Don't Forget to Stretch
Regardless of which muscle group you're working, stretching is an important component of a comprehensive strength-training program. Be sure to complete each workout with stretches for those muscles you've taxed.
Chest stretches would include standing in a doorway, elbows bent, palms on the inside of the doorway. Lean out to open the chest while straightening and holding with your arms. Another is to stand with your arms by your sides, palms facing backward and press back and long with your arms while lifting your chest slightly.
For beginners, perform two sets of either the push-up or the dumbbell bench press followed by two sets of the incline dumbbell chest fly. Intermediate and advanced exercisers should perform three sets of push-ups and/or the dumbbell bench press followed by three sets of the incline dumbbell chest fly. Both beginners and advanced should perform eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. Once you can do 12 repetitions with good form, increase the weight used.
Incline Push-Up (Beginner)
- Lie face down with hands on a secure bench, chair, or desk. Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with feet hip-width apart and toes on floor.
- Lower your body so that your chest is 4-8 inches from the bench.
- Return to the starting position by extending at the elbows and pushing the body up.
Challenge: As you get stronger, try the push-up on the floor, being careful to stabilize the back by tightening the abdominals. You should look like a straight, diagonal line from the toes to the head.
Note: Remember to keep the head and trunk stabilized in a neutral position by contracting the abdominal and back muscles. Never fully lock out the elbows and avoid hyperextending the low back.
Dumbbell Bench Press
- Lie back onto a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Starting position: Lie onto your back and bring the dumbbells to your shoulders. Press the dumbbells up directly above your chest with palms facing forward.
- Lower the dumbbells slowly, keeping your elbows pointed out.
- Let your upper arm go parallel to slightly past parallel to the ground before returning to the starting position.
- To end the exercise, place the dumbbells on onto your thighs or at sides.