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Proper Form Yields Perfect Pecs

A well-developed chest can be very impressive; that's why it's the most popular muscle for beginners to train. It's one of the easier muscles to work as long as you do the basics.

The basic chest exercises are the flat bench press, incline press, flat bench fly, incline bench fly and dips.

The flat bench press is the one chest exercise everyone knows about, primarily because it works so well. It is used to build mass.

The incline press works the most neglected area of many peoples' chest, the upper chest. Just be careful what angle your bench is set at. The higher the angle of the bench, the more you will use your shoulders. Since the purpose is to work your chest, I don't recommend an angle greater than 30 degrees for upper chest development.

The fly is probably the best chest isolation exercise you can do if done correctly. It's also one you can do on a flat bench, incline bench or even sitting fully upright on a machine. The fly is an effective way to specifically target chest muscles without stressing other body parts; just be sure to use lighter weights.

Finally, the dip is an excellent exercise for the lower chest, but it also incorporates your shoulders and triceps. The dip should only be performed by intermediate to advanced weightlifters.

How often should I workout?

Beginners can work chest two times a week. But if you're intermediate or advanced, you will generally see more muscle growth by limiting your chest workout to only once a week.

If your goal is toning rather than building, you can work your chest up to two times a week with higher repetitions regardless of your skill level. A simple thing to remember is: higher repetitions for definition; lower repetitions for size.

What equipment should I use?

If you are a beginner with minimal athletic experience, I suggest staying entirely with machines: the chest press machine and chest fly machine. As your body develops, you'll gain more control of your body movements. At that point, you can move to a mixture of free weights and machines.

Remember, you're working to develop your chest muscles, not to win a power-lifting contest, so concentrate more on the form rather than the weight. Let your chest push up the weight, pretend you don't even have shoulders or triceps. This is where a personal trainer can help. Teaching you the proper form and helping you focus on the proper muscles.

When you work chest, you engage your deltoids (shoulders) and triceps (back of arms). If you use improper form, you end up using your shoulders and arms to do most of the work. If you don't have access to a personal trainer, I suggest asking for instruction from gym personnel.

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