• July 4, 2022

A Chest to Impress

Our physical appearance gives the world a first impression about ourselves. It can either show a personality that is confident and powerful or one that is timid and mild. The body part that gets noticed first is the chest muscles or in science terms the pectorals. From the days of our forefathers who were hunters and gatherers, a big strong chest gave a message to would be attackers to back off or stay away. In today’s modern cosmopolitan world a strong chest that fills out a shirt or business suit tells the world that the individual is confident and should be treated with respect irrespective of his position. That is why in the military there is a minimum chest requirement to qualify to enlist. This is because a big and strong chest indicates masculinity or machismo so to speak.

A developed chest holds equal benefits for a woman but in different ways due to her different physical structure from a man. For a woman a developed chest brings out the femininity in that region of her body, showing her physical beauty whilst giving her increased upper body strength.

For both men and women a developed chest shows confidence and enables us to push away danger. The chest muscles helps us push objects away and gives us speed and power, that is why it is a very important muscle group. In competitive sports the chest is strengthened to improve performance especially for sports like rugby, track and field, boxing, swimming, wrestling and martial arts. In short, an individual with a strong chest is not going to be easy to push around because he or she can push back!

HOW TO BUILD A STRONGER CHEST

The chest muscles consists of two parts, the upper and lower chest. In this article we are going to talk about developing the overall chest muscles. If you wish to progress in your training then there are exercises that specifically target the different parts and angles of the chest which we hope to discuss in future articles. To build a house a strong foundation is most important. To build a strong body the basic exercises should be done correctly. Even as you further your training you should still continue the basic exercises as they are the best for overall strength training.

THE PUSH UP/PRESS UP

The basic exercise to build the chest muscles is the standard push up. This is a body-weight exercise that does not require any equipment and can be done in the comfort of your home or even bedroom. Many people have built strong and powerful chests by doing lots of push ups. Push ups is one of the qualifying exercises for entry into most of the armed forces all around the world. The standard push up works mainly the chest but also works the shoulders and triceps.

This is how to do a standard push up/press up (See Photos for Demonstration)

1. Place your palms slightly wider than your shoulders in line with your middle chest. Your fingertips should point in front of you.
2. Keep your back straight and your feet should rest on your toes. An imaginary line should run from your heel to your head.
3. Go down slowly until your chin is close to the floor as possible without touching the floor. Only bend your elbows and maintain a straight back.
4. Breathe in when going down and breath out when coming up. Keep a steady pace at all times.

Your first goal should be to do 1 push up with perfect form. Then increase the number gradually until you can do 10 good push ups without stopping. When you are able to do 10 pushes ups without stopping then take a 2 to 3 minutes rest and do another set of 10 push ups. Aim to do 3 to 5 sets of 10 push ups, with a 2 to 3 minute rest in between sets.

It is best to do push ups 3 times a week with a day’s rest in between the workout. This will give your muscles a chance to rest and grow stronger. After about a month you will notice your chest developing and your arms will also tone up. Your upper body will become stronger. If your goal is to be toned and strong then doing push ups alone is fine for your chest.

THE BENCH PRESS

The main weight lifting exercise for building upper body strength is the bench press. This exercise strengthens and builds the whole chest. It is known as a compound exercise because though it targets mainly the chest, it also works and strengthens a range of other muscles such as:

  • Anterior Deltoids (Shoulder Muscle)
  • Trapezius (Upper Back Muscle)
  • Biceps brachii and Triceps brachii (Muscles of the upper arm)
  • Brachioradialis (Forearms)

Please note that the muscles in the legs also get worked in a smaller capacity during the bench press.

Execution of the Bench Press

1. It is best that the bar is a standard 45 lb(20kg) Olympic bar. Also it is advised that you have someone watching over you ready to assist in difficulty so you do not hurt yourself.

2. Lie on a flat bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Your body should rest comfortably and your buttocks and head should be firmly rested on the bench.

3. Grip the bar at a width slightly wider than your shoulders.

4. Arch your back slightly then Lift the bar to your arm’s length. Keep it parallel to your middle chest (nipples).

5. Make sure the bar is straight and its weight is evenly distributed. Your eyes should face the ceiling above the bar. Hold this position till you feel comfortable with the weight.

6. Inhale and lower the weight at a medium pace to just above your nipples. (Do not bounce the bar off your chest). Your elbows should go down to a 45 degree angle. The bar should come to a complete stop at this point

7. Then exhale while pushing the bar away from your chest to the start position. Maintain a controlled medium pace throughout the exercise.

8. Warm up with just the bar for 2 sets of 10 repetitions before you begin your working sets(With plates).

9. When you add the plates on to the bar do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions with a 2 to 3 minutes rest in between sets.

10. Do not be in a hurry to lift heavier weights, increase the pounds gradually.

11. Make sure you maintain the correct form at all times.

Poorna Kahingala is a personal trainer for many high profile people in the country.He is a former Sri Lankan National Weightlifting Champion and record holder. Poorna has also been the manager for the Sri Lankan Weightlifting Team. He has represented his school Nalanda College in rugby. Poorna is an International referee for weightlifting. Poorna is a member of the Asian Weightlifting Committee making him the first ever Sri Lankan to be elected to this committee.

For advice Poorna can be contacted via poornakahingala@ymail.com

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