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Help needed with chest development.

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  • Help needed with chest development.


    I have been training for about 6 months now and been a member of my gym for about 3. I have lost weight and gained some muscle by changing my diet and lifting 4 to 5 times a week. I can see slow but steady improvements in my physique, but seem to be struggling with my chest development. The problem I have is my chest training seems to stress my arms and shoulders rather than my chest. For example, when I bench, I can feel my arms break down, but my chest does not seem to feel it. Any suggestions as to what I am doing wrong? I have been reading MD, Muscle and fitness and Flex (UK editions as I am in England) and also look at other lifters form in my gym. I seem to be performing the exercises correctly. I do flat and incline presses, some flyes and also cable crossovers etc in my workout. I can feel the cable crossover working my chest, but not the presses.

  • #2
    Your problem is not all that uncommon in beginners, there are a few things you need to do, firstly look at your bench press form, how wide are your arms? they should be no narrower than shoulder width apart and not much wider than about another handwidth after that. It could be that your hand position is just too narrow.

    Secondly and more likely you simply do not have the mind/muscle connection yet. The solution to this is to pre-exhaust your pecs with an isolation movement first then move onto the bench press, you won't be able to bench as much weight but you will feel it more in your pecs.

    Try something like this routine

    Incline Flyes 4 setsx10-12 reps
    Incline Bench press 4 setsx10-12 reps (use dumbbells or barbell here)
    Some type of machine press 3-4 sets x 15-20 reps (The hammer style machines with independently moving handles are best)

    That's it, no more than 12 sets total, every time you can reach the upper reps limit add 5-10lbs at your next workout and work it back up again.

    Last piece of advice, Cable crossovers are pretty much worthless for beginners, they are much more of a fine-tuning exercise which is best left until you have built more mass.
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    • #3
      Thanks for your reply. Next chest day is this coming Monday. I will give these pointers a try!


      • #4
        davidbb pretty much sums it up, I would just say that you should also focus on keeping your chest out on the presses and really focus on pressing the weight up with your chest, which will be easier if you have your chest out. You don't want to just throw the weight with your shoulders, which is something that I had to stop doing when I first started lifting. I had the same problem as you, and then I just kept these things in mind and my problem was solved. You'll feel more strain in your pecs, but it's obviously normal to also feel some strain in your shoulders and triceps.

        One more thing, I would recommend placing the most emphasis on incline exercises (davidbb's workout plan seems to do this as well) because the upper chest is the hardest part to develop.


        • #5
          When doing any pressing movement for chest, beginners commonly focus on pushing from the hands/wrist where they hold the weight, this causes the secondary movers (shoulders, arms) to fatigue first. Focus on driving from the elbow, it will put much more emphasis on the chest.

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          • #6
            Don't concentrate on the weight concentrate on the mind-muscle connection and the weight will come. I find that a lot of people have trouble establishing this with presses.
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            • #7
              A few suggestions, for your consideration.

              Try backing off the weight you are using, develop the mind muscle connection, develop a feel for the exercise , and learn to apply intensity, before trying to push heavy weights in a bench press.

              That goes for any exercise besides bench presses, as well.

              Feel and Intensity are some of the keys to hypertrophy.

              When you are doing a bench press, put your mind into your pec muscles, and imagine that you are pushing the weight with only your pecs.

              Squeeze the pecs at the top of the ROM.

              Depending on your anatomical structure, bench presses simply might not be a effective exercise for pec development.

              In example, people with long arms , may find that db bench presses and flys are more effective for pec development, than barbell bench presses.

