Compound Exercises
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Compound Chest Exercises

The chest, one of the largest muscle or muscle groups of the human body, and also one of the preferred muscle groups for working on by a bodybuilder, or anybody who likes to work out.

Important for physique and overall strength, the chest muscles serve a vital purpose in any individual’s fitness journey. 

Compound exercises build the most chest muscles and provide you a way of getting maximum benefits in shorter exercise time. Some of these benefits involve burning greater calories, improving intermuscular coordination in the body, and enhancing movement and cardiovascular efficiency. 

Let us take a look at some of the best compound chest exercises, what muscles are worked in them, and how to perform them.

Compound Chest Exercises


Here are 4 compound chest exercises to grow your chest:

Barbell Bench Press


This exercise emphasises mainly the middle chest and helps in building the general chest thickness. A small study sponsored by ACE (American Council on Exercise) was conducted on 14 volunteers, researchers evaluated their EMG activity as they did nine strengthening and toning chest exercises. Out of these exercises, they found out that the barbell bench press caused maximum muscle activity in their chest muscles. 

How to perform

  1. This upper-body specific strengthening exercise is performed while laying down supine on a flat bench and feet on either side of the bench.
  2. Grasp the barbell with both hands in an over hand grip (palms facing your feet), slightly wider than your shoulder width apart and push the barbell upwards by extending the arms.
  3. Maintain the control of the bar and lower it to your chest level till your elbows are parallel to the floor.
  4. This completes one repetition.

Muscles Worked

This exercise works on and strengthens the following muscles:

  • Pectoralis Major
  • Pectoralis Minor
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Anterior Deltoid
  • Coracobrachialis
  • Triceps
  • Trapezii
  • Scapulae Fixers

Angled Bench Press

But the question arises if barbell bench press is the most powerful compound chest exercise, then what is the right angle for you to press at? According to a study published in the European Journal of Sports Science in 2016, researchers evaluated the EMG activity in the pecs, anterior deltoids, and triceps brachii of fourteen volunteers and found the greatest muscle activation in both clavicular and sternal heads of pecs at a flat bench angle.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press


Incline Dumbbell Bench-Press

This exercise prioritises your upper chest musculature, for example, a large EMG study was performed by Brett Contreras to analyse the chest muscle activity with fifteen different exercises. And the results revealed that the incline dumbbell presses were the most effective in activating the upper chest.

The optimal angle of bench should be between 30-56 degrees for maximal muscle activation.

How to perform

  1. Set your bench at an angle of 45 degrees and lie back on it while holding dumbbells on your each thigh.
  2. Hold them at a shoulder-width apart to the sides of the chest with a bent arm beneath each dumbbell.
  3. Press both dumbbells upwards with your chest and elbows to sides till the arms are in extension.
  4. Lower them to the sides of the chest till a slight stretch is felt in your shoulder or chest. Repeat.

Muscles Worked

The muscles worked on include:

  • Clavicular Head of Pectoralis Major (upper chest)
  • Sternal Head of Pectoralis Major (middle and lower chest)
  • Anterior Deltoid
  • Long head of Triceps
  • Medial head of Triceps
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Short head of Biceps Brachii

Push-Ups


push ups

Push-ups are one of the most effectual compound chest exercises that activates chest muscle very well along with triceps. Also according to a study published in Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness in 2017, this exercise has the potential to increase your strength and muscle size similarly as bench press.

How to perform

  1. Firstly, position yourself on your hands and knees on the ground.
  2. Now extend your legs in order to make your body straight or alternatively, walk your hands forward till your body is straight from head to toe.
  3. Make sure your hands are under your chest, and a little wider than your shoulders, and also your body is in one straight line with no hips piked up or sagged down.
  4. Lower your body towards the floor by bending your arms and squeezing your core for keeping the body straight. For a conservative ROM, you can stop when the shoulder breaks your elbow’s plane.
  5. Straighten your arms by pressing back to your starting point. This is one repetition.

Variations:

You can also do incline and decline push-ups for simulating the incline or decline bench movements by positioning your hands or feet higher. Or challenge yourself by putting a band around your back and holding each end in your hands and then perform regular push-ups with added resistance.

Also, you can challenge your core stability by placing your hands on a stability ball and then perform push-ups.

Muscles Worked:

The muscles worked on by this exercise include:

  • Pectoralis Major
  • Pectoralis Minor
  • Deltoid
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius

Dips


dips

Dips are simply compound bodyweight exercise that is most effective in hitting your lower chest as seen in Brett Contreras’s study

How to perform

  1. Hold the two parallel bars and lean forward on them so that your weight is supported on your hands only.
  2. While breathing in bend your arms and lower yourself slowly towards your hand until you feel a little stretch in your chest.
  3. One you feel this stretch, use your chest muscles to take your body back up to full arm extension and repeat. 

Avoid mistakes

While performing dips remember a proper dip is pivotal to avoid chest or shoulder pain. Don’t shrug your shoulders or roll them forward. Just keep them back and down. Also, lower your body till your shoulders get below your elbows. If you are a beginner avoid using ring dips and perform this exercise on parallel bars.

Muscles Worked

This exercise works on the following muscles:

  • Pectoralis Major
  • Triceps
  • Pectoralis Minor
  • Anterior Deltoid
  • Rhomboids
  • Levator Scapulae
  • Teres Major
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Trapezius

Adnan Munye

A certified personal trainer, Adnan specialises in weight loss, muscle building, body conditioning, core strengthening and injury rehabilitation. Adnan comes from a sporting background, where he has played football, badminton, rugby, and swimming all at various levels.

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