Before you spend an hour at the gym pumping out countless reps of chest exercises, getting your chest bigger and firmer requires some planning, consistent practice and proper food intake. While training stimulates your nervous system to make the chest muscles bigger, proper nutrition and timing helps your muscles grows and adapt. Without either one, your chances of getting bigger and harder pecs is low.
Isolation and Integration Exercises
Isolation exercises emphasize the chest by moving only the shoulder joints that produce the pushing movement, allowing you to lift a greater amount of weight than incorporating your entire body to work together. Sample exercises include the seated chest press, bench press, dumbbell press and seated cable chest fly. Integration exercises emphasize using the entire body to help you control your movement rather than relying on a support to help you balance, such as a workout bench. These exercises are often performed with just your body weight or in a standing position. Examples include pushups, standing cable chest fly and standing cable chest press. Blending a variety of exercises can reduce the boredom and stimulate your body to adapt to different exercise stress to help with muscle growth.
Sets, Reps, Tempo
Exercise variables can vary among different people. For optimal muscle growth, the National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that you perform three to four reps of eight to 12 reps at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum intensity. Tempo is the speed at which you lift and lower the resistance. Lift at a rate of two seconds and lower for four seconds. Always exhale when you lift, and inhale when you lower the weight. Train for two to three non-consecutive days a week, allowing 24 to 48 hours for your body to heal and adapt before you train again
Knowing when to eat before and after your workout is just as important as what to eat. Exercise physiologist Len Kravtiz of the University of New Mexico recommends that you consume a pre-workout meal consisting of mainly carbohydrates -- amount varies per person -- which allows you to perform more sets, reps and intensity. Consume a post-workout meal within 45 minutes of your workout. The meal should be rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals to help replenish carbohydrate stores and heal your muscles. Consult with a sports dietitian if you need specific dietary intake, especially if you have special needs, such as diabetes, gluten intolerance or anemia.
Your chest muscles grow when they're at rest, not when you're working out. During the rest days, stretch your chest, shoulders and spine to alleviate the tightness from training. Too much chest exercise could cause your shoulders to slouch forward and flex your upper spine too much. Sample exercises to counteract the poor posture would be those that move your upper spine and stretch your chest and shoulders together, such as the doorway chest stretch, supine torso rotation and quadruped trunk rotation. Pulling exercises, such as rows and pullups, can also help prevent excessive upper spine flexion.