipment or gym membership. Whether at home, outdoors, or while traveling, you can always find a space to do push-ups and maintain your fitness routine.

Functional Strength: Push-ups help develop functional strength that translates into everyday activities. They mimic movements such as pushing yourself up from the ground, pushing open doors, or pushing objects. By strengthening the muscles involved in these movements, push-ups enhance your ability to perform daily tasks more efficiently.

Core Stability: Push-ups require a stable core to maintain proper form and alignment. As you lower and lift your body, your core muscles, including the abdominals and lower back, engage to stabilize your body. Regularly incorporating push-ups into your workout routine can help improve core strength and stability.

Upper Body Strength and Muscle Development: Push-ups primarily target the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor), shoulders (deltoids), and triceps. By performing push-ups regularly and gradually increasing intensity and variations, you can strengthen and develop these muscle groups, leading to a more defined upper body and improved upper body strength.

Joint and Bone Health: Push-ups are weight-bearing exercises that help improve joint and bone health. The loading on your wrists, elbows, and shoulders during push-ups stimulates bone growth and strengthens the surrounding joint structures. This can be particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of osteoporosis and maintaining healthy joints.

Core Stability: Push-ups require a stable core to maintain proper form and alignment. As you lower and lift your body, your core muscles, including the abdominals and lower back, engage to stabilize your body. Regularly incorporating push-ups into your workout routine can help improve core strength and stability.

Variety and Progression: Push-ups offer a wide range of variations and progressions to suit different fitness levels and goals. Whether you’re a beginner starting with knee push-ups or an advanced practitioner performing one-arm push-ups, you can continually challenge yourself and make progress. This variety keeps the exercise interesting and helps prevent plateaus in your fitness journey.

Remember, it’s important to maintain proper form during push-ups to maximize their benefits and prevent injury. If you’re new to push-ups, start with modified versions, such as knee push-ups, and gradually progress to full push-ups as your strength improves.

Why Do Dips Work so Well for Chest Muscles?

Dips are an effective exercise for chest muscles due to the following reasons:

Compound Movement: Dips are a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. When performing dips, the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) are heavily involved in the movement. They are responsible for the horizontal adduction of the shoulder joint as you lower and lift your body during the exercise.

Full Range of Motion: Dips allow for a full range of motion of the shoulder joint, which means the chest muscles are stretched and contracted throughout the movement. This full range of motion helps to engage and stimulate the chest muscles effectively, promoting muscle growth and strength development.

High Muscular Activation: Dips place a significant load on the chest muscles due to the bodyweight resistance. This high level of muscular activation, along with the engagement of other supporting muscles such as the triceps and shoulders, contributes to the effectiveness of dips for chest muscles.

Stabilizer Muscle Engagement: Dips require stability and control throughout the movement. The muscles of the core, shoulders, and arms act as stabilizers to maintain proper form and balance during dips. This engagement of stabilizer muscles not only strengthens the chest but also enhances overall upper body stability and strength.

Variations for Targeting the Chest: Dips can be modified to target the chest muscles more specifically. By leaning the torso forward and keeping the elbows flared out, you can increase the emphasis on the chest muscles during the exercise. This slight variation in form allows you to focus on developing the chest muscles even further.

Progressive Overload: Dips offer the opportunity for progressive overload, which is essential for muscle growth and strength development. As you become stronger, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise by adding weight using a dip belt or by performing more challenging variations, such as ring dips or weighted dips. This progressive overload stimulates the chest muscles to continue adapting and growing.

Simplicity and Accessibility: Dips can be performed using parallel bars, dip stations, or even sturdy surfaces like the edge of a bench or a set of parallel handles. This makes them accessible in various environments, such as gyms, outdoor parks, or at home with minimal equipment. The simplicity of the exercise allows you to incorporate dips into your workout routine easily.

It’s important to note that proper form and technique are crucial for maximizing the benefits of dips and preventing injury.

If you’re new to dips, start with assisted dips or use a dip assist machine to gradually build strength. As you progress, focus on maintaining proper alignment, keeping the shoulders down and back, and using controlled movements throughout the exercise.

Learn More

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How to Use the Flat Dumbbell Bench Press to Build A Great Chest

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