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Pectoral Exercises With Free Weights

by Aaron Matthew

About Aaron Matthew

A health and fitness writer since 2008, Aaron Matthew specializes in writing about health, fitness and mental performance topics for various websites including LIVESTRONG. He holds a Master of Arts degree in kinesiology from San Jose State University.



Walk into a gym and you are likely to see an assortment of weight benches -- flat benches, incline benches and decline benches. These benches can be used to target the pectoral muscles -- the large muscles that make up the chest -- in a variety of ways. To ensure safety when lifting weights, it is always a good idea to have a workout partner as a spotter and to lift a safe amount of weight.

Barbell Bench Press

The barbell bench press is classified as a beginner lift by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The pectorals are one of the primary muscle groups targeted during this lift. To perform the bench press, lie on your back on a flat bench and grip the barbell. Once you have a firm grasp, lift the barbell off the rack, straighten the arms, lower the barbell to just above the chest and then press it upward until the arms are fully extended. This lift can also be performed with dumbbells in place of the barbell. Other variations of this lift can be done using incline and decline benches. Presses done on an incline bench will target the clavicular head -- or upper portion -- of your pecs. Presses performed on a decline bench will tone the sternal head -- or lower portion -- of your pecs.

Lying Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell pullovers are an intermediate-level exercise, with the pectorals being the only primary muscle group engaged. To perform this lift, lie on your back on a flat bench with your head supported on one end. While holding the end of a dumbbell in both hands, extend your arms up and over your head. To complete the lift, pull the weight back over your head toward your stomach.

Dumbbell Fly

The dumbbell fly primarily engages the pectorals as well as two of the deltoid muscles. To perform this lift correctly, maintain back, head, shoulder and feet contact with the supporting surface at all times. To begin, lie on your back on a weight bench. With one dumbbell in each hand, press them straight out in front of your chest. Turn your palms to face inward. This is your starting position. Keeping just a slight bend in the elbow, lower the weights out to the side, until they reach the same level as the rest of the body. Return to the starting position and repeat. You can target your upper or lower pecs by performing this exercise on an incline or decline bench, just as you would for bench presses.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.