How to Build Chest Muscles For Hardgainers

If you are a hardgainer and want to know how to build chest muscles then you probably realize just how important a strong, broad chest can be. It is a set of muscles that is very important for your overall upper body strength and if is also an impressive part of any man’s physique. When it comes to signature muscles that you can show off, a muscular chest with impressive pectorals is essential.

Another great thing about building chest muscles is that many exercises you do will also exercise other muscles nearby such as the arms and core muscles and so should often be in your workout routines anyway. However a word of warning. If you choose to work on your pecs to the exclusion of other muscles you run the risk of over-training and injuring yourself or at least tiring yourself out for no good reason. You also do not want to look too top heavy as being out of proportion is less attractive and not good for your overall fitness and strength.

Click here to check out an explosive new resource for anyone struggling to build chest muscle that goes well beyond this article!

That being said, building bigger chest muscles is a skill all guys who want a better body should research so that you look good, feel good and know you are stronger and more capable.

How Your Chest Muscles Work

Before you start training a specific muscle group it pays to do your research not just into the specific exercises you need to do to enhance your chest or any other muscle group but also to understand the anatomy and physiology of the muscles. This will give you a much greater understanding of what you are doing and how you should achieve maximum muscle growth.

The chest is made up of two muscles as shown in the diagram: The Pectoralis Major and the Pectoralis Minor.

  • The Pectoralis Major is the most obvious muscle that starts attached to breastbone in the center of the chest and then fans out across the upper ribcage to connect to your humerus near the shoulder joint. This fan like shape of the muscle fibers allows the body to move the arms across the chest and other actions that involve the arms and upper body movement.
  • The Pectoralis Minor exists underneath the Pectoralis Major starting from the mid ribs and attaching to the coracoid process of the scapula. This smaller muscle controls the movement of the shoulder in a few specific ways such as moving the shoulder forward and downward.

What this means when you are trying to build larger chest muscles is that you need to be incorporating your arms and shoulders in your exercises but target them to particular action you know will grow the muscles you want to enhance. If you have a skinny body type then you will also want to be aware that the shape of your pecs cannot be scupleted past a certain point. How your chest looks when it has become much bigger in muscle mass is purely genetic so don’t waste your time trying to sculpt too much, just aim for muscle gain and the rest will follow.

How to Train Your Chest Muscles

Training any muscles has a basic core set of things you must be aware of especially if you are a skinny hardgainer type. However even if you are not these foundations of muscle building should be followed for better results. Skinny guys just need to make sure they follow them to get ANY results.


Rest – A fundamental point you need to know is that muscle actually grow when you rest, not when you are working out. When you sleep especially your body changes to muscle repair mode if you have been working out and goes to work building more muscle to compensate for the heavy weights you have been lifting.
Diet – The second point is that this muscle repair will not happen if you do not have the fuel the body needs to grow. This is where most skinny guys fall down and end up labeling themselves hardgainers. If you have a skinny Ectomorph body type you need to eat a heck of a lot more than you are used to so that your fast metabolism does not burn though all your calories before it is muscle growth time.
Progressive Overload – The last point is that you need to be very aware of progressive overload. This is where you are lifting weights to your maximum possible threshold to build muscle but then you continue to add more or to do more or to reduce recovery time. If you do not constantly force your body to adapt to stress it will not grow

More on Rest & Recovery …
More on Diet & Nutrition …
More on Workouts & Muscle Growth …

When it comes to the exercises themselves in your workout there are also a few rules you should follow to get the most out of each gym session.

  • Do not over-train your Pectorals
  • Remember that some other exercises indirectly workout the Chest muscles
  • Workout a range of different exercises and variations of those exercises to target the different parts of the Pectoralis major and minor
  • Do not workout your Chest longer than you need. Spark muscle growth then move on to other muscles that need your attention
  • Try to do exercises with a fuller range of motion to get the most out of each set.
  • Keep good form throughout each exercise. Do not jerk weights and keep resistance when lowering the. This prevents injury and works your muscles more.

Best Chest Exercises

The Bench Press

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The bench press is a must for skinny guys looking to pack on more chest muscle. It not only works both minor and major pecs but includes other muscles including the triceps. Remember though that this can be a dangerous exercise which can lead to injury. Make sure you have a spotter with you when you bench press to avoid this.

Best practices for this exercise are:

  • Lie back on bench with your feet flat on the ground
  • Get a firm grip on the bar about shoulder width apart or a little further
  • Lift bar off its rack then slowly lower to your chest while breathing in
  • Lift the bar til you extend your arms to their fullest length while breathing out
  • Lower bar again and repeat while keeping good posture and your bum on the bench and your feet on the ground

Variations  – If you raise and lower the bench to make it an incline or decline angle you can work your upper or lower pectorals more.

