A set of well developed pectoral (chest) muscles on any man symbolises good upper body strength. With most women shapely breasts take a higher priority!
So, though the methods for training this particular part of the body are markedly similar in some respects, the aims and objectives of such training would be totally different. Most guys desire the much talked about ‘v-taper’, characterised by a good pair of chest muscles on an equally impressive pair of shoulders with a tiny waist to go with it. It is aesthetically pleasing to any connoisseur of body shape and symmetry.
For women the general emphasis has been the desire to keep their “boobs” pointing “northwards” rather than drooping “southwards”. This desire has influenced the development of various types of bras. Plastic surgery represents the extreme form of the “quick fix” method. Contentment or otherwise with breast size and shape will always be a personal thing. Some feel happy with what they’ve got whereas for many others it is the entire opposite.
Here, our concern will be with those who want to work on firming the muscles around the breast tissue through the combined use of resistance training and weight reduction. If you choose to go along this road then, read on, ladies. Or skip the next bit, as I first deal with the lads.
Chest Training – Men
The chest is by far the most popular bodypart guys love to train in the gym. Especially during the summer months. The principal reason for this is obvious; Psychologically we tend to give priority to those bodyparts we perceive visually in the mirror and which at the same time are aware other people are bound to take notice of.
Though the chest is often viewed as one solid mass of muscle, it is actually made up of three distinct muscle groups; the upper, middle and lower chest. The aim should be to hit each of these distinct groups with a combination of compound as well as rhythmic movements. There is no other way to build a complete set of pectoral muscles.
Examples of compound movements include; the barbell free-weight bench press, dumbell press and Smith machine bar press. These exercises are called compound because in addition to the primary muscle being trained, they work several other muscle groups in combination, albeit indirectly, thus contributing towards overall muscular size development. For instance, when you train your chest with a barbell, do you realise you are indirectly hitting at other related muscle groups as well which include your upper and middle back, a good part of your shoulder muscles as well as the tricep muscle? If you didn’t know this, you do now! By contrast, a rhythmic movement does more in shaping and refining a muscle. Examples of these include all forms of “flyeing” movements; flat flyes, incline, decline and all cable machine movements.
The angle at which the bench is placed will determine where the resistance will be most felt on the chest. An incline press will necessitate a 30 to 45 degree angle positioning while a flat press will mean flattening the bench altogether at 180 degrees (horizontal). Most well equipped gyms have a separate decline bench which should position the bench in such a way that the bar drops and touches the chest just above the solar plexus. It is a very awkward movement and should only be performed under close supervision with very light weights until you get oriented with the awkwardness of the exercise.
For safety reasons always have a “spotter” behind you in case you run into difficulty.
Most Effective Movements
Incline barbell bench press, Incline dumbbell bench press plus its rhythmic movement accompaniment, Incline dumbbell flyes.
Flat barbell press, Dumbbell Press. You can increase the degree of difficulty of this exercise by positioning the bench on a slight decline, thus taking primary stress off the front delts.
Barbell and dumbbell exercises done on a decline bench. You can mix this together with decline flyes.
Chest Training – Women
There is no such thing as direct “boob training” because in women the breast is composed mainly of fatty tissue and fluids of whatever composition.
In realistic terms what female weight trainers need to concentrate on doing is strengthening the support muscles in the chest which can assist towards “northbound inclination” (lift) as opposed to “southbound inclination” (droop). When the supporting muscles get slack due to a host of reasons which I will not go into here, southern droop occurs.
The best exercise for limiting this are flyes, especially lying cable flyes, with high reps performed in a slow deliberate squeezing motion. You must stop at the point where your arms are at right angles to your torso. You may also experiment with adjusting the position of the bench to an incline or decline using dumbbells if you prefer but the 90 degree angle technique must be sustained. Rep range should be no less than 15. Remember it’s not about weight. Try to get 4-6 sets if you can.
Points to Remember
Age, child birth, level of body fat all may be contributory factors towards droop.
Genetics play a crucial role as well. The larger they are the harder they fall. Bigger-chested women will need to work that bit harder to support the ‘mega-structure’ as opposed to their less endowed counterparts.
By Dayo Audi – WBBF Mr Universe, IFBB Pro