Chest is one of the most enjoyable muscle groups to train. Yet, it seems to be a muscle group that many people struggle with developing. This then often leads them to throw every single possible chest exercise at it in hopes that it’ll grow. But, the truth is, this haphazard selection of exercises for chest often does more harm than good. Today I’ll show you how you can get the most bang for your buck when it comes to how to build a bigger chest by instead just focusing on 2 simple yet very effective chest exercises geared for mass (incline dumbbell press and cable/banded movement) – that when paired together, can make a big difference in your chest development.
The first exercise is the low incline dumbbell press. Pressing movements for the chest are necessary because it enables us to apply a high amount of tension to our chest overtime since can both lift heavier loads with it and easily progress it over time with more weight. But dumbbell presses have advantages over barbell presses since it allows us to achieve a greater range of motion on our chest fibres, while also giving us the freedom to tweak our form to better suit with our individual chest fibres and with what just feels most comfortable on our joints.
Now, a low incline press is one of the best chest exercises geared for mass for a of couple reasons. The first reason is that we want to ensure that we’re adequately training each portion of our chest. That’s because with a low incline up to just 15 degrees, you get a significant boost in upper chest activation but with less of an increase in front delts involvement and with less of a drop in activation from the middle and lower portions of your chest. And I’d even argue that when you then apply a slight arch in the upper back and tuck the elbows in slightly as you perform this movement, you’ll now be aligning the resistance with even more of your chest fibres and experience even greater activation of your whole chest. The second reason why this chest exercise is beneficial is comfort. By adding a slight incline, your shoulders will now be placed in a slightly externally rotated position which for many is a much more comfortable pressing position for the shoulder to be in.
The next exercise is going to be any sort of cable or banded movement, like a seated cable fly or, if you don’t have access to cables, then banded push-ups or banded flyes. During a dumbbell press, our chest experiences the greatest amount of resistance at the bottom, stretched position. But as you press the weight up the resistance progressively decreases until you reach the top position, where the chest now receives very little stimulation. And what we know about muscle growth is that exercises with different strength curves will likely produce different amounts of muscle growth in each region of our muscle. Which implies that if we stuck only with the dumbbell press or added in other exercises for the chest that have a similar strength curve like the dumbbell fly, then we’d be failing to adequately train and stimulate our chest in the locked out position.
The cable fly accommodates for this by providing adequate tension on the chest throughout the whole range of motion, especially during the fully contracted position. You can also play around with the angles of this chest exercise to emphasize the upper, mid, or lower portions of your chest as well. Similarly, if you don’t have cables, the banded push-up or banded fly is a suitable alternative since the resistance applied to your chest will be lowest at the bottom position but then progressively increase as you lockout and reach the chest’s fully contracted position.
Now, what you choose to do with these two exercises is totally up to you. I would definitely recommend plopping them somewhere into your current chest routine as you see fit. And if you’re currently doing a ton of different exercises and volume for your chest yet not making any progress, then shifting more of that volume and effort to these two movements instead, while focusing on performing them with proper form and progressing them overtime, will do wonders for your chest development.
When it comes to how to build a bigger chest, often times, more is not better. For a step-by-step program that uses science to show you exactly how to train AND how to fuel your body week after week so that you can build muscle and lean down as efficiently as possible, then simply take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:
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0:00 – Overview
0:29 – Exercise 1
1:03 – Exercise 1 Reasoning
3:23 – Exercise 2
3:37 – Exercise 2 Reasoning
4:51 – Exercise 2 Alternative
5:15 – Application