Training Your Chest
All of the following exercises (in the chest training section and in the sections that follow) can be done at home or at the gym, whatever works best for your schedule. You can use dumbbells or bands and tubing and body weight to achieve the desired level of challenge. Whenever possible, each exercise presents multiple variations so that you can diversify your workouts over time and use whatever equipment that you have available.
Developing your chest muscles is important to provide necessary support for your breasts and to maintain strong and healthy shoulder joints. Most people have tight chest muscles, so a thorough program of stretching and opening up your chest area is important to balance any additional training. Enjoy the rewards of your hard work with more defined cleavage and perkier, uplifted breasts as you stroll down the aisle in your wedding gown.
Since most women are weaker on top with stronger muscles in their lower bodies, you can use these upper-body exercises to help balance things out. If you're feeling a bit bottom heavy when you try on your wedding dress, these exercises will help to bring some attention upward.
You use your chest muscles on a daily basis. Any movement that involves pushing something away from you with your arms uses these muscles. Any big hugging motion also involves these muscles. These common actions, however, are not conducted with sufficient resistance to challenge your muscular strength or endurance. Therefore, supplemental weight training is necessary to maintain the health and tone of these important muscles.
Your chest muscles are layered and include the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor, known collectively as the “pecs.” The pectoralis major is a large fan-shaped muscle that is closer to the surface. Part of the pectoralis major attaches to the middle of the collarbone and runs to the upper arm in a horizontal direction. The pectoralis major works together with your shoulder muscles to move your arms forward, upward, across the front of your body, and to rotate your arms inward.
The other part of the pectoralis major runs from the sternum, or breastbone, in the center of your chest across your chest and up to the top of your upper arm in a diagonal direction. When you press your arms downward and inward you contract these muscles. Training on an incline bench will enable you to most effectively challenge these muscle fibers.
Figures 9-1 and 9-2 The incline chest press tones and strengthens your chest, shoulders, and arms. It also tones the muscles that provide lift and support to the breasts.
GET SET Stand in a split stance with your feet hip-width apart and one foot slightly in front of the other. Hold one end of an exercise band or tubing in each hand with the band or tubing behind your upper back. Hold your hands at chest height without hunching your shoulders with your palms facing downward. Pull in your abdominal muscles to support your lower back. (
ACTION Slide your shoulders down and back. Press your arms up at a forty-five degree angle, keeping your palms facing downward, without locking your elbows. Feel all your chest muscles contracting, particularly in the upper central area. Keep your shoulders relaxed, abdominals pulled inward. Keep your wrist joint flat. (
WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Inhale to prepare, exhale as you press up. Inhale, return to start. Avoid arching your lower back by contracting your abdominals and pulling your lower ribs in toward your spine. Lengthen arms without locking elbows.
(EASIER) Lie on top of a band or piece of tubing behind your back. Hold one handle in each hand. Bend knees with feet flat on ground. Press rib cage into the ground using abdominal muscles. Press up against resistance. Lower slowly.
If you experience any discomfort in your elbows or shoulder, do not lower weights all the way back to start. Try lowering only partially down and keep weights above shoulders.
(HARDER) Use dumbbells and sit on an incline bench with your feet flat on the ground. Make sure your lower back is supported against the bench. Exhale as you push weights up and away from body. Inhale as you return to start.
Figures 9-3 and 9-4 The chest fly tones and strengthens your chest and shoulders. It also provides definition to your cleavage.
GET SET Stand in a split stance with your feet hip-width apart and one foot slightly in front of the other. Hold one end of an exercise band or tubing in each hand with the band or tubing behind your upper back. Hold your arms fully extended out wide at chest height with your palms facing inward without locking your elbows or hunching your shoulders. Pull in your abdominal muscles to support your lower back. (
ACTION Slide shoulders down and back. Bring your arms toward each other in a big hugging motion. Feel your chest muscles contract, particularly in the center. (
WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Inhale as you open your arms, exhale as you hug and squeeze.
(EASIER) Lie down on top of a piece of tubing behind your back. Hold one handle in each hand. Start with both hands extended outward with elbows slightly bent. Make a big hugging motion against resistance. Lower slowly.
(HARDER) Perform this exercise on an incline bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Place your feet flat on the ground. Maintain good alignment. Hold weights with your palms toward each other. Push dumbbells over chest with arms fully extended without locking elbows. Slowly, lower arms outward until arms are parallel with the bench. Lift arms back to start in a big hugging motion. Avoid any feelings of strain or discomfort in the shoulder joint.
Forget padding the top of your dress for extra cleavage! Focus on exercises like the incline chest press and chest fly — if you have a strapless, sweetheart, or other open-neckline dress, these are the exercises for you. They won't magically increase your bust size, but by improving definition and adding a little lift, you'll achieve a more flattering look.
Figures 9-5 and 9-6 Pushups tone and strengthen your arms, shoulders, and chest. They also challenge your core muscles to support good posture.
GET SET Kneel on all fours on the floor. Walk your hands forward until your hands are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your torso resembles a slanted board. Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles to support your lower back. Maintain good alignment. Lift the tops of your feet off the ground and hold your ankles parallel. Use your inner thigh muscles to hold your legs parallel to each other. (
ACTION Lower your chest toward the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your posture strong. Avoid dropping your head. (
WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Inhale to prepare, exhale as you push up. Inhale, return to start. Place a towel under your palms to elevate them and reduce pressure on your wrists. Another option to reduce pressure on your wrists is to hold onto the dumbbells that rest on the floor. Avoid dropping your head. Your pushup should not resemble a nose dive. Avoid locking your elbows when you lift. Lower as far as possible.
(EASIER) Stand in front of a wall. Place your hands on the wall slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Bend elbows and lower body toward wall. Straighten arms as you push through hands.
(EASIER) On the floor, instead of working from a slanting board position, kneel on all fours. Lower your chest toward the floor by bending your elbows. Adjust the amount of the load by shifting more or less weight from your knees into your hands.
(HARDER) On the floor, instead of working from a slanting board position, extend your legs long and rest on the balls of your feet, so your body resembles a plank.
(HARDER) Place one end of the band under each of your hands and around your back. Push up against the increased resistance of the band. Lower with control.