THERE’S MORE TO achieve an aesthetically complete physique rather than just lifting heavy weights and bombarding your chest with bench press reps. This is especially true when it comes to building muscle definition and hypertrophy, as well as strength.
You may think the key to chest training is having a big bench, but you’re spending too much time and energy in the wrong places if you neglect accessory movements that target the actual functioning of the pectoral muscles. . Your aesthetic goals will be best served by spending time improving your mind-muscle connection, according to men’s health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, and celebrity trainer and MH Don Saladino, Advisory Board Member. In this case, convergence — moving the weight toward or past the midline of your body (adduction) — is key to getting that well-defined chest.
“The bench press is important for building strength,” Saladino says, “but I also believe that after a while you don’t really get that mind-muscle connection by just staying with that same motion over and over. and again, you don’t really feel what it feels like to make a movement with convergence.”
You don’t have to give up bench presses. But if your goal is to look ripped inside your chest, you’ll need to add a few more moves to your workout. Here are five of the best complementary chest exercises for your routine that can help complete that aesthetic upper body look.
5 Best Inner Chest Exercises
press compression plate
2 sets of 10 reps
The pressed plate press is a solid simulation of a bodybuilder’s pose routine, pressing down firmly on a light plate as if you were trying to crush it between your palms. Because a light load is enough to create a strong tension, the compression plate press is often an underrated and underutilized exercise. And that’s far from true. By extending your arms while squeezing your inner chest, you’ll create enough tension to tire yourself out in as little as two reps.
“It’s less about the load here, it’s more about the isometric tension that you just create with your body,” says Samuel. “It works really well for beginners because it’s not about load…the moment you put your hands together you learn how I put my hands together for this. I learn how to create that contraction.”
One arm cable fly
3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps per arm
Here’s a unique mind-and-muscle masterpiece move that creates tons of midline tension—a major difference from your traditional press-up moves. However, by making it a one-sided stroke as opposed to the standard fly, you can actually extend beyond the midline, thereby extending the range of motion.
A common mistake, however, with the cable fly is a tendency to bend the elbow too much. Instead, focus on keeping your arm long throughout the movement, which will keep the tension on your chest.
Closed Grip Hex Press
3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions
Increase the intensity with a more advanced movement (which could pose a challenge for anyone with limited shoulder mobility). This tight-grip press is a great exercise for getting a good chest compression with every rep. It’s basically a pressure press but using a heavier load, but not too much weight that would require you to sacrifice your pressure at the top.
The goal with the hex press now is to have the load pressed in front, but with the dumbbells squeezed together in a neutral position (palms facing each other). You always want to focus on creating and maintaining tension. Slow and controlled is the way to go for developing a fuller chest, while also working your shoulder and triceps.
chest press machine
3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
The machine press is another exercise that’s all the rage among the functional fitness crowd, but some variations offer a lot of muscle building and shaping for your money. We mentioned earlier the importance of pressing with convergence, or focusing on moving the weight closer to the midline to add tension. Machines such as a Hammer Strength press or similar models allow you to press while creating more tension toward the midline. Another benefit of the machine is that, unlike dumbbells, you don’t have to focus on stability towards the end of a grueling workout, but you can still work on much-needed muscle contraction.
Band Dumbbell Press
3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
By adding a resistance band, we add a twist and even more tension to this traditional chest-building staple. It’s best to go lighter with the group; a light to moderate tension band is more than enough to add more stress to your press after each rep. The goal is not to move heavy weights per se, but to move slowly and in a controlled manner to hit the inside of the chest.
“When it comes to training to train your inner chest and attack your chest, [it’s okay to] come back down a bit on the weight,” Samuel says. “Let’s stick to the contraction and the five exercises we gave you, you have no choice but to drop the weight to dominate the contraction, and that will give you the inner chest you want.”
Want more essential exercises for your most important muscle groups? Discover all our muscle essentials.
Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.
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