What body part always conveys the ownership of a quality physique? A fully developed chest signals to onlookers that a person possessing superior pecs knows what they are doing in the gym, and they have the right to show their body in a great light.
Chest fullness however, is highly elusive to most people.
The key to gaining a respectable chest is knowledge about how the muscles in the chest work. Do you truly understand what role the chest muscles play? Knowing how the chest muscles work will help you design a workout program that produces results.
Table of Contents
Pecs are Complex
The primary role of the chest muscles is helping the arms to come toward the center of the body (1). The muscles of the chest have origins near the sternum, and distal points along the shoulders.
This simply means that the pecs contract whenever your arms move in perpendicular motion with the rest of your body.
Yeah, this is a little heady, but your chest muscles are activated with in-and-out arm motions. Add a little weight resistance, and those muscles contract in a way that adds density. Contract your pecs in many different directions with weight—it’s a formula for real pectoral growth.
On of the most aesthetically pleasing chest muscle shapes is “squareness.” This means that the pecs are full and wide, and they have a lower line that parallels the rib cage. This aesthetic look can only be achieved through total body leanness and full pectoral development.
It is absolutely necessary for the entire pectoral complex to be used during weight lifting routines if square pecs are the goal. The muscles must be dense, and they should be prominent from origin to insertion. Square pecs are well-used pecs.
Take a hint from some old school bodybuilders.
Vince Gironda had one of the most impressively large chests in the early Mr. Olympia days. He never used the flat bench press, yet had one of the widest and most square chests. Keep in mind that he was relatively small-framed.
Gironda’s favorite chest exercise was the inverted hand dip. To do this exercise, a person should mount a dip bar with their fingers facing inward. This position automatically activates most of the distal portions of the chest.
Performing dips like this makes all of the muscles in the chest and shoulder complex activate. It is a bodyweight motion that fully fatigues the pecs, and it develops all of the chest contours that contribute to a square look.
Serge Nubret was another old school bodybuilder who achieved amazingly square and full pecs. He was most famous for giving Arnold a fright in the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition. Nubret focused on total muscle fiber recruitment through high rep training.
A typical chest workout for Serge Nubret was 40 sets of reps using moderately heavy weight. He would change the angle of his chest presses each set, and he would limit his rest periods to 30 seconds.
Using lighter weight allowed him to activate every muscle fiber in his chest. He not only achieved square pecs, but pecs that were so full that they drooped in a very stunning way.
If you are wanting to develop square pecs, total muscle fiber activation during workouts is imperative.
Combine this with a high degree of body leanness, and you will have a look that any Roman gladiator would be envy.
How to Reduce Chest Fat and Reduce Your Upper Chest Bulk
Many studies suggest that fat reduction happens across the entire body (2). This means that chest spot reduction is probably unachievable.
What is achievable is higher muscle density in the chest that produces muscle fiber mobility.
This is always accompanied with a more impressive “flex,” and more separation along the rib cage. That is where the square look happens.
How Do I Tone My Chest?
If higher reps produce more density, and heavier weight produces muscle fiber activation, why not lift more using heavier weights? The pecs can take a beating during a workout.
Do not limit your workouts to traditional flat bench routines. Stress your chest muscles through a wide range of angles, resistance levels, and rep cadences.
This means, keep your chest workouts varied in as many ways as possible.
How Do You Get Square Pecs?
Every person has a different chest muscle design according to their genetics. The appearance of square pecs comes from having chest muscles that are extremely developed at all points.
This is especially true when it comes to width. Square pecs always seem to lay completely across the widest point of the rib cage. The only way that this happens is with full range of motion during exercises.
When you perform your pressing chest exercises, concentrate on contractions at the start and finish of each motion. The objective is fiber recruitment.
Also, keep in mind that pec shape is largely determined by genetics. Even if your pecs are not naturally square, they can become very impressive if they have a full and rounded shape.
Proof of this is shown with a comparison. Consider the chests on Bolo Yeung and Jean Claude van Damme as seen in the movie Bloodsport.
Both of these impressive chests are full and dense, but they show completely different genetic designs. In short, chest squareness is in the eye of the beholder.
10 Moves to Lose Chest Fat and Build a Chiseled Chest
- Dumbbell chest press with a varied range of motion.
- Cable flyes with fully extended arms.
- Leaning presses at a decline angle using only body weight.
- Flat barbell bench presses with high reps.
- Pullovers and other exercises that expand the breadth of the rib cage.
- Cable flyes with an out-and-upward motion.
- Dips with a deep stretch and a forward lean.
- Very wide floor push-ups.
- Moderately heavy steep incline dumbbell flyes.
- Daily abdominal vacuums.
How Many Sets for Each Move?
Every person’s chest muscles are different. Never limit yourself to a strict number of sets for any exercise. The point of lifting is muscle fiber recruitment.
Perform as many sets as are necessary to have the feeling that the entire chest has been used. However, keep in mind Lee Haney’s motto, “Stimulate, but don’t annihilate.” Never exercise your pecs to the point of injury.
How Many Reps for Each Set?
Again, this is determined by your exercise variation. Every lifter has their own “10.” For some people, six reps are sufficient. For others, 20 reps is in order.
The right number of reps happens when you feel that your chest muscles are working across their entire length.
The right number of reps creates a full contraction in the chest, and exhibits a great deal of power. Experiment to find your perfect rep scheme.
How Long Should I Rest Between Sets?
If a lifting set is successful, a good deal of waste materials will build up in the muscles (3). These materials are transferred at the pace of the individual’s blood flow.
Everyone has different degrees of pain, weakness, and recovery.
In order to maximize chest workouts, shorter recovery periods should be utilized. The “pump” is the best indicator. Every set should produce a pump.
Short periods of rest keep the blood rushing into the chest muscles, but provide some relaxation.
Rest periods that are too long will produce the feeling of stiffness and inflexibility in the muscle.
When it comes to creating a square chest, intensity is key. Always concentrate on flexing the pecs with each rep, and tax the muscles in as many angles as possible.