For decades, I have been coaching people of all shapes and sizes to get stronger and to build more pleasing and powerful physiques.
Everyone — woman or man, young or old — has expressed an interest in toning, building, strengthening and "lifting" the chest area. Nobody really wants a saggy front end. Do you?
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know how to train the chest/pectoral region properly. For the most part, you're looking at variations of pressing movements and fly movements with barbells, dumbbells, cables or bodyweight. For building size strength and power, you would use pressing motions such as the flat or incline bench press and dips. If you prefer bodyweight training, there are numerous "push up" variations.
For shaping and toning, you'd consider flat or incline dumbbell or cable flyes and pull-overs. There are some amazing bodyweight options for flyes using TRX type training straps and unique push-up variations.
What is the best type of equipment to train with? The advantage to barbell training is ease of balance. The advantage to dumbbell training is that each side works independently and the grip feels more neutral. When the grip is more neutral there is less stress on your wrists and shoulders.
The advantage of cable training is the constant intensity throughout the start and finish of the exercise. The advantage of bodyweight training is your ability to perform these exercises anytime and anywhere with little to no equipment. In other words, you don't have an excuse to not train.
I don't recommend much machine training. I will explain why during my free Saturday morning Strength, Conditioning and Physique workshops.
What is the best training day to include your chest routine? One common split would be to train your chest, shoulders and triceps on the same day. This training concept is that you're working all of your pushing muscles during the same routine. I can't say that there is any real research supporting this training philosophy, but developing your physique is as much an art as it is a science.
My favorite approach is to train chest and back on the same day. This training split engages many major pushing and pulling muscles — or more accurately, agonists and antagonists — simultaneously. Both approaches are valuable. Mixing them up will more effectively shock the body by continuously forcing muscle adaptation.
In other words, more strength, more power and more muscle hypertrophy (growth of muscle cells).
How many different exercises and how many reps will help you to most effectively and safely reach your goals? If your training goals are sport or activity specific, you may need to consult with a coach like myself to carefully outline the physical demands and requirements needed for optimal performance.
If you run long distance, you're training and nutritional requirements are entirely different than if you were a sprinter. I will address sports nutrition in a future article.
If you are training for endurance, you would want to perform higher reps at a slower speed. If your sport requires more strength and power, your resistance training will be predominantly in the low to medium rep range with a faster, more explosive lifting technique.
If you are training to develop your physique, your training will include all repetition ranges and velocities. A lot depends upon your physique goals and your current level of conditioning.
When developing your training routine you will also need to determine the correct number of sets and how many different exercises to perform for each muscle group.
If your goal is increased strength, power and size, you'll need to choose three to four non-redundant exercises for your chest and perform those four to six times. Six sets is preferable.
If you are a new to resistance training, two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps is plenty! No matter what repetition range you're working with, each set should be executed until failure. In other words if you are doing sets of 15 reps and you can go beyond 15 reps, you'll need to increase your weight.
All in all, training the chest region is relatively simple. You either push or adduct your muscles. If it's all so simple, then why do so many injuries occur on "chest training day"?
In order to safely train your chest you need strong and flexible healthy shoulders, strong wrists, and a well-developed upper and lower back. You also need a strong and healthy spine with well-maintained curves throughout your lower back, mid back and neck.
Lacking in any of the above puts you at risk for shoulder, neck, wrist and back injuries plus chronic tension headaches.
Please join me at 10 a.m. this Saturday morning at my SpineFit Training Center, for a very special Chest and Upper Back Training workout/workshop. Learn to strengthen, build and sculpt an amazing upper body. We'll meet in the lobby of Fit Republic (2565 Lake Tahoe Blvd.)
For any questions regarding this workshop, call 544-4400. This workshop is FREE to the public, you do not need to be a gym member to attend.
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