If you ever thought about working towards a toned or chiseled chest, here's a healthy reason to start.
"The more weight you carry on your body the more you increase your chances of heart disease, which is the number one killer in Canada," says Lydia Di Francesco, a certified personal trainer with Executive Fitness Leaders in Ottawa. "If you have a lot of fat on your chest that’s a good indication that you are carrying more weight than you should be."
But of course, working out these areas is completely different for men and women. For men, Di Francesco says, the chest is the most popular muscle to train and most men gravitate towards using the flat bench press.
Women in general are less likely to train their chest because they either don't think it's necessary or they don't want a muscular chest.
"Women should not avoid exercising the chest muscles. Working the pectorals can help lift a sagging chest or breasts and a strong chest helps maintain proper posture and assists you when performing exercises that involve the chest muscles," she says.
But before you start your pec adventure, remember to take it slow. If you don't have much experience, start with some of these exercises just once or twice a week. "You always want to make sure to work the opposing muscles, so don’t neglect training the back muscles," Di Francesco says.
LOOK — the 10 best exercises for your chest:
Bent-Arm Barbell Pullovers
Lie on a flat bench with a barbell, holding it at shoulder-width apart. Position the bar straight over your chest with a bend in your arms. Keep your arms locked in the bent position and lower the weight slowly in an arc behind your head. Stop when you feel a stretch on the chest. Then, bring the barbell back up using the same arc movement. Repeat.
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
Lie on your back on a flat bench keeping your abs tight throughout the movement. Lift the dumbbells above you at shoulder-width and palms facing away. Bring down the weights to your sides until your elbows are slightly past the bench. Push the dumbbells up using your pectoral muscles. Squeeze your chest at the top for a second and then repeat.
Dumbbell Chest Flyes
Lie down on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Raise your arms shoulder-width apart with palms facing each other. With a slight bend in your elbows, lower your arms out at both sides in a wide arc until you feel a stretch in your chest. Bring your arms back up, squeezing your chest muscles. Repeat. Make sure to keep arms stationary throughout the exercise; the movement happens at the shoulder joint.
Barbell Incline Bench Press
Lie back on an incline bench. Lift the barbell from the rack and hold it straight over you with your arms locked. Bring the bar down until it’s almost touching your upper chest. Then push the bar back up using your chest muscles, squeezing your chest briefly at the top. Repeat.
Low Cable Crossover
Using a double cable pulley machine, place the pulleys at the low position, and grasp a handle in each hand. Step forward to increase tension in the pulleys. Turn your palms facing forward, keeping hands below the waist and your arms straight. Draw your hands upward and toward the mid-line of your body bending the arms slightly. At the top your hands are in front of your chest, palms up. Bring your arms back down and repeat.
Decline Push up
Lie on the floor face down and place your hands just outside your shoulders while holding your torso up at arms length. Move your feet up to a box or bench nearby. Next, lower yourself downward until your chest almost touches the floor. Then, push your upper body back up while squeezing your chest. Repeat.
Place your hands outside your shoulder and keep your feet hip distance apart. Keep your back flat throughout the movement, keeping your core engaged. Bend the elbows, lowering your chest towards the ground. Push yourself up quickly and try to move your hands off the ground. Repeat in a smooth and continuous motion. To make it easier, do the push ups from your knees.
Around the World
Lie down on a flat bench holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing towards the ceiling, arms parallel to the floor and next to your thighs. To avoid injury, keep your elbows bent slightly. In a semi-circle motion, move the dumbbells over your head, keeping your arms parallel to the floor at all times. Reverse the movement using the same semi-circle motion and repeat.
Get into a push-up position with your back flat and core engaged. Your hands should be spread just wider than your shoulders. Shift your body as far to one side as possible while lowering your body. Push yourself up and then drop and shift to the other side. Repeat, alternating sides.
Decline Barbell Bench Press
Secure your legs at the end of the decline bench and slowly lie down on the bench. Lift the bar from the rack holding it straight over you with your arms locked and perpendicular to the floor. Bring the bar down until it almost touches your lower chest. Then push the bar back up using your chest muscles. Repeat. When you are done, place the bar back in the rack. If you are new to this exercise, you should use a spotter.