Why You Need to Work Your Chest Muscles

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Working your chest muscles does more than improve your physique. These muscles are involved in functions you need throughout the day and the moves you need in a variety of exercises. They are also a large muscle group, so working them will warm you up for exercise and burn calories.

The Chest Muscles

The chest muscles are made up of the pectoralis major and, underneath that, the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is the larger muscle and has two parts—an upper portion (called the clavicular head) and the lower portion (called the sternal head).

The chest muscles are responsible for moving the arms across the body and up and down, as well as other movements like flexion, adduction, and rotation. Most chest exercises will involve pushing the arms away from the body or the body away from the arms.

Any chest exercise you do will work the entire area but some exercises will stimulate the chest in different ways.

For example, a chest press involves the entire pectoralis major with a focus on the lower portion of the chest.

By moving to an incline position, you still work the entire pectoralis major, but now the focus shifts to the upper portion of the chest. That's one reason why there are so many variations for each exercise—by changing the movement, the angle and/or the type of resistance, you'll recruit different muscle fibers and challenge your body in new ways.

Functional Fitness

Because your chest includes some of the largest muscles in the upper body, you use those muscles all day long. You push open a door, wash your hair, or get up and down from the floor. It's important to keep them strong for all your daily activities. The stronger your chest muscles are, the stronger your entire body is.

You also use them in exercises, such a the pushup. Your chest muscles are big and can handle more weight, which allows you to burn more calories. In fact, when you work your chest, your shoulders and arms are also involved allowing you to burn even more calories. A chest workout also serves as a great warm-up for those smaller muscle groups.

Optimal Training Frequency

You can work your chest up to three non-consecutive days a week. However, if you're lifting heavy weights (enough that you can only complete six to eight repetitions) you'll need at least two to three days of rest before you perform the exercises again.

For this reason, you may only work your chest once or twice a week. If your goal is to tone your muscles, you'll want to stick with one to three sets of 12 to 16 repetitions and at least one day of rest before you perform the exercises again.

What Exercises Should You Do?

Some of the most common chest exercises include pushups, chest presses, and chest flies. Choose a mixture of different exercises to target your chest from a variety of directions and make sure you vary your routine every four to six weeks to avoid plateaus.

If you just want to get strong and fit, you'll work your chest along with other muscle groups, as in an upper body pyramid workout or a total body workout. If you're trying to build size, you may work your chest by itself with a variety of exercises.

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  1. Baig MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, shoulder and upper limb, pectoral muscles. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.