Aside from a set of bulging biceps, nothing quite screams, “I go to the gym!” like a set of well-rounded and well-defined pectoralis major – AKA pecs.
It is the body part that WWE wrestlers grease up for maximum impact, the muscle group that fills t-shirts and an area that, with some hard work and dedication, can transform saggy moobs into chiselled chest armour that would make the cast of 300 proud.
“If you haven’t been lavishing the love on your pecs, then they could be looking decidedly underdeveloped,” explains former championship wrestler and founder of London-based personal training company Right Path Fitness Keith McNiven.
“Hormone imbalance and excess fat can also lead to the appearance of the dreaded man boobs and these ‘moobs’ can really knock your confidence when stripping off at the beach or the pool. But shredding excess fat overall and training the chest area can really help to turn the moobs into pecs you’ll be proud to show off,” he adds.
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A word on training
As with all of our fitness guides, we implore those just starting out to ease gently into a new routine. If you’re carrying excess weight, post-Christmas, first look to shed that with our guide to how to lose belly fat fast (ish).
It’s no good heading to the nearest gym – or the dedicated workout zone at home – and lifting the heaviest weights you can find in the hope that this will lead to a Gerard Butler body.
The truth is, this will only lead to massive disappointment/embarrassment, or worse, a bad injury that will set you back a number of weeks and completely ruin the sentiment.
Start out using lighter weights and work on technique, ensuring the muscles mentioned in this workout are engaged, before steadily adding the kilos for the all-important muscle growth.
Sculpting sweet pecs also requires a well-rounded approach to fitness in general, with attention paid to a number of other muscle groups to ensure you’re strong enough to make the physical gains.
“If you’re going to be lifting heavy weight through your chest with an exercise like the bench press, you need strong legs to provide the stability to complete the movement safely,” says Keith.
“When you’re training your chest, you also need to be training your back to give you that balance and an overall strong physique. Then, your shoulders need to be strong enough to lift the weight you want to lift. In short, chest work needs to be part of your overall training programme and your arms and shoulders will thank you for it too,” he adds.
Keith and a number of other personal trainers and experts have put together a bunch of excellent workouts for you to focus on. Check them out below.
- How to get bigger pecs? This classic exercise will work your chest, arms and shoulders too
Make sure you fuel the fire
The bottom line is, building muscle is an energy consuming process and your body is going to need the correct fuel to not only get you through the workout, but to repair and heal the muscle fibres so they can grow.
“If you’re not taking in the right foods, then you can do all the arm exercises you want but you won’t get bigger arms,” explains Keith.
“What your body will do is grab onto your carb reserves. The result can be an actual loss of muscle mass and probably the opposite result that you want,” he adds.
Getting nutrition right is key to fuelling your workouts and building muscle, so Keith recommends you should be aiming for around one gram of protein per pound of your body weight and 1.5 to 3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of your body weight per day.
Eating the right foods is one way of achieving this, or you can supplement your diet with all manner of protein shakes, bars and snacks, which make it easier to get the right numbers on-board. You could also try a complete meal replacement system such as Huel.
“With your nutrition right, you have the fuel you need for an intense arm training programme. Of course, if you’ve never trained before then jumping right into a muscle-building programme might not be for you, so always ensure you’re working at a pace and level that’s right for you and your fitness experience,” he adds.
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The ultimate workout for a beastly chest
The great thing about this workout is that you don’t necessarily need a gym membership, as you can kit your home out with a weights bench, dumbbells and the required kit to kill it.
Aim to train this muscle group once a week and ensure you make a note of the heaviest weight you can lift on each set.
There are a number of great apps that can help you do that, or simply jot it down on some paper, but it will ensure you don’t overload the muscles next week and aids progression, as well as physical gains.
Also, try not to rest for too long between sets, as this will keep the heart rate high and ensure calories are burnt at a faster rate, but ensure form remains strong throughout.
Sets: 4 Reps: 8-10
Grab your weights and a weights bench. Lie back on the flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Keeping your feet on the floor gives you essential stability.
Picking up a dumbbell in each hand with knuckles facing upwards, push the dumbbells upwards into the air extending the arms, stopping just before the weights meet. Don’t let your shoulders roll forwards. Then ease the weights back down in a controlled movement.
Weighted Push Up
50-80 reps, in as few sets as possible
Here, you’re going to do the standard push up but with a weight on your back. A dumbbell isn’t a good idea, as it won’t be stable, so try either a weight plate (like the kind that slide onto a barbell) or a sandbag.
Place palms flat on the floor, legs extended behind with weight centred between the balls of your feet and chest. Keeping a nice flat back and a straight line from head to toes, lower the body towards the ground, until you feel it in your chest, and push back up.
Sets: 4 Reps: 8-10
Again, you can use your weights bench for this move, ensuring it is set to a flat position, but it’s likely you’ll need a lighter weight set than those used for the dumbbell press.
Start with your arms raised above your chest and the long edges of your dumbbells meeting each other. Then, you’re going to use your pecs to slowly prise the dumbbells apart until your arms are extended out to the sides with a slight bend in the elbow. Don’t lock out.
Return the weights to the starting position, exhaling as you go, making sure the focus is on the chest muscles and not the shoulders.
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50 reps, in as few sets as possible
For this, you will need a set of parallel bars, but the foundation of the chest dip is similar to a tricep dip.
You need to grab the bars and slowly lower the body, but to target the chest, keep your upper body tilted slightly forward.
This way, as you lower your body, bending your elbows, you’ll be taking the focus away from the triceps and working the pecs.
Finish strong here and try to keep the sets down to a minimum, but ensure form is strong throughout. This exercise will really break up those fibres in the chest muscles and lead to visible results.
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