Get a Firm and Shapely Chest

Through targeted body sculpting, you can lift and define your chest, giving it a fuller, shapelier appearance.

For many women, the desire to maintain a firm chest is a never-ending battle. Since breast tissue is predominantly comprised of fat, it’s susceptible to the forces of gravity and tends to sag as the years go by. Pregnancy and nursing only serve to compound the situation, causing the chest to “wilt” even further. Unless something is done to counteract this phenomenon, it continues to “head south,” drooping lower and lower with the passage of time.

While some women seek a surgical solution to pump up their chest, a well-designed training routine can provide a natural alternative. Understand, though, no type of exercise will directly increase your cup size. As discussed, breast tissue is fat and fat cannot be shaped. However, through targeted body sculpting, you can lift and define your chest, giving it a fuller, shapelier appearance. (Yes, you actually can defy gravity!). So for those who don’t want to go through the rigors of surgery or prefer to remain “au naturel,” take heart; if you’re willing to put in the effort, results are guaranteed.

How is this possible? Well, the breasts are supported by a vast network of muscle and connective tissue – structures that respond to targeted exercise. By utilizing different movements and training at a variety of angles, you can target various parts of the chest to achieve complete development. For example, rounding out the upper pectoral region gives fullness to the bustline; adding to the middle aspect enhances the overall shape of the chest; and developing the inner portion creates the illusion of cleavage. With an understanding of basic bodysculpting techniques, a multitude of possibilities are at your disposal.

Anatomy of the Chest

The chest is a complex muscle group comprised primarily of the pectoralis major. The pectoralis major has attachments at three different areas: the breastbone (sternum), collarbone (clavicle) and upper arm (humerus). Its muscle fibers run in multiple directions, creating a sunburst appearance. Due to these factors, it is possible to exert emphasis on different aspects of the chest simply by altering the bench angle used in performance:

• Training with the bench set at an incline stresses the upper pectoral region (an incline of approximately 30 degrees is optimal – any more and your front delts take over in the performance of the move).

• Training with the bench flat stresses the middle area of the chest.

• Training with the bench set at a moderate decline stresses the lower portion of the pecs.

 

Moreover, additional benefits can be achieved by selectively manipulating the types of exercises in your routine. There are numerous movements that work the pectoral region, including many variations of each move. By taking kinesiological factors into account, chest exercises can be classified into three separate groups:

Group One (Presses, Push-ups, Chest Dips). Group one exercises are overall mass builders for the chest. Due to their compound nature, these movements not only work the pectoralis major, but also involve many of the supporting muscles and tie-ins associated with the chest. They are staple exercises in any routine, helping to beef up your bustline and promote fullness throughout the upper torso.

Group Two (Dumbbell Flyes). Group two exercises are isolation movements that work the chest on a horizontal plane. Because of gravitational pull, they exert great force at the beginning portion of the move.  As you bring the weight up, however, the stress gradually diminishes to the point where muscular tension is virtually non-existent at the finish position. Thus, in order to maximize results, it is imperative to focus on the first half of each rep, making sure to get a complete stretch at the bottom. But don’t allow your arms to stretch significantly below parallel with the floor. Doing so can place undue stress on the shoulder joint and possibly lead to serious injury.

Group Three (Pec Deck Flyes and Crossovers). Group three exercises help give a polished look to the pectoral region. Because these movements allow continuous tension to be provided, an intense contraction can be achieved at the finish position. Hence, by forcefully squeezing your pecs together at peak contraction, you can recruit muscle fibers that are impossible to activate in free weight exercises.

For best results, choose only one exercise from each group per workout, varying the bench angle on a consistent basis. In this way, you ensure complete stimulation of your entire pectoral region while avoiding unnecessary overlap between movements. For example, there would be little utility to include both incline barbell presses and incline dumbbell presses in the same workout. These movements essentially target the same areas of the chest. Using both of them in the same session would be superfluous and cause you to expend valuable energy reserves that could be put to better use. Rather, it is preferable to alternate these variations from one workout to the next, performing incline barbell presses in workout one, incline dumbbell presses in workout two, incline machine presses in workout three, etc.

In addition, it is essential to limit the total volume of work to a minimum. All too often, women perform an exorbitant number of sets and exercises in an effort to maximize their development. This misguided approach is not only extremely inefficient, but also can lead to overtraining – a condition that decreases performance and compromises results. Your body has limited energy reserves available and each set you perform reduces your overall capacity to work out. Accordingly, when training the chest, you should perform no more than nine to 12 total sets per workout. Remember, with respect to training, less can be more! Further, make sure to choose a rep range that is consistent with your goals. If you want to increase pectoral mass, it’s best to train in a range of six to 10 reps per set; if you want to improve muscle tone and endurance, a range of 15 to 20 reps is more appropriate. Perform your reps in a smooth, controlled fashion, taking special care to resist the negative portion of each rep. Due to the complexity of the pectoral muscle, chest training leaves your muscles particularly susceptible to strains or tears. Inevitably, sloppy form will lead to a debilitating injury and set back your training progress indefinitely.

