When you think of exercises to build up your chest, what do you think of? Probably the typical Monday exercises—Bench Press, Incline Press, etc.
These staples are great, but there are many other options to build your chest and increase strength.
Below are my favorite exercises to build your chest. Refer to the video for a visual demonstration.
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1. Squeeze Press
How: Grab two plates and press them together with open palms. Lie back on a bench and squeeze the plates together as hard as you can by pressing with your palms. Press up from the chest while maintaining the chest squeeze throughout the movement. This movement is best in high-rep sets of 15-25 per set. To add difficulty, perform the exercsie standing and pressing out from the chest.
Why: By pressing the plates together you can maintain constant tension on your pecs. These are best to do after a main compound movement like a Bench Press in your chest workout.
2. Chain Fly
How: Wrap chains around the handles of light dumbbells or hook two cable attachment handles up to chains. Lie down on a bench with your palms facing each other and perform a normal Chest Fly. With slightly bent arms, drop until you feel a big stretch in the chest. Squeeze your pecs together as you reverse the motion and return to the top.
Why: Chains are a great option for those who have cranky shoulders. At the lowest point, the weight is lightest, with most of the chains resting on the ground. As you squeeze back to the top, the weight increases. Personally, chains have taken me from not doing any Fly variations due to shoulder issues to doing them regularly.
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3. Tempo Barbell Bench
How: Set up for the Bench Press as you normally would. Push the bar up, let it settle, then start to take it down to your chest. The catch is, you need to go slowly on the eccentric or lowering portion of the rep. Once you touch the chest, explode up and repeat.
Why: Controlling the lowering portion of the rep slowly does two things: it improves and stabilizes your technique and it blows your chest up. Eccentric contractions cause the most damage to muscle tissue. Be careful with these, however. You will be very sore in comparison to a regular Bench Press, so program them accordingly.
4. Paused Barbell Bench
How: Set up for your Bench Press normally and lower the weight at a normal speed. Once you get to the chest, pause for 2-5 seconds, then explode up. Make sure to not lose tension on the pause and rest the bar completely on the chest. Everything should remain tight and contracted.
Why: Adding pauses into your training is a great way to increase time under tension, which translates to more strength and hypertrophy gains.
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5. One-Arm Low Incline Dumbbell Bench
How: Set up a bench at a low incline, one notch up from flat on most benches. If your bench isn’t adjustable, put a 45-pound plate under the end of the bench to create the incline. All you need is one dumbbell. Lie back on the bench and perform a normal Bench Press. Cue yourself to put your shoulder blades in your back pocket.
Why: Using one dumbbell instead of two adds an isolation factor and engages more of the core to help stabilize the uneven weight distribution. Performing the rep on a low incline also adds more difficulty.
6. Incline Alternate Dumbbell Bench
How: Head to an incline bench and grab two dumbbells. Perform a normal Incline Bench Press, but do it in an alternating fashion. Lower one while you hold the other one locked out at the top. Once you return to the top, alternate.
Why: Here again, the focus is on time under tension. While one side is working, the other must be held static, increasing the overall time under tension.
7. Deficit Push-Up
How: Set up two rubber bumper plates far enough apart that you can lie down between them. Place your hands on the plates and perform a regular Push-Up, but once you reach normal depth, keep going. When you reach the bottom, explode back up to the top. Be careful how you program these; the extra range of motion will likely cause more muscle soreness than regular Push-Ups.
Why: Adding the deficit and extra range of motion allows a much bigger stretch to the chest.
8. Two-Arm Landmine Squeeze Press
How: Load one end of the bar and place the other end against a wall or in a landmine attachment. Hoist the bar to your chest and hold the end of it between your palms, pressing them together much like the Plate Squeeze Press described above. Press the bar away from your chest, bring it back and repeat. Maintain constant tension by squeezing your palms together as hard as possible.
Why: Much like the Plate Squeeze Press, maintain constant tension throughout the movement. Also, standing and pressing away from the body adds difficulty.
So there you have it! Add these exercises in to your workouts as accessory movements and blow your chest up!