Gareth Sapstead | UK Personal Trainer
Most of us have our own go-to exercises that we either stick with for a long time, or always go back to. But when was the last time you asked yourself the question if what you’re doing is getting you the results that your time and effort deserve?
To quote Albert Einstein; “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So why do we end up doing the same exercises over and over again expecting different results?
If your progress in the gym has grinded to a halt, or if you’re starting to get a little bored, then it’s definitely time for a change! We begin with typically man’s favourite body part to train, and what was recently voted as one of women’s most desirable body parts on men: a chiselled set of pecs!
Here are five of the best chest exercises that will help you take your training and your physique to the next level.
Exercise #1: Low Incline Guillotine Press
The Guillotine Press is similar to the bench press, except you lower the bar down to your lower neck area. A wider grip than normal is also used to maximise pectoral muscle recruitment. This exercise can be done on the flat bench, but using a low incline instead really does make a big difference.
Lowering the bar towards your neck allows a greater range of motion and deeper stretch in the bottom position of the press; taking your chest in to this deep loaded stretch causes a large build-up of mechanical tension within the muscles, triggering a strong growth stimulus. This is without a doubt one of the best exercises to carve out a good upper chest area, so well worth the notoriously sore chest you’ll have the day after!
✓ Take a grip wider than your normal bench press position, and lower the bar under control.
✓ Performing slow eccentric repetitions for 4 seconds on the way down can make this exercise more effective, and focus on the stretch at the bottom.
✓ Use a medium load that can allow you to get 10-15 repetitions, as this exercise works best in this range.
Exercise #2: Eccentric Dumbbell Flye
Essentially this exercise is a press during the concentric portion and a flye on the eccentric/lowering phase. This allows you to use more weight than what you typically could during a normal dumbbell flye, and as a result overload the eccentric portion of the exercise.
Overloading the eccentric portion of an exercise with additional weight causes a large amount of mechanical tension, as well as muscle tissue breakdown, both activating key mechanisms responsible for muscle growth.
✓ Pick a weight about 20% greater than what you would typically use for a dumbbell flye for the same amount of repetitions.
✓ Perform the eccentric for 2-4 seconds, with the concentric press being quicker. Focus on the stretch at the bottom, and keep a slight bend in your elbows throughout the flye movement.
✓ This can be done effectively on a decline, flat or incline bench depending on the area of the chest you are targeting.
Exercise #3: Far-Away Cable Flye
Like a traditional standing cable flye, however by making a few minor changes to it we make the exercise a completely different animal – and you won’t be sorry for trying it. If you have trouble ‘feeling’ your chest working during a training session then definitely give this exercise a try! The flye motion is from a high to low angle making this exercise is a good candidate for an amazing lower chest exercise.
The sternal portion of your pectoral muscles creates that nice full shape and can have a big impact with your top off. By laying on a bench this variation really isolates the chest, taking many other muscles, that would otherwise assist or take over the exercise, out of the picture. Result; one of the best chest isolating exercises you will ever find!
✓ This exercise can be done first in a training session, to develop that ‘mind-muscle’ connection and pre-fatigue your chest prior to moving on to more compound, multi-joint exercises, or it can be used towards the end to really isolate your chest after a few heavier exercises.
✓ Choose a moderate weight that you can get multiple sets of 10-20 repetitions with, focus on the quality of each repetition, and squeeze on every rep until you feel like the incredible Hulk and your pecs are about to rip out of your shirt!
Exercise #4: Banded Machine Chest Press
For all those ‘functional training’ people out there that believe machines were invented by the Devil, I’d say ask yourself the question what are you training for? If you want to achieve some muscle growth then machines can often come in very handy, and when you feel like you haven’t got any more to give in a training session can be just what you need to finish you off once and for all!
Most gyms should have some form of chest press machine. By wrapping a red or blue strength band around the back of the machine and on to the weights bar; an ordinary machine can become a super machine.
✓ Adding a resistance band to a chest press machine allows you to be able to compensate for what should be the stronger portion of the exercise; the top two-thirds, by increasing the resistance during this portion. You are therefore not limited by your lack of strength during the stretched position off your chest, and pectoral muscle recruitment can be maximised throughout the entire movement.
✓ This is an advanced method of training, and should only be used with some experience. Strength bands come in a variety of colours.
✓ You should choose a moderate resistance, and something that adds around an additional 10-20% on top of the weights you have on the bar. Be sure that the bands you buy are also the right length, and fit the chest press machine at your gym. Multiple sets of 8-12 repetitions work the best for this exercise.
✓ Aim to ‘power’ through the strength of the resistance band, and resist allowing it to pull you back.
This type of training is referred to as Variable Resistance Training, and can be useful for this purpose, as well as developing strength and power during certain movements, by adding resistance during the stronger portions of an exercise!
Exercise #5: Slider Press-Flye Combo
If you haven’t got a pair of furniture sliders in your gym bag then go and buy a pair. They’re so cheap and versatile, and can inject a bit of life in to your training routine, plus it would mean that you could perform this exercise.
If you think push-ups are easy then this exercise is for you. I challenge anyone to be able to do this exercise with good form for double-digits repetitions. The Slider Press-Flye Combo is essentially a push-up on one side and a flye on the other.
It provides all the great benefits of both exercises, plus the bonus of the additional core work whilst you’re doing it. Therefore this exercise works as a great finisher towards the back end of your chest training session!
✓ Furniture sliders work best on carpet, but studio flooring also works.
✓ Multiple sets of high repetitions, or as many as you can handle, work best for this exercise, hence why you should include this exercise towards the end of your session as a final way to finish off your chest and get a great pump, before gulping down your post-workout protein shake – of course!
Take Home Message
Incorporate some or all of these exercises into your Chest Day routine to really maximise muscle growth.
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