My chest used to be a weak body part for me. For about the first 5 years I was in the gym, my stupid chest just wouldn’t grow in proportion to the rest of me. When I stood there and you looked at me from the front, my shoulders and lats overpowered my chest and this caused my chest to appear much smaller than it really was. Of course my chest was larger than the average person or gym goer, but it wasn’t a great body part for me. I started experimenting with some things and before you know it, my chest was on it’s way to looking much better.
The first thing I’m going to cover here, is you’re genetically 1 of 3 different types of bench pressers. You’re either a shoulder presser, a chest presser, or a tricep presser. If you’re a chest presser that’s awesome, you probably don’t need this article. If you are a shoulder presser or a tricep presser, then pay attention!!
What you need to do is find movements that feel more natural to your chest. I occasionally use a barbell for presses, but to be honest with you I never got the same feeling in my pecs from using barbells. It always seems like my shoulders become zapped before the rest of me does. Dumbbells always seemed to work better for me, and I know I sound like a broken record here, but I’m still a firm believer in doing push-ups and weighted push-ups. I can knock out a set of push-ups and my chest is blown up and pumped much more than a set of barbell presses. So that tells me a push-up is a more natural movement. Another thing about a push-up is that I feel all of it in the chest, not shoulders.
Now, here is a little trick you can do with push-ups to get an even deeper feel in the muscle. When you come down to the floor, let your upper chest/chin touch the floor and leave your stomach elevated. You kind of look forward a little, and your lower chin/upper chest area will almost touch the ground at the same time. This is a similar effect to doing an incline press to the neck for your upper pecs, only in a natural push-up motion.
I also do something I call a “posing push-up” and this is a very slow push-up where I squeeze my chest like I’m posing for an audience. Each rep is slow and held for about the time it would take to hit a pose in a bodybuilding show, before moving to the next pose. I actually take my hands and try to pull them inward towards each other as they are planted on the floor, to cause the inside of my pecs to contract more (sort of like a most muscular pose in a bodybuilding contest).
On dumbbells you need to keep those elbows tucked in more near your ribs. Let your elbows glide back and forth near your ribs as you press. Also, stop the weight about 8-12″ short of lockout, and stop it about 2-3″ short of chest level on the descent. This will keep constant tension on your pecs and time under tension is how you’re going to make that chest grow more. Think of your reps as short little bursts that spring off your chest. Think of your chest as a spring, as the weight comes down elbows are tucked in and everything is tight, then that spring comes undone and blasts the weight back up.
Also, there will come a point where a heavier weight is going to force your shoulders to do a lot of the work, because you will do anything you can to press it and not fail. So my advice would be to grab a weight about 10-20 lbs lighter than you know you can do, and focus on that form and feel the motion in your chest. Remember, we aren’t just pushing weights here, we are feeling the muscles that we are trying to work through the movement!!
Smith machine presses are something I do as well. The smith machine will allow you to really focus on the pump and the burst reps (or 3/4 reps). I don’t really categorize this as a normal barbell press, because you have the ability to move up or down the bar a little and press up in a consistent plane of motion that would be more difficult with a regular bench press.
Also, another thing you guys want to do is keep your hands slightly narrower. If chest is a weak point for you then taking a wide grip isn’t really ideal. I’d put my hands about 4-5″ further away than what would be considered a close grip press for triceps. Again, stop short of your chest on the negative and a good 8-12″ short on the lockout. When you see these videos of these pro bodybuilders doing this, and everyone says, “his form is absolutely shitty”, well, that is why. They are doing it to keep constant tension on the muscles being trained. They know what they’re doing, trust me.
Hammer strength or Nautilus machines are good too. Machines have their place in blasting your stubborn chest also. A machine is good to take advantage of the short burst and focus on the pump more. I don’t think I’d start on machines as a new guy, but once you have a decent amount of strength then you can use a machine to your advantage if you are working a stubborn chest and trying to stimulate new growth.
I personally do away with fly’s every once in awhile. Let’s be real here, you aren’t going to make any leaps and bounds because you started adding in chest fly’s into your routine. The bicep is going to start taking the brunt of the work once you get to a certain poundage, and that is all there is to it. I’d definitely leave them out for a while, maybe later on after your chest grows a little more you can throw them back in, but not performing fly’s isn’t going to hurt you a damn bit. So here are 2 different chest routines I’ve come up with that have helped me out a lot.
Low incline smith machine presses – 3-4 sets of 8-12
Hammer strength or Nautilus flat press machine – 3-4 sets of 8-12
Push-ups/weighted push-ups – 4-5 sets of 25
Low incline dumbbell presses – 3-4 sets of 10-15
Flat dumbbell presses – 3 sets of 8-12
Posing push-ups – 3 sets of 8-10
There you have it! If that chest is stuck then try some of my tactics. I’ve learned how to make my stubborn chest grow, now you know how also!! Shitty part is I had to figure it all out on my own, you get to read it right here and apply it. I’m sure your chest will grow faster than my did!