Dave, the older of the two, asked me, "My chest is droopy, and I'm getting a bit of pain in my shoulders when I bench, especially if I go heavy; but I want to get that development right along the collarbone. I have tried everything but I can't figure out what I am doing wrong?"
Before I could answer, his workout partner chimed in, "I want to get more inner pec development, as I have no chest separation."
Seeing that there was no escape from my two new eager pupils, I decided the best way to finish this (and to get to my nice suntan spot on the beach) would be to help these guys out as fast as possible.
"Okay," I said. "First, what are you currently doing for your exercise routine? How many sets, exercises, and what are your reps?"
Dave, the obvious leader of the two, said "We like to mix it up a bit, but mostly we start with four or five sets of bench press, then we move on to the bench machine for three or four sets, then we go to incline hammer bench, and we follow up with pec deck for about four sets of, usually higher rep ranges, in the 12 to 15 range. Lately though, my shoulder hurts when doing the benches.
"So, we have been doing a lot more machines, and sometimes we've been doing some declines. This seems to alleviate the shoulder problem."
I said, "Show me your form on an exercise." And after demonstration, each with some big weights, I could quickly see their problems. "First, your exercise form is way off, and second your exercise selection is definitely not going to help your problem. Which of these would you like to address first?"
Dave quipped, "Well, I think my form is pretty good, so I must be doing the wrong exercises."
I kept silent about the exercise form as I put together a quick-chest program to emphasize those hard-to-develop upper and inner pecs, dealing with both guys' challenges.
"First thing is you need to use dumbbells a bit more in your workout. The problem with using barbells is that your prime movers have become too strong for your stabilizers; and this is putting your shoulder at a disadvantage. I suggest you use a pyramid system of warm-ups on the incline bench at an angle of about 30 degrees, definitely no more than 45.
"I also suggest that the lower the rep range, the less sets on the exercises."
"Why is that, Wade?"
"Well, the lower reps, in general, are more demanding on the nervous system and take longer to recover from. Incidentally, if you stick with incline bench, follow it up with incline dumbbells. By selecting exercises this way, half your chest workout is done in the same plane of motion."
"What is the plane of motion?" asked Rick.
"The plane of motion is the line in which the bar travels, which is critical to overload the muscle in the weakest position. By doing so, this results in a stimulus that can cause the growth that we desire."
"Wow! That sounds technical."
"It is, but remember your workout should be as much mental as it is physical. We'll address that area another time, but for now let's get back to the incline bench."
"Over The Eyes For Benches & Flyes."
Seeing that I was getting through to my new eager students I kept going. "Now when you lower the weight down, be sure to keep the weight close to the chin, and stop the bar about one inch from the collarbone.
"Using only the pecs, pull your arms across your body as opposed to mindlessly pushing the weight. This makes all the difference in the world. The bar should finish right over the eyes. Only press three-quarters of the way up to keep the tension on the chest. Lock out only if you need to, i.e. in a high-rep set where you need more oxygen.
"To keep it simple, I have a rule of thumb that I learned from my coach, over the eyes for benches and flyes.
"Every time you complete a rep, the bar or the dumbbells should be over the top of your eyes. This helps to keep the tension on the pecs and off the deltoids and triceps. Here, why don't you guys give it a try?"
Dave jumped in. I cautioned him to reduce the weight to about 70 percent of his normal, to start. I spotted him while Rick watched carefully. The first rep, he bounced the weight off the mid chest line.
I said, "No, keep the movement closer to the chin, and keep the bar off the chest." On the second rep, he managed to keep the bar off the chest, but finished the weight well away from over his eyes. As a matter-of-fact, it was over the chest line.
"Better, but you need to finish over the eyes," shouted Rick, gleefully. He was thoroughly enjoying his training partner getting schooled by someone else, especially someone almost half his age.
Dave quickly hit the next five reps with almost perfect form. He then racked the weight, on the next set he reduced the load a bit, and then ripped off eight reps with almost perfect form. "Just a bit too much lock out," I coached quietly.
Rick quickly went back to the racks and executed eight reps with flawless form. The two went back and forth and finished up four sets before he went on to do dumbbell incline presses.
Dumbbell Incline Presses
I demonstrated on dumbbell presses how to keep the forearms perpendicular to the floor at the bottom of the movement, and to arc the weights properly through the range of motion and keeping the dumbbells over the eyes of course, through the movement.
"Wow", Rick said, "My chest if really pumped up to the max."
