How to Build Strong, Heroic Pecs!

Do you know what is quite likely the easiest muscle group inyour body to bulk up? The one you can attack from at least a dozen differentangles? The one that responds very quickly (and grows very fast) ifyou train it just right?Aw, you guessed it it is, of course, the featured muscle group ofthis blog post column: your pecsthe muscles that make up your chest,which include the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, subclavius, and serratusanterior.
Whereas many bodybuilders and fitness buffs have trouble gettingpsyched up about training legs and back, virtually every lifter Ive workedwith over the years has been highly motivated to build strong, heroic pecs,and for good reason. Not only do they make your physique look gladiatorlike with your shirt off, a thick chest also stands out even when youve
got your shirt on!In blog post, Im going to share with you some important techniquesand helpful tips, which, if applied, will help you stimulate rapid growth inthis downright fun-to-train muscle group.

The pectoralis muscles have a lower (sternal) area which isattached to the collarbone (clavicle) and an upper (clavicular) portion.The largest part of your pecs actually attaches to your upper armbone called the humerus, where it connects to a point under andjust above where your shoulder muscles (deltoids) attach to yourupper arm. Together, these muscles make up a large armor-platelikeset of muscles that cover your rib cage.Knowing just these basic facts of physiology, we can see thatwhen your pecs pull your arms across the front of your body, thesemuscles are called into action. Basically, any time youre pressinga weight over your chest, no matter what grip youre using andregardless of whether youre lifting a barbell or dumbbells, youreworking your pecs.

#1 Barbell Bench Presses

For many lifters, myself included,the bench press was the first weight-training exercisewe learned. Its an extremely basic lift, but it works. Itshelped thousands of bodybuilders build armor-platelikechest muscles. In fact, some lifters havedeveloped great pecs using this exercise exclusively;however, I can think of several reasons thats not thebest way to go about it, and Ill share that info with youin this column. But, first things first.Starting position: Lie down on the bench and firmlyposition your feet flat on the floor, a little more thanshoulder width apart (as shown in the adjacentphoto). Arch your back slightly, but keep your hips onthe bench. Its best to have a spotter help lift theweight out of the rack and allow you to get controlof the barbell, with your elbows locked out, right overthe middle of your pecs.Using a moderately wide grip is the best way tomaximize stimulation of your pecs. The narrower yourgrip, the more youll be using your anterior deltoids(in the front of your shoulders) and triceps. However,if you use too wide a grip, youll be cutting your rangeof motion short and possibly causing undue stress toyour wrists and rotator cuffs (the group of smallmuscles in your shoulders).

The exercise:Start by lowering the weight slowly. (Usea count of one thousand one, one thousand two.)Let the weight all the way down to a point just aboveyour nipple area. Pause for just a moment (a countof one), and then drive the weight back up with allthe force you can generate. Then, hold the weight inthe starting position, with your elbows locked out, for
a brief moment (another count of one), and repeat.

TIP:Push the barbell up in a bit ofan S-shaped motion. Whenyou begin pressing the weight offyour chest, push it out about an inchand then, as you move it up, roll itback a couple inches. (See the adjacentphotos with the optimal planeof motion drawn in.) Ive found thisis really a great way to isolate thepec muscles. Give it a try.Be sure to keep your butt
on the bench. Dont liftyour hips up while doing thisexercise, as this presents anopportunity for unnecessary injuryand reduces the amount of pecwork youll be getting.


#2 Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses

Although the flat barbell bench presshelps stimulate muscles throughout your chestarea, by changing the angle of the bench, you cantarget certain areas of your pecs more directly,
which stimulates greater muscle development andfuller pecs.A lot of lifters ask me what the best angle is fordeveloping the upper area of the pecs. My answeris, I dont know! I mean, if there is one best anglefor working the upper pecs, I havent discovered it,and to my knowledge, no one else has either.However, what I have learned through personal
experience and from working with many bodybuildersand other athletes over the years is thatusing multiple incline angles produces terrificresults.

Starting position: Pick up the dumbbells, placethem on your thighs, and thenkick them up, one at a time, toa position at the front of yourshoulders, while you lean backand get firmly planted on thebench.

The exercise: Preferably with thehelp of a spotter on the first rep,drive the weights up. Then, holdthem above your upper chest,with your elbows locked out, fora brief count of one beforeslowly lowering the dumbbellsfor a count of one thousandone, one thousand two. Holdthe weights in the bottom positionfor a brief count of one, and then drive em back up as hardand fast as you can! On all pressing exercises, lift the weight in anexplosive manner to stimulate the maximum amount of musclefibers.Inhale deeply as the weight is lowered, and exhale as you drivethem up to a point over your upper chest. By the way, because ofthe angle and leverage, you wont be as strong on this lift as youare on the flat bench press.

TIP:If you haveaccess toan adjustable inclinebench, change theangle a bit for eachset. But do not go toosteep, or youll beworking your shouldersmore than yourpecs.When youre driving theweight up, try rotating yourhands around so your palms arefacing each other at the top ofthe lift. Then, on the way down,rotate your hands back out soyour palms are facing towardsyour feet in the bottom position.And, be sure not to go too low atthe bottombring the dumbbellsdown to a point where theyalmost touch your outer pecs,then drive em back up.

#3 Dumbbell Flyes


This is a fantastic exercise for buildingfullness and roundness in your pecs. Not onlydoes it stimulate your pecs, it also helps stretch theconnective tissue, which acts as a girdle around
your muscle and limits the degree your musclescan expand. This exercise is a great stretchingand flexing motionlearning how to perform itcorrectly allowed me to build bigger, strongerpecs, and I think it can do the same for you.Starting position: Sit down on the edge of a benchwith the dumbbells on your thighs. Then, lieback, keeping the dumbbells close to your chest.Get firmly situated. Once again, your hips andshoulders stay on the bench and your feet on thefloor.

