Your chest is a large and complicated muscle. Considering its size you would think it would be easy to stimulate growth. Do some flat bench, another secondary movement, and your chest starts growing. Unfortunately the pecs are a much more muscle group area than that. In fact it is downright complex.
Training the pectoralis is a major puzzle to most bodybuilders, thinking a couple sets of bench press is all it takes, or going to the other extreme by dedicating a full day to 20 sets of different bench press variations. In this piece we would like to expose the answer to this puzzle by discussing the six most prevalent chest training errors and then providing tips to avoid them.
Read carefully; you will be surprised how many mistakes you are likely making.
The Top 6 Chest Training Mistakes
Overtraining The Chest
Many people simply overwork their chest, and do way too much volume. Instead of trying to perform 15-20 sets for chest, simply do 5-6 sets with 2 different exercises, and focus on using maximum weight with good form. Constant progression each week is key. If you’re doing flat bench, incline, dips, and flyes all in one workout every week, it’s going to be pretty difficult to PR those exercises every week and set personal bests.
Consider using two chest workouts each week. Choose 2 different exercises for each workout and perform 3 sets for each exercise. That’s a total of 6-7 work sets each workout and 12-14 sets a week. Leave at least 2 full days of recovery time between each chest training session.
Over Reliance on the Barbell Bench
The question “how much can you bench?” is one asked by so many people it‘s often the deciding factor in one‘s true strength. However, the fact that the bench press is the go-to strength barometer has had a terrible effect on chest development on people all over the world.
Used properly, the bench press is amazing for chest development. Overused, it can potentially overdevelop the lower-pec region, giving you droopy, saggy looking pectoral muscles. Furthermore, consistently benching as heavy as possible in low rep ranges can make you more injury-prone.
To solve this issue, switch up your rep ranges. Include sets where you perform 10-12 repetitions, and others as low as 4-6. Don’t necessarily waste a perfectly good workout by maxing out to find your 1 RM, you can use a calculator to figure out your max if you know some of your other numbers.
It is also a good idea to alternate in-between performing your chest workouts with dumbbells and barbells. This will help you to avoid stagnation with your numbers on chest day, and also helps give your rotator cuff a break from bench pressing.
Neglecting Your Upper Chest Training
It will not be enough stimulation to focus on the mid/lower pectoral muscles, you also must focus on the upper chest. This is the area from your clavicles to approximately halfway down your chest. A developed upper chest will give your torso a more impressive level of development, especially compared to your under trained counterparts.
If your upper chest is under developed, always do incline work first. In each chest workout, include several sets of upper chest work and perform at least as many sets as you do for lower chest. Training the upper chest is one semi-effective way of dealing with man-boobs other than by dieting alone.
Neglecting Your Back and Triceps Training
It is a well-known fact that the triceps are a significant contributor to chest training. It is a lesser-known fact that the muscles of the back also contribute immensely to the progress you can make with your chest training. Think about it, the triceps are used secondarily to the pecs on every chest exercise, and the back is the direct antagonist muscle to the chest.
Lag on your triceps training and you will fail to lock out your heaviest sets, or to achieve maximum acceleration on your lighter sets.
Lag on your back training and your body will refuse to allow your chest to continue to grow. The body wants to stay in a state of equilibrium… it doesn’t want you to bench 300 but only be able to use 135 with bent over rows. Increase your back strength along with your chest strength to maximize progress. In fact, back training should be equal to chest training.
Overly Lenient Form
Don’t get confused; you want to use maximum resistance on chest days, but sometimes using bad form just for the sake of increasing weight is overboard. Many people mistake moving up weight with half-ROM exercises with making progress. However, using shortened ROM on bench movements isn’t recommended as it only targets a limited amount of fibers, and you aren’t really “benching” unless you go down all the way.
To avoid shoulder injuries (many don’t go to chest as they argue it is dangerous to your shoulder joint), be sure to tuck your elbows and arch your back some to relieve stress.
Using machines too often
Another extreme you will see in gyms quite often is the “I only train chest with machines” crowd. Actually, a lot of these people train everything with machines, not just chest. Little do they realize, your best bet to move towards an impressive level of chest development is with free weights.
Free weight exercises stimulate the muscles in a natural manner, and it leads, generally, to better muscular development. Want proof of this? Look at the pecs of bodybuilders from the classical era (1970s-1980s) compared to now. Most of them had good chests.
If you decide to use machines, use a Hammer-Strength machine if they are available in your gym. The machines replicate free weight movements the best and you can often train body parts unilaterally.
- Train chest and prioritize it in the same manner as other muscle groups.
- Focus on upper chest development.
- Avoid machines; free weights will stimulate more fibers in your chest overall.
- Focus on feeling a contraction in your chest; not just moving weight around.
- Remember to also train your back and triceps with as much intensity as you train your chest.
- Keep volume at a level which keeps you increasing weight as much as possible
- Always use sufficient ROM on chest exercises. On DB bench, make sure to go to at least a 90-degree angle.
- Read This: The Top 5 Best Chest Exercises