Every gym bro knows that Monday is International Chest Day, and like most bros you probably start off your workout the same way every single time -- the barbell bench press. The bench press is a fantastic compound lift, one that is a great upper body builder. But, starting your chest day routine the exact same way every single time can get old after a while. Aside from oredom, you’ll also plateau at some point on account of always doinga the exact same thing, the exact same way. And with plateaus comes frustration and lack of gains.
That means from time to time, you need to get out of your comfort zone with your workouts and do a little thinking outside the box. Yes, all the standard presses, flyes, and crossovers are all fine and effective muscle-building exercises. But every once in awhile, it’s good to spice things up and incorporate some new challenging exercises into your routine that will help shatter plateaus, reinvigorate your passion for training, and set you on the road to new gains!
Let’s take a look at 5 chest exercises you’ve probably never seen before, but should be using them if you’re serious about sparking new growth.
- Reverse Grip Bench Press
Set up on a flat bench like you normally would for a standard bench press. However, instead of taking a pronated grip like you typically would, take a reverse grip (palms facing towards you.)
This shifts the focus of the press away from your lower and middle pecs and more toward your upper pec. You’ll need to set your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart and most likely get your training partner to help unrack the bar since this setup can be a little precarious getting into position.
Once you’re set, lower the bar until it reaches mid-chest level, pause for 1 second, and then raise the bar to the top until your arms are fully extended. Repeat for the specified number of reps.
Note: This exercise can also be performed on a low-incline bench to really burn out those upper pec muscles.
- Dumbbell Close Grip Press to Fly
Begin by lying on either a flat or low incline bench with a set of dumbbells in your hands pressed together resting on your chest. Initiate the movement by pressing the dumbbells to the top while also pressing them together (just like a squeeze press). Once you’ve arrived at the top of your press, extend your arms out to the side as if you were performing a standard dumbbell fly.
Once you’re fully extended at the bottom of the fly, bring the dumbbells back to the top, where you again press them together and lower them under control to your chest while still pressing the dumbbells together.
This exercise is ideal for building muscle as it subjects your pecs to a tremendous amount of time under tension for the combination of a close grip squeeze press and a dumbbell fly. Get ready for a whole new level of soreness after trying this one.
- Single Arm Hammer Strength Chest Press
This move is great for targeting the inner, upper portion of your pecs, a notoriously difficult area to target with most other pressing movements.
The great thing about hammer strength machines, like dumbbells, is that it allows you to work each side of your chest independently, and eliminates the ability of your stronger side to compensate for your weaker pressing side. In this chest variation, we’re targeting each side separately to really bring up those lagging areas.
Sit sideways on the seat, which creates a different angle of work on your muscles, allowing you to push across your body rather than straight away from it like a standard press. With the non-working hand, brace yourself so you don’t slide off the seat. Now, begin the movement by pressing the handle of the working arm out to full extension, then slowly lower it under to control to the starting position.
- Svend Press
The Svend Press is perhaps the most unique and challenging chest exercise you’ve never tried before. It essentially combines isometric and concentric/eccentric training all in one move. The Svend Press is a perfect way to target the inner pecs due to the constant tension that is applied to your pecs due to pressing the plates out while still squeeze it together between your hands.
To perform the Svend Press, hold one or two small weight plates between your palms. Your elbows should be out to your sides and your fingers pointed straight orward. Begin the press by forcefully contracting your pecs and pressing the plates straight out. Once you’ve reached your end range of motion, reverse the movement while continuing to squeeze your pecs as hard as you can. Remember to focus on maintaining constant tension in your pecs the entire time and not letting your arms do the majority of the work.
The Svend Press can be performed lying down or standing up. The lying down version will focus strictly on your chest, while the standing version will also work your core and anterior deltoids due to the change in angle and having to combat gravity while pressing the weights out away from your body.
- Plange Push Ups
It simply wouldn’t be a chest workout if the granddaddy of all chest builders -- the push up -- wasn’t included in some form or fashion. Now, we know you can bang out endless reps of standard, decline, close grip, and wide push ups, but have you ever tried a plange push up?
We didn’t think so.
This is a progression towards performing a full planche, but with more emphasis placed on working your chest than developing the total body coordination, strength, and balance required for a planche. Set up in a normal push up position with hands shoulder width apart (or slightly wider in necessary). However instead of having your fingers point straight ahead, externally rotate your hands so your fingers are pointing away from your body. Now, lean your torso out over your hands, so your shoulders are in front of your palms. Your hands should now be around mid to lower rib cage. Perform a push up, then at the top of each rep, tuck your pelvis and raise your upper back, targeting the serratus anterior and other musculature of the scapula.
This exercise is a great bodyweight chest builder that also helps prevent winging of the scapula.
Chest day doesn’t have to be the same old, same old routine of flat bench, dumbbell bench, flyes, and pec dec. Use these exercises to inject some much needed change into your training program, and at the same time you’ll shatter plateaus and bring about a whole new level of gains.