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Chest Exercises to Help Tone and More

Whether a man or a woman, strong, developed chest muscles are a plus. Learn how to sculpt your pecs in part 4 of WebMD's Fitness Series.

Posture Is Key continued...

If done correctly, many chest exercises simultaneously recruit and work other muscles groups.

"If you're pushing a car or a lawn mower," explains Cotton, "naturally the back and abs are also very activated. Having weak abs is going to hurt your back."

Chest exercises primarily use the chest but recruit supporting muscle groups to assist. In a push-up, for example, not only are the pectorals engaged but the abdominals, the latissimus dorsi in the back, the deltoids in the shoulders, and the triceps in the back of upper arms are involved.

Experts say pectorals are not usually a neglected group among those developing a workout program. Quite the contrary 

"The show muscles [such as pecs and abs] are usually something that people that are motivated to exercise are going to try to build -- men especially," says Cotton.

Many men focus solely on their upper bodies and particularly their chests, says Cooper, because they can see the progress.

But everyone should be wary of sacrificing balance in a zealous desire to have a nice chest.

"This is not a muscle group you want to overemphasize to the detriment of the opposing back muscles," Cotton says. "You should balance the two for a healthy program."

For women, chest exercises, done in balance can help to lift a sagging chest, strengthening the muscles that help lift the breast tissue, particularly in someone who's overweight, losing weight, or has just had a baby.

"Getting the chest in shape lifts the chest," says Cotton. "It may appear that you have a bigger chest (whether you're striving for that or not), but it's a healthier look. It's better posture."

Women concerned with building bulk shouldn't be, he says.

"Only 10% of women actually gain significant muscle mass doing chest exercises," says Cotton.

"You'd have to be on a pretty serious body-building regime to get that bulk," says Cooper. "And you'd have to be genetically predisposed to it."

"It would take heavy weights and low repetitions to create size," says Cooper. Women are generally doing higher repetitions with lower weights so bulk is not really an issue.

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