One of the things every bodybuilder strives to obtain is a big chest. Ideally, as Vince Gironda put it, "it should be shaped liked the shield of a roman soldier." Remember Gladiator with Russell Crowe and Ralph Moeller? Ok, back to topic.
First let's look at some biomechanics. When we say chest, we actually mean the pectoralis major and minor. The function of the pec major is to pull the arm laterally across the body. Now you can see why flyes are critical to a chest workout.
Here is how I would build a chest workout...
Building a Chest Workout
Flexibility and Rotator Cuff Strength
1. Make sure you are ready for your chest workout in terms of flexibility and rotator cuff strength. I touched upon this in my article on functional training so just pull it up. Nobody can grow a monster chest if it’s torn.
2. Do cable floor flyes. This is a total must-do activation exercise that needs to be performed first. Put the handles at the cable as low as possible and lay on the floor. Perform a regular fly, where your upper arms touch the floor but the elbows don't. This will ensure that you activate the pecs from the beginning.
You can vary in terms of bringing the hands together over your forehead or chest. As for all chest exercises, keep the shoulder blades pinched together. Do not round the shoulders as you go up. It's chest day, not shoulders.
The floor press is an all but forgotten exercise, but it is great for strength and mass. Set the bar at the lowest safety level at the power rack, which should be about 15-18 inches above the floor, and get under it. (If your gym doesn’t have power racks, change the gym. Seriously.) Choose a wide grip bench and press the bar from a full stop to full extension.
You should treat each rep as a single, making sure you achieve a full stop at the bottom and the top.
Avoid the Bench Press
4. Do not flat bench press! Steve Shaw is probably going to hate me for this, but I am convinced that for bodybuilding (not powerlifting) the barbell flat bench is a poor choice for most trainees. It causes elbow and shoulder problems and forms a droopy chest.
Then there is the whole moronic "Whadda ya bench" nonsense, which usually leads to poor form and blown out elbows/torn rotator cuffs. The reality is that the flat bench is more of a shoulder/triceps than chest exercise. In addition, the flat bench builds sort of a droopy chest, which isn’t what we are after.
The incline bench press is a better choice, especially if you have long arms. It will hit your chest without putting too much strain on your shoulders. In addition, I find racking and unracking easier when using the incline bench.
Dumbbells are also a great choice, they enable you to find your range of motion and emphasize the squeeze on top.
"Pullover" the Weight
5. Make sure your first motion after unracking the weight is a pullover. Too many people bench press close to the neck which is:
- A. Dangerous and...
- B. Suboptimal since you can't involve your lats.
Why would I want to involve my lats? Think of the lats as springs when benching you compress them as you lower the weight and release as you move upward. A pullover will ensure proper activation of the lats.
Flyes with a Twist
6. Do underhanded flyes with a twist, to help target the pec minor. The pec minor lies underneath the pec major and is important in regards to total chest development. You stand at the cables in a step and move the handles up in a sort of "upside down old fashioned V" motion, while keeping your shoulders down.
Once at the top, turn your pinky up and outward for a deep squeeze. This is helpful in regards to building a chest that isn't flat on the top.
7. Get a pump. I have written about this before, but getting a pump is fun and practical at the same time. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right, once again, when he said that the pump is the best feeling in the world; the blood rushing into the muscle and so forth.
Aside from making you look humongous and superhuman, the pump ensures three very important matters.
- It means that you trained the muscle correctly, as opposed to performing joint work.
- The blood in your arms is stretching the fascia, a tight sock-like tissue surrounding your muscles. The more you stretch the fascia, the more room your muscles have to grow.
- The blood carries nutrients to the muscle, which are needed for repair and hypertrophy.
There you have it, 7 things to keep in mind when growing a chest. Keep training hard - Maik.