Tone your pecs — part 1

Chest exercises and technique

If you’re looking to shape up and tone your pecs, here's the exercises and training tips to help you get your pecs, chest, and other muscles, into great shape.

Toned pecs (pectorals or chest muscles) are high on most men's muscle wish list, and that strong, sculpted look can be achieved with correct physical training. Chest training isn't solely a male preserve; a strong chest enhances the torso of both men and women, and women should not neglect upper body exercises.

As part of a correctly balanced conditioning programme, a well developed chest brings you a whole range of benefits which including increased strength, offsetting upper skeletal osteoporosis, making clothes fit and hang well and improving your general body-confidence. So if you’re looking to get your pecs into great shape then read on.

How to tone your pecs

Which muscles are worked by training the chest?

The primary muscles that we are concerned with for the chest are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. However, when training the chest, additional muscles will come into play, particularly the tricep muscles — found underneath the upper arm. This is because for many chest exercises, the arms are the ‘tools’ we use to help train the chest. So an additional benefit of chest training is arm training as well!

A healthy chest

We’ve all seen pictures of men with tremendous chest definition. However, it is important to realise that these pictures rarely tell the complete story. The bodybuilding models featured are usually photographed pre-competition; when they have spent weeks dieting down to achieve such a chiselled look. Trying to achieve such an extremely low level of body fat is neither healthy nor sustainable.

Once the competition is over, the models revert to a normal diet and whilst their chest strength remains the same, the muscles are less visible due to a light and healthy covering of body fat. Just because you can’t see specific muscles doesn’t mean that they’re not there! Body fat is necessary for good health and simply focusing on lowering your body fat should not be your goal. Instead, focus on healthy nutrition and correct exercises to tone up your pecs and the results will follow.

Chest exercises for training your pecs

When training your chest, it is important to incorporate chest-specific exercises into an all-over body programme so that you remain in complete musculo-skeletal balance. If you simply focus on exercises to tone your chest and nothing else, you will unbalance the body which can lead to postural problems. Hence it is important to balance out chest exercises with upper back exercises. There are a huge range of chest exercises but if you focus on just a few, they can easily be integrated into your usual sessions without taking up too much extra time.

Exercise Number
Exercise
Primary muscle groups
Area of body
1
Dumbbell press
Pectorals and triceps
Chest and back of upper arm
2
Press-up
Pectorals and  triceps
Chest and back of upper arm
3
Dumbbell flye
Pectorals
Chest only
4
Seated row
Rhomboids and biceps
Upper back
(to maintain body in balance)
5
Dumbbell reverse flye
Rhomboids, rear deltoids
Upper back
(to maintain body in balance)

 


Chest exercise technique:

Chest exercise for toned pecs 1: Dumbbell press

Lie on your back on a bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at ear level. Slowly push the dumbbells up towards the ceiling until your arms are almost locked out. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position. Repeat.

Chest exercise for toned pecs 2: Press-up

Lie face down on the floor, palms down, slightly wider than shoulder width apart, pivoting on either your knees (easier) or toes (harder). Slowly push your body off the floor until your arms are virtually straight and then lower back to the start position. Keep the body horizontal like a plank throughout. Repeat.

Chest exercise for toned pecs 3: Dumbbell flye

Lie flat on a bench on your back, feet on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms together, vertically above the chest. Slowly open out your arms, lowering the weights until they are at shoulder height. With a ‘pincer-type’ movement, return the weights to the start position and repeat.

Chest exercise for toned pecs 4: Seated row

Sit upright facing the machine, holding the bar/handle with both hands. Slowly pull the handle into the lower stomach area, keeping the elbows tucked. Return to the start position and repeat.

Chest exercise for toned pecs 5: Dumbbell reverse flye

Lie face down across a stability ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Slowly open up the arms like a bird flapping their wings, keeping the arms almost straight and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly return the weights to the start position and repeat.

For more information on how to get perfect pecs check out Tone your pecs — part 2

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