Rather than just cover one main exercise, I wanted to do an overview on some of the more common mistakes with chest training and how to avoid them.
1. Going too heavy / not feeling the weight or the contraction. The size of your chest is not relative to the weight you can bench. In almost all cases, when I force a client to drop the weight 10-20%, emphasize the feel and contraction of the pecs with isolated tension – that’s when the chest will start to respond. Your muscles can’t see that the bar isn’t stacked with plates, but you sure can make them feel like it is.
2. Understanding function. The pec major adducts (moves toward the center), flexes (forward movement) and internally rotates the arm while the pec minor pulls the shoulder in a forward and down movement. Remembering this can help with muscle activation and engagement. One of the most frequently used technique corrections I’ve used is reminding clients to keep the shoulders down and back during most press and fly movements. This takes the delts out of the equation, allowing for a stronger pec contraction.
3. Stretch position. One of the most underutilized tools in building the chest is taking full advantage of the stretch on most lifts. Most clients will focus most of their effort on pushing and getting the weight up, with much less emphasis on the negative and stretch position of the range. In my experience, having clients control the weight slowly down into an extreme stretch, hold stretch positions (i.e. pause reps) and using at least one exercise per workout as ‘stretch movements’ has really paid off with overall chest development.
4. Activation. I’ve always preferred to have clients start every chest workout with what I’ll call a chest activation / mind-muscle exercise – usually machines or cables. This is not pre-exhaustion. This is geared to forcing some blood in the area, awakening a strong mind-muscle connection with the pecs and get the muscles firing for the heavier lift to follow. What I’ve found is clients will generally report feeling the heavier lifts more in the pecs when they’ve taken the time to activate the muscle beforehand.
5. Full reps. I thing the range of motion is specific to the bodypart you are training. Sometimes I’ll have clients use a full range, sometimes ¾ or even half. It’s about applying continuous tension and if it’s more beneficial from a hypertrophy standpoint to alter the range, then I’ll do it. When it comes to chest, I prefer clients use a full range of motion for presses – all the way down into a stretch and all the way up into a strong peak contraction…..and a ¾ range for fly’s – all the way down into a paused stretch and ¾ of the way up to line up with the shoulders while squeezing the inner pecs at the top. This is just my preference and what’s worked in my years. In addition to this, using chains and bands on presses can definitely add to the top of the range for presses – adding to the total tension applied to the pecs through the lift.
Each week a different T-Rex coach will share their insight on some training tips they’ve used with success over the years. I’ll take any requests or suggestions for the next one. Have a great lift!