Wellness & Fitness

Exercises for perfect chest


Robinson Joel, a fitness trainer at AV Fitness Center in Nairobi demonstrating how to do chest exercises. PHOTOs | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

When a man starts to gain weight, the excess fat may be distributed unevenly in different body parts. For some men, the added weight goes to the chest area. The breasts become bigger as excess fat is stored there, and the chest also gets flabby and wider.

Justus Ngumu, a personal fitness trainer explains that the flabby chest, which comes with ‘man boobs’ is caused by a lack of regular exercise and unhealthy eating habits, especially consumption of a lot of simple carbohydrates such as sugary and fried foods.

A high intake of alcohol especially beer and sugary cocktails and smoking which suppresses testosterone levels in a man’s body consequently leads to a condition known as gynecomastia, which is a hormonal imbalance causing the enlargement of male breast tissue.

Ngumi points out that nowadays, it is very common to see men with big breasts as the condition affects about 40 to 60 percent of men. However, with proper exercise and diet, one can get rid of the unwanted chest fat and have a firm and toned chest area.

Strength training with exercises that target the chest muscles (pectoral muscles) as well as cardio exercises work best for burning fat and growing muscles in their stead, he says.

The trainer explains that the chest is made up of pectoral muscles, commonly referred to as pecs, which define the shape and appearance of the chest area.

There are two such muscles on each side of the breast bone.

To build up and tone the pecs, do exercises that work the entire chest area. Start with muscle-strengthening exercises at least three days a week.

“One set of between 8 and 12 repetitions (reps) of three sets is effective in strength training, provided each movement is done properly and you avoiding foods that are high in calories to stop accumulating fat around the body,” he says.

Some of the strength-training exercises one can perform include push-ups, bench presses with either dumbbells or barbell, peck deck machine, cable machines, chest flys and bar dips.

According to Ngumi, gaining muscles helps burn fats. It also speeds up one’s metabolism and one burns more calories even after the workout is over. Further, when a man gains or maintains muscle, it also keeps their resting metabolic rate higher which means one burns more calories at rest.

On the other hand, high-intensity cardio exercises which involve short periods of intense exercises alternated with recovery periods work best for burning fat.

“Training your chest area will help you get stronger in movements that require pressing and lifting strength. They will also help with maintaining a straight posture because pecs help stabilise the shoulder and shoulder blades,” explains Ngumi.



Robinson Joel, popularly known as Robby-Piyo, a fitness trainer at AV Fitness Center in Kilimani, Nairobi demonstrating how to do an Inclined press up on November 3, 2021. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

The exercise is a great way to start targeting your chest muscles and the upper body. In this exercise, you are using your body weight.

You can incorporate modified push-ups. Do the push-ups with the knees bent or on an incline for a more effective building of pectoral muscles.

To do push-ups, start with a plank position, your arms outstretched underneath the rest of your body and your feet shoulder-width apart.

Slowly lower yourself to the ground, keeping your arms as close to your body as possible as you near the floor with both elbows at a 90-degree angle.

Press upward to raise your body back to your starting position while keeping your head straight all the time. Do two sets of 15 for a start increasing the reps and sets as you gain your fitness.

Bench press

This workout works upper body muscles including the pectorals, triceps and biceps. Put your feet flat on the floor and your back on the bench. With your arms shoulder length apart, use an overhand grip to take firm hold of the bar.

Lift the barbell until your arms are fully extended above your chest. Breathe in as you lower the bar mid-chest. Breathe out as you return to your starting position. When doing this, start with very lightweight adding more as you progress.

Cable crossover/machines

Position the pulleys above the head and attach one handle to each pulley then select the desired weight. Have one handle in each hand with the palms facing down.

Stand in the middle of the cable machine and take a few steps forward to put a little tension on the cables.

Extend the arms out to the side but keep a slight bend in the elbows but do not let the elbows move behind the shoulders.

On the exhale, bring the hands together in front of the body before returning to the starting position by slowly extending the arms and inhaling.

Ngumi explains that setting the pulleys higher will put more emphasis on the lower chest while setting them lower emphasises the upper chest as the exercise works the muscles in both the lower and outer parts of the chest.

Pec deck machine

For this, Ngumi says one needs to select how much weight they want to work with using the sliding pins before sitting at the machine.

Adjust the seat so the handles are the same height as your chest then sit down and grab the bar handles. Bring them toward one another as you exhale and contract your chest. Return to your starting position with an inhale.

Parallel-bar dips

For this workout, says Ngumi, one needs to set up two bars on four poles parallel to each other at a raised position. Grip the bars, using the arms to push the body up above them while slowly inhaling while bending the arms and leaning the torso forward.

Continue lowering the body until there is a slight stretching sensation in the chest. On the exhale, lift the body back up above the bars.

The exercise works for multiple muscle groups in the chest, arms, shoulders, and back.

Chest fly

Lie flat on your back on a flat incline bench with feet straddled on the bench. Gently pick the two dumbbells on each hand then lift your arms above the head in an extended but not locked out.

Inhale and slowly lower dumbbells in an arc motion until they are in line with the chest with your arms lower than your shoulders. Exhale and slowly press the dumbbells up in the same arc motion performing between 10 and 15 reps of three sets.

The standing variation involves standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart than bringing the arms up straight in front at chest level extending them out to the sides, palms facing each other.

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