Working out your pecs is not all about doing the bench press over and over again. The bench press may be one of the most popular exercises and one of the best indeed to build a muscular chest but if you do not add some variety, your routine is bound to become stale and you will stop making progress. Here are a few other exercises you could do.
Incline and decline bench presses
Let’s start by not straying far from the bench press and pick some of its variations. The incline bench press is also an excellent exercise where the focus shifts to the upper pec. If you want to look good in a t-shirt, you shouldn’t fail to develop your upper pec until you eventually build a ridge running from shoulder to shoulder. You will certainly stand out from the crowd.
If there is the incline press, then there is certainly the decline bench press which places emphasis on the lower pecs. This is an area that is not too hard to add muscles to, so you won’t have to work as hard as on your upper pectorals. However, it is always a good idea to work thoroughly all facets of a muscle group and the pectorals are no exception.
All gyms probably have a flat bench for the conventional flat benchpress. Most gym will have a fixed incline bench with supports to perform the incline version. However, few gyms will have a decline bench with fixed support for the decline version. In this case, you will need the help of one or two spotters to get the bar over you, unless you are working with very light weights.
This brings us to the next group of exercises.
If you can do an exercise with a bar, you most probably can do it with a dumbbell or two. This is certainly the case here. Replace the bar with dumbbells and perform flat, incline and decline dumbbell presses to work each side of your chest independently.
If you don’t have anyone to help you with the decline benchpress, then go for the dumbbell version. Sit on the decline bench, grasp the dumbbells and place them on your knees and while lowering your upper body along the decline bench, bring the dumbbells with you, keeping them close to your body at shoulder level. If you are doing the inclined dumbbell press and working with heavy dumbbells, you might struggle to get the dumbbells from your knee to shoulder level as you will not be lowering your upper body in this situation. A little trick in this case is to give an initial powerful momentum to the dumbbells using your knees. Then keep pulling the dumbbells with arm power until they are in the starting position. This will make all the difference and also much easier to haul up the dumbbells.
Dumbbell presses are actually a better exercise than with the bar, although you will not be able to go as heavy. With dumbbells, you recruit the triceps and the anterior deltoid less. You also work the pectorals much harder as they have to balance the weight as well.
The pullover works the lats and the ribcage in addition to the chest; some people like to incorporate it in their back routine but nothing stops you from making it a part of your chest routine. The initial lower phase of the exercise recruits the lats but the final phase as you pull the dumbbell over the head uses your pec muscles. Pullovers are an excellent exercise to expand and stretch the ribcage.
This article on chest workout routines would be incomplete without mentioning the flyes exercise. Although not a mass builder, it stretches the muscle, burns it, is great at sculpting it and adds definition to it. To perform this exercise, grasp a dumbbell in each hand, lie on a bench and squeeze your arms together as if you are giving a bear hug. When lowering the weight, focus on the stretching effect but don’t overdo it or you will tear a muscle. Of course, you can perform this exercise on a flat, incline and decline bench.
Avoid working your triceps before your chest otherwise your arms will be too weak to push. This doesn’t apply for flyes movement though but no chest workout is made up of flyes exclusively. Here are some of the top exercises for the triceps you can choose from to do afterwards.
Next time, we will bring all these exercises together in a workout routine and show how you can add plenty of variations within that routine.