Let’s face it— Every guy wants a bigger chest.
Building admirable pecs is nearly impossible, ESPECIALLY if you stick to the conventional bench press and push-up mentality. Guys do them for months (even years) and still can’t even fill out a medium shirt!
That’s because these movements just aren’t optimal for chest growth!
But I’ll give you 4 chest cheat codes along with 3 pec-specific movements to add into your routine with ease. Unlike the bench press or push up, these hacks will wake up those dormant pecs and have them firing on all cylinders—all by simply modifying your current routine!
1. Don’t Just Press—SQUEEZE!
While most chest exercises involve pressing movements, people often neglect the “squeeze”. The pecs are responsible for a few movements, including horizontal adduction or pulling the arms toward the midline of the body.
While most people do chest flys and bench press, other muscles [shoulders & triceps] often assist too much, taking the focus off the chest unless you really find exercises that put you in the best position to squeeze the chest.
Most people have a hard time feeling their chest activate during bench press. I know it took me over a year to even get a subpar contraction when bench pressing.
Try this exercise for a great chest contraction:
I call them the Napoleon Press as Napoleon always had his hand in his suit, similar to the position of this exercise. Grab a single cable at nipple level. While squeezing your elbow into your ribs, press away for the weight stack, keeping your arm as close to your body as possible. Be sure to stand upright with a proud chest and don’t round your backer shoulders. You will feel your chest squeeze tighter than ever.
Do 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps one to two days a week with moderate weight and focus on the squeeze.
2. Think Outside the Box with Equipment
If you do what you’ve always done you will get what you’ve always got. It’s time to change up some of your exercises.
Using different equipment will allow your chest a new stimulus to grow from, breaking you out of that pec-plateau. Changing up your exercise angles will give you a better ability to contract and, honestly, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is insanity.
Try Using Back Equipment for Chest:
Find your gym’s T-bar row machine or set up and grab the end of the bar with one or both hands. Pressing with this set up and angle will really get you chest fibers firing. For an extra squeeze, rotate your body slightly so your are single-arm pressing across your body and upwards for the craziest chest contraction you’ve ever felt. You can also use the V-bar attachment on the end of the bar and squeeze your elbows in for a more time-efficient pump.
Try doing 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps one to two days a week.
3. Quit Cutting the Motion Short!
So why exactly do the bench press and push up just not deliver optimal chest growth? Aside from form needing to be perfected (Check out this article to perfect your bench), these exercises do not train the chest’s full range of motion.
That means you are missing an opportunity to build a bigger chest.
The chest muscle brings the arms across the chest, but If you try it right now you can bring your arm pretty far across your chest, right? Now, try doing it with both arms at the same time. Pretty much impossible.
Bench press and chest flys stop the chest contraction short. Now, that doesn’t mean they are bad exercises, but that does mean you may want to train the rest of the motion with a different exercise that can pick up the slack. More contraction equals a bigger chest.
Try this single arm cable or machine fly:
Set the cable to shoulder height and stand perpendicular to the weight stack. Use a single rope attachment or even grab the cable itself over hand. Keeping your body facing forward, arm almost locked out, and your shoulder blades together, bring the cable horizontally across your body. Think about touching your opposite shoulder with the inside of you elbow and you will feel your chest tighten almost to the point where it cramps.
Use a lighter weight for this exercise and stick to the 12-14 rep range for 2-3 sets, being sure not to round your shoulders.
4. Contract with Intention
The biggest problem with people’s lifting programs is the lack of intention.
Most people lift with the intention of moving weight rather than contracting the muscle. For powerlifting, that might be okay, but not for people who want a bigger chest.
If you are doing chest exercises and can’t intentionally contract your chest, I question the effectiveness of that exerciser towards your goal. Simply moving the bar up and down without proper form or intention of contraction will more than likely result in no chest growth at best and an injury at worse.
Some may call it the mind muscle connection, I call it intention. It’s a necessary component of building the muscles you want. Certain exercises put you in a better position to contract the chest which will inevitably help you in other lifts like bench press.
Try this exercise and do it with intention of really squeezing your chest:
While seated on a high incline bench, use a 10-35lb weight plate and press it between your hand tightly, allowing the only grip you have on the plate to be the pressure you apply to the plate. By squeezing your hands tight and keeping your elbows tight to your body, your chest is firing through that horizontal adduction we mentioned earlier. Now, keeping the pressure, press the plate toward the roof and back down. This maximizes the chest contraction and really wakes up those sleeping fibers.
I personally like to start my chest days with this exercise. Try doing 2 sets of 12-15 reps, squeezing tight.
Put Your New Cheat Codes to the Test
Using these 4 principles and 4 new exercises, you should be able to maximally contract your chest while adding variety to your preexisting program. Coupled with the right diet, your chest will grow and you’ll get an amazing chest pump every single time you train.
Don’t just move things— squeeze with intention, think outside the box, and watch your shirt size and compliments increase as you finally earn the chest you want.