The pectorals of the chest are the most universally popular muscle group to train and the centre of any well-rounded bodybuilding physique.
The feeling of a good pump in the chest after an intense set of dumbbell presses is intoxicating, as suddenly your upper body starts popping with definition and size.
Most people stick to the most well-known compound movements week in week out when working on their chest – Bench Press, Dumbbell Press, Dumbbell Flys etc. – but to really build mass any good routine should be varied and switched up regularly.
As great as the main lifts are, constantly repeating the same exercises in the gym will lead to plateaus and a lack of significant progress. So it is completely necessary to have an arsenal of different movements at your disposal, constantly changing the stimulus in order to shock your muscles into growth.
This article will highlight 3 little-known exercises which are fantastic for adding lean muscle and size to your chest, whilst also serving to freshen up any stale routines. Use them as part of your bodybuilding regime at your discretion, incorporating different training methods and techniques as you see fit.
LANDMINE CHEST PRESS
One of the best movements in the gym for building a symmetrical upper chest, the Landmine press is simple to perform but also extremely challenging.
To execute this exercise perfectly you must begin by setting up a bar in the same fashion as you would for a T-Bar Row;
loading a plate or plates of your choice (depending on your level of strength) on one end of the bar to prop it above the ground.
You may also want a spongey mat of some kind to place in front of the weight because you will be kneeling for your starting position. This kind of press can be uncomfortable and debilitating for the knees without support.
Now from your position knelt down in front of the bar, simply grasp the end with both hands and hold them together for full control of the weight. Maintaining a neutral spine with a slight lean toward the bar, you will then push the weight up and away from you. Keep your elbows close to your body and maintain an upright posture with your shoulders retracted.
Try to perform between 6-10 repetitions with a full range of movement, nearly touching your chest in the downward phase and fully extending in the upward phase.
Upon completion, you will almost certainly be gasping for breath and clasping your chest in pain, having full exerted your muscles. This is a great exercise to do in pyramid or drop sets, due to the ease of adding and removing the weights.
Landmine Press steps summarised:
- Kneel down in front of the bar
- Grasp the end of the bar firmly with both hands
- Lean forward slightly and push the weight up and away from your body
- Bring the bar back down, stopping just before you hit your chest
- Repeat for 6-10 rep’s
DUMBBELL FLOOR PRESS
This movement is most effective for reducing the stress on the shoulders when pressing, which is often quite significant in traditional pressing exercises.
By laying completely flat on the floor you are able to isolate your chest to a greater extent, as you will also be taking your legs out of the equation. Your triceps will also be more prominent as an antagonist muscle during this exercise.
For an exercise to overload your chest and optimise gains in muscle mass, few are more effective than a well-executed floor press. Not only that but anyone familiar with bench pressing generally will be able to perform this movement comfortably.
The only tricky part is getting the dumbbells up into the starting position initially, which if done incorrectly can damage your elbows. Therefore the best practice is to first place the weights on your thighs, before slowly leaning back and pushing up as you move into a flat position on your back. Alternatively, if you have a regular training partner you can use them as a spotter to hand you the dumbbells in each hand.
From your starting position begin to lower the weight in a controlled fashion, keeping your elbows tucked in and focusing on a good chest contraction. Once your upper arm makes contact with the floor, push the weight back up for your next repetition. Do not allow your elbows to touch the ground before that next rep, because you will again risk elbow damage whilst also putting unwanted strain on the shoulders.
Use a weight somewhere between 40-70% of your 1 rep max and aim to complete 8-10 good reps.
Floor press steps summarised:
- Assume the position with your back flat on the floor and the weights held at the top of the movement.
- Lower the dumbbells slowly keeping the elbows tight to your body.
- Come down to the point of contact between your upper arm and the floor
- Push back up fully extending for a full muscular contraction
- Repeat for 8-10 reps.
REVERSE GRIP INCLINE BARBELL PRESS
Another fantastic exercise for targeting the upper chest, using a reverse grip on an incline press can produce a greater muscle tearing effect than the traditional grip for this movement.
A spotter will be needed at all times when performing this type of barbell press because it is more difficult and awkward to get into position for this particular grip.
This exercise is perhaps underused for that exact reason and I would never recommend attempting it without a partner. However, if you can manage to include it in your routine you will reap the benefits of one of the best alternative chest exercises in the gym for moulding your upper body into perfect shape.
Firstly, grab the bar shoulder width apart incorporating the reverse grip, before then allowing your spotter to slowly unhook and lower the weight with you. Once in your upright position holding the bar fully extended, proceed to bring down the weight to the middle of your chest. Stop just before you make contact with your body and then push the bar back up to the fully extended position above your upper chest.
It is advisable to use a lower weight than you would for a traditional grip press because this exercise can be quite taxing on your wrists and generally uncomfortable, particularly just starting out. So between 30-60% of your 1RM will do, making sure you focus on a full range of movement and a proper contraction with each rep.
Reverse grip incline barbell press steps summarised:
- Take up the reverse grip and bring the bar into position with the help of a training partner
- Begin your descent, controlling the weight down slowly, elbows tucked in
- Stop at the midpoint of your chest, just before the point of contact
- Press back up to your starting position, fully extending for a full chest squeeze
- Repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
Building a lean, defined and vascular chest takes time and hard work, but there are plenty of ways to maximise your gains in the gym.
The 3 exercises I have introduced you to today will be great additions to your programme which will help you on your path to achieving the upper body of your dreams.
Remember to use a spotter wherever possible and focus not so much on lifting the heaviest weight possible, but on performing clean lifts and full repetitions.