Building a barrel chest is fairly straightforward: you’ve got to lift big and lift often. But it’s also easy to reach peak pectoral when your body acclimatises to a workout and progress flattens. At that point, it pays to dress – rather than press – to impress.

The right clothes can help with definition better than an Oxford English dictionary, so swot up on these five simple style tips that help give the illusion of a honed upper body.

Aim High

No amount of material (or lack of) can turn a man from ectomorph to ‘Eck look at his chest.’ That said, what goes on in front of the mirror at home is just as much a science as what’s reflected at the gym.

Giles Farnham, head of River Island’s style studio, recommends starting by shifting the emphasis north to add extra inches. “Wear lighter shades above the waist: bigger block prints, horizontal stripes, pockets on the pecs, chunkier textures and layers,” he says.

Embrace The V

Most guys think the only Vs they need to worry about are the abdominal ones that point down to their P. Not so. Take the alphabet up top by wearing clothes that emphasise a dense décolletage.

Suits are particularly helpful here as the upward point of peak lapels (usually found on dinner jackets) draw eyes upwards, while double-breasted tailoring works to suppress the waist and create a flattering contrast. For a more casual approach, try a classic polo shirt instead.

Polo Shirt

The Right Lines

Sculpting a chiselled chest doesn’t mean chipping away at necklines. Contrary to popular conception, the higher, the better, says Farnham. That means avoiding navel-plunging necklines in the style of Jersey Shore.

“For a wider, weightier illusion, opt for crew necks and buttoned collars, which block off the chest. This creates an illusion of width.”

buttoned collars

Wardrobe Essentials

Bulk isn’t just built on the bench. Carefully deployed textures can also offer an off-the-rack route to (visual) Gainsville.

“A chunky stitched knit in a lighter shade than your bottom half that sits slim to your torso will enhance your inverted triangle body shape,” says Farnham. “With blazers, look for flecked finishes, sturdier wool fabrications and wider lapels to offer detail and create a stockier illusion. And stick to slim or skinny cuts.”

Make A Stand

The quickest, and easiest way to strain your shirt (in all the right places) is to stand to attention. Picture-perfect posture will not only provide picture-perfect pecs but also improve your overall health.

To avoid slumped shoulders, imagine trying to pin your shoulder blades back and down to meet in the middle of your spine. This will widen and heighten your chest, while also fixing any posture-related problems such as joint pain or reduced flexibility.

Posture