Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Pec Tech - Greg Zulak

Time to send out them cards and letters, eh. 

The chest is second only to the arms in terms of bodyparts that lifters love to train. There are at least three obvious reasons why so many bodybuilders emphasize chest exercises in their workouts: A big well developed chest fills out a T-shirt like nothing else, it brings admiring glances from both men and women, and it makes you feel big and powerful. 

Aesthetically speaking, full, thick well shaped pectorals are the mark of a good physique athlete. A chest like that tells the world that you're a bodybuilder, for no other sport or activity develops the muscles of the chest to their maximum. Other types of athletes develop muscular arms, shoulders, backs or legs, but only bodybuilders display the thick slabs of muscle, along with cuts and striations, on their chests.

Bodybuilders are always in a hurry to build a big chest - so much so that they often give absolutely no thought to determining the best way to do it. Many people go so overboard in their efforts to develop this bodypart that they completely forget about such factors as balance, shape, definition and proportion to the rest of the physique. They mistake bigger for better and end up looking like the Pillsbury dough-boy, with soft puffy pectorals that have no shape or definition. 

Sometimes the lower pecs become so overdevloped and out of balance with the upper pecs that they droop, appearing in need of a support bra. This seems to be a common occurrence, especially among the young lifters who seek size and mass at any cost. 

Let me state one thing right from the start: A good chest is more than just big pecs. Shape, balance, proportion, density and definition of the muscles are just as important as size, and so to build the ideal chest you have to work it from all angles, hitting the upper, outer, inner and lower portions. 

The most pleasing pectoral development has a wide, squared off look, which comes from emphasizing the upper and outer parts of the chest. In addition, the rib cage should be high and deep to give the chest depth, and the serratus, that group of small, fingerlike muscles that frames the chest, should be highly defined. 

No muscle is an island. You can't train any muscle group - the chest included - without taking into account how it fits with the rest of your body. If you develop your chest too much, it can easily grow out of proportion. This ruins your aesthetics and symmetry, which is exactly what happened to former Mr. World Mike Katz. It was said that Katz's chest was so big he could balance a beer bottle on his pecs. Even so, it didn't help him become Mr. Olympia. 

Many people don't realize that too much pectoral development actually makes the shoulders look narrow and smaller. It can take away from your overall shape, especially if your inner and lower pecs are overdeveloped. Overdeveloped inner pecs make the chest look bunched up and unappealing; overdeveloped lower pecs make it look saggy and feminine. You can avoid such errors by putting a little thought and planning into your chest workouts.

What is the Ideal Chest? 

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu and Lee Haney are all known for their great chests, but what these men all have is great chest development taken to an extreme. 

Genetics is, of course, the limiting factor. Not everyone can develop a chest like these man have, but everyone can develop their chest as far as their genetics will take them. The keys to success are hard work, persistence and planning. 

For the average trainee - which is most people - aspiring to the level of a Schwarzenegger is not a realistic goal. In the end you'll likely get frustrated and give up. The more productive strategy is to work for more moderate chest development, with the emphasis on shape and definition. 

Take a good look at yourself in the mirror. The high, squared-off pectorals of a Steve Reeves or a Frank Zane might be a better goal for you than the huge, bulbous pecs of the Terminator.

The point is, chests come in all sizes and shapes. Some may have different training requirements than others, but the goal should always be to build your chest as close as possible to the aesthetic ideal: rib cage, serratus and all sections of the pecs fully developed. 

Now, I'm not claiming that you can change the basic shape of your chest, but by intelligently emphasizing certain key areas while de-emphasizing others, you can create an illusion of development that's closer to the ideal.    

How to Create an Illusion With Your Chest

This is what bodybuilding is really all about - creating illusion. Consider the relationship between the width of your shoulders and the width of your hips and waist. In bodybuilding it is desirable to have what is called an X-frame - that ism, wide shoulders and a small waist so that you have an exaggerated V-taper. 


Brian Buchanan (photo above) is an obvious example of someone who has a super-exaggerated V-taper. His waist is so small, it makes his shoulders appear to be three feet wide. 

