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July 06, 2020 11 min read

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Click HERE to check out: The Weightlifting Gym buddy Journal:

 A complete 12-week personal training book & program in a journal you use to track your progress.  

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There's a reason Monday is historically known as 'Chest Day.' 

Especially for men, it's one of, if not the most important muscle in peoples' minds because it plays such a big role in how our bodies look. 

Bulging, well-defined pecs are sort of like the first earmark people try to hit when beginning bodybuilding or taking working out seriously. 

Because the chest is one of the biggest muscles on the upper body, it tends to grow quickly if you consistently train it to exhaustion.

Bigger muscles grow stronger quickly simply because they're bigger, meaning you can pack on more weight, leading to faster growth. 

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Think Of The Chest As 3 Individual Muscles

The chest (pectoral muscle) is one of the bigger muscles on the upper part of our body.

As such, no single exercise will adequately target the entire chest area.

Chest workouts will primarily target:

- the upper chest

- middle part of the chest or

- the lower chest

Making sure to incorporate exercises that work on all three major areas will allow the muscle to develop fully for maximum growth, thickness, and strength.  

Pyramid Format & Dropsets

A couple things you should incorporate into your training, especially for larger muscles like the chest:

1. Pyramid Sets

A pyramid structure means  starting each exercise with a lower weight and higher rep range, and then progressively increasing the weightwhilelowering the number of repsas you move from set to set.

Here's a bench press example:

Set 1: 10-15 reps, 135 lbs

Set 2: 8-10 reps, 150 lbs

Set 3: 6-8 reps, 160 lbs

Set 4: 4-6 reps, 175 lbs

There are many benefits to pyramid sets.

Possibly the biggest benefit is that there is essentially a built-in warm up on thefirst set that allows the muscle to prepare for heavier lifting.

The lower rep range sets also give you a taste of what you’re capable of.

The amount of discomfort you face in your last few sets shows you how far you’ve come along. When you can complete your last few sets with relative comfort and ease, you know it’s time to move up in weight with all four sets!

Pyramid sets force you to really test the limits of the muscle being worked.This leads to a greater understanding of your progress.

2. Dropsets

You can also push yourself further by completing a 'dropset' on every last set of each workout.

A 'dropset' is where you complete one round of an exercise and immediately lower the weight to do one more round to exhaust the muscle even more.

We recommend setting a long-term goal of eventually reaching 4 sets and a dropset for each exercise.This ensures the portion of the muscle being worked is exhausted in each individual exercise.

THE ULTIMATE UPPER CHEST WORKOUT & LOWER CHEST WORKOUT GUIDE

*This article is split into four sections

1. Upper Chest exercises with weights (upper chest exercises in a gym)

2. Lower Chest exercises with weights (lower chest exercises in a gym)

&
3. Upper Chest Bodyweight exercises (upper chest exercises without weights/at home)
4. Lower Chest Bodyweight exercises (lower chest exercises without weights/at home)

 

Upper Chest Workouts In The Gym

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Incline Bench Press

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment needed: Incline bench press & barbell

How to do it:

  1. Lie back on an incline bench. Make sure the bench is adjusted to between 15 and 30 degrees on an incline. Anything higher than 30 degrees mainly works the anterior deltoids (shoulders). Your grip should be where your elbows make a 90-degree angle.

  2. Using a shoulder-width grip, wrap yourfingers around the bar with your palms facing away from you. Liftthe bar up from the rack and hold it straight over you with your arms locked.

  3. As you breathe in, come down slowly until the bar is an inch away from your chest. You want the bar to be in line with your upper chest the whole time. Your arms should be at a 45-degree angle and tucked into your sides.

  4. Hold this position for one count at the bottom of this movement and, with one big exhale, push the bar back up to your starting position. Lock your arms, hold, and come down slowly.

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Incline Dumbbell Press

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment needed: Adjustable bench and dumbbells

How to do it:

  1. Lie back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand atop your thighs.The palms of your hands will be facing each other.

  2. Then, using your thighs to help push the dumbbells up, liftthe dumbbells one at a time so that you can hold them at shoulder-width.

  3. Once you have the dumbbells raised to shoulder-width, rotate your wrists forward so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you.This will be your starting position.

  4. Be sure to keep full control of the dumbbells at all times.Then, breathe out and push the dumbbells up with your chest.

  5. Lock your arms at the top, hold for a second, and then start slowly lowering the weight. Note: Ideally, lowering the weights should take about twice as long as raising them.

