“How much ya bench?” The question has been asked a million times in a million gyms. Perhaps the first exercise most bodybuilders utilize when entering the gym – and the measurement stick for gym prowess – is the bench press. Because of this, many trainers spend a disproportionate amount of gym time bench pressing, and not enough time on other chest movements. As a result, their chests become disproportionately built; thick in the middle, of course, but lacking in the upper and outer areas. This leads to a bunched-up look in the chest area on the bodybuilding stage. The solution, as with most things, is intelligent training. Selection of exercises and techniques to focus on different areas of the pectorals can solve this problem.
Keep The Bench Press
First off, don’t stop benching. The bench press is a very useful exercise for adding chest mass and also has secondary effects upon the shoulders are triceps. Unless you have a major imbalance, keep the bench press in your exercise rotation. The key to making changes to weak areas of the pectorals is to find ways to supplement your current routine, not replace it.
Addressing The Upper
The upper pecs – that shelf of muscle that extends up to the collarbone – is an area that is underdeveloped in many young bodybuilders. It is stimulated with incline bench exercises such an incline bench press or incline dumbbell press. If you’re not already using an incline movement, add one. If you’re already using one, then add another movement. Use low, medium, and high-rep ranges to ensure you are hitting both slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers. Start each workout with an incline bench movement so you are hitting the upper chest when you are at your absolute strongest.
Addressing The Outer
First off, if you’re not using an outer-pectoral movement, add one immediately. Dumbbell Flies (incline, flat or decline) are a great movement for this. Also cable crossovers (from above- and below-head cable positions) are another movement, which helps the outer pecs and shoulder-pec tie-in to grow. Additionally, using a pre-exhaust technique can lead to improvement. Try completing one set of incline dumbbell flies, dropping the dumbbells, then immediately completing a set of incline bench presses. Your upper chest will be isolated in the first movement, which will prevent the triceps and shoulders from doing most of the work in the second movement. Work to find other creative ways to stimulate the upper and outer pectorals before completing your usual bench press sets.
Complete pectoral development is essential to win at every bodybuilding competition. The bench press is a wonderful movement, but it alone will not deliver a set of well-balanced pectoral muscles. Using a wide range of exercises and techniques to isolate the upper and outer pectorals will ensure complete chest development – and a better shot at winning a show.
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