chest workout

Everyone wants that super-hero well-balanced physique. As a matter of fact, the total number of gym membership in the United States increased by 14% from 2010 to 2017 and it is expected to see another drastic rise by 2021.

However, despite the desire to get ripped, it doesn’t come easy as most people just don’t know what steps to take to get there. This is especially when it comes to achieving well-developed shoulders and muscular chests.

What’s more? There are so many mistakes made when building chest and shoulder muscles that result in poor outcomes.

For instance, the shoulder muscle or deltoid has three heads (places where an attachment to the skeleton exists) and most times all three heads are neglected which results in a disproportionate look rather than the 3-dimensional look it was meant to achieve.

Nevertheless, with the right knowledge of your chests and shoulders anatomy as well as the right workouts to build your muscles the correct way you can achieve your desired look.  

Before we dive into the best workout for your shoulder or chest muscle let’s go over the anatomy of these sections of your body, so you know what exactly you’re building:

The Anatomy of Your Chest

The main muscles of your chest is called the pectoralis major. This muscle is made up of two different heads.

Now, these multiple heads are all linked to different parts of your skeleton. The sternocostal head is attached your rib cage and breastbone to your upper arm. While the clavicular head links your collarbone to your upper arm.

Asides from the pectoralis major, the chest muscle also includes the pectoralis minor.

This small muscle as seen above attaches your upper rib to the top of your shoulder bone. And it is right under the pectoralis major.

So why is this knowledge necessary? Well, muscles respond to exercises based on how the skeleton is attached to it.

For example, decline and flat bench presses cause only the sternocostal muscle head to respond, while the reverse or inclined grip bench press causes the clavicular head to respond.

So knowing what muscle you are building is vital to great outcomes.

The Anatomy of Your Shoulder

The shoulder is made up of 3 main muscles know as deltoids. These 3 deltoids are the lateral deltoid, anterior deltoid and the posterior deltoid as seen in the image below:

Hence, if you want a well-trimmed shoulder you have to ensure all these three heads are worked.  

When undergoing a chest workout, the anterior deltoid gets worked as well, however, the lateral and posterior muscle lose out and the chest workout has little to no effect on building them.

So, you have to focus more on the lateral and posterior deltoid during your shoulder workouts.

Here are 12 chest and shoulder workouts you can do right now:

Chest Workouts

There are numerous chest workouts you can do however, only a handful will produce meaningful results:

1. Flat Barbell Bench Press

2. Incline Barbell Bench Press

3. Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

4. Reverse-Grip Barbell Bench Press

5. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

6. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

1. Flat Barbell Bench Press

According to studies carried out by the Institute of Human Health, and California State University, it was seen that when you use heavyweights while doing a bench press you work every muscle fiber on your chest! That’s amazing, right?

The bench press is certainly one of the most unifying workouts you can do as it affects the pectoralis, triceps, shoulders lats and even your legs. What’s more?

Another research showed that the harder you carry out bench press the more your chest muscle expands!

These are just some of the reasons why the bench press is a must. However, as simple as a flat barbell bench press may seem there’s a bit of technicality to it.

In order to avoid injuries, you need to ensure that your back is flat on the bench with your eyes facing the bar, and then make sure a 90° angle exists between your forearm and bicep like the image below.

Also, during the lift, you need to view it more like you’re pushing than pressing.

Do this by pushing your torso towards the bench while you lift rather than pushing the bar up with the upward motion of your torso.

Furthermore, ensure that your elbows stay at a 30 to 60° to your torso during the descent of the bar. This will protect your shoulders from injury and keep your wrist safe as well.

2. Incline Barbell Bench Press

The flat barbell bench press is one of the most effective exercises there is for your body.

However, there are numerous variations of it that were developed for even better results.

One of them is the incline barbell bench press. Unlike the flat barbell bench press, it has greater effects on the middle section on your shoulder and your chest’s upper region.

Now, when doing an incline barbell bench press, you have to make sure the seat is between 30 to 45° like the image below, for the best results.

Basically, just try different angles between 30 to 45° and see which one works best for you.

3. Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

The close-grip barbell bench press is extremely effective in working your pectoralis muscle and also has a lot of effect on your triceps.

It is basically done just like a regular bench press with hand placement variations.

As the image below shows, your hands should be 6 inches apart from each other with your leg planted firmly on the ground.

When lifting, just like in the flat bench press you need to push your torso into the bench and ensure that the bar is directly above your chest.

However, it is important that you do this with a spotter to avoid harmful mishaps. Also, if you notice wrist or shoulder pains — there’s a possibility that your grip isn’t wide enough.

So, ensure you make it wide enough for your two index fingers to touch each other at their tips.

