Your pectoral muscles, also known as your chest muscles, play a crucial role in just about every move you make – from pushing and shoving, to pulling and lifting. Every sport from badminton to wrestling requires you to recruit those pecs into action (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)

Here’s a pec pounding routine that will add size, strength, and definition to those awesome pectoral muscles. Go for 3-4 sets of eight to twelve repetitions of each exercise and you’ll see and feel the difference in no time!

Barbell Bench Presses: (for mass and strength) Lie on a flat bench with your feet on the floor and grasp the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Lift the bar off the rack and slowly lower it to mid-chest level. Try not to let your elbows go down much past 90 degrees since this can unduly irritate your rotator cuff muscles. Pause, and then drive the bar upward until your arms are almost locked. Flat bench chest presses can also be performed effectively holding a dumbbell in each hand rather than a barbell.

Incline Dumbbell Presses: (especially for upper chest) Lie on an incline bench set at a 15–30-degree incline. Hold a pair of dumbbells over your chest, palms facing forward, knuckles aimed at the ceiling. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest until you feel a nice stretch in your pecs. Pause, then drive the dumbbells straight upward until your arms are nearly locked.

Dumbbell Flies: (for pec definition) Lie on a weight bench set at a 15-30-degree incline. Hold a pair of dumbbells over your chest, palms facing inward, knuckles pointed toward the ceiling. Keeping your arms slightly bent, slowly lower the dumbbells in an arcing notion until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Return to the top of the motion.

Cable Crossover Flies: (for pec definition) Stand in the middle of the cable apparatus with feet slightly spread, your body tilted slightly forward, and elbows slightly bent. Grasp the handles with arms spread; you should feel a stretch across your chest. Inhale and squeeze your pecs together as you press the cable handles forward until your hands touch. Exhale as you complete the contraction and return handles to starting position.

Parallel Bar Dips: (mass, definition, and strength) Find the parallel bars in the gym. Support yourself with your arms straight and torso hanging down from your shoulders. Inhale and bend your elbows to allow your body to sink down between the bars as far as possible. Reverse the motion and return to starting point, exhaling as you complete the movement. The more you bend forward the more you target the pecs.

Here are some pointers to help you maximize that chest workout. First, free weight compound exercises like the five mentioned above are the most efficient ways to build strength and bulk. Second, eat to grow when you’re lifting; feed those muscles with quality protein. Lastly, for best results, work chest 2x/ week with 3 days rest between your chest workouts.