We all have different reasons why we step into the gym. 
 
It could be fat loss; building overall fitness; getting a release from work; or to simply look better on your next holiday. 
 
These are all great reasons to train, and you should never feel guilty for why you train. For a lot of guys, the reason they train is so they feel more confident when they take their top off and can fill out a tee-shirt better. 
 
I can totally relate to this as when I first started lifting weights I was built like a snooker cue. 
 
In this next series of blogs I will give you some top tips on how to build different muscle groups and potentially those areas that you have struggled to develop. 
 
First up, let's focus on the chest. 
 
There aren’t many guys that train who wouldn’t mind a bigger and stronger chest. It's no doubt why the gym is always so packed on a Monday evening and why you can’t find a bench for love nor money. 
Get to know your chest 
 
The first thing to understand if you want to build your chest is how your chest is made up and how certain exercises hit different parts. When you look at chest you may think of it as one big muscle. But the reality is that the pec is broken down into two heads: the clavicular head (upper chest) and the sternal head (lower chest). 
 
Most guys who train in the gym will have a bigger, better developed lower chest compared to the upper chest. This can be because most chest exercises they're doing are desinged to hit just the lower section of the chest. Or it could be that they do exercises that they think hit the upper chest, but their form is so poor that it leads to activating the lower chest only.  
 
I'm sure you have seen guys at your gym doing incline bench press but their back is really arched and their hips are so far off the seat that it looks like a flat bench press. This will likely be because they're lifting a weight that is too heavy for their upper chest to deal with. The upper chest is not as strong as the lower part so you need to ensure that any incline work is done with good form. 
 
If you want to focus on your upper chest more then you should program more exercises with an incline and ensure you keep your hips down and back pretty flat when doing these movements. 
 
See below which exercises are best for working the two different heads. 
 
Upper chest (clavicular head) 
 
• Incline barbell bench press 
• Incline dumbbell bench press 
• Incline flys 
• Dumbbell pullovers 
• Guillotine smith press 
 
Lower chest (sternal head) 
 
• Flat barbell bench press 
• Flat dumbbell bench press 
• Standing cable flys 
• Decline bench press 
• Pec deck 
 
Some of the lower chest exercises will still hit the upper chest and the same could be said for the upper chest exercises hitting the lower chest. However, the majority of tension and work should be put through the targeted upper or lower chest depending on the exercise. Remember to think about the different section of the chest you are trying to activate when doing the exercise as this mind muscle connection can really help with better activation. 
Training frequency  
 
Now you understand your chest a little better let's look at how many times a week you should train your chest. The stereotypical way that many guys train their chest is to do one monster chest session every week. You get a massive pump and your chest is sore for 2-3 days after. This is a highly ineffective way to train. Especially, given that your body can tolerate training a muscle group 2-3 times a week and recover in between. Additionally, when you do one monster session every week with 5-7 exercises for chest, you won’t be able to lift as heavy across all these exercises compared to splitting these 5-7 exercises over 2-3 sessions. Splitting these exercises across multiple sessions will ensure that you are fresh for every exercise and not failing because your chest is so fatigued like you do on ‘chest Monday’. 
 
How many times you train your chest a week also depends on how often you can get to the gym and your other focus of training. If you train x3 days a week you could split your chest exercises over x3 full body sessions. If you have x4 sessions to play with, you could use a split of 2-3 upper body sessions with 1-2 lower body sessions. Then for x5 days you could do a push/pull/legs rotation and split the chest exercises over 2-3 sessions. 
Sets and reps  
 
Now that you know your chest and how many times you are going to train it each week, the next step is to assess sets and reps. 
 
When it comes to training your chest effectively you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself to just one set and rep range. Using a range of sets and reps will work best as this will bring about the different types of tension that are required to build muscle. For more in-depth insight on this check out my Muscle gain eBook. 
 
The best way to breakdown sets and reps is to look at what exercise you are doing for your chest. A movement like barbell bench press will work well in the 5-8 rep range for 3-4 sets as you can build good load and tension for this compound exercise. However, an isolation chest exercise like a pec fly would work better in the 10-15 rep range over 2-3 sets. Over time you will want to adapt and progress your sets and reps, and you could also bring in intensifiers for isolation exercises like drop sets, AMRAPs and supersets. 
 
As a general rule look at your compound chest exercises being in the 5-10 rep range and then your isolation exercises in the 10-20 rep range. Set wise, I wouldn’t advise lower than 2 or higher than 4 on average. 
Exercise selection 
 
The final section on this blog is what exercises to select to hit your chest. Hopefully you now understand how to hit the upper or lower part of your chest. When I program for clients, I keep a few simple rules, these include: 
 
• Coupling a compound exercise with an isolation exercise on a training day. So, an upper body session could start with bench press at 4x6 and then later on in the session, after some back and shoulder work, the client would hit an incline cable fly 3x12 reps. This hits different set and rep ranges which are appropriate for the exercise, and the lower and upper chest are both targeted. 
 
• Ensuring that the client does plenty of dumbbell and isolateral work in the week to ensure they don’t develop any muscular imbalances which could occur with a lot of barbell or bi lateral work. 
 
• Including some fun finisher exercises like AMRAP press up variations or dips at the end of the session. Just ensure you get a range of compound and isolation exercises across the week and you can’t go too far wrong. 
 
I really hope you found thig blog useful. More any follow up questions on the above please don't hesistate to contact me and I will do all I can to help. 
 
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