The Chest Series – Impact Personal Training

Chest Training 

Everyone should have some form of chest training within their workout programme, whether being male or female. Incorporating press ups a couple of times a week can be a great start, but in the long run you should start to incorporate a range of different chest exercises, just like you would with any other muscle group. Before we start, you need to know that there are two separate muscle’s that form your chest. You have the Pec Major (lower part of the chest) and your Pec Minor (upper part of the chest) and you should take both of these into consideration when planning your chest training.

Dumbbell Exercises

Dumbbell’s are a great place to start if you are new to chest training, they allow for a great range of motion and allow you to isolate and stabilise each side.

Flat DB Bench Press: 

  • Lie yourself back on a flat bench and bring the dumbbells up in a lengthened position, with the palms of your hands facing away from you.
  • Drive your feet into the floor, your glutes and your upper back into the bench creating a stable foundation.
  • Bring the dumbbells down towards the lower part of your chest, due to the greater range of movement with dumbbells you should be able to get your elbows to drop below your body at the bottom of the movement.
  • Once you are at the bottom of the movement, continue to drive your feet into the floor and drive the dumbbells back up so your arms are back to a lengthened position.

Your hands should stay in the same line as you go through the movement, they should not come out wider at the bottom or come narrow at the top. To emphasise the contraction on your chest imagine driving your bicep into your chest.

Incline DB Bench Press:

  • Lie yourself back, this time on a bench with a 45-degree angle and bring the dumbbells up in a lengthened position, with your palms facing away from you. This time the dumbbells will be in line with your upper chest/collar bone rather than your lower chest.
  • Drive your feet into the floor, your glutes and your upper back into the bench creating a stable foundation.
  • Bring the dumbbells down towards the midline of your chest, allowing the elbows to drop down just under your body.
  • Once you are at the bottom of the movement, drive the dumbbells back up to the top position, keeping the hands in the same line and driving your biceps towards your chest.

The main difference between an incline press and a flat press is that the incline press targets more of the pec minor (upper chest) as opposed to the pec major.

DB Floor Press:

  • Sit yourself of the floor, with your knees up and the dumbbells on your knees. Once in this position, lay yourself back on to the floor and bring the dumbbells up to your chest.
  • Keeping your knees bent and your full foot on the ground, keep your entire back flat on the floor.
  • This time keeping your elbows tucked into your ribs, bring the dumbbells down until your upper arm is touching the floor.
  • Again, keeping the hands in the same position, drive the dumbbells back up to the top position, focusing on driving your biceps into your chest.

Flat DB Flies:

  • Lie yourself back on a flat bench and bring the dumbbells up into a lengthened position, this time with the palms of your hands facing each other. Create a slight bend in your elbow but keep the upper arm and forearm locked into position.
  • Drive your feet into the floor, your glutes and your upper back into the bench creating a stable foundation.
  • While keeping your back pushed into the bench which will push your chest up, allow the dumbbells to come away from the midline of your body and to open up. The elbows should be in line with the body at the bottom of the movement, where you will pause for a second to hold the tension on your chest.
  • Continuing to hold your arms in the same lengthened position, drive the elbows back up to the midline of your body, as if you are trying to draw a circle with the dumbbells. The dumbbells should not touch at the top of the movement, as the contraction is coming from the biceps driving into the chest, as opposed to the hands coming all the way together.

Barbell Exercises

The bench press is a great compound chest exercise to build strength in your chest, and also your triceps. A typical barbell weights 20kg alone, so just take that into consideration before jumping straight under the bar if you are new to the exercise. 

Flat Bench Press: 

  • Lie yourself on a flat bench, with your eyes in line with the barbell, brings your hands around shoulder width apart on the bar, lift the bar off and bring it in line with your chest.
  • With the bar in the starting position, drive your heels into the ground, your glutes into the bench and your upper back into the bench so you are stable.
  • Grip the bar tightly and allow the bar to come down towards your lower chest, keep the elbows pointed inwards slightly (so they are not flaring all the way out to the side) and let the bar come all the way down until it touches your chest.
  • Keeping your back pushed into the bench, drive the bar back up to the midline of the chest, driving your biceps into your chest.

Incline Bench Press:

  • Set the bench up at a 45-degree angle, lie yourself back and have the bar set up high enough so that you can reach it with near enough straight arms. When the bar is set up and you are lying down, the bar should be in line with your eyes.
  • Lift the bar out of the rack and bring it in line with your upper chest / collar bone. Drive your heels into the floor and your upper back into the bench so you are locked in and stable. 
  • As you bring the bar down towards your chest, bring it towards the midline of your chest, ensuring your keep the elbows slightly tucked inwards.
  • Let the bar come all the way down to your chest, at the lowest point your elbows should be around a 90-degree angle. Continue driving your back into the bench and push the bar back up to the starting position.
Incline barbell chest press


Cable Exercises

Cable movements are a great accompaniment with your barbell and dumbbell exercises. Cable exercises give you some stability with the freedom of movement to target your muscles exactly where you want to feel it and can be your main isolation (single muscle, single joint movement) exercises for your chest. Changing the angle in which you perform the exercises can massively impact what part of your chest you target and these variables should be considered if wanting to target a certain part of your chest during your programme.

Standing Cable Press:

  • Stand yourself in between the cable. Adjust each pin level so that they are in line with your chest before you start. Once they are in line with your chest grab both handles and take a step or two forward.
  • Once you are stepped out with both handles in each hand, drive your feet into the floor so you are stable (you can take a split stance, or have both feet together). Retract your scapula which will force you to keep your chest high.
  • As this is a press, the hands are going to stay narrow (just outside your chest) and they are going to go in a straight line as your press forward.
  • As you drive the handles forwards, drive your biceps across your chest but keep the handle in the same line, don’t bring them narrow at the top of the movement.

Seated Cable Press:

  • This time put a bench in front of the cable, at a 90-degree angle. Again, line each pin level so they are in line with your chest. Pull out each handle and sit yourself down on the bench.
  • Retract your scapula and drive your upper back into the bench, drive your feet into the floor so you are stable.
  • Keep the hands narrow (just outside your chest) continue to drive your back into the bench and drive the hands forwards. Forcing your biceps into your chest whilst keeping your hands in the same line as the start position.
  • At the end of the rep your arms should be in a fully lengthened position. As you bring the hands back towards your chest continue to keep your back dug into the bench with your chest pushed up.

Lying Incline Fly:

  • Bring a bench into the cables, set up at a 45-degree angle. Move each pin level to the lowest setting. When your lay yourself back on the bench, the handles should be in line with your chest. Move the bench if necessary so the handles aren’t coming from in front or behind your chest.
  • As this movement is a fly rather than a press, the hand position will be slightly different. At the start of the movement, push both handles up so your arms start in a fully lengthened position. This time make both palms face each other, with a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Continue to keep this arm and hand positioning throughout. Allow the hands to come away from each other and open up, continue to open the hands up until your elbows are in line with your chest, at this point your chest should be in a stretched position.
  • Keeping the same arms position, drive your hands back up towards the start position, forcing your biceps in towards your chest (This motion can be thought off as if you are trying to draw a circle with your hands).

Your scapula should stay retracted throughout the movement and your chest should not collapse as you drive the handles back up towards the starting point.

Reece Halsey

Impact Personal Trainer