Building the Big Bad Chest
A while back I talked about the cable-crossover as one of my favorite exercises to finish my chest routine. This got me some inquiries about how I train my chest (also known as the pectorals or “pecs” for short) which also happens to be one of my more dominant body parts.
So, here are my recommended tips on training the mighty chest to get you ready for International Chest Day on Monday, bro.
1. Always start with an Incline.
Throughout my years of training, I have very seldom (although it does happen periodically) started my chest routine with a flat press be it dumbbell or barbell. The reasons for this are, first, the upper pectorals are generally the weaker, less developed section of the chest and in order to develop a proper V-Taper, this area all the more so needs to be at its broadest and thickest before it slowly tapers down. The other reason is that at an inclined angle, the press is usually harder to do compared to the flat press due to the aforementioned weak upper chest as well the shoulder and front delt involvement, this makes the exercise harder and therefore should be executed early in the workout while you're still strong and fresh.
2. Make sure you feel the stretch and contraction with each rep.
The chest is mainly divided into three parts, the upper, the middle and lower pectorals. As mentioned I personally like to start by training my upper chest first with an inclined dumbbell or barbell press, followed by a flat press or a pullover (I will do one or the other first always make sure to get both in) to target the mid and lower pectorals and finish off with the cable crossover. Which ever exercise you choose to train your chest, make sure you feel the muscle contractions at the targeted area and be sure to stretch the muscle at full range at the end of each rep. The chest is a relatively easy (to me at least) area to have a strong mind-muscle connection unlike my back, legs or shoulders.
3. Be sure to protect your shoulders, triceps and elbows.
Another reason why it is important to feel the full contractions with each rep when training the chest is that a limited range of motion and having a smaller muscle group fatigue too quickly can lead to injury. I try to make sure I train my arms (especially my triceps) at least a few days away from when I plan to train my chest to ensure my elbows and triceps won't get sore or tired too easily. I also ensure my shoulders are properly warmed up with a good deal of mobility stretching before, during and after my chest workouts.
4. Push from your elbows, not your wrist or hands.
When doing most presses, one trick I like to use to minimize shoulder or tricep involvement is to envision myself pushing my elbows rather than the weight itself. Of course, this only works if your grip is strong enough to handle the weight you plan to press. Get a good tight grip of the dumbbells and observe how your elbows are aligned and how they move throughout the set. If you are pressing a barbell, envision yourself trying to bend the bar (some call this “breaking the bar”) before you lift it off so as to have better control of the rep with an improved grip.