How to Build a Big Chest

Chuck Sipes knew that a mighty chest is mighty impressive.

Having a big chest is an impressive part of a good physique which is why Monday’s are unofficially International Bench Day at gyms across the world.

A big chest is not needed for any sports so you will see many muscular athletes with small chests. However, a big chest is aesthetically pleasing so you will see all good bodybuilders and physique’s will have a good sized chest. A big chest is a sign of power and strength. The ladies love it too!

When trying to build up a certain muscle group, the goal is to put the most amount of strain on the muscle for as long as possible. Heavy weight is great for building dense, strong muscles but for size alone moderate weight is best. To build a big chest you will concentrate on reps in the 5-12 range and instead of lifting the heaviest weight possible we will use a weight we know we can handle and we concentrate on the burn and the pump that that exercise and weight give us.

The Bench Press is the most well known chest exercise. Benching is great but I do not feel it is the best chest exercise for most people. To build a big chest you want all the pressure on the chest, benching will put pressure on the chest, triceps, and front deltoids. Many people report not “feeling” it in their chest when they bench. To feel it in your chest you must use a wide grip, as wide as possible, for maximum effectiveness.

Best Chest Exercises:

Wide Grip Bench Press to the Neck: This is an exercise developed and championed by the late Vince Gironda. I feel that this is the best chest builder on the planet. It is preferable to do this exercise on a Smith Machine instead of a free weight flat bench. The reason is that you will be using a very wide grip, wider than most benches will allow, and you will be taking the bar to your neck instead of to your chest. Lie flat on a bench and place your feet up in the air, bending at the knees. Doing so will take all stability from your feet and make your chest muscles work that much harder. Grab the bar with a thumbless grip and take down to the neck and back up again. It is not necessary to perform a full range of motion on this exercise. What is imperative is to always bring it down to the neck but you do not need to press to lockout, stop short of lockout to keep constant pressure on the chest muscles. I went from not having a chest at all to doing this exercise for a month and developing a chest.

Flat Bench Flye’s and Incline Bench Flye’s: Do this exercise with a twist. Most “experts” recommend not bring the dumbbells down too far so as to not hurt your shoulders. To get the most out of these we have to perform the best way, the way Arnold Schwarzenegger performed them. Lie down on a flat bench and grab a couple of moderate weight dumbbells, hold them up straight in the air, with a slight bend at the elbows bring the dumbbells down to your sides going as low as you can – almost touching the ground, and bring them back up again in a hugging motion (imagine hugging a big bear), and stop the dumbbells about 6-10 inches from each other and start the exercise over. We stop at the top to keep constant tension on the pecs, when you bring the dumbbells together it takes tension off of the pecs.


Incline Barbell Bench Press & Incline Dumbbell Bench Press:

To perform the Incline Barbell Press, go to an incline bench, use moderate weight, using a wide grip take the barbell down to the bottom of your neck/top of chest and bring back up again.

To perform the Incline Dumbbell press grad a couple of moderate weight dumbbells and with palms facing away from you press the dumbbells up, while pressing turn the dumbbells so all four bells are facing each other and touch the bells together at the top of the movement.

A routine consisting of those exercises will build a nice, big barrel chest.

Some Exercises to Try:

Not every exercise works for every person. You will need to try out a few exercises to see what works best for you. Here are a couple to try:

Dips: Using parallel bars extend yourself with your arms, feet in the air, lower yourself as low as you can comfortably go and bring yourself back up by extending your arms. Play with the position of your body to find the most tension in the chest.

Dumbbell Pullovers: A lot of old school guys loved to do pullovers, they believed that it would widen the rib cage making the chest that much bigger. Science says that is impossible, but looking at a chest like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s  or Serge Nubret’s one can’t help but wonder how much science really knows.

Decline Bench Press: This is widely regarded as a useless exercise on internet forums country wide but it was a favorite of  6 time Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates. He feels that the incline bench press takes stress off of the shoulders and places it directly on the chest. Another bonus is that you can use more weight on a decline press than on a flat bench or incline bench.

Routine:

To build a nice big chest we will concentrate on volume.

Train chest at minimum twice per week, if you feel you have excellent recovery you can move it up to three times per week.

Always train chest on the same days, for example Monday and Thursday.

The weight we use is secondary to “feeling the burn” in the chest, but don’t use baby weight.

Concentrate on getting 8-12 quality reps per set and do upwards of 5-8 sets per exercise and 3-6 exercises per session.