Parallel Dips

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The parallel dip is another excellent chest muscle exercise. It is also a great exercise for your entire upper body as it recruits muscles from the arms, chest, shoulder and back to lift your entire body weight up and down.

Best practices for this exercise are:

  • Stand on a box between the parallel bars
  • Place your hands on the parallel bars. Your arms should be straight
  • Kick the box back
  • Slowly, lower yourself down until your arms are fully bent
  • Slowly lift yourself back up.
  • Breathe in as you lower and out as you raise yourself
Variations – You can of course do backwards dips but these target your triceps more than the chest muscles but are still a god way to target smaller areas of the chest muscle.
Push Ups

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The humble push up is a good way to start your chest muscle building. Good technique doing push ups against your own weight is how many skinny hardgainers get a good start on thier pecs though using weights may give better results later.

Best practices for this exercise are:

  • Lie down with your feet together and with active toes
  • Place your hands palm down a bit more than shoulder width apart
  • Inhale and tighten the muscles in your body especially your core muscles.
  • Straighten your arms lifting yourself off the floor while exhaling.
  • Pause for a moment at the top
  • Slowly lower yourself to the floor inhaling.
Dumbbell Flyes
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Another great chest exercise for skinny guys is the dumbbell fly. This exercises a range of motion not touched on as much by the other exercises and such builds more muscle.

Best practices for this exercise are:

  • Lie down on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lower the dumbbells while keeping your elbows bent until the elbows dip below the shoulders.
  • While keeping your feet on the floor and tensing your muscles lift the dumbbells through your entire upward range of motion.
  • Hold at the top for a moment
  • Slowly lower back to the starting position.

Variations – Like the bench press you can train different parts of the chest muscles by adjusting the bench to an incline position or a decline position. This will train the upper and lower part of the pecs more.

These exercises and tips should show you how to build chest muscles quickly and efficiently no matter what you body type but especially if you are a hardgainer!

Hi Guys, James McLain here,

jamesmclainThanks for reading my article, I hope you got something out of it. I usually recommend readers check out the No-Nonsense Muscle Building Guide by Vince Delmonte but for those of you looking for more detail on just enhancing certain body parts like your chest that might be giving you real troubles there is another excellent resource that has been brought to my attention.

Jeff “The Muscle Nerd” Anderson is another big name in the muscle building industry through his online work. He has excellent guides such as Hardgainer Project X and Homemade Supplement Secrets and has recently added a new specialized guide that focuses exclusively on building mass in certain areas for those guys who have really stubborn muscles.

Muscle Specialization Secrets is Jeff’s explosive new package that contains extremely well researched methods into building mass in all the areas that we want to be bigger and impressive such as the chest, biceps and more. This targeted strategy caught my attention as sometimes you can achieve gains in other areas but one body part seems to have some genetic tendency to stay small. For me it is was my legs that for a long time lagged well behind the rest of my body no matter what I did!

If you want to know a bit more about Jeff check out this video he did about the facts and myths of “The Pump” and you will see he knows his stuff.

The Bodybuilding PUMP: Mass Building Myth…Or Legend?!

By The “Muscle Nerd”, Jeff Anderson

Ever see those documentary television shows “Animals Gone Wild”? (no…NOT “GIRLS Gone Wild”! A-N-I-M-A-L-S!)
You know…the ones where normally docile animals scratch, claw, kick, bite, peck, gnaw, or otherwise DEVOUR another animal right before your eyes?
Well, here’s a challenge for you…
Throw a hundred fitness consultants in a room and ask them to debate whether or not that huge “PUMP” you get in the gym is REALLY building you any muscle…or if it’s just a useless ego booster…then watch them start scratching out eyes as the debate heats up! 😉
Yep…tempers flare on this topic and opinions are all over the board…so how would you like a little help from the scientific community on whether or not you should be ignoring the pump…or whether it’s your best friend in the gym?
The answer may SURPRISE you!
Amaze your friends with your bodybuilding brilliance as you bring the next “pump” argument to a screeching halt with the no-nonsense verdict you’re about to learn in this short VIDEO LESSON!

I personally think Jeff has made a very useful guide here that goes well beyond this simple snippet of his knowledge and highly recommend this new guide to anyone struggling to build chest muscles.

Check out Muscle Specialization Secrets here

Follow James McLain on , Facebook, or Twitter!

27 thoughts on “How to Build Chest Muscles For Hardgainers”

  1. I have also overworked my chest at times. Growing up I had a pretty significant muscle imbalance because i would do more pushing than pulling exercises. My chest was very developed but I just did a few simple back exercises and some core training, but not enough to compensate how much I worked my chest. This effects your posture and I didn’t have any idea how out of wack I was until I did a lot of isolation training for my back to catch up to how much I worked out my chest.