              Good luck
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              • #8
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                I wish I had an answer for you bud. I am in the same boat. The only difference is that I have 28 years of training behind me. I literally feel nothing on any presses. Flyes only. It may be a structural problem. I have narrow shoulders, long arms and short muscle bellies in my pecs. Flat bench is the most awkward movement in the world to me. Incine BB presses aren't much better. I have tried to eliminate all presses a few times but my pecs got even smaller if that is at all possible. I would suggest abandoning the barbell in favor or dumbell presses done at a 30 degree incline and weighted dips with elbows flared out as your mass movement. Follow this with one or 2 flye movements. Don't get depressed. I have won 5 bodybuilding titles and I can quite honestly say that I have the worst chest of anyone who has ever held a 1st place bodybuilding trophy. Build everything else up as best you can. Don't neglect calves and come in shredded.
                "My claim to fame? I went from being obese as a child to being the most nasty ripped man in the building."


                • #9
                  Dumbell flath bench press= 5x8-12
                  Incline Bench Press= 5x8-12
                  Incline hammer strength= 5x10-12
                  fly's with dumbells or machine 5x10-15
                  dips or cable crossovers= 5x to failure

                  *Pyramid up with weight, 5-10lb. incriments. You can use barbell bench press and incline but I like dumbells because they isolate the chest more, force both arms to be the same strength, and
                  are better for your shoulders in the long run.

                  *You can pre-exhaust with fly's, works great before you hit the bench. Switch back and forth between doing this and hitting bench presses first.

                  *You should also switch incline and flat bench order, do one before the other every week. I like to incoorperate more incline movements ebcause you never say someone needs a lower chest, it's always they want more upper pecotrial mass.

                  * Train chest with triceps or train triceps with biceps 2-3 days later. This way you will have ample time to recover.


                  • #10
                    You guys have one of two issues. Either your arm development is behind your chest strength and therefore your arms/shoulders fatigue before your chest, or the other way around....your arm development is way ahead of your chest and the arms are doing all the work and get fatigued before the chest.

                    The above "advices" (arnold in PI about Franko) are very good, especially being able to focus your mind on your pecs as you work them.


                    • #11
                      Thanks for your replies guys. I'm taking all the advice on board. I think my arms may be stronger than my chest as I began training my arms at home before I joined the gym and began chest exersizes. I am working on my mind-muscle connection and I am getting there I think.


                      • #12
                        As one poster said I also have short chest muscle bellies, it will never be a strong point, and I have very big arms and tris for my size. What I have felt works the best for me is constant tension through the lift and going lighter. Sure I can put up decent weight but I never go up to that.

                        I train chest in a piston fashion (controlled), but I never rest at the bottom and NEVER lock out at the top, I come up about 3/4 the way. I always explode up and control on way down but its constant tension. Pick a weight that you can do for 12 but fails you out. Rack it, take 3 breaths and do 2-3 more. Take everything to failure like this and youll be sore as hell and start to see some improvement.

                        Lead with your weakest part which for me is upper chest, so I do incline movement first.

                        Good Luck,



                        • #13

                          "I train chest in a piston fashion (controlled), but I never rest at the bottom and NEVER lock out at the top, I come up about 3/4 the way. I always explode up and control on way down but its constant tension. Pick a weight that you can do for 12 but fails you out."

                          Excellent point. Never lock out. It's all triceps. Also the worst thing you can do for a weak body part is to over train it. Keep your sets low, your intensity high, feed it, then rest and let it grow. Keep in mind if you ever compete that if you over diet or over train your weakest body part will be the first thing you lose.
                          "My claim to fame? I went from being obese as a child to being the most nasty ripped man in the building."


                          • #14
                            Thanks for the continuing advice guys. I have been concentrating on the above points, particularly the 'mind-muscle connection'. I feel that I am getting somewhere with this. I am also trying to ensure I incorporate this into my other training too. I'm currently eating to get big with a high protein diet. I've cut out the rubbish food that I used to eat and am taking some supplements such as creatine, egg white, whey and casein proteins. Since I have been training my biceps have grown by about 6 cm, and I feel that I am making good progress.


                            • #15
                              Perform partial reps on all press movement to deny the shoulders from doing too much work. Incline bench, bench press, dips(weighted if your reps are getting to high) dumbbell press, Incline flyes, Pec deck. Cycle those pec exercises, eat good protein. and rest as much as possible.

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