Regardless of the rep range you choose to employ, it’s imperative that you take each set at or near the point of momentary muscular failure. This means that the final rep should be difficult, if not impossible, to complete. Women often are apprehensive about pushing themselves to the limit, fearing that this will promote a masculine appearance. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Only through intense exercise will you force your body to adapt to the rigors of training and reach its genetic potential. As long as you adhere to a proper training regimen, your chest will maintain toned and sculpted, staying firm and pert into your golden years.

Chest Exercises

Incline Machine Chest Press: Begin by sitting in an incline chest press machine, aligning your upper chest with the handles on the machine. Grasp the handles with a shoulder-width grip, keeping your palms facing away from your body. Slowly press the handles forward, stopping just before you fully lock out your elbows. Feel a contraction in your chest muscles at the finish of the movement and then slowly reverse direction, returning to the starting position.

Bench Push-Up: Begin with your hands on the floor and feet up on a flat bench. Your torso and legs should remain rigid, keeping your back perfectly straight throughout the move. Bend your arms and slowly lower your body downward, stopping just before your upper chest touches the ground. Feel a stretch in your chest muscles and then reverse direction, pushing your body up along the same path back to the start position.

Flat Dumbbell Press: Begin by lying face-up on a flat bench with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Grasp two dumbbells and with your palms facing away from your body, bring them to shoulder level so they rest just above your armpits. Simultaneously press both dumbbells directly over your chest, moving them in toward each other on the ascent. At the finish of the movement, the sides of the dumbbells should gently touch together. Feel a contraction in your chest muscles at the top of the movement and then slowly reverse direction, returning to the starting position.

Incline Dumbbell Flye: Begin by lying back on an incline bench set at approximately 30 to 40 degrees, planting your feet firmly on the floor. Grasp two dumbbells and bring them out to your sides, maintaining a slight bend to your elbows throughout the move. Your palms should be facing in and toward the ceiling. Slowly raise the weights upward in a circular motion, as if you were hugging a large tree. Gently touch the weights together at the top of the move and after feeling a contraction in your chest muscles, slowly return the weights along the same path back to the start position.

Flat Dumbbell Flye: Begin by lying back on a flat bench, planting your feet firmly on the floor. Grasp two dumbbells and bring them out to your sides, maintaining a slight bend to your elbows throughout the move. Your palms should be facing in and toward the ceiling and your upper arms should be roughly parallel with the floor. Slowly raise the weights upward in a semicircular motion, as if you were hugging a large tree. Gently touch the weights together at the top of the move and, after feeling a contraction in your chest muscles, slowly return the weights along the same path back to the start position.

Decline Dumbbell Flye: Begin by lying back on a bench set at a moderate decline, planting your feet firmly on the floor. Grasp two dumbbells and bring them out to your sides, maintaining a slight bend to your elbows throughout the move. Your palms should be facing in and toward the ceiling. Slowly raise the weights upward in a semicircular motion, as if you were hugging a large tree. Gently touch the weights together at the top of the move and after feeling a contraction in your chest muscles, slowly return the weights along the same path back to the start position.

Pec Deck: Begin by placing your forearms on the pads of a pec deck machine. Your elbows should be pressed into the pads at all times and your back should remain immobile throughout the movement. Simultaneously press both pads together, allowing them to gently touch each other directly in front of your chest. Hold this position for a count of two while contracting your chest muscles and then slowly reverse direction, returning to the start position.

High Pulley Cable Crossovers: Begin by grasping the handles of an overhead pulley apparatus (cable crossover machine). Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your torso bent slightly forward at the waist. Slowly pull both handles downward and across your body, creating a semicircular movement. Bring your hands together at the level of your hips and squeeze your chest muscles so that you feel a contraction in the cleavage area. Then, slowly reverse direction, allowing your hands to return along the same path back to the start position.

Low Pulley Cable Crossovers: Begin by grasping the loop handles of a low pulley apparatus (cable crossover machine). Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your torso bent slightly forward at the waist. Slowly pull both handles up and across your body, creating a semicircular movement. Bring your hands together at the level of your hips and squeeze your chest muscles so that you feel a contraction in the cleavage area. Then, slowly reverse direction, allowing your hands to return along the same path back to the start position.

The post Get a Firm and Shapely Chest first appeared on FitnessRX for Women.

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