Friday, February 21, 2014

The Ultimate Chest Workout

So I've already written a post titled The Shoulder Workout to End All Shoulder Workouts.  Today, in the same spirit of unapologetic marketing, I plan to lay out a no BS, simple, and stupidly effective chest workout.


Don't fall for the trick that there exists some muscle building secret far beyond your grasp, in the ether of unattainable truth.  In reality, building muscle requires that you do nothing more than lift gradually heavier and heavier objects.  Now, some subtle nuances do abound in this process (such as selecting more effective exercises), but, overall, you verily need nothing more than a barbell, some weights, and unrelenting determination!


  1. Pars Clavicularis (or "Upper" Chest; not to be confused with the Pectoralis Minor)
  2. Pars Sternocostalis (or "Mid" Chest; some people associate this with the "Lower Chest")
  3. Pars Abdominialis (or "Lower" Chest)

Quite a lot of debate surrounds the anatomy of the chest; in particular, as to whether one can effectively "isolate" the "upper" and "lower" parts of the pectoralis major.  While I would say one can never truly "isolate" a part of the chest by using this or that exercise, I do say, and EMG testing has demonstrated this, you can emphasize certain fiber strands of the pectoralis major (note my emphasis on emphasize!  I love bad puns...) by attacking your chest from different angles.

Now, I know I sound like the typical "bro-scientist" when I say things like "attacking your chest from different angles," but, despite my disdain for "bro-science," some of its "theories" do have support from actual scientists.  In the case of chest training, "bro-science" has actually gotten itself on the right track (somewhat anyway).

Addressing a Common Debate

One of the controversies that surround chest workouts has to do with whether or not one can "over" work the lower fibers of the chest; thus resulting in, to put it nicely, an effeminate chest.  Often times, people may advocate using a greater ratio of incline bench presses to flat and decline presses (or dips) in order to avoid this scenario.  While I give some merit to this methodology, I tend more to say that one should do ample work for all three fiber sections of the chest, at least initially, so as to avoid under developing the chest as a whole.  Once you progress further in your training, and you think you may need additional work for your "upper" chest, feel free to do so; however, there's absolutely no need to worry about such nuances of chest training in the early stages of lifting.

Other Parts of the Chest

The pectoralis minor (which many people often mistakenly call the "Upper" Chest) lies beneath the pectoralis major.  The p. minor serves as an abductor, it allows downward rotation of the shoulders (during abduction), and serves as a depressor.  No one exercise exists for the sole purpose of targeting this muscle, however, it gets ample work from chest dips, and chins/pull-ups.

Another muscle with which many people lack familiarity is the Serratus Anterior.  This muscle bears the nick name, the "boxer's muscle;" much in part because of its involvement in elevating and upwardly rotating the scapula (that's your shoulder blades).  When you punch like a boxer, this muscle functions as an active component of performing this motion.  Exercises like shoulder presses, incline shoulder raises, and twisting chest presses will work the S. Anterior.


As I indicated in my shoulder workout post, I think working in the 4-8 rep range, using 75-85% of your 1 rep max, with a volume of no more than 4 total sets per muscle group (or fiber type) every 5-7 days works as a "sweet spot" of sorts for building muscle (especially type II fibers; which are the actual structural components of the muscle with the greatest growth potential).

So what workout do I recommend for building a "chiseled" chest?


  1. "Mid" Chest:  Flat Bench Press (with a barbell or dumbbells) for 4 sets of 4-8 reps.  (Barbell - Video; Dumbbell - Video)
  2. "Upper" Chest:  Incline Bench Press (with a barbell or dumbbells) for 4 sets of 4-8 reps.  (Barbell - Video; Dumbbell - Video)
  3. "Lower" Chest:  Chest Dips (weighted if you can) for 4 sets of 4-8 reps.  (Video)
  4. (*Optional) Serratus Anterior:  Incline Shoulder Raise for 4 sets of 6-8 reps.  (Video)
*This is optional because you may already get enough stimulation for your S. Anterior with shoulder presses.

Notes - 
  • Warm-up with 1 set of 8 reps at 50% of your target work weight, then do 1 set of 6 reps at 50%, 1 set of 3 reps at 75%, and finally 1 set of 1 rep at 90%.  Rest 1 minute between warm-up sets, and rest 2 minutes before beginning your first work set.  Only do this for the flat bench press (your chest will be plenty warm for the remaining exercises).
  • Rest about 2-3 minutes between work sets.
  • Once you can get the top number of reps for a given exercise, add 5-10lbs of weight, and work with that weight until you can reach the top number of reps again.

That's It!

See, I told you building a big, chiseled chest would be easy!  Now, stop reading, and start lifting!


  1. Thank you for sharing such great information.It is informative, can you help me in finding out more detail on Fitness Exercises
    ,i am interested and would like to know more about this field and wanted to understand the details about Exercise Video

  2. Top post. I look forward to reading more. Cheers chest exercises to lift breasts “Nice Post. It’s really a very good article. I noticed all your important points. Thanks"