  2. @Dan Gazaway Pitching

    Hey Dan, I hear you man. While I wrote this article to help people get a bigger chest I really advocate total body workouts most of the time because you can really begin to look disproportionate. Not only that, you can also hurt yourself focusing too much on a single muscle group.

    That being said, soemtimes you need to fill out some stubborn muscles that refuse to grow!

  3. Hello sir
    My problem is my chest is not balance. my chest left pecs is down and right pecs is up. This is not good loocking.
    Please tell me good advices of my chest muscles.
    I am not go gym, I have home gym and other equipments of bodybuilding workouts.

  4. Hi Ahsan,

    One problem with imbalance of muscles in a region comes from lack of stretching I have heard. Do some good stretching exercises regularly on your chest, esspecially the weaker side.

    Also lay off the heavy weights for a while and concentrate on the development of the weaker side with this stretching. Once you have a better balance you should start developing better together.

  5. hi James! Great article!

    im a hardgainer and am just trying to put on enough muscle to not look skinny, i know this may take a long time but i like the challenge! I have slightly pointed nipples and was wondering if theres any exercises you could suggest i could do to make them look flat! Oh and i dont go to the gym, i just use dumbells at home for now

  6. Hi Nadim,

    Thanks! 🙂

    I hear you on the nipple thing, its annoying … I have a friend who had the same problem when he was younger. Fro him it was some sort of hormonal thing, he just had to age and tough it out and then they become a bit mroe normal.

    The only other way I can think to help with this is to vary your chest exercises to taregt the chest muscles form all angles, top, middle and bottom. Also make sure not to neglect your back if you are working the front so much.

    You might also find once you are done bulking up and start trimming the fat down a little bit this might go away as well.

    Try to vary the angles you do your dumbell exercises so you hit all parts of the chest to tighten up all the muscles and see if that helps.

  7. Hey James this is great stuff! I’m just getting into it but it looks outstanding.

    I’m 14 and I have a problem. I workout regularly at my school, and at night when I’m home. I like to think I have decent size in my arms, but they aren’t rock solid like I want them to be. I only recently noticed this and I hope to change it. I have a high protein and calorie diet with 3 meals a day. I am 140lbs, and 5’8.

  8. @Shane

    Hey Shane, not sure if I got your point but i think you are saying your arms are a decent size but they do not seem to be defined or hard?

    You might want to start doing Strength Training for your arms.

    This differs from building more muscle size and instead focuses on building the density of your existing muscles which will make them harder and tighter.

    To do this you should lift VERY heavy weights. As in a MAXIMUM of 6 reps before yuo give out which is less than I usually prescribe to skinny guys. This will increase your power and make those muscles harder.

    Maybe also change your diet to 5 meals a day and not 3 if you are doing regular exercise and you have a high metabolism to keep your body fuelled at all times for muscle growth.

  9. Hi James, Nice work, i am 18 yrs old, i am a vegetarian. i have started to work out but it hant helped me much my arms, biceps and triceps seem to have increased but my chest has not increased, in muscle mass. i can still see bones sticking out the chest, could you please help with it, i really don’t like bony chest. thank you hope to hear from you.

  10. Hi James, i got the same problem with Ahsan which is my left and right chests are not balance. The left is about at its normal possition but the right chest is a little bit down. Could you please tell me what exactly i should do to make it back up? what type of exercise and how? Thank you and look forward to hear from you ^^

  11. @Dhruval
    Hey Dhruval,

    While I usually tell people to do an all body workout, perhaps you should switch to some chest only exercises for a bit. Make sure you are pushing only about 8-10 reps on each set too so you are really challenging it. Also good form is essential, do not cheat and really FEEL those chest muscles doing the work. Also when you are resting from a lift take is slow do not drop it back, let the muscle feel the retraction as well.

    The chest area is quite large so make sure to keep eating well and in decent amounts to give yourself the energy to create that new muscle.

  12. @Jin
    Hi Jin,

    I am not sure exactly what you mean by ‘down’, all i can say is to follow the advie I gave Ashan. Generally you need to stretch and concentrate on just that side for a bit, but do not neglect the rest of your body.

  13. if anyone finds it hard developing cest it maybe because you have longer arms try cutting the motion short so you only 3/4 of the rep which isolates the chest more especially if you have longer arms it worked for me

  14. Hi,
    I believe that my pec minor on my right side is more developed. I hear you on the stretching but its getting to the point where I’ve stopped benching all together because my right pec was doing all the work. I try isolating my left with dumbell’s but nothing seems to work. could it be my back that is not developed enough? please help

  15. @John
    Hi John,

    Sorry I cannot be more specific with the advice but you do need to stretch and work that under developed muscle group. You might be right however in that the supporting muscle groups might need some extra attention as well.

    Try doing multiple muscle group exercises and not isolation exercises but concentrate on that side of the body a little more for a time. Jeff Anderson’s guide I recommend above is very good at hitting those individual areas that seem to not grow though maybe check that out for more in depth help.

