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The Best Chest Workout | Intensity & Volume


In order for you to grow your chest, you have to start by understanding the basics of the chest muscles as you would for any other region of the body. The chest is comprised of 2 key muscles: The pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The major has an upper and lower portion that originates from the sternum. The lower portion of the pectoralis major originates from the sternum and the upper part of it originates from the clavicle. The function of the pectoralis major is to move the arm and allow it to move across the chest (as if you wanted to hug someone). The pectoralis minor is the smaller part of the chest above the ribs and is responsible for the depression and downward rotation of the scapula.

cable flys

Where To Start?

To start building your chest you will want to target the chest fibers in all areas equally. Start with exercises that are high compound movements for the chest such as flat bench press, incline bench press, and decline bench press. The reason is that these muscles will be almost fully engaged during these exercises when you can perform them correctly. The key is to drop your ego and lower the weight load on the bar in order to allow for a full range of motion.


Begin with the bar at normal height, slowly lower the bar down until it touches your chest (this should be a 3-second negative contraction). Once the bar has touched your chest, pause at the bottom for 1-2 seconds to ensure that all inertia is eliminated from the lift in order to make sure that during the final stage of pushing the bar upwards you are using pure strength to keep chest engaged. At the top, I recommend not going so high to where your arms lockout at the elbows. Instead, only go as high up as a few inches to make sure the chest keeps constant tension. Practice with the bar without the weight and feel as you go up where you lose tension and stop before that point. The idea is to keep the chest tension constant and to ignore the weight capacity on the bar if you wish to grow.

Include some other exercises such as fly’s using either dumbbells or cables or a combination of both. When performing this, either flat, incline or decline, remember the main key points as stated with presses. We want that tension to remain constant. Begin lying down with your weight and slowly spread your arms for the fly and make sure to stretch them as far as possible. If you are lying flat you should be going as far to where your elbows are almost going below your shoulders or past that point. When you are in the full contraction or opened position, you will want to make sure you are breathing. At this stretch, you want to have a full breath of air in your lungs to help expand the ribcage from the lungs expanding. This will help the chest fibers stretch a little further, increasing tension slightly. At the bottom of this motion, pause for 1-2 seconds before slowly contracting your arms back as if you were trying to hug someone tightly. Focus on keeping the arms bent at the elbows so that when your arms come back together you are actually using your arms to push the chest muscles together at the same time.

weight training

Focus On Volume

Incorporate a higher intensity training routine to focus on volume and not lifting heavy. Add in drop sets for the heavier exercises such as bench presses and dumbbell presses. This means that you will perform 2+ sets without rest at different weight loads to increase tension. For example, starting on a flat bench with 250lbs you can perform 15 reps for 2 sets. After this you will want to add in a drop set, to do this you will not perform 1 set of 12-15 reps at the same 250lbs and after that set, you immediately decrease the weight on the bench/bar from 250lbs down to say 185lbs for example. At 185lbs, without resting from the last set, you will perform another 20 reps or so. The set in which you complete after the drop in weight should have a higher rep number vs the first set with the heavier weight you used.


Utilize drop sets for many exercises during your chest routine to help with increasing overall training volume to really help your chest grow.
Remember, if you want your chest to grow you need to be able to train it heavy while also performing at higher set and rep ranges to keep the tension constant. Focus on slow movements and negatives to help create greater muscle stimulation in the pectoralis muscles vs just pushing the weight around. Anyone can make a bar move with heavy weight, but moving the weight with full control to utilize a full and complete contraction of the chest is what’s going to be the factor regarding how much you grow from your workouts.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Master of Science in Sport Physiology and Nutrition. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/.

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