Use anywhere from 20-35 sets per session. Always try to finish the workout within 45 minutes, we want the blood constantly in the muscles bringing them vital nutrients and making them bigger and stronger.

A good rule of thumb is to stop when the pump starts going away. Eventually you will get to a point where you know the pump will go away if you do one more set.

Play with the routine and exercises to determine the order that you like, but always do your hardest and heaviest exercises first.

Enjoy your big-ass rock hard chest.

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Comments

  1. Good article; I like how you actually provide some commentary instead of just rehashing the obvious.

    I didn’t realize you ought to train chest 2 times a week! That makes me happy. That’s not over-training? How many times do you recommend training per week? In college I could do 5x, but once I started working it was only 3 (and sporadic). With my new job, I have the potential to do 45 minutes everyday (was happy to hear you say one ought to be able to do all that in 45 minutes – I guess I’m taking too long waiting a minute between sets. Today I cut it down to 45 seconds); but since I’ve got to be there at 5:00 am, I’ve had a hard time making it 3x. I’d like to get to 5x again. My uncle, a fireman (pretty solid guy), said that 5x is too much, and I agree it can be, but I figure I’d hear your thoughts.

    With that said, what, the other days are legs, then back, then shoulders and arms? Just trying to see where you focus things. Since I’m only 3 days at this point, I’ve been doing chest/back, then legs, then arms/shoulders.

    • Victor Pride says:

      I lift 6 days a week like clockwork. Some people may thrive on 3, 4 or 5 times per week. It takes experimentation. I love to lift and I have found that when I go three days per week I get depressed and anxious. I recommend lifting 6 days per week because if one doesn’t get into a set daily routine it’s too easy to start skipping workouts. If you skip one of your three workouts that only leaves you with two workouts for the week. As a bonus everyone I know who has an excellent physique works out 6 or 7 days per week.

      Everything you have ever heard about overtraining is a myth. It takes months of extreme work to begin to overtrain. Training a bodypart twice per week is hardly overtraining. I have gone 6 days in a row before doing chest presses each day. I’m still alive. I have squatted heavy 6 days in a row. I work each bodypart minimum twice per week, usually more like 4 times. I recommend working each bodypart 2-3 times per week every week.

      If I were to go three days per week I would do a full body workout each time. Plenty of squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench presses, chin ups, bent over rows, clean and presses and zero isolation exercises. I would follow a 5×5 formula and at the end of my 5×5 I would add extra weight and do singles until I couldn’t lift anymore weight.

      My current workouts are very organic and highly unorthodox so I can’t accurately describe what I do except to say I lift very heavy (many singles, doubles, and triples) and I take short rest breaks. I will likely post a version of my workout in the future.

      • Savage says:

        Im trying to build my arms up and i was wondering how my biceps would benefit from just doin compound exercizes and not doing an isolation exercize for my biceps?

        • Savage,

          In my experience you can build pretty STRONG arms from compound exercises, but they’re not going to get BIG without some isolation. That was my trap, I focused on compound exercises only for years and now I’m playing catch-up.

  2. Thanks for the reply, and thanks for clearing up the whole over-training thing. I look forward to seeing a version of your workout – always looking for variations on what I can do (but that actually yield results).

  3. are you on roids though, to keep up this amount of lifting day in day out. Pro BB are, so they can train that hard?

  4. I’ve always took short breaks between sets, 15-45 seconds MAX between sets. Just like Serge Nubret and Gironda. My workout is a sprint and I’m there to freaking work out not lolly-gag around with the rest of the prey. I’m a machine and I’m always ready to kill.

  5. Wondering why this doesn’t have a lot of comments?

    Arnold’s dumbbell flies – although I only do compound lifts – is motivation alone.

    Great shit, Vic.

  6. I’m doing these chest workouts right now as I’m typing this and damn my pecs are pumped! Before I rarely ever did wide grip and i can honestly say ithese activate the pecs so much more. This collection of pec workouts are by far the most superior i have ever tried. Good job Victor

  7. Good information. Many people have underdeveloped upper chests, so I think this should be an area of focus. It is a misconception that you cannot target specific areas of a muscle group. Two great upper chest exercises are the: Incline Dumbbell/Barbell Press and a Reverse Grip Bench Press. Another great way to hit the pecs is Dips. If you can use a pair of gymnastics rings, I highly recommend them. Doing Dips on gymnastics rings helps target the chest more because your chest must actively work to keep your arms at your sides while performing the movement.

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