  6. Repeat the movement for the prescribed number of repetitions.

  7. When you are done, place the dumbbells back on your thighs and then on thefloor.This is the safest manner to release the dumbbells. 

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Incline Dumbbell Arnold Press

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment needed: Adjustable bench & dumbbells

How to do it:

This is a simple chest press variation in which you twist your wrists at the bottom of the movement to try to engage even more of the chest.

  1. Set a free weight bench either to an incline, orflat – depending on if you’re doing an incline press orflat dumbbell press. Grab two dumbbells and lie on the bench for an ordinary chest press position.

  2. Twist your wrists so that yourfingers are facing your face rather than away from your body (what looks like an underhand grip), and as you push the dumbbells up away from your body, twist your wrists so that by the end of the movement your hands are facing the opposite direction.

  3. On the way back down, twist your hands again so that by the time the dumbbells reach your body, your hands are facing your face once again.

    It’s like an Arnold shoulder press, except while laying down!

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Incline Dumbbell Fly

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment needed: Adjustable bench and dumbbells

How to do it:

1. Pick up the dumbbells and grip them so that so your palms are facing inward. Lie back on an incline bench angled at about 30 degrees, and rest the dumbbells on your hip crease.

2. Press the dumbbells out and over you so that your arms are fully extended. Rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing each other.

3. Slightly retract your shoulder blades, unlock your elbows, and slowly lower the dumbbells laterally to create a wide arc while maintaining the angle at your elbow. You should feel stretch in your chest.

4. Once the dumbbells reach your chest level, reverse the movement while trying not to let the dumbbells touch 

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Low to High Cable Fly

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment needed: Cables 

How to do it:

  1. Place the pulleys at the lowest position and select the same resistance level for each one.

  2. Stand between both pulleys with your arms extended out to your sides. Grasp both handles with an underhand grip so that your palms are facing forward and move one foot forward.

  3. Start with your hands below your waist and your arms fully extended.

  4. Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you raise your arms upward and towards the middle of your torso. Make sure that you areflexing your chest. Your hands should end up being directly in front of your chest

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Incline Dumbbell Around The World

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment needed: Adjustable bench and dumbbells

How to do it:

  1. Start offlyingflat down on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand next to your thighs with palms facing up.

  2. Take the dumbbells and create a semi-circle by rotating them up over your head with the motion staying symmetrical.

  3. Return back to the starting position.

Lower Chest Workouts In The Gym

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Decline Bench Press

Part of the chest being trained: Lower chest exercise

Equipment needed: Decline bench and barbell

How to do it:

Caution:In order to protect yourself, it is best to have a spotter help you.

  1. Start by securing your legs under the brace at the bottom of the decline bench and liedown.

  2. Using an overhand medium-width grip, liftthe bar from the rack and hold it straight over your chest with your arms full extended. Your arms should be perpendicular to the ground.

  3. As you inhale, lower the bar toward your chest until your elbows reach a 90° angle.

  4. Pause for a second, then use your chest muscles to push the bar back up to the starting position as you exhale. Lock your arms and squeeze your chest in at the contracted position. Hold for a second and then start to lower the bar down slowly.

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High to Low Cable Fly

Part of the chest being trained: Lower chest exercise

Equipment needed: Cables

How to do it:

  1. Move the pulleys to the highest position and select the same resistance for each D-handle.

  2. Stand between both pulleys with your arms extended out to your sides. Grasp both handles with an overhand grip while keeping your feet aligned with the pulleys.

  3. Remaining upright and keeping a slight bend in your elbows, pull your arms close together in front of your body.

  4. After a pause at the peak contraction, return your arms back to the starting position.

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Chest Dips

Part of the chest being trained: Lower chest exercise

Equipment needed: Dip machine (use assisted dip machine if necessary)

How to do it:

  1. Hold your body above the bars with your arms fully extended and nearly locked into the starting position.

  2. Inhale and slowly lower yourself downward. Your torso should remain upright and your elbows should stay close to your body to help to better work your triceps. Lower yourself until a 90-degree angle is created between your upper arms and forearms.

  3. Exhale and push your torso back up using your triceps (feeling a slight stretch in your shoulders) to bring your body back to the starting position.

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Decline Chest Press

Part of the chest being trained: Lower chest exercise

Equipment needed: Adjustable bench and dumbbells

How to do it:

1. Lie back on a decline bench angled at about 30 degrees. Pick up the dumbbells after already laying down, or better yet, have someone place them in your hands after laying down. 

2. Press the dumbbells out so that your arms are fully extended. Rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing each other at the peak of the movement.

