I’ve been training for four years straight. I weigh 190 pounds and can bench 315 pounds, which people tell me is pretty good. But my chest isn’t growing the way I think it should. How can I spark some life into my pecs?
More than anything, you may need to make a mental adjustment before you can get your chest to start growing. Right off the bat, you wrote how much you can bench press. That’s fine if you’re looking to be a powerlifter, but for bodybuilding purposes, the weight you can bench is pretty much irrelevant.
I’ve seen so many trainers get caught up in the hype of the big bench. It’s almost like an addiction for some. They call themselves bodybuilders, yet the first thing they do on chest day is run to the flat bench and pile on as much weight as they can, regardless of their ability to use proper form. I can certainly understand the appeal of being strong and of besting your last workout, but never at the expense of the true goal of any bodybuilder, which is building muscle.
I don’t even include flat benching in my pec routine, because I think it stresses the front deltoids far too much to be an effective exercise for building the chest. Also, the angle of the flat bench press puts the pec tendons in a vulnerable position. Many torn pecs in bodybuilding have been the result of heavy flat bench presses.
So what do I do for chest? My chest routine comprises four exercises, which together hit the pecs from every angle required to ensure total development.
My first exercise is incline barbell presses. I feel that pressing on an incline as well as on a decline allows a better range of movement than flat bench presses. The angle of the bench should be low — about 30 degrees. Some people don’t have the range of motion in their shoulders to come all of the way down to the upper chest when performing these, whether it’s due to a structural limitation or an injury. If this is your case, don’t force the issue. Come down as far as you can without doing damage to your shoulder joints. Keep the bar under control at all times, making sure to forcefully squeeze your pecs at the top of the movement.
From inclines, I move on to Hammer Strength seated bench presses. I’ve gone into detail recently in this column as to why I like Hammer Strength machines so much. Suffice to say they will serve your chest-building needs far better than barbell flat bench presses. You can really feel the burn at the top of this movement and get a great stretch in the pecs at the bottom without having to worry about getting stuck under the weight.
Next up are incline dumbbell flyes, which work the middle and outer pecs. Again, keep about a 30-degree incline to the bench and make sure you concentrate on using strict form. It’s not about the weight here. Imagine you are hugging a tree, and keep your arms locked in that position throughout the movement.
Finally, I do a single set of cable crossovers. This exercise isn’t essential for beginners and intermediate bodybuilders, but it’s a nice way to impart an extra burn to the pecs at the end of the workout.
Remember, bodybuilding is supposed to be about quality, not quantity. If you concentrate on quality in your training, the quantity will soon follow. - FLEX