Powerful Pecs!

Within the next few months, I will have a complete set of articles, each one dedicated to a different muscle group. Each article will include a super-set and an effective strength building exercise to help you blast through any plateaus.
Within the next few months, I will have a complete set of articles, each one dedicated to a different muscle group. Each article will include a super-set and an effective strength building exercise to help you blast through any plateaus and into new and impressive muscular growth and definition.

If there is one bodypart that I'm not satisfied with, it's my chest. Along with arms, it is one of the most easily noticed muscle groups when well developed. I've done some research to put together a sweet chest routine, and thought I'd share some of the details with you.

Let's start with the problem solving first. The biggest problem people face is allowing shoulder involvement during their pressing. This is especially veracious for those who possess large and powerful deltoids. Allowing this to occur spells disaster for somebody trying to build a massive chest, since it takes the load off the intended muscle group, and places it on another. To avoid this, I suggest slightly arching your lower back. I recommend this technique only be performed by intermediate or advanced lifters, with a strong lower back while using a high quality lifting belt to further decrease the probability of a lower back injury. This allows the shoulders to stay low, and elevates the chest to where it becomes the highest point of your body.

Another problem is not training the total chest. Not training the upper chest will result in a droopy look, where as not training the lower pecs will cause your pecs to suddenly end and look incomplete. The only way to build an impressive chest is to train all 3 areas.

Ego can be your own worst enemy. By this I mean using an appropriate weight that will deliver maximum benefits from the exercise, not a weight that will make you look tough. You want to hit total muscular failure between 6-12 reps, but apply the Forced Reps training principle to every set of every exercise. Read my article on Forced Reps. No doubt proper form is important while training, but once you go so heavy, it's almost guaranteed that you'll get a little bit sloppy, so be careful. Ego can also lead to another type of problem... Injuries. The shoulders are the most vulnerable joint to injure while performing pressing movements. Make sure you warm up with a few decent rotator cuff exercises which will warm-up the joints prior to training.

For my chest routine, I'll be using 4 tried, tested and true mass building exercises and one high rep finishing exercise: Incline Barbell Presses, Decline Dumbbell Presses, Incline Dumbbell Presses and for the high rep finishing movement: Flat Flyes. I'll be including the Forced Reps and Rest Pause training principles along with stretching between every set.

First of all, you want to start your routine off with a good solid mass building compound movement. Out of all the exercises, I see the incline barbell press as the best candidate since it allows for an increased range of motion, adds mass to the common weak area of the chest and is safer for the shoulder and elbow joints. I believe that the flat bench press is highly over-rated as a mass builder since it decreases your range of motion, and places great stress on your shoulder joints. It is important that you do not completely lock out at the top of the movement to avoid elbow damage, but ensure that you are getting a peak contraction. Not only will lock-out cause injuries, but it will also remove the stress from the pectorals for a split instant, increasing the probability of lowering the weight using your shoulders while decreasing the set's overall intensity level. Keep the pecs loaded and stressed at all times.

Next up in the routine, I suggest placing a good exercise for the lower pecs. Although decline flyes are effective, I would recommend using decline dumbbell presses since these allow you to handle a much heavier weight, therefore adding more mass. Decline dumbbell presses also completely remove the involvement of the shoulders.

Since incline presses are the meat and potatoes of a good chest workout, I suggest implementing incline dumbbell presses. This is a variation of the incline barbell presses, but allows for an increased range of motion. This is a very good pec isolation exercise that will pump lots of blood into the muscle.

I like to finish my chest workout with a high rep finishing movement. For this I recommend using flat flyes. This will pump the blood into the chest, while helping to add detail and thickness to the inner and outer chest.

As for the rep itself, It's very important that you press explosively with maximum mental concentration, but at the same time make sure that the entire rep is smooth and under control. At the top of the movement, do not release the contraction. Again, this will cause your delts to take over from the pectorals. To get the most benefit out of chest exercises, you must derive your power from the ground, foot placement is very important. Keep your feet flat on the floor, with your legs open just past the width of the bench. Use the groung for power.

From a few posts on the message boards, I understand that the actual execution of the exercises seems to be the problem, so I'll share a few tips to get you on your way to building a ripped and massive chest.

    Incline Barbell Press:
  • Keep your shoulders down below your chest.
  • Do not fully lock out at the top.
  • Press in a straight line towards the roof.
  • Lower the bar down to your chest, but not quite touching.
  • At the bottom of the movement, your forearms should be perpendicular to your upper arms.
  • Too wide of a grip will blow out your shoulder, where as too close a grip will over-emphasize your triceps.
  • Slightly arch your back (using a weight belt) to remove shoulder involvement.
  • Use a very light weight at first to find your natural power plain. This will allow you to pile the weight on the bar, while avoiding shoulder injury since you are already accustomed to the correct angles and hand placement.
    Decline Dumbbell Press:
  • When you hook your feet under the support pads, allow your lower body to remain relaxed. A common mistake made by people is that they contract their lower body muscles which robs them of concentration and power during the lift.
  • Press in a straight line towards the roof.
  • Do not fully lock out at the top.
  • At the bottom of the movement, your forearms should be perpendicular to your upper arms.
  • Decline presses avoid shoulder involvement almost altogether.
  • Press the weight in a slight arc, straight up.
  • Use a very light weight at first to find your natural power plain.
    Incline Dumbbell Press:
  • Keep your shoulders down below your chest.
  • Do not fully lock out at the top.
  • At the bottom of the movement, your forearms should be perpendicular to your upper arms.
  • keep the dumbbells in a direct line with your upper chest.
  • Slightly arch your back (using a weight belt) to remove shoulder involvement.
  • Use a very light weight at first to find your natural power plain.
  • Press in a straight line towards the roof.
    Dumbbell Flyes:
  • Keep your shoulders down below your chest.
  • Emphasize the negative portion of this exercise, more so than normal.
  • Imagine hugging a big tree while performing the movement.
  • Don't lower the weight too far, it will force your shoulders to do the work.
  • Put a slight bend in your elbows to take the pressure off your biceps.
  • Use a very light weight at first to find your natural power plain.
    My Current Chest Workout:
  • Incline Barbell Presses ------- 4 sets of 15, 6, 8, 10 reps
  • Decline Dumbbell Presses --- 4 sets of 15, 6, 8, 10 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Presses ---- 3 sets of 8, 10, 12 reps
  • Flat Flyes ---------------------- 3 sets of 15-20 reps
* This chest routine requires total concentration. Do a feel set of 15 reps, and then start with your heaviest set of dumbbells, reach failure and then pick a slightly lighter set and work till failure. I also suggest using forced reps for the final set of each exercise.*

Train safely, effectively and most importantly, keep it natural.

LOCKE