Guys tend to train chest a LOT. I see plenty of dudes in the gym who hit chest every day and yet it looks severely under-trained. Why? As with everything, the devil is in the details.
Just doing the work is NEVER enough. How the work is executed is everything.
So if we’re gonna hit chest, let’s hit it right and maybe then we can stop hitting it every day. Here are my top 5 tips to get things moving and actually get those pecs to grow.
1 – Make sure you’re actually working the pecs
This seems kind of obvious but it’s VERY easy to let the shoulders take over and do a lot of the work. It’s very easy to turn a bench press into a total body lift, and if you’re interested in moving as much weight as possible there are worse tactics to employ – but if you’re interested in pec development, use a weight that lets you control the movement and focus on the contraction of the muscle you’re targeting.
2 – Keep your shoulders retracted
A pretty universal tip for any press or fly movement. Pull your shoulders back, pinch your scapula together HARD, and keep them in that position throughout the entire range of motion. Done correctly, it’ll feel like you’re short-arming things a bit, T-Rex style. If you lose that retraction, it’s a sign that the pecs aren’t doing the work, or can’t any longer.
3 – Use activation movements
An activation movement is an accessory exercise designed to help “wake up” a stubborn muscle and I like to incorporate these as a warmup into a superset. You can use something as basic as an isometric squeeze or hold, or something like a lightweight Venn press to get the pecs engaged before moving on to a compound movement like a press.
4 – Focus on the elbows
Pec activation is determined by the relationship (change in angle primarily) between the elbow and shoulder. The best way to visualize this is to imagine that whatever weight you are moving is being held by/at the elbow instead of in your hand. Really focus your attention on the change in angle there and the relationship between those two joints. Whenever you have the chance, capitalize on this in your exercise selection. Example: if your gym has a pec deck fly machine with handles and another with pads where the elbows are the placed, the latter is almost always going to provide a better contraction for the pecs.
5 – Practice mind/muscle connection
This is true for every muscle group, but as a bodybuilder you need to be acutely aware of what the muscles in your body do and how to fire them. When you’re sitting around idly, simulate a pec fly with one arm and feel that pec working and contracting with your free hand. Getting more accustomed to what a good contraction feels like will help you recruit and use the muscle more effectively in the gym.