If you are not so blessed, if your waist is naturally thick or your shoulders naturally narrow, you must train to create an illusion of shoulder width by de-emphasizing your waist and emphasizing [Come on! The beauty of variety, eh. Accentuate, highlight, accent, articulate, spotlight, highlight, underscore and such] the side heads of your deltoids and by doing exercises to help stretch out your clavicles and scapulae. Adding to your shoulders and increasing your shoulder width makes your waist look smaller; and decreasing your waistline automatically makes your shoulders look wider. It's that simple. 

For your chest the trick to creating an illusion is to concentrate on the upper and outer sections of your pecs. That's not to say that you don't train your inner and lower pecs, but you give the other parts priority. This strategy focuses on two major improvements:

1) Exercises that emphasize the upper pecs help fill in that hollow at the top of the chest that nearly everyone has. This creates a more balanced look and makes your pecs look tight and firm instead of soft, saggy and feminine. 

2) Exercises that work the outer sections of the chest make the pecs flare out the way lats do from the back, giving an illusion of width.

By combining your chest-illusion training with your shoulder-and-waist-illusion training, you can create a wider appearance that is aesthetically pleasing and makes you look like a winner. 

Assess Your Chest - And Your Workout

The first step in putting together your optimum chest routine is to make an honest assessment of your chest to determine the weak spots and strong points. It possible get a second opinion from an impartial observer (this is no time for friends who'll tell you what they think you want to hear). 

Bill Murray contemplating his chest development.

Next, design a routine that brings up your weak points while maintaining your strong areas. In other words, create a workout that fits your individual needs instead of just copying some champion's formula out of a magazine. This seems so obvious, but you'd be amazed by the number of people who follow routines with no idea what they're doing.

You can't create an excellent physique, or any one bodypart for that matter, with such mindless training. Only when you start using well planned routines that bring up your weak will you be on your way to developing a balanced, proportionate and symmetrical body. 

If your chest is a real weak point, give it priority by training it first in your workout, when your energy, enthusiasm, strength and concentration are highest; or, you can devote an entire session to this bodypart on a split routine. For example, you might split your body as follows: 

Day 1: Hamstrings, quads
Day 2: Chest, calves
Day 3: Back, biceps
Day 4: Delts, triceps

Even if your chest is one of your better muscle groups, analyze where you might improve it and work on overcoming any weaknesses. For most people the upper pecs will be the last section to come in and could use some improvement. I've never seen a bodybuilder whose upper pecs were too thick or overdeveloped, but I've seen plenty whose lower pecs were too big. 

Even Arnold, as great as his chest was early in his career, came to realize that his upper pecs lagged behind his enormous lower and middle pecs. After that he gave his upper pecs priority, starting his chest workout with incline barbell presses instead of flat bench presses. 

You must keep a sharp eye on your chest development to make sure things stay in balance. Check yourself weekly in the mirror. If you think your outer pecs need more work or the lower portions are getting too big, change your routine quickly to rectify the problem. Don't just train mindlessly month after month and then wake up one day to realize thta your chest is a disproportionate mess. 

Always be aware of the effects that the exercises you do have on your development. If your chest isn't benefiting from a certain movement, it's time to reevaluate your routine. Train smart and build a chest you can be proud of, not one that ruins your physique.

Again, this seems obvious, but you see it all the time - guys who have huge lower pecs but continue to do bench presses instead of incline work. Or lifters who have no rib cage or serratus development failing to do pullovers. Or the ones who don't seem to see that their outer pecs are lagging behind. 

What causes this epidemic of blindness in the gym? Pure ego. We bodybuilders are funny that way. We like to work the areas that grow the easiest because it's more fun than working a stubborn area. A bodybuilder who doesn't need to bench press any longer will continue to do so even if it's ruining the look of his chest because his ego demands that he lift heavy weights and show off to his buddies. Don't fall into that trap. It takes an intelligent bodybuilder to recognize his weak points and do something about them. Learn to get gratification from bringing up yours.

Now that we've covered the theory of chest training, let's talk about what you're going to do in the gym. 

There are three important focus points for making your bodybuilding chest workouts productive:

1) Learn to bench press correctly.  
2) Work your upper pecs.
3) Work your outer pecs.
4) Include rib cage expanding exercises. 

