Here are three strategies and five exercises you need to build big pecs. The flat barbell bench press is not one of them.
Many powerlifters struggle with building their chest for three reasons:
- A blind love for the barbell bench press.
- Self-Driven Lifting: Go for Weight, Not Chest Growth.
- Poor mind-muscle connection.
Here are some key strategies and five pillars of exercises to improve your chest training.
If you can’t feel the muscle contracting, you’re going to have a hard time getting it to grow. This happens a lot with the barbell bench press. Your front delts and triceps take the brunt of the blow, while your chest becomes the weak point.
It’s often a matter of focus, exercise technique, and ego. Many people focus on lifting weights rather than shrinking tissues. This can lead to lack of eccentric control, small range of motion and sloppy reps.
That doesn’t mean pushing heavy weights on the bench isn’t important. You just need to shift your focus from lifting as much weight as possible to recruiting the targeted muscles.this mind-body connection very important. Being able to isolate your chest independently helps you more effectively integrate your chest into your compound exercises.
Don’t just do the bench press. To maximize pectoral muscle recruitment, perform the exercise at a variety of angles, from short dips to 15-45 degree inclines.
The study by Muyor et al. Muscle activation of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps during bench press angles of 0, 15, 30, 45, and 60 degrees was reviewed in 30 well-trained adults.
The EMG activity of the upper pectoralis was highest at 30 degrees, and that of the middle and lower pectoral muscles was highest at 0 degrees and 15 degrees, respectively. Inclines greater than 45 degrees significantly increase activation of the anterior deltoid and decrease muscular performance of the pectoralis major.
Continue to use the barbell bench press variation to build strength, but with a low volume approach. That way, you can still do 3-4 sets of 3-8 repetitions each Monday. Then, use some of the exercises below to complete most of your muscle-focused workouts with the classic set and rep growth plan.
Dips are the main exercise for building a strong chest, not to mention strong arms and shoulders. But how you perform the dip largely determines how effective it is for chest development.
Some key clues:
- Lean forward, lean your legs forward, and transfer more weight to your pecs.
- Use a medium to wide elbow position. This will put a greater stretch on your chest.
- Avoid locking out completely at the top of the exercise to maintain constant tension in the chest. Avoid shaking your head like a rollercoaster ride. Changing the neck position causes subtle changes in shoulder kinematics, which leads to muscle recruitment.
- Think of dips as a major strength and muscle exercise. Aim for 3-4 sets of 6-10 repetitions with external resistance.
Using a slope of 15-30 degrees is ideal. (In the video it’s about 30 degrees.) Keep in mind that higher angles tend to shift resistance to the front delts.
When doing the dumbbell bench press variation, focus on lowering the dumbbells to the outside of your chest, maximizing the eccentric or negative stretch. At the top, imagine touching your nipples together (kinky, I know) and squeezing your chest as hard as you can, but don’t bring the dumbbells together.
Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps each.
If you’re going to use a barbell bench press variation, do it on an incline. The oblique angle helps you target your pecs more effectively, especially the “upper pecs” near your collarbone.
Squeeze the barbell and imagine clasping your hands as you press. This isometric move combines the adduction of the pectoralis major to better recruit the chest.
Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Also known as a high-to-low fly, this hits the ribs or lower fibers really well. The constant tension of the rope creates a constant mechanical tension on your chest that cannot be matched by dumbbell flyes.
You can do these at the beginning of your workout and focus on hard muscle contractions. This will teach you to feel the work of the pecs. Just don’t get overtired before a day of compound lifting. Remember, better isolation leads to better integration.
Or you can do it towards the end of your workout. In this case, the goal is to eliminate as many muscle fibers as possible to maximize the growth response.
Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each.
standard ring push-ups is a good exercise. It takes a lot of stability through your core and shoulder girdle, helping you build a strong and resilient upper body.
Converging ring pushups add another element. You actively bring your hands together, squeezing your pecs at the end of the movement. This makes it harder to shrink.
For added difficulty, elevate your feet. To make it easier, keep your torso more upright.
Schedule this exercise at the end of your workout and do 3 sets of 8-15 reps. Control the tempo. Spend 3 seconds on the down portion of each rep. Due to the inherent instability of the rings, take your time and focus on feeling each rep. Don’t rush into these moves just because your chest is on fire!