It’s no secret that weight training is one of the most effective ways to tone your body, lose weight, and, of course, build strength. This has always been true, but it took until recent years for women, in particular, to jump on the strength training, well, train. Thanks to the cardio craze of the 90s and a slew of marketing mainly aimed at men, weightlifting has been a man’s game—but not anymore. It’s easy to prioritize building muscle in your arms, legs, and core, but it’s important not to neglect more focused areas of the body like the back and chest. For women, especially, the pectoral muscles often get left behind. But the benefits of weight training the chest are many. We spoke to experts about women might not work on their pectorals, why they should, and how they can.
Pectorals are aesthetically beneficial for women.
If you’ve watched bodybuilding competitions or scrolled through Instagram, you’ve likely been amazed at the ways that women are able to sculpt their muscles. Some women work tirelessly for this sort of body. However, others are nervous about exercising too often because they hope to avoid this extreme definition.
Since no two chests are built identically, Personal Trainer Ambyr Chatzopoulos, CSCS, reminds women that they can work out their chest without creating the appearance of a weight-lifting athlete. “Working your pectorals will strengthen your chest muscles and possibly give your breasts a lifted appearance, which is more or less obvious depending on the size and shape of your breasts,” she explains.
And since every part of our body is interconnected, she explains that pectoral exercises will also engage your upper body, from your core and your triceps to your shoulders. “You will be strengthening your abs and the back of your arms, while also making your chest stronger and giving you a more balanced physical appearance,” she adds.
It might not seem like an important factor, but symmetry helps maintain physical health and prevent mishaps. “The entire body works as a unit, so you never want to completely ignore one muscle group. Ignoring your pectorals when working out will lead to muscle imbalances, which could eventually lead to injuries,” Chatzopoulos says.
Pectorals are psychologically beneficial for women.
Compared with other exercise regimens, Chatzopoulos says that pectoral training is easier to track progress. Whether you’re performing push-ups or a bench press, you will know when you can perform more reps or press more weight, she notes. Why is this psychologically beneficial? Chatzopoulos says that many women will experience a huge sense of accomplishment, which is essential in physical fitness goals.
And, even if you’ve never valued your strength per se, Physical Therapist Lauren Lobert, DPT, OMPT, CSCS, says that many females are surprised—and impressed—with how much grit they have inside of them. “Strength training can be very empowering for women. Your pectorals help push, so it can make you feel more capable in defending yourself, as well,” she explains. And, as you begin to see some definition and changes in your personal figure, Lobert says that many women will feel free from traditional stereotypes and stigmas around appearing muscular. Instead, they embrace not only the appearance of their body, but they love what they lift, pull, and push to do with it, too.
Best Ways to Exercise Pectorals
If you’ve never given your pectorals much thought, no worries. There are plenty of ways to incorporate chest exercises into your routine. Here are the top recommendations from the pros, for any woman to try.
Whether you perform them on your knees or in a plank position, Chatzopoulos says that push-ups are an effective way to work out your chest. To pull it off, set yourself up for success:
- Lay face down on the floor with your hands flat and directly outside of your chest.
- Tighten up and engage your glutes and core as you press your body off the floor.
- Slowly lower back down for one rep. Repeat.
Dumbbell Chest Press
A bit of extra weight can take an okay workout to a super-effective one. One place to begin is with a dumbbell, as recommended by Chatzopoulos.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lay down on your back.
- Press your dumbbells toward the ceiling, keeping them in line with your chest.
- When the dumbbells are pressed above your chest, make sure that the flat sides of the dumbbells are pressed together, with your palms facing away from your face.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells until they come down to chest level.
- Press them back up to the starting position. Repeat.
Another go-to? Lobert likes this workout since you can vary the weight as you improve over time.
- Lay on your back with dumbbells in each hand.
- Start with your arms fully extended, with palms facing toward each other.
- Slowly let your arms fall out, with your elbows slightly bent in the shape of a T.
- Return to start. Repeat.
Your pectorals are important aesthetically and physically and shouldn’t be neglected. Work more chest exercises into your weekly strength training routines for an added boost in strength and confidence.