Master the Bench Press - the Right Way

In terms of chest training there are two kinds of bodybuilders - those who respond well to bench presses and those who don't. You know what I'm talking about. Some guys do a few sets of bench presses and their pecs just take off. Serge Nubret and Franco Columbu seemingly built great chests from bench presses, while Reg Park actually had to stop doing flat benches because his pecs got too big. And then there were champions like Bill Pearl, Ken Waller and Chris Dickerson who never got much out of bench pressing and relied more on incline and decline work, flyes and cables to build up their chests.

I fall into the second group. When I did bench presses, nearly all the chest development I achieved was on my lower pecs, and my front delts and triceps also grew well. My middle and lower pecs didn't receive any stimulation at all, it seemed. It wasn't until I met John Parrillo, the Cincinnati-based nutritionist and trainer, that I learned how to bench press properly as a bodybuilder. 

I was what Parrillo calls a "delt bench presser" because I relied too heavily on my delts to push the weight up. I'd drop my chest at the top of the exercise and continue holding the weight up with my shoulders. The result was a super set of front delts and a chest with that undesirable droop.

As I learned from Parrillo, in order for your bench presses to develop the entire pectoralis major - the muscle that covers the rib cage from the collarbone to the bottom of the rib cage and from the sternum to the arm pit - it is necessary to set up your pectoral girdle so the mechanical advantage is placed solely on the pecs, not on the delts. Here's how to do it correctly: 

Lie back on the bench and take a tight grip on the bar. Pop the bar off the stands and lock it out. Next - and this is the most important move - concentrate on pressing your shoulders back into the bench and down toward your waist at the same time, as if you were doing the bottom part of a shrug. Without arching your back off the bench, thrust your chest out and start the movement. Maintain this position throughout every rep. When you push your shoulders down and back, your sternum arches up, which concentrates the stress on the pecs.    

If you have trouble getting into the proper position, start with a weight that's 25% lighter than you would normally use. 

Another way that you can the feel for this exercise is to stand up against a wall and round your shoulders forward so your pecs flatten out. Then move your arms in and out as if your were doing a vertical, or seated, bench press. Notice how little the pecs are actually working. If you place your left hand on your right pec as you continue the motion with your right arm, you can feel that there is little, if any, pec contraction. This is how most people perform the bench press.

Now try this: Stand against the wall but this time work your shoulders behind while you arch your chest out and up as much as you can. Maintain this position as you place your left hand over your right pec and perform this movement again. You should feel the right pec expanding and contracting on every rep. Take this position to the bench, and you'll be on your way to a great chest. 

Techniques for Building Those Upper Pecs

As discussed above, it is absolutely necessary to develop your outer pecs if you want to sculpt your ideal chest. This means performing incline presses and incline flyes. Many bodybuilders complain that even when do incline work their upper pecs don't grow. There are two reasons for this: 

1) They do the exercises incorrectly, throwing the stress onto the already stronger and better developed lower and middle pecs.

2) They rest too long between sets and fail to get any pump and lactic acid buildup in the upper pec area.

Most bodybuilders use too much weight on their incline barbell and dumbbell presses. This forces them to arch their back off the bench, which forces the stronger lower pecs to take over the action. Here's how to do your incline presses properly: 

Start by making sure - as with flat bench presses - that you roll your shoulders down and back and arch your sternum out as you press the weight. Second, make sure that your elbows are pulled back in line with your shoulders. When the elbows drift forward, it's almost impossible to make the pecs work hard because the triceps take over. Finally, keep your form strict and really concentrate on the upper pecs. If this means that you have to use lighter weights, so be it. 

For incline dumbbell presses add one more point: Try to pull your elbows as far back behind your head as possible. If you do this properly, you should feel a strong diagonal pull across your pecs. The same goes for dumbbell flyes. Don't just lower the bells to the sides. Lower them back and down.

Two other excellent exercises you might want to consider for upper pecs are bench presses to the neck and Parrillo dips. Do the presses to the neck as follows: 

Take a medium-wide grip on the bar and use the form for bench pressing described above. Tuck your chin into your chest and lower the bar slowly to the point of your chin, pulling your elbows back in line with your shoulders. Some people keep their feet up in the air with their knees bend and their legs crosses to prevent them from cheating. 

