Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

KAREN VOIGHT

Another Way to Build Up Your Pecs by Summer

March 05, 2001|KAREN VOIGHT

When you decide it's time to build your chest muscles, your first response might be to drop to the floor and pump out a set of push-ups. But there is another way. It's an exercise called "dumbbell chest flys," and it's very effective at strengthening and conditioning your pectorals, or "pecs."

It's better to do this exercise lying on a padded bench, rather than the floor, because on the bench you can get a larger range of motion with your arms. If you don't have a bench, a stability ball, available at most sporting goods stores, serves as a good substitute. The large 65-centimeter size is more comfortable than the smaller balls because it offers a bigger surface area to support your body. Since a ball is less stable than a bench, doing chest flys on a ball means you'll have to rely on your hips and abs to keep you from wobbling around during the exercise. Consequently, you'll be giving your legs and torso a workout while strengthening your chest.

When it comes to how much weight you should use for this exercise, I suggest you experiment with different amounts. You need to use enough weight so that by the end of one set of 8 to 12 repetitions, or "reps," your chest muscles will feel tired. If you don't feel your muscles fatiguing, you're not stimulating them enough to make them stronger. If you're a beginner, use 5- to 10-pound weights while you learn the movement. But remember: Once you can complete eight reps without feeling challenged, you need to use more weight. If you're already working with heavy weights, be sure you perform all your reps with good form. If not, you need to use less weight.

To begin, if you're using a stability ball, sit on top of the ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand. With your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, walk your feet away from the ball so that you can lie back. Position your upper back and head to rest on the top of the ball. Your knees should be bent with the top of your thighs parallel to the ground. Extend your arms above your shoulders, palms facing each other.

A. Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbells downward and outward to the sides to form an arc. Do not go lower than shoulder level and keep your elbows slightly bent.

B. Exhale as you squeeze your chest muscles and slowly lift the dumbbells upward and inward. When you get to the top, keep the dumbbells about a foot apart. Pause for a second before you repeat the move. A common mistake with this exercise is lowering your arms too quickly and bringing the dumbbells below the level of your shoulders. Count out three seconds as you lower the weights, and then again as you raise them to make sure you are going slowly enough. Also, never let your hands drop below your peripheral vision.

While it's perfectly all right to do aerobic exercise every day, strength training is different. The goal is to exhaust your muscles, and you need to give them time to recover. That means you only have to do this exercise two or three times a week with at least one day of rest in between. Keep it up, and you'll be proudly flexing your "pecs" by summertime.

*

Next month: The back.

*

Joan Voight, a San Francisco-based journalist, contributed to this column.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|