Why Women Should Not be Afraid to Chest Press

Our chest muscles contribute towards the execution of many of our upper body movements.

However, in our experience at U.P., many women are concerned that chest pressing will result in looking ‘bulky’. With lots of women tending to lean towards focusing on their legs and abs, upper body workouts can often be forgotten.

A chest press is an exercise that primarily targets the pec major and minor muscles, with assistance from the anterior deltoids and triceps, making it an amazing all-rounder move. Ideal for people looking to improve their strength in general, because chest presses can lead the way towards achieving an impressive push or pull up.

Luckily, there are a number of chest press variations, which involve changing the angles of your set-up. These range from a floor press through to an incline chest press, by adjusting the angle of your bench. You can also use a variety of implements, such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or a machine.

Do you struggle to feel your chest when chest pressing? Here are three of our top tips:

1. Get the set-up right

Without a stable set-up, you won’t be able to lift as much load, reducing the stimulus on the target muscles. Your feet should be positioned shoulder-width apart, under or behind the knees and flat on the floor. Use a step or block if you can’t reach the floor.

Think about retracting and depressing the shoulder blades to stabilise the shoulder joint. An easy way is to imagine you are squeezing under your armpits or tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets.

Point your chest upwards towards the ceiling, and always start the movement with the arms from an extended position. Your head, shoulders and glutes should be touching the bench, and there should be a small gap between your lower back and the bench (neutral spine). This is the start and finish position for each rep.

2. The movement

Once you are in in position, draw in a big breath and keep your chest high.

Slowly pull (rather than drop) the load down towards your chest, almost ’rowing the weight’ towards the body. Your end range of motion is where the elbows cannot go any further towards the floor, without your chest collapsing and shoulders rotating inwards.

Pause at the bottom of the movement before reversing the motion, under control, and returning to the set-up position, with the arms fully extended overhead. Make sure to exhale and inhale at the top of the rep without letting the rib cage collapse. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

3. Final Tips

  • Don’t focus on shifting the load up and down, but moving the upper arm across and away from the midline of the body, as this is the primary function of the pectoral muscles.
  • Avoid placing your feet on top of the bench; they should remain flat on the floor throughout. Try to draw your feet backwards underneath your body to help maintain arch.
  • Be careful to not to push your head back into the bench too hard, as this can strain your neck.

The dumbbells should not touch or clang together at the top position.

For more info on why training is training, regardless of gender, click here.