Another version of the bench press to the neck is done on a 10 degree angle. Place a two-by-four under the head of the bench to create the slight incline. This shifts more stress to the upper pecs. 

Note, however, that not everyone is built to do bench presses to the neck safely; some people experience shoulder joint problems because of this exercise.

Parrillo dips really work the pectoralis minor, that fan-shaped muscle located under the pectoralis major. Perform this movement as follows: 

Get into the lockout position on the dipping bars. Lower yourself as far as you can without bending your arms. As you press yourself back up to lockout, push your chest out as much as you can, squeezing hard at the top. Pull your knees up to place more emphasis on your chest, and do not bounce. This is an excellent exercise to superset with incline presses, incline flyes or benches to the neck.

As mentioned above, it's difficult to get a pump in the upper pecs and to create lactic acid buildup. The trick is to reduce your rest time between sets to an absolute minimum. Drop sets, and down the rack dumbbell work are excellent for training the upper pecs because you rest only as long as it takes to strip weight from the bar or to grab a lighter set of dumbbells. Also, give supersets and tri-sets a try. The following makes an excellent upper pec routine: 

Pec deck flyes, 4 x 10
Incline presses, 4 x 10
Incline flyes, 4 x 10

This tri-set will really pump up your upper pecs, but it will not overly tax the triceps and arms because each exercise uses a different action.

"Racing the Pump" - How to Build the Upper Pecs, by Larry Scott: 

"Upper Pec Training" by Greg Zulak:

The Outer Pecs - Your Ticket to Width

The subhead says it all - in order to create a wide chest, you have to work the outer portions of the pectoralis major, the part located toward the side of your torso. Any pressing movement - flat, incline or decline - done with a very wide grip will work the outer pecs hard, as will any flying movement with constant tension (bring the bells up only 2/3 or the way and stop when they're 12-15 inches away from each other). Cable crossovers, stepping forward so that you have to reach back to pull the handles forward, and will also work the outer pecs somewhat. 

The best exercise for this area, however, is the wide-grip dip. or Gironda dip as it's called. Here's how to do it: 

You need V-dipping bars that are 32 inches apart at the wide end. Take a wide grip, tuck your chin down on your chest and hang with your feet in front of your face, with your body curled in the shape of a quarter moon. Keep your elbows wide and lower your body as far as you can, but when you push up, only go 3/4 of the way so you can keep the tension on your pecs. Never lock out. 

Another Gironda exercise that works both the outer and inner pecs at the same time is the decline cable flye, which is performed as follows. It's too bad that many bodybuilders ignore this exercise, because it hits the outer portions directly. 

Set a bench at a low decline in front of a cable crossover machine. The bench should be properly centered and far enough in front of the apparatus that you have to reach back behind your head to grab behind your head to grab the low handles. From this position pull the handles in a wide arc until they meet above your crotch. Tense hard for a count of two and return to the starting position. 

The Truth About Rib Cage Expansion

Some people say that it's impossible to expand the rib cage once a person's cartilages harden and toughen after age 25, but this is nonsense. Many men who didn't take up bodybuilding until their late 20s or 30s have added 10 inches to their chests. Still, it's definitely easier for a teenager to expand his rib cage because the catilages are still soft and easily stretched. 

When it comes to rib cage expansion, you can't do better that the time-proven superset of breathing squats and pullovers. For breathing squats choose a weight with which you can get out at least 20 reps, and take 5 or 6 deep breaths between all reps.  

When doing the pullovers here, remember that your emphasis should be on stretching the rib cage, not on using heavy weights. Choose a light weight and do 20 reps per set. 

Very light, straight-arm flyes done for high reps can help to expand your rib cage from another angle. Do 3 or 4 tri-sets of this combination - breathing squats -> pullovers -> straight-arm flyes . . . two or three times a week. Six months of hard work on this routine could do wonders for your rib cage. 

"Expanding the Rib Box" by Bob Hoffman: 

"Rib Cage Expansion and Overall Growth" by Paul Kelso: 

The bottom line is that you've got to look at each bodypart from all angles. Learn to bench press correctly as a bodybuilder, give the upper and outer pecs priority, work to expand your rib cage, and you'll build a more impressive chest, one with much better shape and balance. 



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