Following on from last week’s tips for developing your back before you hit the beach, I’m going to stick with the upper body and teach you how best to build your chest.
Key exercises to include in your program for maximal growth of the chest muscles are:
The barbell bench press – this is obviously the king of chest exercises and for good reason; barbell pressing movements allow for the use of heavier loads and the pectoralis major (main muscle of the chest) is maximally activated in the early and middle phases of the lift.
Good technique requires maintaining a solid and stable position with the shoulder blades (think tucked back and down) and not allowing the shoulders to roll forward in the bottom position. Keep the angle in the armpit close to 45 degrees (wide and high elbows can put the shoulders at risk) and maintain pressure into the ground with the feet to keep the rest of the body stable.
Incline dumbbell press – the pecs will benefit most from a variety of training angles and using an incline will target the upper chest. Using dumbbells will increase the stability demands and help to even out any left to right strength differences.
Follow the same technique guidelines as those set for the barbell bench press regarding shoulder and elbow position.
Feet elevated press up (a 12-inch box will be sufficient) – press ups are always a great option for training the upper body as you can do them anywhere. Elevating the feet will target the lower chest a little more and the movement of the shoulder blades (think of them moving around the rib cage which is different from the more static position required for the exercises above) is great for shoulder heath and stability.
Good technique requires no sagging at the hips or lower back. Keep the head in line with the body and lead with the chest so it hits the space between the hands. Keep the angle in the armpit close to 45 degrees and reach long with the arms at the top of the movement, pushing the rib cage back.
If you struggle for time you can pair these exercises with the back session from last week to build one workout, alternating between a back and a chest exercise. Alternatively, if you have time to train more frequently you can do them as separate sessions. Try following the same set and rep scheme and aim to complete two sessions a week:
Week 1 – 3×8 (72reps/session, 144reps/week), Week 2 – 3x 10 (90reps/session, 180reps/week), Week 3 – 3×12 (108reps/session, 216reps/week), Week 4 (deload week), 2×10 (60reps/session, 120reps/week).
Then repeat the cycle for next 4 weeks aiming to add small increases to the weights used (don’t miss any reps though!). Aim to include these exercises into your training schedule twice each week.
Bonus Nutritional Tip
Following on from last week’s tip, recent research into protein consumption seems to suggest that evenly spreading your intake throughout day is a better option for optimising muscle protein synthesis.
Therefore, to grow muscle you don’t necessarily need to eat as much protein as possible and you should avoid eating too much in one go. Instead, keeping an even spread of roughly 30grams every 4 hours (or every meal) will be a better way to serve your beach body goals.
Matt Roberts is a UK-leading personal trainer and best-selling fitness author. Learn more here.