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Building a Muscular Chest Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by Matt Canning Building a Muscular Chest


Before I start, I should point out that every bodybuilder is different and will respond different to a variety of exercises. For some, even the reputed best, "meat and potatoes" mass building exercises don't work - some people, especially of the ectomorph body type, will find that some basic exercises build strength very well, but will not encourage mass, as their muscles are stubborn in that regard. It is with that, that you must keep an open mind and be willing to experiment with different training and nutrition strategies.

That being said, the information presented below is intended to act as a guideline for you to follow. If you want, you can follow the advice exactly and if it works well for you and you make progress - great! If not, a little bit of tweaking may help your results tremendously. Keep this in mind as you carry forth any workout program, including the one below.

To energize your workouts and take them to the next level, you need to be mentally primed for the task ahead of you. For example, you can't go into a workout by the numbers and expect the same results as you could get if you were motivated to change your body or strength levels and have it in mind from start to finish. Start focussing on your goals and keep them at the top of your memory. Remember - the body will follow with the mind leading. Without that mental edge, your gains may suffer.

The Muscles of the Chest

(1) The Pectorals: The pectorals consist of two parts, the clavicular (upper) portion and the sternal (lower) portion. The upper part is attached to the clavicle (collar bone). Along the mid - body line, it attaches to the sternum (breast bone) and the cartilage of several ribs. The largest mass of the pectorals starts at the upper arm bone (humerus), fastened at a point under and just above where the deltoids attach to the humerus. The pectorals spread out like a fan and cover the rib cage like armor plates. Attached to the rib cage in the center and across to the shoulder, this muscle lets you perform such motions as pitching a ball underhanded, doing a wide arm bench press, twisting off a bottle cap, swimming the crawl stroke, and doing parallel bar dips. In addition, because of its attachment to the humerus, it plays a large role in movements like chinning. There is, in fact, a prominent interdependence between chest and back muscles. The chest will not reach its full potential size unless the latisimus dorsi muscles of the upper back are fully developed.

Function: To pull the arm and shoulder across the front of the body.

(2) The Subclavius: The subclavius is a small cylindrical muscle between the clavicle and the first rib. Function: To draw the shoulder forward.

(3) The Serratus Anterior: The serratus anterior is a thin, muscular sheet between the ribs and the scapula.

Function: To rotate the scapula, raising the point of the shoulder and drawing the scapula forward and downward.

Nutrition & Supplementation

Proper nutrition is very important to this or any bodybuilding routine. Be sure to check out the nutrition database for tips on how to thrive on a bodybuilder's diet. As far as supplements are concerned, a protein powder such as a whey protein powder may be exactly what you need to get additional protein calories in your diet.

And for any hardgainer trying to gain weight, a weight gain powder may be for you.

Exercises for Mass & Power

Flat Bench Bench Press (Using a Barbell or Dumbbells):

*Note: Barbell bench presses are used primarily as a mass builder, where dumbbell training will have a more positive effect on strength levels. Although both barbells and dumbbells will produce both results to varying degrees. Use dumbbells if you do not have a training partner, as the importance of a spotter is not as high.

The bench press is the king of mass builders for the chest muscles. Flat bench presses will have positive effects on all aspects of bodybuilding: strength, mass, and shape / density of your muscles. As you've probably heard time and time again the gym, it is a meat and potatoes mass builder for the chest. Use bench presses in your workouts - you will like the results.

Lie on a flat bench with your feet firmly on the ground. Grab the bar using a medium grip (a narrow grip will develop the triceps moreso than chest.


  • Warm up thoroughly before beginning. A good way to do this is by doing high reps (12-20) with the flat bench.
  • Use a medium grip as opposed to a wide or narrow grip for best overall chest development.
  • Go slow and steady through the entire range of motion, flexing at the bottom and squeezing at the top.
  • Pyramid the weight doing 4 sets in total: 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, respectively.

Incline Bench Press (Using a Barbell or Dumbbell) This movement is up there with the regular flat press for best overall mass / strength gains for your chest. The incline is at a steeper angle, and as such, works your upper chest moreso than your mid or lower chest. Normally, you will not be able to lift as much on the incline bench press as with the flat bench. The reason for this is because less of your chest comes into play in the incline bench presses (primarily your upper chest), and more of your shoulders help with the movement. In general, the steeper the angle on the incline bench press, the more shoulders come into play as a secondary muscle group involved.

Simply lie on the incline bench press and reach up to grab the bar, using the same grip as with the flat bench presses (medium grip). Lower the bar to the bottom, hold for a moment, and begin the ascent. After 8-12 reps, rack the weight.

  • For Safety, use a spotter.
  • Warm up using a light set with high reps (12-20), then go into your working sets for a total of 4 sets.
  • Use the same rep scheme as the flat bench presses: 12, 10, 8, 6

Markus Ruhl

The German Giant Markus Ruhl, showing massive chest development at the 2002 Mr. Olympia Contest. Photo © Ron Avidan and Reproduced with Permission.

For more photos of the 2002 Mr. Olympia Finals - Click Here.
For more bodybuilding photos - Click Here.

Click on the banner below to purchase Markus Ruhl's training video: Made in Germany.

Click Here for more info on Markus' video!


A good shocking principle for the chest would be the superset. If you are going to superset, use the exercises below:

Dumbbell Flys Dumbbell Flys are primarily used to build overall mass and shape your chest, giving it a full look. The movement pulls the arms across the body. Using a complete range of motion, you can fill out your pecs very well. Lie down on the flat bench with a pair of dumbbells resting on your knees, and with your palms facing your body. Rock your body back so that you are flat on the bench with the dumbbells overhead. From there, pull your arms across your body as if you are hugging a tree - do not bend your elbows until the end of the range of motion, and repeat the movement, touching the dumbbells at the top.

Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover This exercise provides your muscles with a very good stretch. It is said to expand the rib cage, and Arnold himself claimed that effect; however it has never been substantiated. Needless to say, it is a very good exercise for your chest. Lie across a flat bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Grab a hold of a dumbbell with both hands with your palms underneath the top plate of the dumbbell. Extend your arms out and over your chest. Lower the weight behind your head and towards the ground - and repeat the movement squeezing at the top. 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps are recommended.

Superset Explained:

This superset combines a mass building / shaping exercise, with a stretching exercise, so that a good pump is achieved. This superset should stimulate growth if performed properly.

Sample Chest Training Split:

Sample Routine for Chest:
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Bench Presses 4 8-12
Flat Dumbbell Flys 4 8-12
Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover 3 8-12

Take care,

Matt Canning

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