• The Chest Story, Part I

    by Puma

    Once upon a time there was a dude with a really small chest. No matter which pectoralis muscle – all his were pectoralis greatly minor. This dude is you. Don’t want to be tragic hero of such tale anymore?

    Funny thing is that muscles that are easiest to develop from anatomical and environmental point of view, are those muscles which are greatly lagging. Pecs, biceps, lateral deltoid are all easy-peasy. Great gains with minimal effort. Yet when you enter random message board you will find hundreds of posts entitled “my XYZ is not growing”. We wrote about delts and biceps, now it is a time for “ultimate bodybuilder holy grail” – great wide chest.

    We will talk about usage, composition and compatibilities of various chest exercises during your workouts. This time – more programming, less technique oriented text.
    Keep in mind – this article is strictly for bodybuilders. Most of guides and tips included, got no place in strictly strength or explosive oriented programming. Trust me – another needs, another focus point, another target – completely another world.
    Before going on – read THIS first.

    Basic rules of Chest Growth

    1. Any postural problem around spine/shoulders – forget about chest. This is the most common problem. Pectoralis need full working space. Any limitations – will absolutely demolish any effort put in progress. Most of gain will go to other pushing muscles. Again – if anything is wrong with your posture – go straightly to your Doc for rehab. It’s your best training investment.

    2. The less the better. Pectoralis need good quality strength and mass oriented workout. That what works for YOURS body only.

    3. No Strength Exercise – No Chest.

    4. No perfect technique adjusted for your body during any type of movement – no Chest.

    5. No mind-muscle during isolation exercise – never ever do it again. This exercise is not for you.

    6. Obvious one – strength is going up, but all muscles not – EAT! Your actual food input is dramatically to low.

    7. Training chest without any effort to strengthen rotator cuff and back muscles is KAMIKAZE.

    Three key exercises – Chest Big Three

    If we are to choose only one exercise we must make big and radical choice. Reason is simple. Chest group is composed of Pectoralis Major Sternal Head and Clavicular Head and of Pectoralis Minor. Three points of attack and only one exercise? Something may, and most often will be left behind. Of course there are people that can develop full bodybuilding chest using only one exercise – but they are minority. If you are one of then – for god sake – don’t add anything if it is not needed. If you are beginner – doing only one exercise is often a good choice for fresh start.

    The list opener is the power dip. Not special targeted chest dip. Just DIP as all around push exercise. It’s great, demanding movement with effort=result rule. No other exercise will develop pectoralis major sternal head as fast, as strong, as complete as dip. It is also one of those rare exercises that will completely develop pectoralis minor – which is most often neglected in modern bodybuilding workouts. Result is obvious – compare modern day average gym Joe photo, with photo of his training grandfather 40 years ago. Now chests are visually square- as opposed to full wide roman armor style chest in old days. Lack in pec minor is very visible.

    Frankly speaking – I can’t honestly name any other exercise that will input more to your chest then dip. But there are few shades on this one. Your dip must be done in full range of motion – go as deep as you can – no shortenings. Some people by anatomical proportions/ previous injuries will never be able to perform good dip. Contrary to believe it’s not exactly the same group of people that can’t perform bench press. Another shade is that not everybody will be able to perform straight set at the beginning of their gym career. If that’s a problem – choose another exercise, and come back to dips as you will get stronger.

    I know many dudes that can bench press double their bodyweight. Some of them got good chest development – SOME. I know few dudes that can dip double their bodyweight… they are chest-mongers. Don’t do something because everybody is doing it. If you feel that dip is for you – stick with it – you will never ever regret it.

    Dip is often called by gurus – “golden exercise” – it’s the prestigious name for the exercise that is moving your body through space – not only the weights. Only you, weights on the chain, and two bars to hold – no floor, no limit – absolute test of manhood. In fact – if your body can handle dipping – it’s the safest exercise of whole big chest three.
    From “something must be lagging” point of view – Clavicular head will be lagging. No matter what, there will be some growth – but totally minimal.

    Second exercise of Chest Big Three is Bench press with leg drive. I’m not talking about common “chest press” with bandit wide grip or any other variation. I’m talking about strength-power bench press with leg-drive as a key push and chest developer. Done properly, with good technique it is a good power-horse which will develop your pecs if your body is able to perform it safely and efficiently.

    Everybody who ever been to the gym know the “pluses” of big bench. Now a part of the shades:
    Nearly half of gym-rats will never be able to bench big and safe. Contrary to believe – your chest is used as a pressing muscle moving obstacle away from your body – to down, or too up. Pushing to front in abbreviation, not a basic function. Do experiment. Stand against the wall. Push it hard – after big push, your legs will automatically go to lounge position and your will press upward. So – front to upward. Another test – lay dawn – get up using arms. That’s a front to down movement. See the big picture? As a fight or die situation – you move away from obstacle or move away the obstacle.

    As written above – half of people can bench without any problem – but keep in mind – as unnatural movement it will make you a little bit tight cause your body is not being developed as mother nature wanted.

    Bench press with leg drive is some-kind good for sternal head – but not as good as dip. It will develop upper pecs better then dip – but it is still too little to make even growth. As for pectoralis minor – absolute no go.

    The plus is – you need no real starting strength to begin using bench press in your routine. Sole barbell will fit everyone above age 14, no matter the gender. As a reminder – LEARN how to bench properly and never ever bench without a spotter.

    Now it’s a time for the last exercise. It is incline bench press with barbell. That’s a little tricky bastard. It is the weakest in terms of strength in comparison to others from big chest three. But yet, this choice is not so stupid. Natural move [free weight, not smith], possibility of leg drive if performed on proper bench. No so bad. It will not make you tight as bench press.
    As with others – be sure that your individual body is able to perform this exercise safely. The degree of incline is tricky and very individual. Something between 15-45 degrees will suite you for sure. But please- don’t be a guy that chooses the angle because some star or yours friend use it. Give it some time, experiment, feel the exercise. Make decision based on test and observations of your performance. Everyone got different proportions.

    The loading is lowest, but this compound movement will develop one of the most stubborn heads of your chest – clavicular part. It’s most often the least developed region [apart from pec minor]. For some it is a pretty sweet spot. Incline press will develop sternal head – but weaker then bench press. As for comparison to dip – it’s exact mirror from top-down point of view. Still it will not build great pectoralis minor.

    [not so]Simple wisdom

    Choosing only one exercise for chest building is a matter of greater good and smaller evil. There will be huge gains, but there will be loses too. Every exercises got their pros and cons. Choose wisely. Again remember:

    -You are a bodybuilder, you are developing your own body, not someone else body

    -If something suits your friend, it means it is suiting him, not you

    -If something suits everybody, it means it suits them, not you

    -If you can’t perform exercise safely, don’t do it

    -If your body is not able to do the exercise, don’t do it

    -Choose and master the lift. It’s your overall progress and strength builder.

    -You are natural bodybuilder and as such, you got no time to waste on something that is not working for you

    -Progress solely on one exercise, learning every technical aspect, adding new methods slowly, till time when the disproportion will be visible. Flat chest with very small sternal head and very, very small clavicular head is still only a FLAT CHEST. Add meat – train and add mass, shape when there will be something to shape.

    Remember that it is your choice. As for me? If you can dip – then DIP. What is your answer? Only your body will tell.
    In next part we will talk about continuing the road - Adding second exercise.

    Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net