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Compared to my shoulders and arms (and even my abs), my chest is virtually non-existent. For as long as I can remember I've always had pretty muscular arms & shoulders (most likely down to drumming, as I didn't really start working out properly until a couple of years ago), but where you tend to see pictures of fit guys, they look like they've got a couple of thick-cut steaks for chest muscles, whereas I appear to have a pair of medium-sized pancakes.

I've read a lot of information suggesting that push-ups, particularly wide-grip and incline, help develop the chest; however I've also read (and I currently can't find the link) that this will only develop the lower chest, and for real mass I should work the upper chest with flat barbell presses, incline presses and flyes, with 4-6 reps at 80-85% of my 1-rep maximum.

However, I also have a custom pull-up routine that includes close & wide grip (straight legs and legs out), overhand, bar checks, etc. and that feels like it works my chest more than anything else, despite the fact that I originally found it looking for core-strengthening workouts.

Consequently, I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to start; considering my shoulders, arms, abs and even my back all seem far more developed than my chest, I'm not sure what I should be doing or how often I should be doing it.

Overall, this is the kind of physique I'm after:

enter image description here

Although his chest isn't huge, you can definitely see lines that define his pectorals. That's what I want.

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    If you go to the gym, I see no reason why pushups should be anything more than a measurement. Benchpressing is far more stimulating in terms of muscle growth than pushups are. And there's no reason not to do both flat bench, incline, AND decline. – Alec Apr 29 '15 at 10:41
  • @Alec Push-ups as a measurement of... fitness? It's worth noting that I don't go to a gym (the nearest is ridiculously far away and horrifically expensive), but I do have plenty of dumbbells and a barbell, but (for example) I can't do barbell incline presses, as I don't have the equipment to raise the bar high enough, so have to modify with dumbbell presses. All that said, the bench exercises don't feel like they're working my chest at all, whereas with pull-ups I can feel it afterwards. – indextwo Apr 29 '15 at 10:52
  • No, as a measurement of how many pushups you can do. Long story short, a body like that doesn't really come from home workouts. For pushups, you can certainly increase your reps, but once you hit 15 reps or more, you're not working size, you're just increasing the ability to do consecutive pushups. – Alec Apr 29 '15 at 10:54
  • WIth the barbell and dumbbells, do what you can on the bench. Then stand up, and do overhead presses too. At least then you'll get some more shoulder action in your routine. But for the love of god, don't skip leg day just because your upper body is where your goals lie. Leg day skippers are the joke of the fitness industry. – Alec Apr 29 '15 at 10:55
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    He's a model, he lifts weights, and he crashed his body fat in advance of this photo shoot. Models aren't generally walking around with abs popping out: it's something they get ready for in advance. – Eric Apr 29 '15 at 18:12
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I would not recommend doing flies, as they can present unnecessary risk to your shoulders by overstretching the tendons in the bottom position. The best chest developer I've had to date has been dumbbell bench work at different angles. It beats out barbell work for that purpose hands down. I'd approach it like this:

  • Dumbbell flat bench: for general mass
  • Dumbbell incline bench: for upper pectoral development and making it a bit rounder
  • Dumbbell overhead press: to finish out the overall look
  • Shoulder triple sets: (all three constitute one set)
    • DB side raise
    • DB front raise
    • DB bent over rear delt raise
  • Alternating barbell rows and pullups/chinups
  • Stretching your pecs after training

For each of the pressing exercises I would work with palms out, palms facing, and alternating hands while crossing your body.

You want to focus on getting that pump, so you should focus on more reps with the feeling that you can't do too much more after you are done with everything.

The shoulder work and back work will help you maintain proper posture so you can show off the hard work you've done on the chest. It will also help you stay injury free. Also, feel free to spread the work out over the week. Strive for 30-50 reps overall per chest session (3-5 sets x 10-15 reps), so pick a weight where 30 reps is a challenge and work up to 50 reps. Increase weight and repeat.

  • Regarding "the shoulder work and back work", good back development will open up the chest more and avoid that caved-in look. And if you don't take care of your shoulders (it should really be more important than your chest aesthetics) you won't be lifting for long because you can easily tear your rotator cuff if you just bench forever. – Eric Apr 29 '15 at 18:10
  • Thanks for this - I actually tried an adapted version of this yesterday morning and I can still feel it in my chest today! – indextwo May 1 '15 at 17:34
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Berin's answer is spot on for reps and sets. Just offering a bodyweight alternative in case it's of interest.

Straight Bar Dips activate your chest muscles more than push-ups and are a lot more challenging. Progressing them to slow muscle-ups, will build an incredibly strong chest.

If these are too challenging, then try Parallel Bar Dips until you've got the strength to go to move to the straight bar.

  • Thanks for this - definitely interested in bodyweight alternatives - unfortunately I don't have anything I can do bar dips with at home! – indextwo May 15 '15 at 16:29

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