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Chest Training 101: How To Build a Big Chest

A Fully developed chest is a sign of power and manliness. It will also add a pleasing aesthetic look to your physique. We all remember those iconic side chest poses of Arnold Schwarzenegger that shows how the complete development of the chest can influence one’s physique.

Chest Anatomy

Before we dive in into the training strategies to optimize chest growth let me first walk you through a basic anatomy session. That way you will get an overall idea on how to design a routine that will hit all chest muscles for full development. I know this stuff is boring, but to fully develop your chest you need to understand its anatomy and functions.

The chest is composed of two major muscles: the pec major, which is the biggest muscle, and the pec minor.

The pec major is the biggest muscle. It consists of two parts: the Clavicular(upper) portion and the sternal(lower) portion.

The basic function of the pec major muscles is to pull the arm and shoulders across the front of the body.

While the pec major development will cause you the most growth, the pec minor beside being a small muscle is really an important muscle to develop especially for injury prevention. The pec minor is responsible for scapular anterior tilt. That means pulling the scapulae up and forward on your ribcage.

Another often neglected component of chest development is the serratus anterior muscles. Those are the thin muscular sheet between the ribs and the scapula. The Serratus Anterior muscles are especially well developed by boxers. when fully developed they can give you an awesome illusion of fullness and separation.

Old school guys like Arnold and Reg Park included specific exercises to target those muscles while most trainees nowadays tend to neglect them.

Developing A Big Chest

To fully develop your Chest, you need to work all the different areas of the muscle with different exercises. While of course there is an exception for this rule for the genetically blessed guys who probably will get away with little exercise selection. For instance, the famous Mr. Olympia Sergio Olivia only did Bench presses for his chest and he reached an outstanding development, but for most of us mere mortals, we need a more comprehensive approach. So let’s run through the best exercises for each major chest muscle.

The pec major muscle is targeted by all pressing movements. The sternal (lower) Chest will be optimally emphasized during exercises like Bench press, Decline bench press, and Dips. The Clavicular (upper) portion will be more stimulated when using an inclined plane of movements. Think of exercises like Incline bench press and the Incline dumbbell press.

The pec minor is mostly targeted during flyes and cable crossovers.

Chest Training Keys

Now if we need to  design a proper chest training routine, we need to take to focus on those Keys:

Key 1: Work all the muscles of the Chest

To develop impressive chest muscles you need to target all your chest muscles. That includes the 2 portions of the pec major: the upper portion, the lower portion, the pec minor, and the Serratus Anterior to fully expand your rib cage and show off your Chest muscles to their fullest.

Key2: Include both pressing and flyes variations within your chest routine

Relying on only one type of movement will give you limited growth. And while the pec major is the biggest muscle of the chest, you can’t really have an impressive chest without properly targeting the pec minor. So, a complete chest workout should include both pressing and flye variations.  Both are very essential for optimal growth and injury prevention.

Key 3: Include heavy compound exercises in your routine

Since the majority of the chest muscle fibers are predominately a type II muscle fibers, they respond very well to heavy weights. So, it is a good idea to include at least one heavy movement in the 4-6 rep ranges in every workout not only to stimulate growth but to increase your upper body strength. Plus, a big bench press is always an impressive feat.

Key 4: Start your session with Incline Bench Press

This is a very important tip especially if you have a lacking upper chest, which is the case for most people, so it is a good idea to start with an incline press first when you are stronger. I know that you won’t be able to lift very heavy weights later on on the bench press, but it is worth it to have a complete thick chest. Just look at this photo of Franco Columbo showing off his upper pec and you will realize how great a fully developed upper chest looks.

Key 5: Focus on Time Under Tension

This another part that most people get wrong when training their chests. How do I know that? well I was one of those people, doing partial reps with super heavy weights acting like a strong dude. But, I got zero growth out of it. My chest was always my weakest bodypart until I learned to use time under tension.

Now, what does time under tension means? It simply means keeping the muscle working for the entire set and for a good amount of time.  aka don’t lift the weight too fast and don’t lockout on every rep because that will take the tension away from the chest muscles.

Learning how to apply time under tension principles into my chest training was the major key to my own chest development. Nothing I did before helped me to grow those stubborn muscles. It happened only after I learned to squeeze my chest during each rep and keep enough tension on it at every single rep. Guys, if you want to really grow your chest stop locking up your elbows every rep if I can emphasize one thing it would be that. And the rule applies to both presses and flyes.

Key 6: Workout Your Chest Twice a Week:

Once a week training is dead. And unless you are a complete beginner or using some form of anabolic steroids you won’t get much of it. To know more about that check.

In recent years, most fitness influencers, youtubers, and coaches are switching their preferences to more frequent workouts instead of the old body part split.

Why is that? Well, new researches from Dr.Brad shoefeld finally confirmed that a frequency of at least two times per week is necessary for maximum muscle growth.  And Chest as all other muscles is no exception.

The logic behind it is fairly simple. If you want to build size you need maximum protein synthesis inside the muscle. And unless you are planning to inject some testosterone, the only way is to hit your Chest twice a week for optimal growth.

Key 7: Alternate between Using Barbells and Dumbells:

Barbells will allow you to lift relatively heavyweights which will help you to grow faster. Dumbells, on the other hand, will allow for a greater range of motion which will help with the outer pec development.

Ronnie Coleman was famous for doing that. And I think we all can argue that he has a BIG chest.

Putting it all Together:

I guess by now you got a clear idea on how to design a complete chest workout. So, let’s put all those information together into a sample Chest Workout.

Note: This workout is very intense and it is designed to be performed only once every 5 days.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Notes
1-Incline Bench Press 2 warmups sets

4 working sets

20, 15


120 sec Start with a lightweight and add weights progressively

2A- Dumbbell Bench Press

2B-Dumbbell flyes


8-10 reps


90 sec 2A and 2B are done as a superset with no rest in between.

3A-Dumbbell Pullover


3 12-15 90 sec 3A and 3B are done as a superset with no rest in between.

Dips are done to failure.

4-Cable Crossovers 2 20 60 sec Squeeze your chest for 2 sec at peak contraction

This workout is very intense and it will finish every last fiber of your pec. Make sure to get proper nutrition and adequate rest to grow as fast as possible.

Now as I said this workout is more suitable in a bodypart split and could only be done once every 5 days.

I am clearly not a big fan of the bodypart split. But, since you guys love Chest Mondays I wanted to write a single whole workout instead of a twice a week routine. That way you can start your week with a killer workout.

Get ready to grow.

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12 thoughts on “Chest Training 101: How To Build a Big Chest

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