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Diakadi Fitness Tips: Five Simple Strategies to Build Your Chest

By Mike Clausen

Welcome to another edition of Diakadi Fitness Tips, a new series of weekly features and interviews with Billy Polson and Mike Clausen, founders of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want them to answer? Send an email to

For almost all my clients, every guy's favorite workout day is, of course, chest day. There are literally hundreds of ways to target the chest—and a lot of controversy out there about what works the best. From among all the options, here are five of my favorite ways to pump up your pecs.

1. Do Your Push-ups
Push-ups are a classic—so much so that a lot of people blow right past them in search of flashier exercises. But actually, push-ups are the most basic way to increase the strength and size of your pectoral muscle. And you don't even have to leave your house for this. Doing a push-up is the equivalent of bench-pressing about 75 percent of your weight. That's a substantial strength test. To take a new spin on push-ups, try supersetting them with biceps or lat pull-downs.

All of my clients are very familiar with push-ups—because I don't save them just for chest day. Nor should you. A push-up not only builds up your chest strength, but also combines shoulders, back, arms, and core. They are probably one of the most effective exercises for the entire upper body—and they come in an almost endless number of varieties, allowing you to tailor them to your workouts. Check out the Muscle-Building 12-Week Workout program, which includes variations on push-ups.

2. Include Supersets
Supersets combine two different exercises that focus on the same muscle group back to back, with no rest between exercises. For example, you might do dumbbell presses immediately followed by dumbbell flys. The benefit of these is that the targeted muscle group, while exhausted from your first exercise, will nonetheless be able to muster enough energy to do a completely different exercise, since it is being targeted in a new way. This lets you achieve greater muscle breakdown—which leads to greater rebuilding.

3. Use Free Weights Instead of Machines
Make sure when your are working out your chest that you use free weights (these include dumbbells, barbells, and cables), and avoid using machines that put all of the weight on a single track that is moved in a single motion by both sides of your chest. When using machines (such as the smith machine, for example) for chest, you are not allowing the free motion of each arm to push—instead, both arms push as a unit. You'll feel like you're pushing uniformly, but in fact, one side will inevitably be doing more of the work. You want to be able to have both sides push with their maximum output without much help from the other side; and this is what free weights allow, as they work each side independently. Also, for maximum strength gains, you want to be able to recruit all the stabilizer muscles around your chest to help push the weight. Machines do a lot of the stabilizing for you, and don't let you work as thoroughly as you could. This is why dumbbell press is my favorite chest exercise; it's as much a stability exercise as it is a press exercise.

4. Incorporate Unilateral Exercises
Unilateral exercises are exercises that work one side of your muscles at a time, such as single-arm dumbbell presses or single-arm cable flys. By incorporating unilateral movements into your program, you teach your body to use not just one muscle group, but all of your muscle groups synergistically. One side stabilizes while the other lifts, and you are forced to balance opposing motions. This allows for you to be able to press more weight with more control as you learn to manage these unilateral movements..

5. Work Your Chest Twice a Week
Timing is everything. In order to really get your muscles to grow, you should work those muscle groups twice a week. Obviously, you need recovery to rebuild muscle—and you should definitely take it. Give yourself enough rest in between chest workouts, so that the muscle soreness goes away. But also change things up: For a month try doing six day per week workouts and work the chest on two of those days to really breakdown the muscle. If you lift chest on Monday, then hit it again on Saturday. You can then take those strength gains back to your usual lifting program.