Should Women do Chest Exercises?

The majority of clients I have trained have been women between the ages of 19 to mid-20’s, as well as a few older individuals. I am constantly left face palming and shaking my head when they tell me what they have heard/read from friends, magazines and television shows.

There is “Bro science” for men, and for women there are tons of common myths. Most females I begin training are scared that they will magically gain a lot of muscle mass and size; they desire a lean body, small thighs, big butt and a great chest; just as men seek to have big arms/chest etc. You can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

Common Myths

  • Females, in particular seem to think that if they pick up a moderately heavy weight they will instantly become “she man”. This is wildly incorrect; if gaining mass was that easy, (wish it was) I would be twice the size I am today. Genetically speaking women cannot naturally get as “big” or “strong” as a man (not to say there aren’t many women who are incredibly strong and have a great tone/muscle body). Women should not fear losing their femininity by lifting, many studies have been shown to suggest men prefer women who are active and have that physical, active, “muscular” body. Women simply do not produce enough testosterone to “bulk up”.

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  • Another myth I wish to crush is that you can target fat, for example- If you do an insane amount of sit-ups you will burn that stomach fat and get the 8 pack of your dreams. This is simply a myth and nothing more. I know people with 8 packs who haven’t done a single sit-up, it is part genetics, larger part diet and from a total body training routine.

  • A lot of people really believe that you can turn fat into muscle or if you stop working out your muscle will turn into fat. Those statements blow my mind and extremely, wildly incorrect- I will leave it at that for the intent of this article.

  • Countless isolation movements and high volume will get you results. Actually, the human body is a Push-Pull machine and requires compound movements to achieve maximum results.

  • A lot of women I know think doing cardio only will yield the results they desire, this is simply not true. We will have an article shortly on how to manage your weight training and cardio time effectively.

So, Should Women Train their Chest?

Lifting will not make you look like “the Hulk”!

My answer is a loud and proud YES! I want to state this as politely yet bluntly as I can: you will not lose your breasts, and they will not become “rock hard.” The pectorals, over the course of your training, will become more muscular. Some refer to it as the “tone/ripped” look. Courtney, an Olympic/Powerlifter at our gym stated,

“Yes, there’s no reason a woman shouldn’t train chest. Breasts are made up of fat. You will build up muscle underneath of that fat; however, if your body fat percentage is fairly low your breasts will show off more of that ripped/toned look. This could also help in making them perkier”

Courtney also says, “In addition to that, working your chest also hits the triceps – women have a huge problem with what they call “chicken wings” it’s the extra fat that can hang out on the back of the arm, you can lose weight, but unless you lift weights and build some muscle up, your arms won’t look toned.”

Make sure to get a full range of motion while using free weights.

Women Friendly Chest Routine

I recently wrote an article regarding a Jack3d chest routine, but I will tailor one for females. There is a great chance this will be the first time you have begun weight training, in particular focusing on the chest. The key is to check your pride at the door and allow your body the time it required to build a solid foundation to reach your goals, start light and slowly progress weekly. Hiring a trainer, asking a knowledgeable friend or someone like me is key, because form is of the utmost importance.

Week 1-4: When I train women I almost always have them start with a neutral grip Hammer Strength chest press machine (or something equivalent) Aim for 3 sets 10-12 reps, pressing at the bottom quickly and returning to the starting position slowly. The key to this exercise is squeezing your shoulder blades together, keeping your elbows in tight, chest out and holding at the top of the lift – this general rule of thumb can be applied to all the lifts I am going to mention. This movement can be done with dumbbells as well, and should be once you are comfortable, it works the stabilizers.

The Fly machine or free weights: remember to get the full range of motion and a tight squeeze, hold for a few seconds each rep. These can be done with dumbbells, machines or cables. You can search for instructional videos.

You can do tried and true push-ups: There are many forms to choose from – close grip, diamond, wide, the list goes on and on.

The bench press: There isn’t a better place to be in the gym (my opinion) then lying down, and seeing a loaded bar above your face. The bench is a very technical lift; ask for help if you are unsure. This is best exercise to target overall chest development.

Do not be afraid to start some of these great exercises. You can lose the “chicken wings,” and get lean without becoming a hulk.

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