Your Best Chest - Here's Why You Need to Work Your Chest

Here's How to Work that Chest

Man Using Exercise Machine
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One of the largest muscle groups in the upper body, the chest muscles are made up of the pectoralis major and, underneath that, the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major which is the larger muscle actually has two parts - an upper portion (called the clavicular head) and the lower portion (called the sternal head).

Now, just because there are two different areas of the chest, that doesn't mean you can separate them.

Any chest exercise you do will work the entire area but, some exercises will stimulate the chest in different ways.

For example, a chest press involves the entire pectoralis major with a focus on the lower portion of the chest. By moving to an incline position, you still work the entire pectoralis major, but now the focus shifts to the upper portion of the chest.

That's one reason why there are so many variations for each exercise - by changing the movement, the angle and/or the type of resistance, you'll recruit different muscle fibers and challenge your body in new ways. 

The chest muscles are responsible for moving the arms across the body and up and down, as well as other movements like flexion, adduction, and rotation. Most chest exercises will involve pushing the arms away from the body or the body away from the arms.

Why You Need to Work Your Chest

Because your chest includes some of the largest muscles in the upper body, you use those muscles all day long.

 Any time you push open a door, wash a wine glass or even wash your hair, your chest muscles are working, so it's important to keep them strong for all your daily activities.

Here's another important reason to work your chest - Those muscles are involved in helping you get up and down from the floor.

 Think about a pushup.  That movement, of course, involves you pushing your body up and then down.  But think what would happen if you fell or just needed to get up from the floor?  The stronger your chest muscles are, the stronger your entire body is.  We all need to have the strength to get up and down from the floor.

Last, your chest muscles are big and can handle more weight, which allows you to burn more calories. In fact, when you work your chest, your shoulders and arms are also involved allowing you to burn even more calories. A chest workout also serves as a great warm-up for those smaller muscle groups.

How Often Should You Train Your Chest?

You can work your chest up to 3 non-consecutive days a week. However, if you're lifting heavy weights (enough that you can only complete 6 to 8 repetitions) you'll need at least 2-3 days of rest before you perform the exercises again.

For this reason, you may only work your chest once or twice a week. If your goal is to tone your muscles, you'll want to stick with one to three sets of 12-16 repetitions and at least one day of rest before you perform the exercises again.

What Exercises Should You Do?

Some of the most common chest exercises include pushups, chest presses, and chest flies. Choose a mixture of different exercises to target your chest from a variety of directions and make sure you vary your routine every 4-6 weeks to avoid plateaus. 

If you just want to get strong and fit, you'll work your chest along with other muscle groups, as in this Upper Body Pyramid Workout or this Total Body Workout.  If you're trying to build size, you may work your chest by itself with a variety of exercises.

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