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From The Fundamentals of Bodybuilding and Physique Sculpting.
The chest is a crucial region for men. Having full, thick pecs is a must if you are going to take your shirt off at the beach or pool. Using the tips presented here can facilitate pectoral growth. They will ensure maximal recruitment and development of your pectoral muscles.
When I train a client, I make it a point to ensure maximal development of the pectoral muscles by training each region of the pectoral muscles -- upper, middle, and lower.
The primary mistake I see people make when doing chest movements is that they fail to keep their shoulder blades pinched together. By keeping shoulder blades together during the movement, tension is forced onto the pectoral muscles.
Trainees must also be cognizant not to lock out their arms at the top range of the movement, because this allows the trained muscles to rest. It also will cause you to unlock your shoulder blades.
In almost all people, the upper chest region is the most important portion of the chest to work on because it is usually the least developed. For this reason, I almost always start with an upper pectoral exercise.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press -- Upper Pecs
- The incline of the bench will be higher than usual, approximately 55 degrees high. The bench is elevated to put more emphasis on the upper pectoral muscles.
- The inner edges of the dumbbells should be in line with your outer pecs, where the pec muscles and shoulders tie in, during the press.
- Shoulder blades must be pinched together throughout the exercise.
- Ensure the middle of your back is slightly arched, allowing your shoulder blades to drive into the bench, but make sure your lower back remains on the bench.
- The top range of motion is just shy of locking the arms. This keeps tension on the pec fibers.
- The bottom range of motion is about two or three inches above the chest. Lowering the bar farther recruits the shoulder muscles and takes tension off the pectoral muscles, thereby reducing hypertrophy by giving the pectoral muscles a rest.
- When performing the exercise, your arms should not bend beyond a 90 degree angle. This will ensure maximal tension in placed onto the pectoral muscles. If you extend beyond 90 degrees, tension gets redistributed to the shoulder muscles and taken off the pectorals. To ensure your hands are placed in the right area, the width of your grip should be the width your hands would naturally go if you put them in the air when lying down.
- Throughout the movement, your elbows should be about two or three inches below your shoulders. If you keep your elbows in line with your shoulders, you will be recruiting your shoulders and not your pecs.
Decline Barbell Bench Press - Entire Chest with emphasis on lower pecs
This is one of the most important compound chest movements because it trains the entire pectoral muscle.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together.
- Drive straight up from the nipples.
- Ensure the middle portion of your back is slightly arched, allowing your shoulder blades to drive into the bench while keeping your glutes on the pad.
- The top range of motion is just shy of locked arms so as to keep tension on the fibers.
- The bottom range of motion is about two or three inches above the chest. Lowering the bar further recruits shoulder muscles and takes tension off the pectoral muscles, thereby reducing hypertrophy by giving the pectoral muscles a rest.
- If you are standing over a person performing this exercise, where a spotter would stand, make sure their arm is just inside of a 90 degree angle. This will ensure maximal tension is placed onto the pectoral muscles. To accomplish this, the width of your grip should be the width your hands would naturally go if you put them in the air when you are lying down.
- Elbows should be about one to two inches lower than the shoulders while performing repetitions. This ensures tension remains on the pectoral muscles throughout the exercise, not on the shoulders.
Flat Barbell Bench Press
- Pinch your shoulder blades.
- When lowering the barbell, it should align with the bottom of your pecs and/or your nipples.
- Keep elbows lower than shoulders by about two inches during the exercise.
- Drive your toes into the ground, which helps drive your torso into the bench.
- The bottom end of the range of motion is about two inches above the chest.
- Going all the way down places tension on the shoulder muscles, thereby allowing the pectorals a break from tension, which reduces hypertrophy.
- The top of the range of motion is just shy of locked arms so as to keep tension on the pectoral fibers.
- When performing reps, the arm should be just shy of a 90 degree angle when the arm is bent.
- It is okay if your back is arched. We just want your shoulder blades and glutes to be on the bench.
- These principles can be used on all flat bench press machines. They can also be used on all flat bench press movements.
Flyes - Upper, Inner Pectoral Muscles
I prescribe this exercise in a way that is completely different from most others. Traditional flyes are performed with the palms facing each other. I perform them with thumbs facing each other.
- Do these on a low incline, 20 degrees of height.
- Position yourself so the tops of your shoulder blades hang just off the top of the bench.
- This will place your shoulder blades into a locked, pinched position, facilitating the recruitment of the upper, inner pectoral muscles.
- At the top range your thumbs will be about four inches apart. This maintains tension on the pectorals. The movement should end over your hairline.
- The bottom portion of the movement will be in line with your ears.
- Your arms should be bent no more than 10-15 degrees, but never locked straight at 180 degrees.
A point to remember is that it can be ineffective to train the same region of a muscle with two virtually identical movements unless the area is grossly underdeveloped. For example, you should never do a flat barbell bench press in the same workout as a flat dumbbell bench press. You can, however, do two upper pectoral exercises.
To do this properly, your would vary the angles of the two upper pec movements. This will ensure a variety of fibers are still targeted.
Enjoy Your Lifting!