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How to build a big Chest

Updated on February 14, 2013

Stick to eat it, eat right, train hard and rest well, and you can look like an action hero!

So a couple months back I made an article on "How to build big shoulders". In this article I provided you the reader with my top tips on building big shoulders, as well as a fully comprehensive walk through guide when performing your sets for various exercises. This article will essentially follow the same detailed structure I set in my first workout article. From this, I hope you can go ahead with my selected chest workout so that you can get the chest you've always desired. If however you don't like a particular exercise I recommend in my workout, you can simply substitute it with an alternative exercise which will essentially work the same part of the chest, depending on what that may be of course.

For example, if I recommend incline barbell press with upper chest, and you happen not to like this, you can simply substitute it with incline dumbbell press. This will essentially work exactly the same part of your chest, only you have the choice between a couple different exercises for the same muscle section. This article will prove beneficial to both beginner and intermediate gym goers, the only difference between the 2 is that of the weight. By this I'm referring to the fact that as beginners, your muscles won't necessarily be adept to lifting heavy weights so you need to build up strength progressively. For intermediate weight lifters, my chosen workout will be of great use to you should you follow it precisely as well as resting well and eating right.

An overlook of what to find in this article:

  • Introduction to building muscle (may repeat what I've already said in shoulder article).
  • The muscles which make up your chest.
  • List of exercises for the chest.
  • My chosen workout for chest including sets information and rest times.
  • Summary of workout


As I've previously mentioned in my other workout article, building muscle is no easy task. Now, by that, I don't necessarily mean it's a complex process in terms of having to use your brain to work something out. What I'm referring to is simply the dedication and commitment you will require if you so wish to see great results, to get the attention from girls you crave, and an all round sense of satisfaction with the way you appear physically.

Building muscle isn't just about going into a gym, busting out 16 sets in under an hour and that's that, muscle built. If you think this, then I'm afraid you are quite mistaken, VERY mistake in fact. The art of building mass and size to your frame is all about what you do AFTER your workout. By this I am of course referring to what you eat in terms of your diet and your general rest after a heavy lifting session.

It's vitally important that you feed your body with the right carbs, fats and most importantly proteins, in order to repair those micro tears you caused in your heavy workout. The reason your body can build muscle in the first place is because when you're in the gym lifting weights, and you feel that ache and stress on whatever particular muscle you're working on, you're essentially tearing or damaging the tiny muscle fibers that make up your muscle. So as a result of this, instead of your body simply repairing it to what it originally was, you're body repairs it with more fibers to try to prevent it from tearing again, this is building muscle. However, this is exactly what you want, because the more often you damage the muscle fibers the more mass you can build as a result.

Furthermore, as I've already mentioned, it's therefore imperative that you eat the right foods in order to repair your damaged muscle, and if you don't you're unlikely to see any real change in your physical appearance.

Note: I will be posting an article on what foods to eat in order to repair that damaged tissue as well as a fully comprehensive weekly meal plan. In the mean time, just make sure you have your protein guys!

The muscles that make up your chest

There are essentially just 2 muscles that make up the chest and that is the Pectoralis major and Pectoralis minor. So building a big chest is relatively simply given that there are only 2 muscles which make it. Unlike shoulders however there are various parts to it which make up the whole shoulder so you have to perform a varying amount of different exercises to work the whole shoulder.

Here is the chest muscle comprising of both the Pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor
Here is the chest muscle comprising of both the Pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor | Source

List of exercises for the chest.

Here is a list of the variety of exercises you can perform to workout your chest. Some of the exercises pretty much work the same section of the chest so it's up to you to mix and match to your own personal preferences. See below for the list of chest exercises:

  • Flat barbell bench press
  • Flat dumbbell bench press
  • Incline barbell bench press
  • Incline dumbbell bench press
  • Decline barbell bench press
  • Flat bench dumbbell flies
  • Incline bench dumbbell flies
  • Butterfly on resistance machine
  • Cable crossovers
  • Dips
  • Push ups (Wide and close)

From this list of chest exercises, it's pretty much up to as to which you pick in order to fulfill your chest workout and so I recommend you pick around 4 maybe 5 exercises for a good full chest workout. Just make sure you pick at least 2 core movements such as the dumbbell or barbell flat bench press as well as incline press, again, with either dumbbells or barbell.

My recommendation for a good chest workout for both beginners and intermediate gym goers.

This recommendation is actually my current chest workout which I use each week with the odd alteration and mix up every now and then. But essentially this is the workout which I stick to week in week out and I have seen great strength and mass gains for my chest. As mentioned before, if you don't like one of my recommended exercises for any particular reason then you can simply substitute it for something else. In addition to this, I also recommend a quick stretch before you begin your sets to get the muscles nice and stretched and ready for lifting big!

