Just like pretty much any male gym-goer, I enjoy having and working towards a massive and perhaps impressive chest. Pectoral muscles. Pecs, if you may. Some men out there are blessed with genes which make those pecs blow up like a balloon the minute they've started working out. Others seem to try and try and never get anywhere. But how do you actually grow your pecs in order to make your chest look and feel massive?
The answer is often simple, but people tend to overthink and overcomplicate everything. The big picture is pretty simple: Train your pectoral muscles (& triceps+shoulders!) properly, eat a surplus for hypertrophy and be consistent and you will manage a chest you can have dinner for two on.
Sounds simple right? Moving from this point, people make all kinds of mistakes that are totally unnecessary if you have read the right material.
Okay, so the training part. Exercises. Which ones are best, how much and how often. Tell me everything. Right? I'll tell you much allright, everything you need to get you started and going a very long way.
Every muscle in the human body that you use has at least SOME kind of growing potential. Your chest, however, is packed with fast-twitch muscle fibers. No matter who you are or what your genetic makeup is, your chest will always have a relatively large amount of fast-twitch muscle fiber. And this is good news to all the flat-chested boys out there: fast-twitch muscle fibers have a great growing potential. You can literally make your chest muscles quite larger.
The best way of training your chest is just as simple as any other muscle group: slowly increase your workout volume. So reps and sets. But you especially want to increase sets, since you want to stay within a certain rep range that is most favourable to your pectoral muscles. As a beginner, I would recommend starting with 3-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions per training. For an intermediate, I would already be heading towards 4-5 sets and for an advanced athlete 5-6 sets may be needed. You will need to do this at least twice a week, but preferably as often as your body allows you to do so. No need to be doing 5 different exercises. One single chest exercise per training should be more than sufficient for any male out there. The best exercises out there in my opinion are very few, if you take into account the amount of pectoral muscle activation, range of motion and safety: (click on the links for instructional video's!)
- Barbell Bench Press
- Weighted Push Ups
- Machine Chest Press
- (Single) Dumbbell Press
- Seated/Lying Cable Chest Press
Now, it's important you pick one or two exercises and STICK TO IT. If you keep switching up your exercises you are never going to master the exercise and truly challenge your muscles into overcoming the increasingly difficult resistance instead of the mastery of the exercise. That's a mouthful you shouldn't forget. Consistency is everything.
As to training, it's important you also properly train your shoulders and triceps in approximately the same manner. Your triceps and shoulders are supporters of every single chest exercise. Weak or underdeveloped triceps or shoulders could lead to stagnation. You don't wanna keep those milk jugs flat now do you?
Nutrition is also a crucial factor. To get bigger, you must eat to get bigger. But don't fool yourself okay? You don't need a week's worth of food every day to make that happen. In order to achieve bigger muscles, eg. hypertrophy, you will need to have a calorie surplus. A light calorie surplus, between 1-25% above of what your body needs. There are a billion calorie counters out there, but the Mifflin - St Jeor and Harris-Benedict formula's are among the best. Calculate your caloric need and add the calories. Eat enough proteins (2 g/kg bodyweight for all of you alpha monkeys out there) and don't forget enough fat as well (approx. 30% of your diet should be fats!). Easy peasy. No need to make things overly complicated.
And lastly, the most important part is being consistent and carefully measure your progress. For crying out loud, write your darned weights down and stick to your programme! This is probably the most seen pitfall in every fitness professional's career. And I want to prevent YOU from falling into it. So stick to your programme, add more weights every week and watch your pec's become stronger and grow.
This is all of course a simplification, if you are experiencing problems there could be a few other things that could be wrong. Think about your technique, your sleep, stress levels, injuries and much more. You should hire a coach. Probably me, you know :)
Go get those man boobies growing boys!