Group 1: Chest
The chest muscles have a common origin and insertion point, but despite this, many like to divide the chest into two parts: The upper and lower chest (or the clavicular and sternal pectoralis muscles). Without getting too technical, it’s important to know that the chest doesn’t actually attach “on the chest.” The muscles run from the sternum all the way to the upper arm, and because of this, their role will be to “close” the arm from a wide open position diagonally across the body.
That’s a pretty unique job, and it involves a joint that has a wide range of motion. For these reasons, this muscle group doesn’t get one “top” exercise. It gets two.
Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
The popular flat barbell bench press isn’t the top choice to really hit the chest muscles. Since the correct setup for any bench press involves arching the back, a flat bench press makes it harder to involve the upper chest. Using a low inclined position allows a lifter to better access both the sternal and clavicular pectoralis. Second, using dumbbells rather than a bar allows a lifter to customize his or her hand and elbow position to better access the chest fibers without stressing the shoulders as much.
How to Do It:
Set up an adjustable bench to a level lower than 45 degrees. With this exercise, you’ll still have enough leverage to move some heavy weight. Since mechanical tension and progressive overload are key components of building muscle, this is important. With a dumbbell in each hand, bench press as normal (see here for a step-by-step guide). Using dumbbells isn’t always conducive to pursuing low-rep maxes, so focus on sets of eight reps or higher for this exercise.
High-to-Low Cable Flye
By setting up cable pulleys high on the posts and performing a converging chest flye that finishes around stomach level, you’ll mimic the exact role of the chest muscles. Although you’re at the mercy of your shoulder joints’ stability (thus limiting the weight you can lift here), this makes a perfect follow-up for the heavier and more stable dumbbell bench press above.
How to Do It:
Set up the cables at shoulder level and hold the handles, one in each hand with arms spread apart, while assuming a staggered stance position, with one leg in front and the other leg behind you. Place most of the weight on your front leg and position yourself for a good stretch in the chest with a slight bend in the elbows. Next, close the arms via a converging flye pattern. Finish with arms extended and hands in front of the waist. Slowly return to your starting position. Keep the reps high for this one: 12 to 20 reps should be ideal.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!Back to top