Once lifters have discovered a routine that appears to have worked well for them they may avoid deviating too far from these movements and protocols to which they have become accustomed. Ignoring the important training mandate of workout variability they become complacent; further gains may cease shortly thereafter.
When more enlightened trainees change the structure of their workouts they usually modify rep ranges, training volume, and/or include intensity methods such as supersets and drop sets. What many do not do is change their exercise selection.
BY INCORPORATING NEW MOVEMENTS AND ROTATING OUT OUR TRIED AND TESTED FAVORITES WE HIT OUR MUSCLES FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES AND EMPHASIZE AREAS THAT MAY HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED. THE RESULT: MORE COMPLETE MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT AND FEWER WEAKNESSES.
The first in a body-part series, this article will provide a selection of chest movements to reinvigorate your gains. By including the following forgotten chest builders you may experience noticeable improvements in lean muscle not provided by your current exercise selection. Now let’s get back to basics with some of the most effective pec developers you may never have heard of.
Standing Single Arm Dumbbell Flyes
Great for the often neglected lower pecs, this movement also helps to carve deep inner-pec striations. Remember to keep tension on the pecs, from full stretch to complete contraction.
To perform: Stand with dumbbell in left hand and right side of body close to a vertical pole; grasp pole with right hand and lean to the left until right arm is straight. With left hand, and with weight held at a 45-degree angle to body, bring left arm up diagonally to the right (while keeping both arms straight). Flex left pec as hard as possible before slowly lowering weight. Repeat with right side.
Smith Machine Floor Press
A great overall pec mass builder as well as being one of the best ways to develop bench pressing strength, the barbell floor press is sadly overlooked by bodybuilders and fitness folk due to its powerlifting connotations, difficulty of execution, and perception as being potentially injurious. Because the back is forced flat throughout this movement and due to our elbows contacting the floor upon descent, the barbell floor press does not allow cheating, but it does significantly build the mid range strength that so often prevents us from benching heavy. It also develops serious triceps strength which can be translated to more weight lifted during regular pec training.
To perform: Arrange smith machine supports and place your body in a lying position so you can safely access and rack the bar. Lying directly under bar lower weight until triceps hit the floor, pause slightly, then press bar up in a perfectly straight line.
Probably the most forgotten, yet most effective, chest training movement people know of but do not benefit from is the dumbbell pullover. A truly old-school chest builder, the pullover is in today’s age of cable crossovers and incline dumbbell-presses largely ignored. To the detriment of all who would like wide, thick pecs. A favorite of Arnold and others of similar legendary status, this movement, a Golden Era of bodybuilding mainstay, works well when supersetted with multi-jointers such as the bench press and chest dip, or included at the end of a pec workout as a finisher.
To perform: Securely grasp a dumbbell in both hands while lying on a flat bench with arms straight out, but not fully locked; slowly lower weight toward head, keeping arms straight, and achieve a good stretch through the chest and lats. Flexing the pecs, bring weight back to starting position.
Guillotine (Gironda) Press
You know you have achieved legendary trainer status when an exercise is named after you and few trainers are more legendary, or polarizing, than the great 1950s Mr. America competitor and bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda. Never a big believer in the standard bench press, and, for that matter, many other conventional bodybuilding movements, Gironda developed the “bench press to neck” to help those for whom the regular incline press was not a superior upper pec builder. For those willing to challenge conventional wisdom, the bench press to neck worked wonders in fleshing out the upper chest.
To perform: Grasp bar as when performing a regular flat bench press and, while keep arms straight, bring the hands several inches back towards the face; lower bar very slowly to neck, flaring elbows out and stretching the upper pecs; press to starting position and contract the upper chest hard upon completion. Because the elbows are greatly flared at the bottom of this movement, much pressure is placed on the rotator cuff muscles, all four of which insert at the scapula and attach to the humerus. Thus, perfect control is required and no bouncing or jerky motions are allowed at any point.
Note: if you have experienced a rotator cuff injury or have sustained shoulder damage, err on the side of caution and avoid this movement.
Dumbbell Squeeze Press
An excellent way to bring up the hard to target inner pecs, the dumbbell squeeze press will carve more detail and further deepen the striations in your middle chest area. It is great for pre contest separation or to round-out your pec development.
To perform: Holding two dumbbells, assume a stable position on a flat, incline or decline bench; place dumbbells together at top of movement and slowly lower weight while keeping dumbbells connected throughout; press and repeat.
Dumbbell Decline Presses
Though most of us know what decline presses are, few of us regularly do them, opting instead for the routine of flat bench presses and incline dumbbell work. To optimally isolate and build the lower pecs, decline presses performed correctly (with dumbbells, not barbells, so as to improve workout safety and achieve a fuller range of motion) are without equal. Continuous tension and even pacing are keys to correctly executing this movement.
To perform: Lie back on a decline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring elbows back behind body and down towards the upper traps ensuring dumbbells reach lower pec level without touching the chest; stretch the lower pecs. Press weight vertically and squeeze lower chest, keeping elbows in throughout. Do not go too narrow (thus emphasizing triceps development) or too wide (which will target the shoulders more than the pecs) – position hands just wider than shoulder width.
Vary your selection
Most of us know the importance of changing certain workout variables to promote continuous gains. Aside from reps, sets, intensity and session structure we must also address exercise selection so we may hit our muscles from more angles and target harder to reach areas that more conventional movements may not thoroughly stimulate. Use the above six top-line yet largely forgotten pec exercises to spark new chest growth. Next month we will explore the six best back blasting movements you may never have heard of.