The best exercises for building a bigger, and leaner, chest

Building a bigger chest versus leaning up is as similar a journey as a Kuta Beach bucks do is to a family cultural exchange to Europe. The timing, weights, exercises, and methodologies employed are poles apart, and everyone should know the difference.

Getting huge? Or leaning up? Here's how to build a better beach chest:

Building a bigger chest

I spoke with Hollywood personal trainer Mike Ryan - who has worked on movies like Fight Club to Bollywood flicks and is in the gym with celebs like Mickey Rourke,The Rock and Arnie - and asked his thoughts on five requirements to build a bigger chest:

1. Max weights

To get bigger and stronger, you must train heavier with weights. High repetitions won't cut it. Hypertrophy training is about maximum load and tempo.

2. Nutrition

You build a bigger house with more bricks, and you build a bigger chest with more calories. Gains training requires mass nutrition.

3. Beginners

Exhibit patience, dedication, discipline and drive. Chest growth doesn't happen overnight. Train smart, with less ego.


4. The best chest exercises are...

Incline dumbbell bench press, flat dumbbell bench press, cable flys, push-ups, and chest dips.

5. Mistakes

Poor form and tempo. Rushing the eccentric (down) phase on the bench press and bar-bouncing off the chest directly contrasts with TTUT methodology. You don't build a bigger chest with fast repetitions.

What's TTUT? Total Time Under Tension is what bodybuilders use to build size. They don't do 10 bench press reps in 10 seconds – rather eight-12 reps that reach failure with a set time around 40 seconds (three seconds down, one second up for 10 reps = 40 seconds). Building muscle size is about heavier loads and the total time a muscle is under tension.

Building a lean chest

The most common gym fail is hitting the bench (or machine) press when you should be face down, not face up. With 70 per cent of Aussies overweight, I'd advise going old school with the push-ups.

Incline push-ups. Decline. Wide grip. Close grip. Planks into push-ups. Burpees. Plyometric push ups. Raised leg. Cross body. One armed…There are endless ways to work the entire chest, and it all starts with the classic push up – a compound movement that work many more muscles than just the pecs.

If your goal is less mass, more strength and a lean chest, here's a 20 push-up test:

  • Grab two 10kgs dumbbells to use as push up handles.
  • Perform a push-up with the down phase lasting two seconds.
  • The brim of your baseball cap should hit the ground – that's full range of motion.
  • Push up at the count of one second.
  • Twenty push ups should last exactly 60 seconds.

Sadly, I'd estimate 80 per cent of Aussie males can do zero-to-five push ups. If you are in the six-to-10 range, be patient; keep working. Eleven to 15? You're building strength. Sixteen-to-20? You're lean, strong, and can challenge your chest while holding the plank position for one minute – that's solid.

Get it off your chest

With a skipping rope, I'll perform a round of 150 skips, 15 push ups (with tempo), 15 squats, 15 sit-ups, and five burpees. All of us can do three, four, or five rounds in the hotel, back garden, or the gym. Those head-to-toe exercises in leaning up are simple – the challenge lies in your commitment to your health and body.

In 2017, I fear the modern man (more in touch with feelings, boutique beers, and burgers) is physically softer and rounder than a brioche bun. "Drop and give me 20" is no longer a punishment, it's an impossibility. It's soon to be another lost, Latin phrase that is a serious sign of poor fitness and wellness.

Getting huge or leaning up takes time, commitment, sweat, and nutrition – your body deserves it, right?

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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Already started on a summer body transformation goal? Share your experience in the comments section below.