You know better than to believe those grade-school rumors that doing chest exercises will help increase the size of your breasts. No one’s ever gone from Olive Oil to Jessica Rabbit simply by doing pushups—that we know of. But, if you’ve lost elasticity with age and/or breastfeeding, your boobs probably aren’t as perky as they were in your early 20s. Short of scheduling an appointment with a plastic surgeon you can make some subtle improvements in the perkiness of your breasts with the right training routine.
“You can’t spot reduce…but you can sort of spot train,” says Autumn Calabrese, C.P.T., creator of 21-Day Fix and Beachbody on Demand 80-Day Obsession program. “What I mean by that is, if you want bigger biceps, then you need to work your biceps, or, if you want a more rounded and shapely butt, you need to work those muscles. The thing is that with perkier breasts, that comes more from fat tissue—than it does from muscle-building.”
“Focus on toning the entire upper body, including the chest muscles, so that we can at least build the chest muscles a bit, and shape the upper body and work the posture muscles. so that you’re standing nice and tall and holding your shoulders back. This is going to help keep things looking more pulled up and pulled back than if you’re hunched forward. The goal is to train the upper body and obviously work the chest—but to work the back muscles as well, so that your posture is very nice.”
Calabrese recommends starting with a classic: the pushup.. It can be done on your knees if you’re a beginner, but if you can go into a full pushup position, even better. That way, you’ll get more core engagement out of it.
“I would prefer to have a client do a pushup on either a dumbbell or a medicine ball, or even just wrist plates,” says Calabrese. “The more elevated you are, the deeper into the chest you can go. By putting your hand on [dumbbells held parallel to one another] or by putting one hand on a medicine ball, you can get a little bit deeper into that chest muscle, so you put more stress on it. More tension and stress on the muscle will help build it a little bit more.”
Try starting out with two sets of 15 pushups if you’re a beginner.
Do one pushup, then row the right arm back at the top of the plank for a renegade row. Then, do another pushup and row the left arm for a renegade row, she suggests.
If you’re intermediate to advanced, do three sets of 10 reps or three sets of 12 reps, and use a little heavier weight, like a 12- or a 15-lb dumbbell if you’re able to do the exercise properly.
“This is more of a compound movement. You’re hitting the chest, hitting the back, and working the core, so it’s a nice full-body exercise,” says Calabrese.
Want to skip the renegade row pushup? Do pushups with one hand on a medicine ball to get deeper into the chest muscles thanks to the elevation, Calabrese suggests. If you’re starting out, you can do this on your knees.
Try eight pushups with your right hand on the medicine ball. Then move the ball to the left, and do eight pushups with it under the left hand.
After doing pushups, you can flip over and do this dynamic chest exercise lying on your back. Position yourself with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground, abs engaged, and lower back pressed down. Start with a 6- to 8-lb medicine ball.
“Make your hands into a triangle on the medicine ball, holding it at your chest by your heart. As you explode up, you just do a little toss up in the air, catch it with extended arms, let it come back down gently into your chest, and lie back down. You’re basically doing a toss into the air as you explode your arms up and squeezing the chest muscles as you press up, getting a little bit extra work out of the chest. This is a great exercise to do after a pushup because you’re already a little bit fatigued from the pushups,” says Calabrese.
“I like the gravity of being on your back because it allows you to drop deeper into the chest muscles than doing a regular wall ball exercise does,” she says.
Start with two sets of 15 reps, and build from there.
“This is my favorite chest exercises to do for a perky bust, while working the back at the same time,” says Michele Sotak, a Chicago-based certified personal trainer.
While both chest and back muscles are being worked during the exercise, the chest takes on a big percentage of the load, Sotak says. During a dumbbell pullover using a bench, as you lift the weight from behind your head to back over your chest, your shoulders are extending due to the contribution from your chest muscle. “If you want to build a perky bust, the dumbbell pullover is a great exercise to include in your training,” says Sotak.
Grip a single dumbbell’s stem (aim for 10-12 to 15 lbs) with both hands and lie perpendicular on a flat bench so that your upper back and neck are supported on the bench.
“With your feet flat on the floor, lift your hips into bridge position so that your thighs and torso are in a straight line,” says Sotak. “Start with the dumbbell held over your chest with arms fully extended. Keep your elbows primarily straight as you lower the dumbbell behind your head. Continue until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and then, with your arms fully extended, bring the dumbbell back to the starting position.”
Whether you decide to do this dumbbell pullover or a lat pullover (using two dumbbells on a bench or stability ball), you’re working muscles that will help your posture.
“While doing lat pullovers, you’re hitting the posture muscles and being able to have a strong back so that you can stand tall and pull everything back,” says Calabrese.
Do two sets of 15 reps of a challenging weight with good form
“This is a fun HIIT exercise to do during your chest workout,” says Sotak.
Getting your heart rate up with HIIT exercises. helps add a cardio component to this strength workout and increases calorie burn. You’ll torch more fat by adding cardio exercises into your chest workout, which helps you burn more calories at rest.
Use a 15-lb medicine or slam ball and face a wall, standing 4′ away in an athletic stance. Hold the ball with both hands at chest level. Quickly and explosively press the ball away from the chest and into the wall so that it bounces right back. Catch the ball, and immediately throw it back. Perform 20 reps.
Don’t be intimidated to use the cable machine. at your gym. This chest exercise works both your chest muscles and your core, says Sotak. The great thing about the cable machine is that you can change this move from beginner to intermediate just by moving the pin to adjust the weight stack.
Stand facing away from the frame of the machine with a handle in each hand, and feet in a staggered stance position. Extend in front of you, palms down. Keep your shoulders down, chest upright, core tight, and left hand in place on the handle. Bring the right arm back into a 90° angle until you feel a mild stretch in the chest, then press forward to return to the starting position. Repeat with the left hand, keeping the right hand in center position.
Perform 10 reps on each side for a total of 20 reps, and aim for three sets, Sotak suggests.
Once you’ve completed a back exercise, Calabrese suggests moving right back into an exercise that works the chest muscles, like a chest flye with dumbbells.
You can do this move on a stability ball, on the floor, or on a bench. Start with one 10- or 12-lb dumbbell in each hand. Keep your hands above the heart with a small bend in the elbows, and make sure your palms are facing each other.
Then, open the arms wide away from each other in slow and controlled manner until they’re horizontal. “You’re using the chest muscles to slow down, and then really squeezing as they come up and getting that extra little squeeze at the top. Think about bringing the forearms back together to touch,” Calabrese says.