Flat barbell bench press
Flat barbell bench press | Source

Exercise No 1:

Flat barbell bench press

  • Set 1. To begin your first set, you're going to want to choose a weight that's quite heavy, but so that you can continue to push out the same amount of reps with each set as you progress. So as a beginner, I would recommend you choose a weight that's anywhere from 25kg-45kg. If you're intermediate, choose something much heavier between 70kg-100kg. For your first set, you should find this relatively easy and you should aim to achieve 10 reps. Lift the barbell from the rack, take a couple breaths then slowly bring down the weight to your chest and explode up, again bring the weight down slowly and repeat 8 times.
  • Set 2. Your second set is undoubtedly going to be harder, but not hugely so and you should hopefully be able to perform another 10 reps at the same weight. Again, bring the barbell slowly down to your chest taking at least 2 seconds to come down, then explode up using your chest, not triceps, this is key. A lot of people tend to let their shoulders and triceps do the work, so you need make sure you're pushing with your chest. To do this, imagine you're pushing yourself into the bench as opposed to actually pushing the barbell away from you, it helps!
  • Set 3. On this set, you're probably going to struggle a lot more, but if you push yourself you should manage. On set 3 you want to aim for about 8 reps, but this time you're going to want to increase the weight slightly - not a huge amount, but a nonetheless necessary amount. So let's say you're lifting at 70kg for your first and second set then add another 5kg to the barbell.
  • Set 4. So hopefully you've reached your 4th and final set with relative comfort and injury free. If at this point you're still feeling pretty strong with lots of energy then aim for another 8 reps, again, adding a further 5kg to the barbell. If however you don't think you can quite manage 8 reps then 6 reps is fine, just make sure you up the weight.

Note: When performing the bench press, it's important you lie completely flat on the bench with your feet pressed flat and firmly on the ground to keep your movement stable.

Incline dumbbell bench press
Incline dumbbell bench press | Source

Exercise No.2:

Incline dumbbell bench press

  • Set 1. Now with the incline dumbbell bench press, pretty much everything is going to be the same as the flat barbell bench press, the only difference being of course is that you'll be using dumbbells as opposed to a barbell. So for your first set you'll want to probably use a slightly lower total weight. So if you started off at 70kg on the barbell flat press, for incline dumbbell, pick up the 30kg's dumbbells, or 27.5kg and perform 10 reps. Flick the weights up, or rather, bounce them from your knees to the starting position, take a moment to focus then press the weight above your head and slowly bring the weight down. Once the weight is just above being in line with your chest, explode up and repeat.
  • Set 2. With your second set you'll want to stick with the same wait and stick at the same amount of reps - 10 reps. Using the same method as already explained, slowly bring down and explode up and repeat.
  • Set 3. For your third set, you'll want to up the weight slightly, so if you used the 27.5kg's for your first set, up it to 30kg, so that's 5kg's in total across the 2 dumbbells. So because you've upped the weight for this set, lower your reps to about 8 reps - if you're struggling, don't feel disappointed with 7 reps.
  • Set 4. For you're 4th and final set for this exercise you should be feeling the burn well and truly by now. From your 30kg dumbbells, should you be using them, up the weight one last time to 32.5kg and perform 6-7 reps.

Note: The weights I have mentioned here are just examples of the sorts of weight you might use in terms of adding on weight as you progress through your sets. This weight is more for the intermediate gym people so if you're new to it, a good weight range I would say would include starting at 15kg and working your way up to 20kg. I think it's easy to work things out when you work in 2.5kg's since most gym's dumbbells tend to work in 2.5kg until you get to the heavier weights. So again, if you're an absolute beginner and 15kg as a base starting off weight is too heavy for you, then simply move down by 2.5kg to 12.5kg and work up to 17kg instead.

Incline dumbbell flies
Incline dumbbell flies | Source

Exercise No. 3:

Incline bench dumbbell fly

  • Set 1. So now we've moved on to a rather different exercise that is the dumbbell fly on an incline bench, which, as a beginner you may struggle to get the technique spot on at first. But persist and you'll soon master it. So for your first set you won't be using heavy weights regardless or your gym experience and that's because it's a hard exercise to do in terms of the lift. I recommend that beginners start at 10kg and work up to 15kg if they can, and for experienced people, start at 17.5kg. Perform 12 reps for your first set by firstly raising the dumbbells above your head with the weights together and slowly lower your arms with a slight bend to the elbow and go down as far as comfortable. Then use your chest to reverse the movement to move the weights back to the top and repeat.
  • Set 2. Same weight again, only this time carry out around 10 reps. Do exactly as stated above to perform your set by slowly lowering your arms as far as comfortable then raise back up and repeat.
  • Set 3. For this set you'll want to increase each dumbbell weight by a factor of 2.5kg and perform less reps. Perform around 8 reps for this set using the same procedure already mentioned.
  • Set 4. For you 4th and final set, lower the rep range once more to around 6-7 reps and up the weight by another 2.5kg per dumbbell, 5kg in total.

