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Muscle Growth, Bodybuilding

Building a Bigger Chest - Everything You Need to Know

By Shannon Cole on Feb 12, 2024 9:00:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time

Chest Day is one of the most sought-after lifting sessions of the week. There is nothing like chest pressing a heavy barbell and getting a nice pump throughout your upper torso. The chest press and its variations are probably the most popular exercises to choose from for those looking for a bigger chest, and it is a movement that should be practiced almost daily (at varying intensities).

But before you go out and start loading the barbell, there is a right way—and a wrong way—when trying to achieve bigger pecs. This article will go over everything you need to know. 

A Need For Intensity

If you want a bigger chest, you’re going to need to put in the work. If your heart rate isn’t going up, you’re not working up a sweat, or you don’t get that all-out exhaustion your muscles experience when pushed to the limit, there isn’t enough being done to actually GROW the muscle.

A novice will probably see a pretty quick response when they start weight training, no matter the number of sets and reps. But for someone who has been training a while, there needs to be a pivot toward being okay with being uncomfortable, and essentially test the limits.

If you have been steady in the 8 to 12 rep range, now is the time to lower the reps and increase the weight. Aim for 4 to 8 reps, and increase the sets to 4 to 6, all depending on how the rest of your workout is structured. If the workout is programmed to encompass about 5 to 6 exercises, you can probably aim for that 6 sets. But if you have more than 6 exercises planned for your workout, stick with 4 to 5.

You don’t want to lift a weight outside your capabilities (and you should always consider a spotter) but it is okay to test your boundaries. If you don’t push yourself, you won’t initiate muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of producing new muscle protein.

Choose the Right Exercises

It goes without saying that the right exercises make all the difference. Unfortunately, some people think they need to reinvent the wheel, and try movements that are creative and unique because they “look cool.”

To grow a bigger chest, the traditional exercises are the way to go.

Fortunately, there are so many bench press variations you can choose from to help prevent boredom. You can switch it up from dumbbells to kettlebells and even sandbags, and you have the options to consider flat, incline, and decline positions.

I have been asked if push-ups can help with developing a bigger chest. It absolutely can be added to your repertoire, but I see push-ups as being more beneficial for enhancing muscle definition, and not necessarily for growth. There is a difference!

Muscle hypertrophy is achieved when following more of a bodybuilder workout, where chiseled muscles and perfect physiques are the goal; this is done with higher rep ranges. Push-ups are an excellent movement to include, because they are typically done at a higher rep range. However, greater muscle definition can make it appear that your chest IS bigger, even if measurements say otherwise.

When it comes to triceps and deltoids, which can compliment a bigger chest, wait until the end of the workout to isolate those muscles; stressing the smaller muscles can make bigger lifts later on more difficult, because as small as those muscles are, they are loads of help during chest exercises!

In the end, you don’t need to complicate your workouts. Just stick to the basics.

You Need to Eat

Bigger muscles mean you need to have a bigger appetite. This isn’t an invitation to go nuts and eat whatever you want, but you will need to increase your caloric and protein intake. You’ll probably need to increase how many carbs you are eating as well, because the energy we get from carbs is what helps power us through our lifts!

Start by increasing your total calories by 10 to 20%. For someone who normally eats 2500 calories, the caloric goal should be closer to 2750–3000 calories. Twenty percent can seem like a big jump, so start with 10%, and go from there.

As far as protein, you should aim for AT LEAST 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, per day. With the right planning, it is possible to hit these numbers; when your nutrition is dialed in, achieving a bigger chest becomes way easier.

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Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole is an ISSA certified personal trainer and lives in the Dallas area. She is a certified nutrition coach through NASM and NCI, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. After obtaining her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication she eventually gravitated to personal training, and hasn't turned back since. Her passion for athletics and fitness initially stemmed from her high school years playing golf, and her love for the sport still hasn't faded; her career goal is to obtain her Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certification and develop strength and conditioning programs for golfers. You can usually find her working out in her garage gym, or training for the next Spartan Race with her husband.

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