4. Reverse-Grip Barbell Bench Press

This is one of the most underutilized variations of the bench press; however, it’s one of the most powerful.

As a matter of fact, a recent study carried out on 12 builders engaging in over 5 variations found out that the reverse-grip barbell bench press had the most effect, with 25 to 30% chest activation.  

It is important to state though that when carrying out the reverse-grip it may feel a little awkward at first and you’ll have to use smaller weights but with time you’ll get used to it.

Here is how to properly lift:

And here is how to do a proper descent:

Keep in mind that your hands must be diagonal to the bar like the image above in order to avoid mishaps and effectively carry it out.

5. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

According to research carried out by the Norwegian Sogn Fodjone University on 12 bodybuilders and 2 other bench press variations.

It was seen that the flat dumbbell bench press had a similar effect on the pectoralis chest muscle and greater effect on the biceps than the regular bench press and smith machine bench press.

Hence, the results won’t be less effective than the regular bar bench press as most people think. It even permits a wider range of motion than the bar bench press would allow for.

It is vital to state though that when starting out you’ll need to use lesser weights due to the imbalance when using dumbbells.

Here is an example of how to ascent:

And here is how to do a descent properly:

6. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

The incline dumbbell bench press is similar to the flat dumbbell-bench-press; however, it is done with the bench set at a 30 to 45° angle.

This angle creates room for more motion and also is great for shoulder activation.

So, if you’re feeling a bit stiff with the bar bench press,  this will help you free up a bit due to the amount of motion it permits.

Here is an image on how to carry out the ascent:

And here is how to do the descent properly:

Shoulder Workouts

Just like chest workouts, there are some shoulder workouts that are more effective than others, so let’s see the best shoulder workouts:

  1. The Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
  2. Arnold Dumbbell Press
  3. Lateral Raise
  4. Dumbbell Shrugs
  5. Reverse Cable Fly
  6. Diving dolphin

7. The Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise

This work out helps in developing and strengthening the posterior deltoids this makes the upper back to be sturdy. It also helps to prevent rotator cuff which is a very common shoulder injury.

The seated bent-over rear delt raise helps to keep the body in a balanced position. If you want clearly defined shoulders then this should be the primary exercise you do.

It is, however, important to note that this exercise must be done properly before you can get the desired results.

To get it done the right way, follow the steps below:

  • First, it is important to get the standing position. To get the standing position accurately, take the following steps:
  • Sit on a flat bench, towards the edge of the bench then put your feet together on the ground.
  • When your feet are together, you gain maximum strength. If your feet are apart, you won’t get the best result.
  • Next, place two dumbbells of equal weight in your front so the dumbbells face forward, and bend forward to the waist region in such a way that your upper back is in a parallel line to the floor and let your chest meet your knees.
  • After this push your body so that it rests on your thigh then pick up the dumbbells and hold one in each hand and hold the dumbbells behind your calves.
  • Inhale and exhale deeply and lift the dumbbells after exhaling. Bend your hands slightly to lift the dumbbells. Also, ensure that the dumbbells are raised in a perpendicular line with the floor.

Here is how it should look:

This is the starting position. When you get this properly, proceed to execute the following exercise actions:

Raise the dumbbells to your sides until your two hands are in a parallel line to the floor.

However, don’t raise your arms while bringing them back to your sides and make sure you do not swing your torso.

With your arms still at a parallel line with the floor, slightly bend your elbows and hold.

Squeeze the shoulder blades together, after two counts, pause, and then slowly return the weights to the initial starting position.

Here is how it should look:

Repeat this process for 10 to 12 reps per round and do 3 rounds of it. Do the exercise for four consecutive days, weekly.

While doing this exercise, make sure that the dumbbells do not come in contact with each other. Also make sure that you do not raise your torso as you do the exercise, keep your body still.

8. Arnold Dumbbell Press

The Arnold dumbbell press is another great shoulder exercise. It is quite easy, but to be able to do it properly, you need to get the starting position right.

To get the right starting position, sit on an exercise bench that has back support and hold two dumbbells of equal weight in your hand.

Next, bring the dumbbells to your upper chest level and let your elbows be bent and your palms facing your body.

Let your arms be next to your sides. When you have done all these, your position will look like a contracted portion of a dumbbell curl.

When you get the starting position right, you can then proceed to start the exercise by following steps:

Raise the dumbbells by rotating the palms of your hands until they are facing forward.

And continue to lift the dumbbells until your arms are fully extended above you in a straight arm position.

Exhale as you perform the movement. With the dumbbells fully lifted, pause for a while and then rotate your palms towards you until the dumbbells are brought back to the original position.

Below is an image of the process:

Note: When doing the rotation, ensure that the right arm is rotated clockwise while the left arm is rotated counterclockwise.

