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An effective chest exercise combo

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

Chest exercises are one of the most popular gym routines.

For men, working the chest with resistance machines or weights is a regular activity on the gym floor, partly because the chest is so easy to see. Ergo, any progress made working out can most obviously be seen in a full chest.

How to best achieve this is a topic that gym fans have debated since we started lifting.

Understanding the muscles in the chest major muscle group is important to growing the chest proportionately, as is using correct techniques to target the upper lower and middle chest muscles. How such exercises should be combined, to what level of resistance, and for how long, is also a running debate.

Just check out YouTube or Google to discover the range of opinions on this particular topic.

What is generally agreed upon is the need to have a foundation set of chest exercises to come back to regularly, around which variations can be added to build the chest.

Below is such a foundation combo set of chest exercises.

As with all my combos, begin by understanding each exercise, the range of movement required, and what your body can lift or deal with in terms of resistance. Do you not go too fast or hard where the chest is concerned! If you do, an injury will likely follow. Instead, start off with zero weights to understand the motion required for each exercise and then build up in steps, slowly, carefully, and at a level of resistance each time that can be handled without difficulty.

Then, move upwards in steps, confidently and on the basis of using precise techniques, and success will follow.

And now, those all-important exercises.

Pec deck flys

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

The chest fly or ‘pec deck’ is a great way for both beginners and those with experience to target the chest muscles without worrying about the balance required when using a bench, a ball, or when standing. The pec' deck is also a useful machine if you have a lower-body injury and need to avoid standing.

Step by step:

  1. Sit tall and relax your neck and shoulders. Your feet should be flat on the floor.

  2. Grab the handles so that your palms are facing forward. Note that some machines have a foot bar that you need to push in order to release the handles and bring them forward.

  3. Press your arms together in front of your chest with a slow, controlled movement.

  4. Keep a slight, soft bend in the elbows with wrists relaxed.

  5. Pause for one second once your arms are fully 'closed' in front of your chest.

  6. Bring your arms slowly back to the starting position, opening your chest and keeping your posture strong and upright.

  7. Aim to complete 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Parallel bar dips

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

Dips are a compound, body-weight exercise. Proper Dip form here is key to avoiding shoulder and chest pain. Do not let your shoulders roll forward or shrug them. Instead, keep your shoulders back and down, then lower yourself until your shoulders are below your elbows (but do not go lower).

Undertake dips on fixed parallel bars if possible, for stability.

Step by step:

  1. Grab the parallel bars and jump up. Straighten your arms.

  2. Lower your body by bending your arms while leaning forward.

  3. Dip down until your shoulders are below your elbows.

  4. Lift your body up by straightening your arms.

  5. Lock your elbows at the top.

  6. Aim to complete 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Incline chest press

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

The incline dumbbell press is a free weight exercise designed to target the chest, shoulders, and triceps, hitting each side of the body independently.

Unlike the more traditional flat bench press, the incline press shifts the focus of the movement to the upper portion of the pectoral muscle groups and the front of the shoulder. This allows for greater hypertrophy (muscle growth) of the upper chest when the exercise is performed regularly.

The incline dumbbell press is also designed to increase chest strength and size, so it is typically included in a well-rounded, intermediate strength training programme. If you split up your weekly workouts by body part, include this chest exercise on your upper body or chest day, after exercises like pushups or the flat bench press.

Step by step:

  1. Sit on the bench and lean back.

  2. Brace your core and press both dumbbells straight up over your chest as you exhale.

  3. Reverse the movement and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the top of your chest as you inhale.

  4. Aim to complete 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Cable crossover flys

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

The standing cable fly is a variation of the chest fly and an exercise used to strengthen the pushing muscles of the body including the chest, triceps, and shoulders. The standing cable fly can be tough to overload as it requires a great deal of core stability, so it is probably best used as an accessory movement for those looking to increase their chest muscle mass.

This movement can be included in your chest workouts, push workouts, upper body workouts, or full-body workouts.

Step by step:

  1. Stand between two cable stations with the dumbbell grip handles attached to the high pulleys on each side of you.

  2. Hold the handles with an overhand grip. Your arms should be outstretched.

  3. Bend your knees and hips slightly so that you are leaning forward, but not too far.

  4. Bend your elbows slightly and rotate your shoulders in towards the centre of your chest a little. Your elbows should be slightly behind you.

  5. Use a hugging motion, keeping your elbows in a fixed, bent position to bring the grip attachments together in front of your chest.

  6. Slowly return to the starting position until you feel a slight stretch in your chest muscles.

  7. Aim to complete 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

So, that is the foundation set of exercises that, when used in a combo, will deliver an effective chest workout.

If you have any queries about this or any of the combos on my blog, let me know.


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