The chest press is undeniably one of the best upper-body strengthening exercises that work the pectoralis, deltoids and triceps muscles. You may have heard some muscle guys bragging — and mostly over exaggerating — about how much they can bench, but reality is, you don’t need to pack on hundreds of pounds for a chest press to be an effective exercise. Using a resistance band can be just as effective and allows for greater mobility and variation.
The chest press is a fairly simply exercise. But even though it is simple it can still be hard. You lie flat on your back — usually on a bench, which is why it’s also called bench press — and press a weight — or a resistance band — vertically up away from your chest until your arms are extended. When you draw your elbows close to your sides you can also target your triceps and when you flare out your elbows away from your body, you target mostly the pectoralis muscles.
The pecs are literally front and center in your upper body. The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle on either side of the chest and the pectoralis minor — a smaller muscle — is located in the upper part of the chest beneath the pectoralis major. Together we simply refer to these muscles as pecs and they cover the entire chest. The pectoralis major helps to pull the arm across the front of our body (adduction) and together with the subscapularis — one of the rotator cuff muscles — it allows us to rotate our arm inward. The pectoralis minor helps to draw the shoulder forward and downward in opposition to the trapezius muscle.
The serratus anterior is also part of the chest muscles. It is located more laterally in the chest wall and its function is to rotate the scapula, which allows the arms to be raised over 90 degrees.
To work the chest, chest press and push-ups are among the best, most effective exercises you can do, so we put together a workout that includes chest press, push-ups and to add a little variety, we also include some abs. With the gyms closed right now, you need to get creative with your workouts, so simply take a resistance band, go to the park, find a bench and work your chest and abs.
Working your chest muscles does more for you than just give you a good look. You need pecs in a variety of daily movements and exercises. Whether you push open a door, wash your hair or get up and down from the floor, it’s important to keep your chest muscles strong for daily activities. And keep in mind, the stronger your chest muscles, the strong your entire body.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the chest press is one of the best exercises you can to to get strong chest muscles and build upper body strength. So let’s have a closer look at what chest press can do for you.
#1 Improved Posture
Usually the shoulders and back get all the attention when it comes to posture. But given that the pecs are the largest muscle in the upper body, they do play an equally important role in improving and maintaining good posture and creating upright stability. However, if you don’t pay attention to stretching your pecs, tight pecs could lead to a rounded back. Generally speaking, a balance between strong pecs and a strong back gives you the biggest boost to your posture and an added bonus for women… strong pecs add height to the chest wall and lift droopy breasts.
#2 Enhanced Function
When you create strong pecs, you improve your overall upper body strength and with that you boost your ability to push things whether that’s a heavy weight in the gym or a couch or stalled car. Together with the shoulders, pecs are also essential for throwing and swinging actions, so strong pecs help you in your tennis game, baseball match or on the golf course. Besides, you’ll have a much easier time lifting a child into your arms or win an arm-wrestling match.
#3 Better Breathing
This one goes along with better posture. When you fix your posture with strong pecs, you open up your chest and with that it’s a lot easier to breathe deeper and improve the quality of your breath. Particularly the pectoralis minor is helpful in the breathing process as this triangular muscle attaches at the middle of your 3rd, 4th and 5th ribs and every time you breathe in, the pectoralis minor stretches and with that allows the rib cage to expand. However, if the pecs are shortened, breathing can become difficult because we are not able to open up the diaphragm properly. However, if you lengthen and stretch your strong pec muscles — door stretches or Upward Facing Dog are great examples — you can improve your breath and with that oxygenation of all your muscles, which in turn improves your overall fitness.
#4 Increased Upper Body Strength
This kind of goes without saying, but one of the biggest benefits of improving pec strength is that you dramatically improve your upper body strength. Besides building strong pecs with the chest press, you also use the serratus anterior, which is the muscle around your rib cage and gives you that ‘wing’ look. The anterior and lateral deltoids also get a workout, which gives you broader shoulders. And let’s not forget, the triceps are activated as well. And while we have to of course separately work out abs and core, if you do the chest press right, your core muscles are engaged as well, but to a lesser degree.
#5 Increased Bone & Joint Health
Doing chest press on a regular basis where you work against the resistance of a weight or band puts pressure on your bones and weight baring exercises have huge bone building benefits. Working with resistance forces the cells in our bones to get activated and build new bone cells and with that increase bone health. At the same time chest press can help to maintain joint and cartilage health. As we all know, with age the cartilage between our joints start to wear down and deteriorate. This cartilage works like a sponge and has fluid in it that nourishes the cartilage. It needs to be replaced on a regular basis. When we squeeze out our cartilage during weight bearing exercises, it can be replaced with fresh fluid and with that we keep our joints healthy and strong.
#6 You’ll Look and Feel Better
Of course we all want to look and feel better and chest press can help us in this department as well. It is all about our own self-image and self-confidence and when we are in shape and have toned muscles, we feel better about ourselves. A 2012 study actually found that men’s as well as women’s perception of the ideal body included a toned chest.
As you can see, the chest press is a phenomenal exercise that you should include into your workout routine two to three times per week. And keep in mind, chest press is just as important for women as it is for men. So grab your resistance band and find a bench you can work with and don’t forget, you can also simply do push-ups — regular, inclined or declined — to get a similar effect.
If you are looking for more ab exercises to mix up your chest workout, check out our recent blog ‘7 Benefits of a Daily Core Workout’.
ENJOY THE PERKS OF STRONG PECS
Joschi & Monika