For a more effective workout, do moves that work your chest muscles from more than one angle.
Why it works
Muscles are made up of fibers that run in different directions. When you're working with weights, you want to follow the direction of those fibers as closely as possible, says trainer Jeff Munger. Some muscle fibers run horizontally across your chest, while others run diagonally from the middle of your sternum (breastbone) up to your shoulders -- so you want exercises that require pushing straight forward as well as up at an incline.
Your main chest muscle is the pectoralis major, a large, fan-shaped muscle. One part of the muscle attaches to the middle of your collarbone and works with your anterior deltoid, aka your front shoulder muscle, to move your arms forward and upward as well as rotate your arms inward. The other part, which extends from your sternum and upper six ribs to the top of your upper arm bone, is stimulated in downward and forward movements of the arm. In addition, the triceps is involved in both the flat-bench dumbbell press and the ball push-up.
To do these moves, you will need dumbbells, a cable pulley machine and a stability ball, all available at most gyms.
Do this workout 3 times a week, taking a day off between workouts. Between sets, stretch your muscles for 30 seconds. Progress to the advanced workout after 4-8 weeks.
Superset these moves: Without resting, do 1 set of 10 reps of each exercise. This equals 1 superset. Wait 60 seconds, and repeat. Do 3 supersets total. For an extra whammy, do 1-2 sets (10 reps each) of medicine-ball presses: Lie on a flat bench and toss a 5-pound medicine ball up in the air to yourself.
* Use enough resistance to fatigue your chest muscles so you can barely do another rep by the end of each set.
* To avoid imbalance between opposing muscle groups, complement these exercises with moves that work your middle and upper back, like high seated rows and bent-over flys.
* To get more out of each exercise, squeeze and contract your chest muscles before every rep.
* When contracting your chest, don't let your rib cage drop; keep your chest lifted even though you're pressing your arms forward or in toward each other.