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A free weights combo for a powerful chest

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

Chest exercise variations are always in demand, partly because the chest is such a popular muscle group to develop (particularly where men are concerned).

There are many options available for exercising the chest using free weights, cables and machines. Below is a set of such exercises which make the best use of free weights and a barbell.

Undertaking chest exercises, whether using the combo below or similar exercises, is always a great idea if your intention is a balanced full-body exercise programme.

With the following exercise combo, ensure you master the techniques outlined here before moving forward with the best weights for your level of fitness and avoid injury by not going too heavy or too fast with the weights.

Focus, advance step-by-step and take advice from those experienced in working with weights, if you feel this would be helpful, before proceeding!

And now, those all-important exercises:

Dumbbell lat pullover

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

Also known as the straight arm pullover, this is a great exercise to strengthen the upper body.

The straight-arm pullover helps develop the chest and back muscles simultaneously. One of the primary muscle groups worked in this exercise, for example, is the lats (originating in the lower-mid back, the latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle of the back).

For this exercise, you will need a pair of dumbbells and an exercise bench (or similar surface).

Step by step:

  1. Begin by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and straddling the exercise bench.

  2. Sit on the bench and place your feet firmly on the ground.

  3. Lie back so that your head rests at the end of the bench.

  4. Raise the dumbbells side by side directly above your chest with your palms facing forward.

  5. Engage your core by bringing your belly button in towards your spine.

  6. Keeping your arms straight, squeeze your lats and slowly bring the dumbbells behind you until they are in line with your head.

  7. Squeeze your lats hard at the bottom and contract your chest to bring the dumbbells to the starting position.

  8. Squeeze your chest hard in this position.

  9. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat.

  10. Aim for a four-part set of 8 to 10 repetitions of this exercise.

Incline barbell press

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

The incline barbell bench press is a variation of the traditional bench press. It delivers targeted muscle growth to the upper chest, though it is not an isolation exercise.

The chest muscles are worked during all bench pressing movements. However, the incline press does place higher demands on the upper chest muscles due to the press’s increased angle in the press.

In the bench press, the front deltoids are active. In the incline press, however, the front delts are involved to an even greater extent. As you assume a more vertical pressing plane, you’ll target your upper chest and anterior deltoids. The more vertical your press angle is, the more you involve your shoulders.

Step by step:

  1. Set up an incline workout bench to about 30 or 45 degrees.

  2. Load the bar and lie back on the bench.

  3. Set your hips and upper back on the bench.

  4. Root your feet on the floor.

  5. Find your grip on the bar.

  6. Pull the bar down with control above your upper chest and shoulders.

  7. To do so, forcefully retract your shoulder blades and squeeze the barbell to better activate your grip.

  8. Pull the barbell to your chest.

  9. Actively use your back muscles to keep your chest and shoulders from rounding forward.

  10. As you lower the bar, actively stretch your pectoral muscles.

  11. Make sure to keep your shoulders on the bench.

  12. While pulling your elbows inward toward your body, press the bar upward.

  13. Extend your elbows and be sure not to lose control or stability in this phase.

  14. Your elbows should not flare out and you should keep your shoulders on the bench.

  15. Aim for a four-part set of 8 to 10 repetitions of this exercise.

Pec fly dumbbell flat bench

The pec fly dumbbell flat bench exercise may appear to be straightforward, but it can be less effective than other chest exercises if delivered without attention to technique and the demands it places on the shoulder joints.

Step by step:

  1. Lie back on the bench and press the dumbbells up above your chest with a neutral grip.

  2. Drive your shoulder blades back into the bench to set your shoulders.

  3. Keep your feet on the ground and squeeze your glutes and abs to create full-body tension.

  4. Move your hands to turn your little fingers toward each other.

  5. This will help to create some external rotation at the shoulder joints.

  6. Bend your elbows slightly, then lower the weights down to the sides, moving only at the shoulders.

  7. Lower down only to a comfortable point for your range of motion, when you feel a stretch on your chest.

  8. Squeeze your pecs to raise the weights back up to the starting position and stop with the weights just slightly apart, continuing to squeeze the chest.

  9. Aim for a four-part set of 8 to 10 repetitions of this exercise.

Bench press alternated dumbbell exercise

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

The bench press alternated dumbbell exercise offers additional benefits to a standard bench press dumbbell extension in terms of providing additional time under tension, shoulder stability and anti-rotational core stability.

In principle, this exercise involves holding and stabilising the non-repping arm during the exercise at full extension and only rep one dumbbell at a time. As the arms begin to fatigue, you may find that one (or both) arms start to drift down as you’re repping the opposite arm.

This is a great example of combining physical and mental exercise in one package!

Step by step:

  1. Take a pair of dumbbells and sit on the edge of the bench with the dumbbells resting on each thigh.

  2. Lay back on the bench and press both dumbbells to full extension.

  3. Lower the right dumbbell down to just outside the chest, keeping the elbow at 45 degrees to the body.

  4. Press that dumbbell back up to full extension.

  5. Lower the opposite dumbbell down, the same as before, and press back to the extension.

  6. Aim for a four-part set of 8 to 10 repetitions of this exercise.

As always with such combo routines, adapt the number of repetitions and sets as above and, if you have any queries about this or any of my exercise combos, get in touch!


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