Big Pecs! 5 Chest Building Tips That Move Beyond the Bench Press
As you watch the sunset on another Sunday evening you begin to think about the next day. Another weekend over and another new exciting start to the week.
The excitement continues as you go to sleep because you know when you wake up that fateful day has arrived: International Chest Day. Or, Monday for you non-gym rats.
Depending on your training style and lifting split, we usually find ourselves performing a push day, upper body day, or chest day on Monday. And, week after week we find ourselves sprinting as fast as we can to the nearest flat bench so we can hit our inevitable first set of barbell bench press.
But, what if I told you it’s time to take a step back away from the flat bench and start looking at other exercises and techniques to improve your chest strength and size? Blasphemy, right? Well, hold on and here me out.
Before you start screaming at your screen, let me clarify that barbell bench press is the king of chest movements. It’s an exercise that’s been performed and perfected by some of the biggest names in fitness history with some of the biggest chests to prove it. But, if you are performing the barbell bench press exercise as your first movement week after week, with the same weight and same rep scheme, you are going to hit a plateau.
In order for your body to grow you need to adapt, switch up your training occasionally, and understand how small changes can produce big results. With these 5 tips for training your chest you will be primed, ready, and excited to make some serious chest gains when Monday comes around.
5 Tips for Building Big Pecs
#1 – Improve the Accessory Muscles
While your chest is the main muscle group targeted through pressing movements like barbell and dumbbell press, we tend to forget how the front deltoids and triceps also play a major role in improving your pressing strength.
Your triceps and front deltoids are active and assisting with each pressing movement, so by strengthening these muscle groups you will in turn strength your press movement as a whole.
Try incorporating more sets of close grip bench press, bodyweight dips, and overhead presses into your weekly routine to strength your front deltoids and triceps. These two movements will help you to improve your pressing movements from the bottom of the press to the lockout portion of the movement.
#2 – Train at All Angles
Your typical chest day may be going something like this: Flat bench barbell press, incline dumbbell press, decline barbell press. So far, that’s great because you’re hitting your chest at multiple angles to build an even chest all around. But, if you really want to ramp up your training and your upper or lower chest development is lacking then you need to start training at different angles.
Most incline benches and decline benches are set at a specific angle, so you are training at that same angle every time you use that bench. By using an adjustable bench you can change the incline or decline to a specific angle and perform a press movement with your body at a new angle.
Pressing at a high incline or a minor decline can activate muscles within your chest that may have not been targeted as frequently, helping you to build further strength in your upper and lower chest.
#3 – Make it a FULL Rep
How many times have you seen your favorite, Monday bench press warrior throwing 4 plates on each side, get the weight barely off the rack, and crank out one pathetic, ¼ rep? Don’t be that guy.
If you want a full looking chest, start perfecting your form and performing full reps. Performing half reps during your pressing movements will help you increase your strength at the top, lockout portion of the movement, but your strength at the bottom portion of the movement will continue to decrease.
Now, partial reps shouldn’t be completely thrown out of your training as they can help build strength and give you that extra pump within those last couple reps at the end of a grueling set, but failing to perform full reps within every exercise and every set will seriously hinder your chest strength and development. Drop the ego, drop the weight, and make it a FULL rep.
#4 – Improve Your Dumbbell Strength
The bench press is always calling our name on bench day that we tend to forget about the important of the dumbbell press. With dumbbell presses your hands aren’t placed into a locked position as they are with a barbell, so you are able to contract and squeeze the chest in a different manner.
Dumbbell pressing also allows you to isolate each pectoral muscle to a greater degree. By focusing on dumbbell pressing you are fine tuning your pressing strength, while at the same time improving any weaknesses within your chest.
Since each pectoral is responsible on its own for pressing that single dumbbell up, your left or right pectoral is not relying on the other to assist in lifting the weight up. Strengthening your weaknesses through dumbbell pressing will allow you to become stronger within your barbell pressing.
#5 – Fix Your Flyes
Are you performing your dumbbell or cable flyes properly? Fly movements are typically performed as a 3rd or 4th exercise on chest day, after your compound pressing movements. Chances are you are more fatigued when performing chest flyes and your form can suffer.
With single-joint movements like flyes, your elbows should be locked in a slightly bent position throughout the whole movement. Many of us tend to bring our elbows out of this locked position and once that happens you are pressing the weight and reducing the isolation focus of this exercise. With fly movements you don’t have to load on the weight.
This movement is all about isolation and pushing blood throughout the chest for that final pump before you leave the gym. Drop the weight, focus on locking your elbows into that bent position, and fix your fly.
Commence the Chest Gains
By improving your approach and form you will put yourself in a position to improve your chest development. If you have hit a plateau in your chest training or find yourself guilty of these common chest training mistakes, these five tips will get you back on track towards making some new and serious chest gains.
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