Along with upper arm development, the pectorals are the most popular and most trained muscle group. Chest power is vital in most sports involving throwing, pushing and punching. Apart from the overall improvement in performance, a well developed chest is an impressive mark of a strong muscular physique, its usually the first area the eyes focus on along with the upper arms.
So how do we develop the pectorals and what exercises are best. Here I will run through what I believe to be the best exercises of chest development.
The Flat Barbell Bench Press
The king of all chest builders. The flat barbell bench is not just a mid chest developer, like some contend, it actually works the entire chest region along with the deltoids and triceps. It is one of the best upper body compound exercises. Focus on getting strong on this exercise, and I mean strong…..being able to press 1.5 x body-weight and there is no way that the chest will remain small and weak.
The Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
This ranks highest along with the barbell bench press. In fact many bodybuilders consider it even better then the barbell bench press. This is because you can work the pectoral muscles more equally as each side of the body has to work separately. Unlike the barbell bench press, if there is an imbalance in the musculature, the stronger muscle will compensate, leaving the imbalance to remain. With the dumbbell press you can also hold the dumbbells in a more natural position, unlike the barbell which is more fixed.
Again this is one of the main chest builders. Not to be confused with tricep dips, which are primarily tricep builders. To make the dip specifically a chest exercise, the grip should be slightly wider and the body should lean forward. The chest dip will pack on mass on the pectorals, and specifically the lower outer region, to give a sharp line at the bottom of the pecs. This exercise works the same region as the decline press and is superior in my opinion, leaving no reason to do the decline press at all.
Incline Barbell and Dumbbell Press
Variations of the incline press all focus on the upper chest region. They help pack on mass on the upper chest, which is very hard to develop. There is an argument to say that any flat barbell or dumbbell exercise works the entire chest region anyway and there is no reason to do incline work at all. This is true, but it depends on your specific goals. For pectoral strength for sport, the flat press is all that is necessary, however if you are a competitive bodybuilder, some specific upper chest work is needed. I still contend that if the barbell bench press is performed, along with the standing overhead barbell press, the complete pectoral region is worked. The standing overhead press hits the upper chest, so there is no need for inclines. The being said the incline press, both dumbbell and barbell are fantastic chest builders.
Chest Flies (Dumbbell, cable or machine)
At the bottom of the list I have chosen the chest fly exercise. This is because although it isolates the chest and therefore one could argue is the best chest developer, the truth is it is inferior to any of the compound exercises I have listed. Like most isolation exercises, they are a very unnatural movement as the body is meant to work in unison with other muscles, such a pushing, squatting, etc. The cable chest fly is the most over used, over rated exercise. The amount of new trainees I see over using this exercise, with lacklustre results. They would do better using the compound exercises listed above.
The bottom line is, for maximum chest development focus on getting strong on the compound exercises I have listed. That is all it boils down to. Focus on getting stronger every workout, this is key. The mass will come with patience and correct diet.