Don't Do This To Your Chest!
Try to walk into the gym any Monday, and you'll see the majority of guys working like mad on their pecs. So why is it that chest usually leads off the training week? Well, because big pecs are cool! Just by remembering the Terminator, Rocky, and Superman we see why most men covet massive, thick, and striated pectorals. The funny (or sad really) thing is, despite all of the hard work, very few get to display the kind of chests that make jaws drop.
Building perfect-pecs is not as easy as lying on a bench and mindlessly pressing humongous weights. It takes a well-thought-out, progressive and meticulous approach that carefully avoids the following mistakes.
Error 1:Failing to Set the Torso Correctly
This is, in my opinion, the most common reason people fail to build the kind of chest they desire. Before even beginning any set of presses or fly, one must make sure to raise the rib-cage, slightly arch the lower back and shrug the shoulders down and back. This position must be held from the beginning to end of each set!
Error 2: Utilising Too Few Reps Per Set
For some reason when it comes to chest training most guys worry more about how much weight they are lifting than how they are lifting it. While it is fun to test one’s strength on occasion with a single or double on the bench or incline press, this will do little to stimulate actual muscle growth. 90% of the time I advise 7-12 reps per set in perfect form if your main goal is huge pecs.
Error 3: Too Much Bench Pressing
There is no doubt that the barbell bench press is an awesome pecs-building exercise. After all, some of the best chests ever created were done so by “big benches.” However, I feel most trainees rely on this movement too much, which can not only hold back muscular development, but also cause overuse injuries that lead to major shoulder issues. Make sure to use a wide variety of exercises in your chest program including, flies, dips, pullovers, as well as DB and machine work as well.
Error 4: Not Emphasising the Negatives
In an effort to push up bigger weights, many guys let the BB or DB’s quickly drop to their chests so a nice rebound can occur from the bottom. Not only can this cause muscle tears and/or rib cage injuries, but it will also rob you of the most effective portion (as far as hypertrophy is concerned) of ever rep! Make sure to emphasise the negative (eccentric) potion of every rep by lowering the weight over two to five seconds for maximum pecs development.
Error 5: Missing the Angles
If you are aware of how I coach my students, then you know how big I am on changing up the angles of push/pull in order to hit a muscle in its entirety and recruit all sets of motor unit pools. When it comes to training the chest you can press/fly from a decline all the way to a very high incline, with so many angles in between! Vary these angles to knock off every muscle fibre and to make training more interesting.
Error 6: Poor Range of Motion
In power lifting, the objective is to reduce the range of motion; that's not the case for bodybuilding. Despite this, I regularly see guys limit their range of motion because they're trying to work weights that are too heavy. As it turns out, lightweight, full-range-of-motion movement is a great complement to your heavy compound work. Now, don't go spending all your time doing isolation, but rather shift your focus to an area that would be difficult to fully stretch under a barbell. You'll require a lighter load (and a lighter ego); ditch the 100-pound dumbbell fly/press/thingy, grab those 40-pounds, and stretch.
Error 7: Compound First
The normal chest-enhancing protocol probably looks like this: your obligatory flat barbell presses, followed by an incline or decline hammer strength press, and then finished with a fly. This will work well for most people, most of the time. However, if you feel your shoulders and triceps overpowering your chest during your pressing movements, pre-exhaustion may be your counter-move to keep the shoulder-dominance in check. The method involves fatiguing your pecs with an isolation movement prior to your heavy compound moves. Because it's already zapped of energy, the chest should fail earlier than the fresh arms and shoulders assisting in the movement.