Dave said, "Yeah, and I haven't felt any shoulder pain even though we've done three sets of this exercise plus four on the one before." We then moved on to flat bench dumbbell blocks.
I repeated a line I have said a million times, "Most people use way too much weight with poor form, resulting in big front belts and no pecs."
Concentration Before Weight
Once again, I showed them how to keep the dumbbells over the eyes and not to overstretch the chest at the bottom. After reducing the weight by 50 percent from their normal working weight, they got the hang of it.
"Make sure to squeeze the pecs hard on each rep," I said.
Dave exclaimed, "Man, it's half the weight but I have never felt contractions like this doing flyes."
Rick quickly piped up, "That's because you use too much weight."
I had to chuckle. "Yeah, we all fall victim of a little ego training every now and then, but remember, concentration is the biggest factor in training, not the weight used. "
Dave said, "Yeah. I'm really seeing that I wasted a lot of years in the gym getting into the weight thing."
Inner Pec Lines
Before I escaped, Rick quickly said, "Hey! One more thing, what about the inner pec lines?"
"Oh yeah, I almost forgot." I glanced out the window and watched as a few clouds started to roll in, covering up that beautiful sunshiny sky. It looked like my day at the beach was disappearing like the sun behind those clouds. Oh well. I headed over to the cable crossovers.
"You know, I almost never see anyone doing this exercise properly for maximum chest development. But I'm going to show you guys a few tricks I learned that will have those inner pecs totally separated in no time." I grabbed the cables, moved to the center of the machine and stepped back one good pace. Both guys looked almost shocked.
I stated, "You know, anatomy shows us that the pecs not only move the arms across the body, but it also pulls the arms towards the body. By stepping back from the machine, I'm forced to pull the cables toward me as well as down. This puts a lot of tension right on the inner pecs, right where we want it." I also cautioned, "The secret is to only lean over a bit. Don't bend over as that activates the deltoids."
Reps & Speed
Rick eagerly grabbed the cables on the next try and within a few reps he had the hang of it. Dave asked, "How fast do we do these reps?"
I stated, "Perform them slowly with moderate weights. I always felt going a little lighter I can get a better contraction through the pecs as opposed to slinging heavy weights and blowing out my shoulder joints.
"I also keep my reps on this exercise on the higher side as it's more of a finishing exercise. And if you work the muscles properly through the beginning workout, these are a great pumper."
After three sets each of 15, both guys' chests were inflated like mini-zeppelins.
"Only one more things guys before you go." Seeing that they had almost used up an hour of my time and they were about to head out of the gym, I thought I would like to return the favor for leaving me late for my break time. "Make sure you stretch after every workout for at least five to ten minutes.
Overhead Pec Stretch
"First thing you do is to grab a door casing or a big bar over your head and stretch the pecs by placing the hand above your head and stepping forward.
"Repeat this three times each side for about 30 seconds."
Corner Pec Stretch
"You can also face a corner with the elbows against the wall, kind of like in a pec deck fly, and again you step forward getting a nice stretch on the pecs."
Partner Pec Stretch
"One other thing you can do, if you have a partner to work with, as you guys you guys do, is sitting on a bench and have your partner pull your arms backwards while holding onto your elbows.
"Be sure to place a knee firmly at the back to keep from pulling your partner over and don't over-stretch." I demonstrated the movements.
Lactic Acid Reduction
"Wow that feels great," said Dave.
Rick exclaimed, "I think I'm even more pumped after the stretching."
"Well that's because stretching reduces lactic acid by flooding the stretched muscle with lots of blood and nutrients to recover, so recovery starts immediately. This also keeps you nice and flexible so you don't walk around with tight rounded shoulders like a gorilla." We all laughed.
"Okay guys, I've really got to run. We only covered a little bit today, because for a complete program, you need to alternate volume, rep ranges and exercises from week to week.
"I have most of my students follow a specific four-week pattern for approximately 12 to 20 weeks, where we mix up the exercise sequence and the volume as well as the rep ranges. This way we can get the most complete chest development and the fastest results possible."
"Hey, thanks for the tips, Wade."
"No problem guys, any time."
I left the gym before another impromptu lesson could start.
Ahhh, the life of a trainer.
Wade McNutt is a Natural National Bodybuilding Champion and an IFBB Mr. Universe World Championships competitor. He has combined the secret techniques of Eastern Yoga Masters with cutting-edge, scientific, muscle building methods to produce a revolutionary new system called Freaky Big Naturally. Learn more at www.freakygrowth.com/freaky/wademcnutt.