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Top Three Exercises to Get a Bigger, Leaner Chest

Updated on June 28, 2013
The larger the pectoral muscles, the further they will stick out from the torso, giving them a firm, toned appearance.
The larger the pectoral muscles, the further they will stick out from the torso, giving them a firm, toned appearance. | Source

A Little Vanity is Alright

In terms of functional use, the pectoral muscles do not have very much. When performing physical, everyday tasks such as moving furniture or construction work, your chest is hardly, if at all, utilized.

Your shoulders, legs and back are hard at work while your pectorals rest. Despite its inefficiency in the real world, it does not change the fact that a full, bulging chest is one of the key components in developing a visually attractive physique.

Men often focus too much on how much weight they can bench press. While strength in this exercise will build mass over time, a complete chest routine has a variety of movements to target the pectorals from multiple angles.

Both pectoral muscles are forced to balance the weight individually, ensuring that both sides are equally strong.
Both pectoral muscles are forced to balance the weight individually, ensuring that both sides are equally strong. | Source

Flat Dumbbell Press

The vast majority of the time when one thinks about training their chest, they envision themselves underneath a barbell loaded with heavy weight. Nine times out of ten, they also picture themselves on a flat bench performing this movement. While the flat barbell press is ideal for building chest strength due to the large amount of weight that can be handled, the flat dumbbell press provides a greater range of motion at the bottom of the movement, allowing more of the muscle fibers in the chest to be worked.

The last thing you want is to have one side of your chest visibly larger than the other. While this is not to say barbell benching causes this, especially if proper form is used, dumbbell pressing eliminates this risk entirely through the use of two separate weights that must be controlled by the respective sides of the body.

In addition to the reduction in chance of muscle imbalances, the chance of shoulder injury is mitigated as well. When pressing a barbell with perfect form, both pectorals and front delts are exposed to an even amount of weight. If the balance were to shift to one side or another, the front delt affected would be placed under a load far too great to handle, possibly resulting in injury.

Like the increased range of motion at the bottom of the movement, the dumbbells can be moved to touch each other at the full extension of the arm at the top, giving a little extra squeeze that promotes growth.


Leaning forward like pictured above will greatly emphasize the pectoral muscles over the triceps.
Leaning forward like pictured above will greatly emphasize the pectoral muscles over the triceps. | Source

Weighted Dips

Dips are an exercise that not many people perform, and when they do, they focus on the activation of their triceps. These individuals usually perform them on a bench with their legs elevated, seeking to acquire larger arms. This type of dips will not do anything for your chest; they do not even involve the pectoral muscles. Dips done while balancing yourself on parallel bars will attack your chest from an angle no other movement can. Dips will do wonders in increasing both the size and definition of the inside of the pectorals, as well as the lower portion.

When performing dips on parallel bars, leaning forward with your head down will cause your chest to be exposed to the weight more than the triceps will. During this movement, it is possible to go very deep; as much as your shoulder flexibility will allow. While the maximum depth should never be reached while performing this movement with added weight, lowering yourself until your elbows and biceps form a 90-degree angle will be sufficient enough to ensure your chest gets worked adequately.

It is important to lower yourself slowly and mentally direct what muscles you use to press yourself back up. Performing fast repetitions will most likely end up with you placing the brunt of the force on your front delts, and while this will make them stronger, this is not the purpose of the movement. While grabbing the bars, visualizing yourself bringing your palms together to touch each other while pressing upward will greatly aid in pectoral activation.

The focus on the upper-segment of the chest is sure to produce a better look for the pectorals than any other movement.
The focus on the upper-segment of the chest is sure to produce a better look for the pectorals than any other movement. | Source

Incline Barbell Press

While it may seem contradictory to include a barbell movement as the most efficient exercise, there is simply no better movement that better targets the upper chest. The pectoral tie-in to the clavicle area is a weak spot in the physiques of most men. Without inclining pressing, the chest is left with a bottom-heavy, droopy appearance.

To develop a round, thick chest, the upper-portion is the most important segment that needs to be worked. Increasing the mass of the upper-pecs will provide a full, powerful image to your physique and allow you to better fill out any shirt that you wear.

With proper form, the heavy weight that is handled on the barbell will explode this area into new growth. In any chest routine, incline presses should always be performed first in order to maximize the benefit to the upper-pectorals. Generally, for most men, the outer chest is extremely easy to develop, as it is targeted by nearly all pressing movements. The upper-portion is often more difficult to develop, and thus needs all of the attention it can get.

While there is an emphasis on the upper-pectorals, the rest of the muscle group is still worked during the incline press, although less directly. While dumbbells are a viable alternative to incline barbell pressing, the upper-pecs are an extremely important area to develop, and the added weight of a barbell is a huge blessing that greatly increases the overall muscularity of the chest.

One last piece of advice is to utilize a wide grip when incline pressing. This will take stress off of the front delts and redistribute the force to the pectorals, thus making the movement more effective in terms of pectoral development. While you do not have to go so wide as to touch the rack the barbell rests on, you should definitely make your grip wider than shoulder width in order to reap the most benefits from this exercise.

Use the Tools Available

These three movements will target your chest from every angle desirable in order to ensure maximum growth and development. The flat dumbbell press will easily result in increased mass of the outer pecs, weighted dips will hit the chest hard as a whole while developing sharp edges around the inner and outer portions of the muscle, and incline pressing with a heavily-loaded barbell will give your chest a complete look, allowing your pectorals to have a visually smooth transition into your delts. Incorporating these three movements into your regular chest routine will provide very satisfying progress in the development of the muscle.

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    • Jake Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Henry 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Thanks a lot for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • soconfident profile image

      Derrick Bennett 

      5 years ago

      Great hub, every man is looking to build a nice chiseled chest.

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