If your fitness goals include sculpting a more lithe, sinewy physique, add the chest press to your workout routine. Do the chest press if you play sports that require explosive upper body power, for example, golf, tennis, softball, swimming, maybe even the martial arts. To get the most out of the muscles in the front of your upper torso, start pushing weights with a chest press.
Put four fingers of your left hand together where your upper arm connects with your chest. Draw your hand slowly across your chest letting your fingers spread wide until they reach your sternum, which is the bone in the center of your chest. When you do this, your fingers will trace most of your pectoral muscles, which fan out from your shoulder to your sternum. To feel the rest of the muscle, run two or fingers from your underarm, below your breast to the bottom of your sternum. The upper and lower pectorals are used to lift and lower your arms and to push objects away, which is the motion in the chest press.
Shoulders and Triceps
With any big muscle move such as a chest press, you will bring other muscles into play. In this case, you will work the triceps, the muscles in the back of your upper arm, which help you push the weight away from your body, and the deltoids, which are the muscles in your shoulder. The deltoid is a complex set of muscles with multiple heads in the front, top and back of the shoulder. For sculpting and shaping purposes, the chest press will hit the front of the shoulder, the anterior deltoid. However, the movement also engages the back of the shoulder, especially when using free weights.
The chest muscles are usually stronger and capable of carrying heavier loads than the shoulder muscles. This becomes an important consideration when performing a chest press. It is very easy to injure the shoulders if you try to press more weight than the shoulders can handle, so balance your chest workouts with an appropriate amount of shoulder training. Many people train chest and shoulders on the same day or on separate days with a day of rest in between so they don't overtrain the shoulders.
The chest press comes in several varieties, depending on the equipment available. At the gym, you might see flat chest press stations, which put you on your back, and seated chest presses, which sit you down with your back in a vertical position. Both of these variations work the entire chest. Incline chest press stations will concentrate more of the workload on the upper chest. Decline presses concentrate on the lower chest. For a balanced chest workout, try to work the muscle from all three positions. Explore the gym for chest press machines and free weight stations and decide which work best for your goals.
At home, you can do a flat chest press with hand weights while lying on the floor. For a more challenging version, you can lie on a stability ball. By adjusting the angle of your upper back on the ball, you can focus more on your upper or lower chest. Or, you can buy an adjustable weight bench, which will let you imitate a gym workout.
David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.