6 Tips to Build a Bigger and Stronger Chest
In his prime, Arnold Schwarzenegger had the chest that both amateur and professional bodybuilders idolized. His chest was strong, full, and evenly developed. When he hit the side bicep pose his chest took on a new dimension and truly popped out at the judges. Even today, many trainees use Arnold as the gold standard for the chest development.
Unfortunately many of us are light-years away from this end state and get frustrated, chest day after chest day, when we don’t see progress in size or strength. Almost every Joe GymBro starts out with flat bench on chest day, which always conveniently seems to fall on a Monday. While the bench is an excellent compound movement and indicator of upper body strength and size, many trainees sacrifice form to move the weight through as shortened range of motion.
This poor form not only increases the risk of injury but also takes the stimulus off of the chest muscle fibers. Luckily Marc Lobliner and the Online Coach have teamed up to provide six epic tips for builder a bigger and stronger chest.
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Marc Lobliner is the CEO for both MTS Nutrition and EthiTech Nutrition, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for TigerFitness.com, and a professional bodybuilder. With over 106,000 followers on Instagram and 260,000 subscribers on YouTube, Marc is the embodiment of someone who followed his passion with dedication and consistency to ensure his customers and clients receive the highest quality information and fitness products.
Raymond Querido, also known as the Online Coach, is a PNBA professional bodybuilder, owner of the Campus Gym in Temecula, California, and sponsored by MAN Sports, APE Athletics premium fitness apparel, Fitmark bags, and the Protein Cookie Company. The Online Coach offers custom online coaching as well as workout program eBooks designed to drop fat, increase muscle mass, and improve strength as quickly and safely as possible.
How to Get a Bigger Chest
Tip #1: Hit the Chest With Multiple Angles?
Hitting the chest from different angles is an excellent tool for building the perfect chest. When you’re coming in to the gym every chest day, performing the same exercise(s) at the same angle(s) with the same grip using the same weight, you’re bound to get bored and stuck in a physical and mental rut.
You’ll stimulate muscular growth by changing the movement pattern and angle of stimulus. You’ll also stimulate mental growth because of the altered mental pattern required to complete the movement.
All angles of bench press hit the pectorals but decline bench actually engages more muscle fibers than flat bench or incline.
At the end of the day if you’re performing a pressing movement you’re working your pectoral muscle fibers to some degree. Just because the pro bodybuilders start with incline in many of their chest workouts, it doesn’t mean that’s the only option.
At the end of the day, every little adjustment and novel stimulus counts.
“If you come in knowing you’re going to do flat bench every time, you’re going to get caught in a rut.” – Marc Lobliner
Tip #2: Don’t Lockout at the Top of Every Repetition
When performing pressing movements try to avoid full lockout at the top of every repetition. Doing so will improve time under tension, a key ingredient for muscular growth. While fully locking out reps makes it easier to track progress compared stopping at different levels of lockout, both are excellent tools for building the perfect chest.
Some bodybuilders are able to build an impressive chest with partial reps. You should fully lock out each rep when performing near or max effort attempts (1RM or 3RM). Partial repetitions are especially beneficial when performing a dumbbell or machine press as it’s easier to terminate the movement if you reach failure.
Not fully locking out each rep will increase the tension on the chest and take stimulus off the triceps. Fully locking out each rep certainly has its place in both bodybuilding and powerlifting routines. Rep range of motion is an excellent variable you can adjust to increase tension and improve gains.
“I’m a firm believer on fully locking out on the bench and other compound movements but when I’m using a dumbbell I’ll stop slightly before lockout to keep that time under tension which will promote growth” – Raymond Querido
“There’s a benefit [to both locking out and not fully locking out reps].” – Marc Lobliner
Tip #3: Use Pre-Exhaust Exercises and Techniques
Pre-exhaust is a Joe Weider principle developed during the early era of bodybuilding. The goal is to use a single joint isolation movement like the dumbbell fly or machine fly to work the chest prior to performing a compound chest-specific movement. This isolation movement will pre-exhaust the chest so when you begin performing pressing movement your chest is already fatigued.
This compound pressing movement will feel more difficult and you’ll likely press less weight than normal. Pressing less weight is ok; your chest muscles will be working just as hard, if not harder because they’re in a fatigued state. This leads to more progressive overload, more overload on the muscle, and a chance to get the same stimulation you get from heavier weights with lighter weight.
