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Added On November 10, 2011
Chest Activation During The Bench Press

by Rusi
"Bro. I never feel my chest working when bench pressing.

I thought the bench press was a chest exercise. WTF?"
Yes, the bench press is used mainly for chest work but in order for the chest to work it must be placed in position from which it can assist you.
The Pectoralis Major muscle attaches from the sternum, ribcage, and clavicle to the humerus (upper arm). They share the function of Adducting the arm (pulling it down and in towards the body) when working with certain muscles of the back (like the latismuss dorsi). When working alone they pull the arm forward (from pointing out sideways to pointing forwards) to the position of the "flexed" shoulder.

Obviously when we are doing a bench press we are using second function of the chest. So in order to activate your chest during a bench press at the bottom of the movement your elbow should be pointing sideways in order for the pec to have a reason to contract. In other words you should flare your elbows and use a relatively wide grip. Remember that you don't have to use the widest grip possible. What's important is that you should flare the elbows.

Also another great way to increase the pectoralis activation is to imagine that you are trying to bring your hands together. In other words you are trying to compress or shorten the bar with your chest power. Make sure you pre-stretch the pecs by sticking your chest out as well.
"But my shoulder hurts when I flare my elbows. I was told that in order to avoid shoulder stress during bench presses you should tuck your elbows close to your body as a powerlifter."

Yes, there is more shoulder strain when you flare your elbows. However if you tuck them close to your body you are taking the chest out of the movement to a great extend. It just has almost nothing to do because the muscle is shortened. It's like trying to do a curl with your elbow flexed.

Also I said flare your elbows not perform a
neck press. You should flare your elbows as much as you can without shoulder pain. You should try to keep the angle between your upper arm and torso around 45 degrees in order to minimize the shoulder strain while keeping the chest in the game.
Unnecessary wide grip

Many people will experience shoulder pain.
Wide grip

Less people will experience shoulder pain but don't be surprised if you shoulder still hurts.
"Bro. I'm fucked up. My shoulder hurts like hell unless I keep my elbows close to my body.

Am I stuck with small pecs forever?

No. There are a lot of exercises that will help you hit those boobies. The bench press is not the only exercise. The first thing I would try would be a dumbbell bench press since the dumbbells allow your shoulder to find a position where it doesn't hurt as much. Also there is even more chest activation during a dumbbell bench press because you can also squeeze the dumbbells at the top and perform a partial fly.

Another great tip from Larry Scott The Legend when doing dumbbell bench press is to keep your
thumbs pointing down in order to maximize the chest work.
As you can see Bertil Fox was aware of this technique and used it.
Bertil Fox doing a dumbbell bench press - both pictures.
Another thing you can try for are dips. Dips will hit your chest pretty hard provided that you perform the so-called chest dip where you lean forward. If you stay too upright there is too much shoulder strain and triceps involvement.
Note the forward lean
When the bodyweight dip gets too easy use chains instead of those dip belts or dumbbells in order to add weight. If you use the belt you will forced to go into a triceps dominated dip due to gravity. On the other hand if you place some chains or a neckless (rope with attached weight to it) you will be forced into leaning forward even more. This is good because this is how the pecs get more work.
"Anything else to try, bro?"

Another great chest movement is the Bulgarian Ring Push-up. The bulgarian ring push-up is essentially a wide grip push-up performed on gymnastic rings or home suspension training system. If you don't have one you can make it yourself for a few bucks. Don't bother buying overpriced products such as the TRX System. I explain why
here.

When performing the Bulgarian Ring Push-up make sure you bring the ring handles together sort of like bringing the dumbbells together when doing a dumbbell bench press this will activate even more chest fibers due to the added fly like finish of the exercise.  Have Fun !!! Grow Some boobies...
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