PURPOSE: Improving muscular strength with focus on the chest, leads to better health because it lowers the risk of shoulder injuries. Working large muscle groups such as your chest also helps burn calories more quickly. It improves athletic performance and the ability to do everyday tasks that involve pushing. A strong chest and developed pectoral muscles improves appearance in men and women.
GOAL: To execute the exercises to failure - that is, to work hard enough to exhaust the chest muscles. As you focus on your chest, you will also improve the strength of your shoulders and upper back. If you are using free weights, your core will also be involved. Start with one set of 12 to 15 repetitions and progress to multiple sets, more resistance and shorter rest periods.
TOOLS: Free weights, resistance machine, rubber tubing, elastic bands, body weight. Whether you are using dumbbells, barbells, bands, resistance machines or your own body weight, you will be developing the muscles of the chest and upper back. Free weights and resistance machines use constant resistance to challenge your muscles. Bands and tubing use variable resistance. Dumbbells require your body to stabilize, which will involve more muscle groups, including your abdominals, and provide a different stimulus than a barbell bench press. They also allow a fuller range of motion. Barbells limit the involvement of stabilizer muscles, require less coordination and allow you to use more weight. Using your own body weight and doing push-ups is a great alternative when no equipment is available.
REV IT UP OR TONE IT DOWN: You should exhaust the muscle, but you should never be in pain. Choosing the proper amount of resistance (weight) is crucial to achieving results and preventing injury. To develop lean muscle there must be overload to which the body must adapt. The amount of weight needed for overload will differ from muscle group to muscle group and person to person. The weight that fatigues your muscle in 12 to 15 repetitions is the proper weight for you. If at the end of 15 reps you are able to do more with proper form, you need more weight. If at the end of 15 reps it is difficult to complete the exercise, you probably have chosen the correct weight and will achieve results. Be prepared to add weight as muscles adapt and get stronger. With push-ups, complete a full range of motion and repeat until you are no longer able to lift your chest from the floor.
Light: Beginners, no weight-training experience - focus on learning proper form and technique rather than exhausting the muscle
Moderate: Regular exercisers, little weight-training experience - choose weight that challenges your muscles and progress
Intense: Avid exercisers, who strength train - increase resistance to challenge the muscles and focus on intensifying the workout with shorter recovery periods
Beginner: 10 to 30 minutes
Intermediate: 30 to 45 minutes
Advanced: 45 to 60 minutes
FREQUENCY: Two to three times a week. When strength training, muscles need 24 to 48 hours to recover. This is necessary for adaptation and strength gain. As your muscles respond to training, you should increase weight, add sets and/or change the exercise to ensure continued improvement.