Bench press is the classic lift on chest day. Some even call this move the true measure of a man’s strength. But if bench press is the only exercise you’re doing during your chest workout, you’re most likely not seeing the results you want.
Steve Lischin, M.S., NASM, C.P.T., explains to Men’s Health that there are two approaches to building an impressive chest. “The classic method is to isolate the pectoral muscles and minimize the involvement of other, secondary muscles. However, a smarter plan for more strength and power begins with teaching your chest, shoulders, triceps, and other upper-body muscles to work together.”
As Lischin explained, the classic chest workout will isolate the two major muscle groups that make up your chest: the pectoralis major along with a smaller, deeper group called the pectoralis minor. If your chest workout solely focuses on the bench and the barbell, you’re missing out on moves that can actually challenge different parts of these muscle groups for maximum development. For example, the anterior deltoids and the triceps assist your pectoral muscles during certain movements. Therefore, by strengthening these two supporting muscles you’ll be able to lift heavier during your chest workout.
To start seeing bigger gains and maximizing your performance on chest days, keep reading to learn 6 ways to revamp your chest workout.
1. Ditch chest day
Now before you think we’re crazy for telling you that ditching chest day will help to build your chest, hear us out: dedicating an entire workout to chest exercises is going to leave you feeling sore for days. That’s a good thing, right? It means your workout was successful and you’re on the way to seeing bigger gains. Well, it turns out that fitness experts believe there’s a better way.
Men’s Fitness recommends including the chest as part of a workout while working other muscles along with it in the session, rather than spending hours trying to hammer a few muscles into submission. By training your entire body, you’ll release more muscle-building hormones that are necessary to start seeing rapid gains.
Another benefit of organizing your training this way is the longer recovery times between sets and/or exercises. Men’s Fitness gives the example of starting your workout with bench presses, then moving on to deadlifts, an exercise that mainly involves the lower-body. Afterward, you can move on to another chest exercise, such as dumbbell presses. You’ll most likely notice that you can lift heavier than you anticipated during the dumbbell presses since you spaced out this move from the bench presses.
2. Try this: Dumbbell Bench
During pressing exercises, the main function of the pec muscles is “transverse adduction”, which means bringing the arms toward the center of the body. As you may know, a barbell bench press doesn’t allow your hands to move inwards. Therefore, by incorporating the dumbbell bench you’ll have higher pec activation and a greater range of motion.
When performing this move, it’s recommended to allow your hands to go below chest level at the bottom of the move, followed by bringing the dumbbells together at the top when your arms are straight. If you want to make the move even more challenging, try performing the dumbbell press on a stability ball to increase core strength.
3. Push and pull
Did you know that rowing exercises are one of the best exercises you can include in a chest workout? You may think that rows are for back day, but research has proven otherwise. While rows don’t work your chest directly, they do promote strength and muscle mass on the rear side of the shoulder joints. This helps by keeping your upper back and rear deltoids in balance with the pecs and the front deltoids. Plus, rowing exercises prepare your entire shoulder girdle to lift heavier weights on pressing exercises. Men’s Fitness suggests that your main bench press workout of the week should start with one set of seated cable rows. This will allow you to put up bigger numbers than you anticipated on the bench presses that follow.
4. Try this: Kettlebell Fly
This move can revamp your chest workout because the kettlebells are harder to grip than dumbbells, which means you have to work harder for each rep. According to bodybuilding.com, using kettlebells for chest flyes will cause your pecs to recruit more muscle fibers to fight the weight hanging below your palms. It’s typically recommended to start with kettlebells that are 10 pounds lighter than what you would use on a standard dumbbell fly. This move is a full-range fly, not a half-fly or half-press, so ensure that your elbows are not bending during the lowering phase. If they are, you may need to choose a lighter weight to keep proper form.
5. Revamp your push-ups
Obviously push-ups are a traditional chest exercise. And while doing hundreds of push-ups may be effective for some people, incorporating different types of push-ups will maximize your chest activity, leading to faster gains. Bodybuilding.com suggests trying a close-grip weighted push-up. To execute this move, start in a push-up position with your hands six inches apart. To add resistance you can either wear a weighted vest or have a training partner place a weight or sandbag on your back. From there, slowly lower your chest to the ground and press back up until you fully extend your elbows. The narrow hand position brings out the inner pecs and the added weight across the back revamps this push-up into a move that will transform your pecs.
6. Recover with the right nutrition
To really revamp your chest workout, you also need to assess how you’re recovering after those training sessions when you’ve annihilated your pecs. Recovery is more than stretching and waiting for muscle soreness to pass. Recovery is time for muscles to build themselves back up after you’ve torn them apart during a tough workout. This means how you fuel yourself after a workout will determine what kind of results you’ll see.
Grueling workouts expend the glycogen and protein stores in your body, which means not eating anything after a workout is one of the worst things you can do. Brian Nguyen, Mark Wahlberg’s trainer and owner of Brik Fitness in Redondo Beach, Ca., tells Men’s Fitness, “If you don’t replenish it immediately, your body will feel that depletion and a sense of soreness, fatigue, even nauseousness. Nutrition is 90 percent of the work. Whether that’s a shake, whether that’s a sensible meal, that’s part of the process.”
This is where Performance Inspired Nutrition can help. These all-natural, clean products enable you to meet your nutritional needs so that you can recover from your workouts the right way. Performance Whey Protein powder can help you fuel muscle growth by providing high-quality protein and Post Workout BCAA is full of the glutamine and electrolytes you need to maximize your recovery.