3. Slightly retract your shoulder blades, unlock your elbows, and slowly lower the dumbbells laterally to create a wide arc while maintaining the angle at your elbow. You should feel stretch in your chest.

4. Once the dumbbells reach your chest level, repeat the movement.

 

Upper Chest Workouts Without Weights

(Upper Chest Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home)

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Reverse-Grip Push Up

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment neededUpper chest workout at home

How to do it:

  1. Position yourself in a push-up position.

  2. Rotate your wrists so that yourfingertips are pointing toward your feet (depending onflexibility, you can also choose to perform this withfingertips pointing out to the sides or anywhere in between).

  3. Inhale and bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the ground.

  4. Push offthe ground, while engaging your biceps, chest, and shoulder muscles as you slowly push offand come back to the starting position.

Note:This can be done on the knees instead of toes. It can also be done standing with hands on a wall, utilizing the same movements.

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Decline Push Up

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment needed: Upper chest workout at home

How to do it:

  1. Begin on hands and knees, hands on the ground at shoulder-width or slightly wider (you won’t want to go wider than this or your range of motion will be severely limited).

  2. Liftone leg and position it atop a sturdy piece of furniture (bench, ottoman, etc.). Do this for the other leg. Ensure that your body is in a straight line before continuing. Pay attention to hips and buttocks and ensure that they aren’t caving or arching. Double check hand placement and ensure that arms are extended.

  3. Bend at the elbow and allow your chest to lower. You’llfind yourself looking upward slightly.This is normal, just ensure that you don’t try to compensate the movement with your back or buttocks.

  4. Push yourself back to the starting position, being careful not to lock your elbows.This is one rep.

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Standing Incline 'Prayer

Part of the chest being trained: Upper chest exercise

Equipment neededUpper chest workout at home

How to do it:

  1. Stand upright with your knees slightly bent.

  2. Place your hands together in a praying position in front of your chest. Your elbows should be pointing out to your sides and yourfingers pointing ahead of you while pushing tightly against each other.

  3. Slowly move your hands outward away from your body so that your arms fully extend, up and away from your chest, while your hands are still positioned together and pushing tightly against each other.

  4. To feel this movement to its highest extent, you want to be pushing your hands together as tightly as you possible. You can try putting a weighted plate between your hands to increase the difficulty.

  5. Bring your wrists back in toward your chest.

Lower Chest Workouts Without Weights

(Lower Chest Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home)

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Incline Push Up

Part of the chest being trained: Lower chest exercise

Equipment needed: Lower chest workout at home

How to do it:

  1. Stand facing a sturdy ottoman, bed, couch, bench, etc.

  2. Position your hands on the edge of the furniture, slightly more than shoulder-width apart, ensuring that your elbows are not locked in place. Step your feet back until your back is straight and you are resting on the balls of your feet.This is your starting position.

  3. Keeping your body straight through the entire exercise, lower yourself down toward the furniture slowly and with control until your chest touches the furniture.

  4. Push your body upward, away from the furniture until you reach the original position. Do this to failure for each set.

*Try different heights of furniture for variety and to utilize slightly different muscles each time.

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Cross-Over-Box Push Up

Part of the chest being trained: Lower chest exercise

Equipment neededLower chest workout at home

How to do it:

  1. Using a sturdy box or other object, get into push up position with one hand on the box and the other hand on thefloor. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart.

  2. Lower yourself down as you would a typical push up, focusing on putting more of a bend in the elbow of the arm on the box than yourfloor-arm.The goal is to keep your chest as close to parallel with the ground as you can.

  3. Push yourself back up, place thefloor-hand on the box and move the box-hand onto thefloor. Once both arms have performed the push up, you’ve completed one rep.

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 Standing Decline Prayer

Part of the chest being trained: Lower chest exercise

Equipment neededLower chest workout at home

How to do it:

  1. Stand upright with your knees slightly bent.

  2. Place your hands together in a praying position in front of your chest. Your elbows should be pointing out to your sides and yourfingers pointing ahead of you while pushing tightly against each other.

  3. Slowly move your hands outward away from your body so that your arms fully extend, town toward your hips and away from your chest, while your hands are still positioned together and pushing tightly against each other.

  4. To feel this movement to its highest extent, you want to be pushing your hands together as tightly as you possible. You can try putting a weighted plate between your hands to increase the difficulty.

  5. Bring your wrists back in toward your chest.

 

What you always need to keep in mind when doing upper chest and lower chest workouts

-Keep your chest out, traps back, and shoulders down.


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