Everybody covets those big, full pecs just bulging through a shirt. But many waste their time with subpar and inefficient exercises not reaping them the full benefit of their chest day.
Big Pecs in FIVE Steps
Set your Incline at a lower gradient
Most gym incline barbell press benches are set at a 45 degree angle. However, this incline angle is not optimal for upper pec development as it is more anterior deltoid dominant overall.
An incline of 15-35 degrees would be better to target your pecs, but, unless you have an adjustable bench next to a power rack, this would be difficult to pull off.
It is a lot easier to simply incline dumbbell press to target your upper pecs.
If you don’t have access to an adjustable bench, try a reverse grip flat bench press. Some even say that the reverse grip flat bench press — despite it being uncomfortable if you’re not familiar with the movement — is even more conducive to upper pec activation than incline work.
Use Dumbbells Where Possible
With dumbbells, your hands can follow a more natural path over the use of a barbell. Granted, with a barbell you can lift more total weight, but some lifters with shoulder impingements or immobility can struggle with the barbell bench press — especially at the bottom of the lift.
I would advocate for anybody keen to use the bench press to follow a powerlifter’s set up and retract their shoulder blades, thus arching the back, and elevating the chest, taking some of the strain off the shoulders and pectoral tendons.
Dumbbells are also far better for muscular activation than a barbell. Pectoral activation comes from bringing the arms together — something you cannot do on a barbell. With dumbbells you can bring your arms across your chest in the final third of the movement, increasing total activation.
Use a variety of rep ranges
Even when I used to do powerlifting, I would throw accessory movements with high rep ranges to mix things up a bit. And the pumps would be awesome.
Now that I focus more on bodybuilding, I’ve almost restricted myself to 8-15 rep ranges overall.
But there’s more that you can do.
It would be fun to sometimes throw on two plates and see how many reps I could crank out. The pump is amazing and the delayed onset muscle soreness the days following the workout would feel rewarding.
And this could be something you could try.
Instead of hitting 4×8-12 ad infinitum, how about doing a couple 5x5s here and there. Or, say, for example, try 5×5 for your first exercise then 3×20 for your second.
I would, however, recommend not going lower than five reps.
If you’re not used to going too heavy on your chest workouts, you could put yourself at risk of injury.
A friend of a friend snapped his funny bone stalling on a 300lb 1RM. Think of the innumerable lifters who have torn their pec from trying to max out unnecessarily on the bench.
Chasing a pump for your pecs is so much fun.
Aside from playing with rep ranges, don’t be shy to throw in some drop sets here and there to draw blood to the muscles.
Drop sets can be tiring and taxing on your body — which is why they shouldn’t be used in every session as they can be detrimental to your overall progress.
Low-to-high Cable Crossovers
Using the multi-pulley machine, set the handles at the bottom and aim to pull them up to above your collarbone. You will feel a squeeze on your inner upper pecs — you know, the thing that makes the line underneath your collarbone when your shirt is buttoned down.
Little else, apart from incline and reverse grip bench press, hits that portion of the chest so well.
Of course, having a lower body fat percentage will help reveal that elusive part of your chest, but it doesn’t hurt to bring it out a little more.
I hate — and I mean, hate — high-to-low cable crossovers with a passion. I feel like they don’t do anything for me at all apart from aggravate my shoulders and bicep tendons.
You can get far better activation from dips, decline bench press, and floor flyes in those areas.
Do Flyes on the floor, not a bench
When it comes to pec tearing exercises, I believe the flye is second place to the bench press.
However, the flye is a good exercise.
So, if you can’t do it on a machine, try it from the floor.
From the floor, the flye’s range of motion is restricted by a natural barrier — the floor — which prevents your elbows from being lowered to a position that compromises your pectoral muscles and shoulder joint.
I, personally, love the pump from flyes off the floor. The exercise has become a staple on my chest day.
Another option to make your pecs burst would be to attempt the Herculean Press (shown far above).
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