Decline barbell bench press
Decline barbell bench press | Source

Exercise No.4:

Decline barbell bench press

Decline barbell bench press is essential exactly the same movement as the barbell flat bench press only it's on a decline which works the lower section of your chest. I typically perform this exercise last for no particular reason, just that I find it quite easy to do as a movement. In addition to this, I like to push out my main sets at the beginning where my strength is at it's highest. So for example, since I do flat bench press as my first exercise, I can lift more, and because it's my favourite exercise for chest in terms of building mass and muscle, I do this first as a result.

So, for decline bench press using barbell, repeat the same procedure laid out for exercise no.1, flat bench barbell bench press. However, the difference being here is that you'll be using a lower weight range because at this point, you're really going to be feeling the ache in your muscles after 12 sets that you've already done. So because this is your last set, don't go too heavy but the exercise still has to be taxing on your chest.

Summary of Workout

*Gradually increase weight*

Exercise No.1:

Flat barbell bench press*

  • 4 x 10/10/8/6 (4 sets in total) (Rest around 60-90 seconds between sets)

Exercise No.2:

Incline dumbbell bench press

  • 4 x 10/10/8/6 (4 sets in total) (Rest around 60-90 seconds between sets)

Exercise No.3:

Incline dumbbel flies

  • 4 x 12/10/8/6 (4 sets in total) (Rest around 90-120 seconds between sets)

Exercise No.4:

Decline barbell bench press

  • 4 x 10/10/8/6 (4 sets in total) (Rest around 120+ seconds between sets)

With regard to resting periods between sets, this is really up to you, in that, you should get on with your next set when you really feel like you can go again. But don't rest too long because you don't want to loose your pump. If you feel ready to go in just 60 seconds then that's fine, just make sure you at least get some rest (minimum 45 seconds) between each set to give your body a bit of time to recover and prepare for the next set.

So there you have it folks, my how to guide on building a big chest. This is quite a comprehensive guide, so, if you're an intermediate lifter then you'll find the workout summary to be of better use than the actual step by step walk through guide above. As I've mentioned in my previous article "How to build big shoulders" remember to keep your form consistent, no swaying of the weights or anything like that, nice clean lifts and you'll reap the rewards in the end!

Good luck people and happy iron pumping!

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    • profile image


      2 years ago from NY

      Just playing devil's advocate here...

      Your thoughts on the idea of flat barbell bench being one of the least effective exercises for chest development due to heavy anterior deltoid involvement?

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image


      6 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      Thanks for the advice! I will keep it in mind.

    • Fresh Ploon profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Bradford - Uk

      I do apprecaite that my articles are more tailored towards men, in terms of building muscle and size, but you can also use this information as well as all other woman. I recommend that you perhaps use the exact same exercises, but the only difference being is that you lower the weight range because you don't want to build size and mass, and instead, increase the rep range. This allows you to both tone up and gain strength!

      Thanks Kathryn, much appreciated!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image


      6 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      I will be keeping my eye out for it! Even the exercise articles made for men have some information I can glean. Thanks, and good luck. At some point I'll share some of your articles outside of HubPages. I know there are plenty of guys who would love to see this information!

    • Fresh Ploon profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Bradford - Uk

      Don't worry, I plan to have a fully detailed article for each of my workout sessions. As you've already seen I have one for shoulders and chest which I do on separate days as well as an arm day, so, there's definatley a "How to build big arms" article in the pipeline. hehe, most girls don't particularly want to build big arms, but you're right in that they want a nice toned arm. So perhaps in my next excersice article I'll include a section for woman who wish to have toned arms, as opposed to the body building aspect of it.

      Thank you!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image


      6 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      This looks great for men who want to have a muscular chest. If you write an article on arms, I would be eager to see it. I am a woman, and don't want to have masculine arms, but I am trying to tone them up a lot. I don't want saggy arms!

      Good article, Fresh Ploon.

    • Fresh Ploon profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Bradford - Uk

      thank you :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Another detailed and well put together article - well done!!


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