A well-developed chest, on either sex, is arguably the most universally admired body part that we, as a species possess. Women are concerned with ways to increase their ‘bust’ and men, no differently, are concerned with increasing their “pecs”.

This desire is particularly strong among teenage males who, in their relentless desire to develop their chests, end up overtraining them, slowing down growth causing the young bodybuilder frustration and eventually despair. 

This needn’t be the case, however, if the correct exercises and training principles are employed by the pectorally-aspiring trainee.

man lifting heavy barbell on flat weight bench

How then does one properly perform these exercises? And just what exercises should one choose for the purpose of chest building efficiency? Keep reading, and we’ll endeavor to answer these and other related questions.

The Chest Anatomy And Physiology

There are, in effect, three different chest muscles: the Pectoralis major, Pectoralis minor, and the Serratus anterior or Serratus magnus. Each of these must be fully stimulated as a result of your workouts if complete chest development is your goal.

The Pectoralis major arises from the anterior surface of the sternal half of the clavicle, the anterior surface of the sternum, the cartilages of the ribs, and aponeurosis of the external oblique.

By “true ribs” I refer to the anterior extremities of each of the first seven pairs of ribs that are connected with the sternum in front through the costal cartilages.

The fibers of the Pectoralis major converge and form a thick mass, which is inserted by a flat tendon into the crest of the greater tubercle of the humerus or upper arms bone.

The action of the Pectoralis major is as follows: if the arm has been raised, the Pectoralis major acting with the latissimus dorsi and the teres major, draws the arm down to the side of the chest. Acting alone, it adducts and pulls the arm across the chest, also rotating the arm inward.

The Pectoralis major underneath and entirely covers the Pectoralis minor. It arises from the upper margins and outer surfaces of the third, fourth and fifth ribs near their cartilages, and is inserted into the coracoid process of the scapula (the little bump of the bone on your shoulder).

Well given that the action of the Pectoralis major is to draw the arm across the chest, the exercises that most closely parallels that function is dumbbell flys (cable crossovers or machine flyes can also be utilized).

The primary action of the Pectoralis minor being to lower the shoulders, then decline press is the best way to activate the muscle fibers. The Serratus anterior function is to carry the scapula forward, consequently, it is best served by performing pullover bench presses.

Therefore thses three exerciseds will constitue the “core” of our chest specilization training. Flyes, Decline presses, and pull over bench presses.

Training Principles

In order to grow, you must give your body a reason to grow. Muscle growth cannot be induced by merely repeating that which is already comfortable and well within your body’s capabilities. A maximum effort can only indicate muscle growth beyond normal levels; every repetition of every set must be performed in perfect style.

This is to say every rep must be raised in two seconds and then lowered back to the starting position in four. In all, a correctly performed repetition should take precisely eight seconds to complete, and a properly performed set of eight repetitions, plus tow forced reps should take a total of 80 seconds.

We also want to make the use of the principle of pre-exhaustion. This is the performance of an isolation exercise first to be followed immediately by a compound movement – these two exercises performed back to back constitute one cycle.

A negative only set should be performed during Friday’s workout (this being a three day a week routine; Monday, Wednesday, Friday)in which 40% more weight than you would usually be handled in your exercises.

Have your training partner – depending on your strength lift the weight for you while you prepare yourself to concentrate exclusively on lowing the resistance in eight seconds.

The same rep protocol, as you would use a normal workout, applies to your negative only training (i.e., 8-12 for the upper body, 12-20 for lower body).

Monday’s workout should include forced reps and negatives, but Wednesday’s workout should be positive to failure only. As has been the rule during this specialization series, the specific body part will be worked first in the workout with a maximum of five sets.

The remainder of the bodyparts shall be covered with one set each, taken to absolute muscular failure (save Wednesday)

muscular man performing cable flys in the gym


Dumbbell Flyes

It doesn’t actually, but the same semi-circular motion of the arms during the performance of the exercise is said to resemble aerodynamically that of flight.

To begin, grab hold of two dumbbells and lie back down upon a supine bench. Hold the dumbbells over your chest with your arms fully extended and your palms facing each other.

Slowly lower your arms out to the sides while keeping a slight bend in your arms. It should take you all of four seconds to completely lower the dumbbells to the side of your chest.

Hold this stretch position for a two count before raising the dumbbells back up to the starting position. Repeat for at least 8 repetitions with 3 sets in total, then move immediately to your next exercise.

Decline Bench Press

You will need a decline bench of some sort to perform this exercise correctly. Either take the resistance off of the uprights or else have your partner hand it to you and hold it for a moment at arm’s length (can also use dumbbells if you do not have access to a barbell)

Slowly lower the weight(making a conscious effort to keep your elbows wide) to your clavicle. Pause here for a second or two, and then press the resistance back up to the starting position.

Repeat for at least eight repetitions and (depending what day it is) have your partner assist by giving you two forced reps. ( x 3 sets)

Now proceed to your next chest exercise.

Pull-Over Bench Press

This is an excellent upper-body developer and works very directly with the often ignored Serratus anterior muscles just below the pec.

Lie down on your back upon a flat bench, and grab hold of a weighted barbell. Your head should be fully extended behind you so that your biceps are seemingly “plugged into” each ear. From this position of full-stretch, slowly raise the barbell, keeping your elbows slightly bent, from behind your head to on top of your sternum.

Once the bar is resting across your chest, immediately begin to “bench press” it up to arm’s length (as you would in a regular bench press).

Slowly lower the barbell back to your sternum and from there, back down to the floor in four seconds. Pause briefly in the position of full stretch before beginning the movement again. Repeat for at least eight repetitions and then reduce the resistance and immediately perform your second and third sets.