Ahh yes, los chest muscles! Much coveted, desired, and dreamt about by many a muscle builder. Nary a gym-rat has gone into a gym and not walked over to the flat bench station first.
For people looking to build those massive, shirt poppin’ chest muscles, there are boundless muscle building questions:
How often should I be training my chest? What exercises should I be doing? How much do I need to eat? But what if I am a “hard-gainer”? And what if American Idol gets canceled while I am at the gym?
Like everything else, building massive amounts of chest muscle is relatively simple. What complicates things is our own doubts, our preconceived notions, and the plethora of conflicting information out there. With this guide to building chest muscles I am going to keep things nice and simple, mmkay?
Alright, let’s get it on!
Keys to Building a Massive Chest:
1. Eat lots. Having a big chest first and foremost means building muscle. And you cannot do this if you are consuming less calories than you are expending. Aim for a caloric surplus so that your body has something to make muscle out of. Figure out what your daily caloric maintenance level is and aim to be 300-500 calories over that level. Any more than that and you’re gonna find you are gaining a lot of chub too. (And we don’t want that. Unless you do. Big chest + getting fat? That’s weird…)
2. You don’t need to work your chest 3-4x per week. Put away the bodybuilding magazines, those guys, genetically gifted as they are, also use certain supplements that shall remain nameless (cough-steroids) that allow them to workout the way they do. For natural bodybuilders, you don’t need to do chest more than once – twice at the most — a week and still see awesome results.
3. Compound + Isolation. Start with compound exercises, then move to a combo of compound and isolation exercises. Big, hairy, greasy moves like shoulder press, deadlift, squats and of course, bench press are the main 4 overall muscle builders. Once you have put on some muscle, give your chest muscles a 1-2 punch by incorporating some isolation exercises such as flies into your routine. Generally I’ve subscribed to the following: Compound for bulk, isolation for toning.
4. Never sacrifice form for more weight. Don’t let your ego get ahead of proper muscle stimulation. I fall victim to this on occasion as well. While it can be easy to tack on that extra plate and use crappy form to lift it, you are slowing down your muscle growth by not executing the move correctly. Do it right, and you will find that you get bigger muscle growth without having to risk injuring yourself.
5. Don’t Be Top Heavy. These guys seem to just never go out of style. They generally alternate bicep day with chest day and repeat until they look like they are going to teeter-totter into the stretching area. Don’t neglect your legs—not only is developing muscle there going to make your overall physique look better, but doing exercises like squats and deadlifts will flood you with growth hormone and testosterone. (Yes, this is a good, good thing.)
6. Measure your goals. Saying something along the lines of, “I want a big chest” is a terrible goal. Well, not necessarily terrible maybe, but it makes accomplishing it very difficult. Get your chest measured, and set yourself a goal from there that is realistic given your workout habits.
7. Rest adequately. I don’t know if it because people are hopped up on Red Bull or Noxplode but it seems like most guys dart from set to set, never adequately resting themselves. With sweat pouring rabidly out of their twitching foreheads (Must…have…another….ephedrine…), these dudes might give the illusion of working their butts off, but the likelihood of them putting on sizable muscle mass is slim.
They never allow their muscles to recover adequately. While I cannot give you an exact time-frame for how much rest you should be taking (that would be nice though, wouldn’t it!), an easy rule of thumb is when you are simply physically and mentally prepared to do another set.
Bottom line is this –you want to be lifting as much as possible each set. That becomes very difficult to do if you are only resting for 30 to 45 seconds between set.
8. Take care of yourself. When you are not at the gym is really when the magic happens. Your muscles mend themselves, that soreness and tightness disappears, and your chest is now stronger and ready for more weight. Don’t cut your recovery short by working out your chest more than 2x per week.
Exercises to Build a Big Chest
Bench Press. The be-all and end-all of super-sized chest growth. Nothing works your chest muscles more than this eternal exercise. Flat bench with a bar is great, but if you don’t have a spotter consider using dumbbells. Also, with dumbbells I find that you can get a greater range of motion on the descent. Click here to check out a bench press program that will help you add a sizable chunk to your overall bench press
Dips. I have stayed away from this (perhaps a little unfairly) over the years because of tender right shoulder, but when done on a set of parallel bars they can be an excellent corollary to the bench press. Once you can pump out a few, throw on a belt with some weight.
Close-grip Bench for Triceps (on Days off). One of my favorite tricks for improving bench press (and as a result chest size as well) is to work the heck out of my triceps. More specifically, I will do close-grip bench on my days off. This will strengthen your triceps, who play a huge part in getting that bar skyward when doing bench press, and as a result, will allow you to lift more next time you get on the bench. Whammy!
Lastly, something that has hugely helped me (and thousands of others as well) in building a bigger, more muscular chest is having a training log. Measuring my performance at the gym allows me to see how far I’ve progressed, while also leaving me without that awkward feeling of, “How much did I lift last week again?” Having all this information at the ready means having a powerful plan of attack moving forward.
And oh, hey! Wouldya look at that? You can get a FREE muscle building log just by signing up for my daily Muscle Building Newsletter. Imagine that! Submit your email below and I’ll see you on the other side with your workout log. Woop woop!
See ya at the gym,