The Fitness Question of the Month
By Liz Montes
Before writing any article, I think of some of the most frequent questions I’m asked. The question of the month asked particularly by men was whether I recommend a chest exercise that will help build the (pecs) chest muscles? The answer is easy, but the practice is not so easy; you have to plan it. The key to a large chest is to build those muscles from different angles.
Our muscles are comprised of tens of thousands of fibers that run along the muscles. Those muscles very often run along various angles that then attach themselves to the larger muscle groups. As the chest muscles are complex and perform and pull from several angles, it is best to work those muscles from different angles.
As with all the major muscle groups of our bodies, it is best to perform a series of different exercises to target all the fibers of those muscles from different angles. The key to any advancement in muscle size and strength is to not stick to just one exercise. In this case, the classic bench press is what men seem to love most. You almost always see them gather and wait their turn to do the bench press in every gym I’ve ever been in. Not only is that boring, but it is also inadequate and unnecessary to acquire the size and strength you may seek. Bench presses, although a staple, offer some limitations as well. The bench with the barbell offers a fixed position; thus, a one-side fixed angle to the exercise. It keeps you from fully activating some, if not all, of the muscle fibers. It would be a good idea to incorporate a bench that can work from different angles: the adjustable bench. Most of the adjustable benches work from angles of decline to flat and to inclines of 15, 30 ,and 45 degrees. The decline position of the bench provides great angles that will target the deltoids (delts) more specifically.
You can take the same approach for dumbbells and flyes. I also recommend that you incorporate pulleys into your chest workout. If you can work with cables and pulleys, remember to change the height of them, once again altering the angles from set to set. The altering of angles particularly on pulleys works almost as though you are introducing entirely new movement patterns to your muscles. Muscles like that and respond very well to those types of changes.
Also, you can increase the size and strength by adding more weight and decreasing the repetitions; six reps would be a good target if that is your goal.
Be sure you warm up properly before beginning any program as described. Begin with heavy weight low reps and then progress to moderate weight for higher reps. This intensity helps to build the endurance as well. Lastly, you can do the light to pump the muscle and look really good as you finish your program and walk out of the gym. When training for muscle size, keep your rest periods between one and one-and-a-half minutes.
Also, be sure that you are hydrating and eating the appropriate amount of protein before and after every workout. Intense training burns up a significant amount of carbohydrates, which is what gives you the power needed for workouts at these intensities. That is also why we recommend a post workout meal soon after a workout to replace and reenergize you for what’s next in your workouts.
Equally as important would be the recovery phase. Muscles grow when the body is at rest, so rest! What you do outside the gym is as important as the discipline you have in the gym. Hard training and exertion stress your muscles. You will find that taking time to prioritize your rest period will give you the size and strength you are looking for as well as the right attitude to do it.