Use two cables to build your chest muscles.
Chris Clinton/Photodisc/Getty Images
No matter which exercises you perform, you risk hitting a plateau if you do the same activities repeatedly. As your body becomes used to the exercises, they become easier and you hinder further progress. Variety is the answer to this problem. By performing a wide range of exercises your body can't adapt fully to any one type. So, when it's time to work your chest, you can do barbell presses, dumbbell flyes and pushups if you wish -- but mix in some cable exercises to avoid hitting a plateau.
Don't Start with Cold Muscles
You're asking for trouble if you work out with cold muscles. Cold muscles aren't as flexible as warm muscles, so you'll lose some range of motion when you start pulling the cables during your main workout. You may also be more prone to injury if you don't warm up. Opinions differ on this point, but there's no reason to take the risk. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate and creates a light sweat. Do some dynamic stretches to further prepare your muscles for strength training, such as vertical or horizontal arm swings.
Work the Pectoralis Major
Begin the main portion of your chest workout by hitting your largest chest muscle, the sternal head of the pectoralis major, with presses and flyes. You typically require a dual-cable machine or two cable machines to perform chest presses and flyes. Do flyes while lying on a flat bench with low cables to your right and left. Hold each cable's handle with your palms up and your arms extended but your elbows flexed slightly. Bring your hands together above your chest while maintaining the elbow bend. You can also do flyes while standing, using high cables, or while you're seated, with medium cables. Do your flyes on a decline bench, with low cables, to target the lower part of your pecs.
Do chest presses while seated with your back to a pair of medium-height cables. Begin with your hands next to your shoulders, then extend your arms forward. Alternatively, do the press with one arm at a time. Perform presses while standing by using a high cable.
Don't Forget the Upper Pecs
Strengthen the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, near your collarbone, by pulling the cables at an upward angle. Perform flyes on an incline bench -- with your head higher than your feet -- and low cables, or do them while you're standing, using low cables and moving your arms diagonally from the sides of your abdomen to the front of your forehead. Do a standing fly with high cables, moving your hands down from the sides of your chest to the front of your waist, to work the pectoralis minor muscles in front of each shoulder. Again, flex your elbows and maintain the elbow bend for all your flyes.
Target the Serratus Anterior
Include at least one exercise that focuses on the serratus anterior muscles at the sides of your chest. Do an incline shoulder raise in a chair with your back to a medium cable. Attach a pair of stirrups to the cable and hold the stirrups above your head with your arms extended in front of you and angled roughly 45 degrees to the floor. Keep your arms straight as you push your shoulders toward your hands.
Sets and Reps
Perform two to three sets of each exercise, with eight to 12 repetitions per set. Use enough weight to make the last reps in each set challenging, but not so much that you lose your form. Don't perform chest exercises on two consecutive days, as your muscles require 48 hours to rest, recover and rebuild from the workout.