The exercise: For the first rep, push the weight upusing a pressing-like motion with your palmsfacing each other. Then, slowly lower the dumbbellswith your elbows slightly bent, to a pointwhere they are on a horizontal plane even withthe bench. Really stretch those pecs, but dont tryto lower the weights all the way to the floor, oryoull tear your arms right out of your shoulders!(Yes, I know, Arnold went lower, but chances are,you arent that flexibleI know I aint!) Take atleast a count of one thousandone, one thousandtwo to lower the weightdown to the fully stretchedposition. Inhale as youlower the dumbbells, raisingyour rib cage to create aneven greater stretch. Onceyou get to the bottom, holdfor a quick count of one,and then slowly bring theweights back up using aflying motion.

CAUTION:Do not make themistake of trying touse too much weight on this exerciseor you might pull a muscle orinjure your shoulders. Ive beendoing this exercise for years, and I
dont go any heavier than 65-lbdumbbells. For this exercise to work,you must use a weight that allowsyou to maintain proper form.Dont bringthe dumbbellsin close to your
shoulders. This is aflye, not a press.Comprendes? Whenyoure raising theweights back up,visualize yourewrapping your armsaround a giantRoman column:youre trying to get
your arms around it,not push through it.

#4 Dumbbell Pullovers


To build a big chest, you need to not only trainyour pecs, you must also regularly perform exercises thathelp expand your rib cage, such as the dumbbell pullover.This exercise also helps develop the tie-ins betweenyour pecs and your major back muscles called the latissimusdorsi or lats, which is important because yourchest will not reach its full potential size unless your latsare properly trained. The pullover exercise also works theserratus (those very cool-looking spike-like musclesbetween your pecs and lats). This is one of the best, but
most overlooked, exercises for building your upper body.Heres how its done:Starting position: Lie across a flat bench (see photo). Besure only your upper back makes contact with the
bench. Reach back and flatten your hands against theinside upper plate of one end of a dumbbell, whichshould be positioned on end, on the floor next to thebench. Lift the weight overhead (have a spotter helpyou). Hold the dumbbell, at arms length, over yourchest.

The exercise: Keep your hips low (see photo) and lowerthe dumbbell slowly while you breathe in very deeply.Use a count of about one thousandone, one thousand two,one thousand three. When youreach a fully stretched positionwhere the dumbbell is almosttouching the floor, hold it for aquick count of one and thenraise the weight back up slowlyand exhale deeply. Keep yourchest expanded even after youexhale.

TIP:If youre juststarting out,try using a relativelylight weight, but assoon as you get thehang of it, dont beafraid to use a prettyhefty dumbbell onthis one. I typicallyuse a 100 pounder.

CAUTION:Be sure not tobonk yourselfon the back of your head whileyoure lifting the weight up.Keep the dumbbell moving in anarc, along the imaginary linedrawn on the photo above.

My Two Cents Worth…If youre just getting into weight training, let me take this opportunity tocongratulate you on making one of the best decisions of your life! I dontcare if youre 18 or 58, NOW is the best time to start training!By the way, if you go into a gym and some experienced lifter, or one ofthose roided-out bodybuilders, gives you any crap because you are justlearning how to train and theyve been doing it for years, send me a letteror e-mail, and Ill well Ill take care of it. Thats all Im gonna say.Those of you who know how to train because youve been doing it for awhile should be encouraging novices and helping them out. Whether itsoffering them a compliment, showing them something youve learned aboutproper form, or merely giving them a spot. (Think back to when you firststarted traininghow much wou


ld it have helped your efforts to build astronger, more muscular body, faster, if you would have had a little moresupport? Im not kidding; in fact, Im dead serious about this!)

#5 Parallel Bar Dips



Like flyes, dips work the pecs and help stretch that connectivetissue around the muscles. Its a great exercise for finishingoff an awesome chest workout, if you do it correctly.Starting position: To isolate your chest muscles, tilt your bodyforward slightly (see photos). Keep your chest up, chin down, and,if possible, use parallel bars with a grip wider than your houlders.
The exercise: As you lower your body, push your elbows out and continueto lean forward. Lower your body slowly, using a count ofone thousand one, one thousand two. Hold the bottom positionfor a quick count of one and then press yourself back up as fastas you can. Stop in the top position for another quick count ofone, and repeat.

CAUTION:Dont loweryourselfquickly on this exercise (yourbody should not look like asack of potatoes falling off thetailgate of a pick-up truck), oryou may very well screw up
your shoulders! Dips should beperformed in a controlled,deliberate fashion. Dontbounce at the bottom.

Give It All Ya Got!Dont expect to put in a 70% effort andget 100% results. It just doesnt work thatway. Imagine Im standing over you,demanding that, when your mind givesout, you give me two more reps on everyset during this workout! You can do it!You really can! Your mind always givesout before your musclesyou need tolearn to push yourself through this initialpseudo-fatigue.Those lifters who know how toconjure up that inner strength are theones I respect, because I know all toowell how easy it is to give up as soon asthe weight starts feeling heavy.Speaking of heavy, I dont mean to gettoo deep, but Ive discovered mostpeople who give up when the goin getstough in the weight room do the samething in every other part of their lives. Assoon as things get heavy, they mutter,No mas, and quit.The bottom line is, you have to pushyourselfyou have to give it all ya gotor even a well-designed training programjust wont work!

NOTE: To learn more on building Heroic Chest muscles and accessing some great routines, go to

Ready for an Awesome Workout?Good! Here We GoThere are many ways you can mix and match these great pec-building exercises.

Heres just one example of a routine I often do: