Having a big, bold, and proud chest is the best piece of fashion you can ever add to your wardrobe. But, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as hopping onto Amazon and ordering a pair of ripped pecs online.
So, how long does it take to get a ripped chest? Well, it depends on how much body fat you currently have, but for most, getting a ripped chest could take anywhere from 3 – 6 months.
You’re going to have to work quite hard to achieve this sort of goal, though. So let me explain to you how to do that.
What Exactly Is the Chest? (& How Do You Train It?)
Before we get into the nitty-gritty about how to get ripped, we should probably first discuss what the chest is and how it functions.
The chest is largely in charge of pulling the humerus across the body, also known as adduction of the humerus.
Even if you were to place your hand on your chest and bring the other arm across the body, you would see/feel the chest muscles activate.
This can happen in three planes of movement:
- Incline: This would be described as the “upper” chest and would involve you pushing away from the body at a slight incline, but not quite overhead just yet.
- Flat: As the name suggests, this is when you do an exercise that doesn’t change the angle of the humerus in relation to the body away from 90 degrees or perpendicular,
- Decline: This would target the “lower” chest and would involve you pushing away from the body with an angle less than 90 degrees but more than 0 degrees (if the head were 180 and the body was 0).
This is also where the typical movements you see in the gym – “incline bench,” “decline flyes,” etc. – come from. The term before the movement will dictate both in which plane and which muscles will be worked.
Muscles? Yeah, this is a common fault of the fitness world. The pecs don’t consist of multiple muscles. It only consists of the pectoralis major and minor. We do, however, split it up into the three parts mentioned above: upper, lower, and inner/mid.
Regardless of the part of the chest, the function of the chest is still to force the arms to come across the body or sometimes move up and down. All parts react the same to training, and no part is “more stubborn” to grow.
The lower part is, however, more prone to carry fatty tissue and will often be referred to as “man boobs.” This is very rarely a hormonal imbalance, and 95% of the time just means you have a bit too much fat.
Cool, But How Do I Even Train My Chest?
Brilliant question and I’m glad you asked it!
Like a wide V-taper and a ripped back, the chest is really emphasized online, on social media, and such – for a good reason. It’s one of the muscles people notice most about you, and 9 times out of 10, if you have a big chest, you have a big bench. Which is just sick.
However, contrary to popular belief, the flat barbell bench press is an awful movement if sheer size or shape is your only goal.
Wait, allow me to explain.
Remember how I just mentioned that the role of the chest is to bring the arm across the body? Yeah, well, on a barbell bench press, those hands aren’t moving. Your hands remain on the same plane, and they don’t change angle or position.
This means the chest (and the biceps, funnily enough) are under a massive strain to manage that load. Thus, you can tear either of these pretty easily when benching. This is why powerlifters tear pecs left and right.
So, with that out of the way, which are the best movements for the chest?
The Best Movements for The Chest Are…
As mentioned earlier, there are three “parts” to the chest, and you have to train each of those effects for a ripped upper body. This means (usually) doing one or two movements per workout for each part of the chest in order to have the best growth.
The Upper Chest
For the upper chest, you’ll be focusing on pressing in the upper plane of the chest. The anterior (front) delts (shoulders) will also be active in these movements, so you better warm up.
The best exercises for the upper chest are going to be movements that provide great stability while also allowing you to overload effectively. This might take out movements like the incline push-up because overloading a push-up is really, really hard.
You can choose any movement that suits your mobility and body structure. Here are some movements I would program into a clients plan:
- Incline Dumbbell Press: This allows for great stability (okay, not so great once you go past the 100s) and will likely allow for amazing overload.
- Incline Chest Press Machine: This allows for more stability. However, a machine is limited by the amount of weight it has.
- Incline Barbell Press: This does allow for some stability and a potentially unlimited overload ability. It does require more technique, however.
But my favorite would be a plate-loaded incline chest press. The stability of a machine combined with the overloading ability of a barbell? Amazing.
For the mid-chest, you’re going to spend more time on a “flat surface.” One common misconception is that sitting sideways on a machine will change the muscles working; it will not.
Again, we’re looking for both stability and the ability to overload. Sure, you can bench press, and many top-tier bodybuilders do. However, they’ve also been training for years and know how to bench properly.
Chest training is always going to be easier for shorter individuals, so if you’re tall like me (6’ 4’’), you’re going to hate flat chest movements.
That said, here are the movements I would program for one of my clients:
- Flat Dumbbell Press: Dumbbells don’t provide the greatest stability once you go really heavy, but they’re on the list because dumbbells are just incredibly versatile for overload.
- Flat Dumbbell Flyes: This will do almost the same as a dumbbell press but will obviously not use the triceps. It also allows you to use less weight to train the chest.
- Flat Chest Press Machine: Again, the stability this provides is amazing. Just a pity the machine will be limited by weight.
Overall, the best movement for the mid-chest is a plate-loaded flat chest press. These are usually very hard to find, but they provide stability with the freedom to overload those pecs as you wish.
The Lower Chest
Lastly, for the lower chest, you’ll logically be pushing in a decline angle, but this comes with one exercise that does a lot more than just the chest.
There are fewer lower chest exercises, but here are some of the best lower chest exercises:
- Decline Barbell Press: Kicking up dumbbells for a decline bench is hard. Honestly, stick with a barbell and just make sure you have a spotter.
- Lower Chest Cable Flyes: You have to stand completely upright and fly in the same plane as your body – it’s weird. It isn’t super stable, but wow, does it work the pecs?
The dip is the best movement for the lower chest, however. This allows you to overload it massively (hang weights off your middle) and is also quite stable! Bonus – it’s an amazing tricep builder – one of the best.
To Get Ripped, You Gotta Lose Fat
If you want others to call you ripped, you’ll need to adjust your diet, too. There are about 101 different nutrition guides online. Ranging from only drinking juice to this new guy saying you should only eat liver?
In reality, dieting down to lose body fat is incredibly simple.
First, you need to calculate the number of calories you burn every day by staying alive – your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Then, tie in your training plan, and you’ll have your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Subtract 5 – 15% from that number of calories, and you have officially created a calorie deficit for you to eat every single day.
You’ve heard it a million times, but protein really is the most important factor in a weight loss diet. Why? Well, protein is the only macronutrient that you can use to retain muscle mass while dieting (if you’re new to training, you might even build muscle).
Protein should be the focus of every meal, and you should aim to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight and max only 250 grams per day. There’s nothing wrong with eating more than 250 grams. However, it can become pretty taxing on the mind and the wallet to keep doing that.
You can use a variety of protein options, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, tofu, seitan, and protein powders. Not only will protein help you retain muscle mass, but it may also increase your BMR slightly through the thermic effect of food.
Aim to consume your protein evenly throughout the day, at least every four hours, for optimal results.
Carbohydrates & Fat
Carbs are not going to make you fat. In fact, they are incredibly important to someone engaged in resistance training – and they taste great. Once you’ve established the amount of protein you need per day, you can split your remaining calories between carbs and fats.
There’s literature supporting both low fat and low carb diets for fat loss, and the only common denominator between them all is a high protein intake. So, it really doesn’t matter how you split your carbohydrates and fats.
When fat loss does stop, then and only then do you drop calories. Dropping calories too soon could make the whole process a lot harder. Since this process will take 3 – 6 months, sustainability with diet is vital.
Here are some tips for a successful diet:
- Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t anything wrong with fruits in your diet. They’re high in fiber and vitamins – and so are veggies. Include a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Drink plenty of fluids. This can help “fill you out,” so don’t be afraid to pop open a can of sugar-free pop every now and then – they can help with cravings.
- Include spices in your cooking, and learn how to use them effectively.
- On rest days, eat slightly fewer carbohydrates (maybe 50g less), and “move” those carbs to workout days where you’re training your chest. This allows more energy on the days that matter the most (in this scenario).
How Long Does It Take to Get a Ripped Chest?
The answer to this question is, unfortunately, it depends on where your starting point is. See, someone who is just a bit overweight will have an easier time getting ripped compared to someone who is massively overweight.
That said, it might take 3 – 6 months for you to get a ripped chest. If you’re already at 15% body fat, that might be far lower – something like 2 months. Your diet and training plan will also play a massive role.
Someone who has more will to work hard and sacrifice more has the potential to lose weight faster than someone who isn’t putting in everything they can. Contrary to participation awards, effort matters.
That said, it certainly is possible for you to achieve this in a reasonable time frame. Work hard, diet harder, and sleep even harder. Yup, not sleeping enough massively slows your progress. Aim to get stronger every session, and stick to your diet, and you’ll be ripped in no time.
If you need to, do some cardio.
And no, bench pressing more than 5 reps isn’t cardio; sorry to burst your bubble.