Using a lighter weight to achieve the same benefits of heavier weights will also decrease your chance of injury.
“I incorporate pre-exhaust sets on leg days before squats. If my hips are tight or my knees are aching a little bit then I’ll pre-exhaust using lunges or leg extensions before I hit squats so I don’t have to lift as heavy and risk injury.” – Raymond Querido
“If you’re having a day where you’re just not feeling it or your lower back is a little bit tired or maybe you have a little kink in your shoulder, then try pre-exhaust.” – Marc Lobliner
Tip #4: Superset an Isolation Movement and a Compound Movement
Supersets are an excellent tool for building the perfect chest. Superset a single joint movement like a machine fly with a compound movement like the machine bench press. Ideally the rest period between the superset exercises should be as short as possible – just the time it takes to move from one exercise to the other. You’re actually pre-exhausting within the same set.
The machine fly will target just the chest and then you go for a heavier weight compound movement, like the press, when your chest is already fatigued. This will lead to more overload on the muscle and a varied stimulus compared to the traditional 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Supersets are also an excellent tool for increasing training density which is the total number of sets and reps (volume) performed in a specified period of time. When you’re strapped for time and looking to trigger some serious chest growth, supersets are a must.
“Progressive overload is one of the key elements in building a big chest” – Marc Lobliner
Tip #5: Think Outside the Bench Press
While the bench press is a staple exercise in chest routines, it shouldn’t be the only chest exercise in your arsenal. Focusing on the other accessory and isolation movements will help ensure you develop a full, strong and evenly developed chest. If you stop at the bench press then you’re not stimulating your chest to its maximum potential. Variety is key to ensuring continued progressive overload and growth.
Even powerlifters, who focus on the bench as one of their main three competition lifts, use accessory lifts in their training. Powerlifters work the other chest muscle fibers using dumbbells, the JM Press, and other press variations. The flat bench can remain as your primary compound chest exercise but at the end of the day do not forget the value dumbbells or even some machines can provide in ensuring continued gains in size and strength.
Excellent exercises for targeting the chest include dips with a forward lean, the kneeling landmine press, and cable flies. Throw these exercises in before or after your preferred bench press variation and you’ll be seeing chest growth in no time.
“’How much do you bench’ is probably the most popular question in the gym” “I do incorporate a lot of dumbbells [in my chest training”. “The bench is an ego lift” – Raymond Querido
“I get asked how much I bench all the time and no one ever asks how much I lateral raise.” “The bros focus on bench, bench, bench, bench.” – Marc Lobliner
Tip #6: Building Chest Using Higher Rep Ranges
When the majority of your training is in the 1-5 or 6-12 rep range, experiment with higher rep ranges. Training in higher rep ranges will give you the ability to buffer out the lactic acid and ammonia at a higher threshold. If you haven’t trained in the 15 to 20 rep ranges in months or years, be prepared for some serious pumps and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
verloading and introducing new stimuli is the key. If you’re able to achieve lifting a moderately heavy a weight using 15 or 20 reps will indirectly increase your ability to handle a much heavier weight for fewer reps. Instead of performing 5 sets of 5 with flat bench press, experiment with 3 sets of 20 using the heaviest weight you can complete with proper form.
Even if you’re training for power using the higher rep ranges can be an excellent tool; that’s where periodization comes in to play. Periodization is a powerful tool whether you’re a powerlifter or bodybuilder. When you’re getting in more reps and more work volume then you’re challenging yourself, which is mentally and physically a great thing to do to build yourself as a person and as a bodybuilder.
“Don’t underestimate higher reps, past the 8 to 12, even to like 15 or 20 threshold.” – Raymond Querido
“There’s more than one way to overload the muscle. You don’t have to just overload with heavy weight. You can overload with increased reps, increased volume” – Marc Lobliner
So there you have it, six killer tips for building the perfect chest. If you employ these tips you’ll be well on your way to building a bigger and stronger chest.
Comment below with feedback on how these tips worked for you and if you have additional tips. Don’t forget to follow Tiger Fitness, Marc Lobliner, and the Online Coach on Instagram and YouTube.