  16. Hi James, my main problem with my pecs are the inner and upper parts of my muscle. Right where my right pec major meets at the upper and lower parts of the muscle, just below my collarbone there is an obvious lack of muscle. This isn’t the case on the left side, and I don’t work them with differing intensities, so I’m now sure exactly how to fix this shortcoming.

  17. @Mason
    Hi Mason,

    Try working that muscle group alone, then work the muscle groups around it as well for a while. You may have already tried this however – but make sure that you do the exercise at the right intensity which should be below what your other side can do – but high enough to really stress the muscles. Try 6-10 reps max before you give out.
    Make sure to do light exercise on the other side though as to not atrophy.

  18. Hey, im a skinny guy, and i am tired of it. I could honestly pull off looking like an eleven year old till last year. Today is my sixtenth birthday, and i really want to stop looking like a creepy scrawny dude. Im not wanting to be majorly ripped and buff past my wildest dreams, but i do want something to show off in the pool. im gonna start helping my uncle with constructoin, and thats how he said he got alot of his muscle. If you or anyone else has a complete workout schedule that can work me to the max

  19. @Dan
    Hi Dan,

    Workout schedules need to be personalised based on your work and study times, your lifestyle, how you eat etc so its kind of hard to give you anything set. The work in construction will give you a good starting point and get you ready for the bigger weights.
    Try to workout 2-3 times a week outside of your work and make sure you do not focus on isolation exercises alone. Do free weights and exercises that hit multiple muscle groups. You need to build muscle all over and your natural shape will start to show.
    Do not forget to eat up big if you work out big too!

  20. Hi there,
    I am a hardgainer too and I try for almost one year now (seriously, can be more than one year already) to increase my physical strength on arms , chest, back and abs… Problem is that no matter which workout I tried I don’t improve anything. i train up to three times a week.
    I recognized long time ago that my arms are kinda weak that they can’t do an effective chest exercise.

    Can you help me to solve that arm problem? (well my arms look thin as well… really annoying)

  21. @Tobias
    Hi Tobias,

    One important thing to note is that stronger arms should come from your triceps not your biceps. Triceps (under the arm compared to the bicep) are the working muscle for most stuff you do, biceps are more a show muscle if they are huge. Lots of guys work their biceps too much when the triceps will give you more strength and still look great when they gain a lot of muscle.

    Start with push ups and pull ups if you can, but if they is too easy (if you can do more than 12 reps with ease for instance) then you will need to add some resistance. There are so many arm exercises it is hard to give a full list but work the triceps, biceps, shoulders, and chest – or workouts that combine multiple ones of these.
    Forearms and wrist exercises are good too but I admit i neglect them in my workouts.
    Last bit of advice is to not just concentrate on the arms even after all that stuff I just said. Makes sure you work your whole body – but if the arms are an issue lean a little more to the arms and chest when working out but do not neglect your core, legs, and back too.

  22. @Ben
    The question is a little general Ben. It could be a number of problems. How intense is your workout? Are you really eating enough for your fast metabolism? Are you approaching your workouts with the right technique and attitude?
    I would need more info to be able to offer any proper advice mate 🙂

  23. Hi James

    I would like some of you advice too. I am 15, i do planks, pushup (5 per workout and increased per day, now near 50). I eat eggs everyday, especially half fried and boiled. i also eat basic bodybuilder’s food like fruits , chicken and lots of beef. My stomach is quite lean but i have no chest muscle. i really need to fit up with me stomach.

    Can you help me?

  24. @Max
    Hi Max,

    Doing more reps is not going to help you build more muscle. You are strong enough now that your own bodyweight is not challenged by doing push ups. You need to find mroe chest exercises to do with heavier weights.

    When you work out doing only 8-12 reps before you give out you are causing the muscles in the chest to tear slightly. It is when these tiny tears in the muscle fiber that when healed by the body build more muscle. At 50 push ups you are only building muscle endurance not mass.

  25. Hi James,

    I really appreciated everything I found here. I heavily overwork my chest and ignore most other muscles. More recently, I have started to try to work my back – but I find it incredibly hard to find exercises that isolate my back from my biceps. Pull-ups are ridiculously hard for me for some reason, which confuses me since I can bench about 170. Any tips on form or alternative back lifts?

  26. @Steve
    I had the same problem a long time back (no pun intended). The back muscles are hard because it feels very unusual when exercising them. In general you are used to pulling some big weights from the front but the back muscles you might need to start out smaller as they are simply not as capable of lifting bigger weights when they are isolated.
    I would research a good 4-5 different back exercises that look intersting and spend a portion of each session on those exercises with lighter weights just getting the form right. This will strengthen them up for some bigger liftss and you will make sure to get them right.
    I might put up an article on the back at some point when I have time – in the meantime hit Google and find a few!

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