9. Lateral Raise

If you want to have strong and well-defined shoulders then lateral raise is an important exercise that you should do.

The exercise helps to fill out your upper back and also targets the deltoids.

Your shoulders are the most mobile joints in your body hence strengthening the muscles that help to control and stabilize the shoulders is very important.

If the muscles of your shoulders are strong then it will be easy to lift, push and pull and that’s what lateral rises does.

Not only does lateral raise strengthen the shoulders, but it also helps you to have well-defined shoulders.

Like every exercise, you need to do the lateral raises well for you to get the desired result. To be able to achieve this, follow these steps.

Stand tall and place your feet, hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length by your sides.

Now, let your palms face inward and keep your elbows slightly bent and raise your arms directly out to your sides, until your arms are at shoulder level. Next, slowly lower the weight back to the starting point.

Note: To get the best result and get more lateral deltoid activation, try to rotate your hands in a way that your pinkies are a bit higher than your thumbs.

If you want to make lateral raises easier, use lighter dumbbells especially if you experience discomfort on your shoulder. And instead of lifting your arms out to your side, try to lift at 30 degrees to shoulder level.

If however, you wish to make the lateral raises harder, make use of heavier dumbbells and slowly make the move.

There are varieties of ways that you can do the lateral raise. If you do not want to do it while standing, you can try the move while sitting on a bench.

You can also raise your arms in front of you instead of raising them at the sides doing this will place more emphasis on your anterior deltoid.

10. Dumbbell Shrugs

The dumbbell shrug is a great exercise for building the traps. You won’t be moving the dumbbells so you can actually use heavy dumbbells. To accurately the exercise, follow these steps.

Stand erect with a Dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your torso.

Let your arms be fully extended on the side, and then lift the dumbbells by raising your shoulders as high as you can.

Exhale and hold the contraction at the top for about a second. Lower the dumbbells back to the original position and repeat the process again.

Note: Ensure that your arms are fully extended throughout the process and try not to use your biceps to lift the dumbbells.  

Dumbbells are not the only equipment you can use for this exercise, you can also make use of cables, bands or barbells. If you do not want to raise both hands at a time, you can work one side at a time.

11. Reverse Cable Fly

This exercise is targeted at the posterior deltoid. It is also good for the upper back and traps.

Developing the posterior deltoid will increase your shoulder size and strength and also balances the strength of your shoulder.

This exercise can either be done using a cable or a dumbbell, with a cable there is a steady resistance throughout the full rounds of motion but with dumbbells, the pressure happens towards the end of the movement.

Before starting the exercise, you need to get your starting position very well so that you can get the best out of the exercise. Follow these steps to get the right starting position.

Move one or two steps back when getting into position so that the weight will be lifted off the stack a little while keeping your torso upright and still ensure not to rock your torso back and forth when pulling.

Next, keep your arms straight but let your elbows slightly bent, this will help to protect your elbow joint. Once you have gotten the starting position, you can then proceed to the main workout.

To start, stand in front of a cable crossover apparatus that is set on a high pulley position and then hold each handle with crossed hands (this means that you should hold the right-handle with your left hand and hold the left-handle with your right hand) this will leave your hands crossed.

After this, hold out your hands straight in front of you at shoulder height.

For stability, put one leg behind the other; keep your back straight and your core tight. With the use of your rear days, pull your arms out to your sides and back.

Pull as far back as possible until your arms are lined with your back. Pause for a while and return back to the initial position. Repeat the procedure.

To stop the exercise, don’t drop the handles fast, move them back slowly to the starting position.

12. Diving dolphin

This exercise targets the anterior deltoids and it does not require the use of any equipment. This is great because you can do it in the comfort of your home.  

The diving dolphin exercise enhances the stability of the shoulder. And it comes with your hands and feet in a fixed position. To do this exercise, follow these steps.

  • First, you need to get the starting position right by doing the following. Position yourself in a forearm plank position. Let your elbows be under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
  • Now, move your feet in towards your arm to about eight to twelve inches. When you do this your hips will be slightly elevated.
  • After you have gotten the starting position, proceed to start the exercise by doing the following.  Move your hips, with your body in a straight line and then drive your shoulders forward to hover over your wrists.

To return to the starting position, reverse the movement.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether you’re trying to give your shoulders that 3D shape or achieve a wider and bigger chest, you need to know the right exercises to accomplish this and not go at random.

However, it is necessary to note that you need to take safety precautions whenever you’re lifting bars.

And one of the ways to do this is to always have a spotter around you. This would be beneficial in case you snap a wrist or shoulder challenge during the bar ascent.

Following this guide will help you get the best out of your workout session as those chest and shoulder exercises are the best when you’re looking to get dramatic results.