If you have a hard
time feeling your chest working when you do chest
exercises, THIS is the information you need. I'll
give you my best techniques for ensuring maximum
activation of your pecs with every set and rep
One of the most
common training questions I get with regards
to chest training is simply not being able
to feel the pecs working at all when doing
And when you
can't feel the pecs working, you know darn
well that actual muscle development is simply
NOT going to happen.
So enough about
the problem...how do you FIX it?
I've got a number
of techniques for you to try out, some of
which may work better than others for you.
But they should
get you well on your way towards the chest
development you're looking for.
1. Pre-Exhaust Training
a movement like the bench press, the pecs
are definitely involved but can be easily
pushed into a secondary role by the front
delts and the triceps.
So instead of
doing a regular bench press movement, you
will instead do 6 to 8 reps of dumbell flyes
(an isolation movement for the chest) THEN
immediately go right to the bench press.
The idea here
is to "pre-exhaust" your pecs so
that when you do the bench press, your pecs
are the weakest link and the shoulders and
triceps then push the chest harder than it
would normally be pushed.
When you have
to stop, it's going to be pec fatigue that
ends the set while the shoulders and triceps
are still relatively fresh.
2. Feeling The Flye
Now, the pre-exhaust
training is all well and good...but what if
you can't feel your pecs even doing FLYES?
Pre-exhaust won't be much help.
The first thing
you need to do is get off the flat bench and
onto a Swiss Ball.
Get into position
on the ball and wrap your entire back AROUND
the ball. Don't just put your shoulders on
the ball and keep your body straight, like
many people are taught with the ball.
To get the most
out of flyes, you need to open up your rib
cage and get your shoulders back (which helps
focus the tension on the pecs instead of the
The ball is
PERFECT for this position. So lay back on
the ball, wrap your back around it and consciously
force your shoulders back and down.
THEN do a dumbell
Imagine on the
way down like you're trying to push your chest
up to the ceiling. And imagine on the way
up that you're wrapping your arms around a
When doing flyes,
don't hold the dumbells perfectly parallel
to each other...hold them at about a 45 degree
angle to your body (thumb end in closer to
the head - pinky side outwards). This takes
stress off the shoulders and helps keep tension
on the pecs.
3. Tilt the Dumbells
When doing dumbell
presses (either on the ball or the bench),
tilt the dumbells down and in...if the dumbells
were pitchers or water, it would look like
you're pouring them on yourself.
This tilt (and
make sure and keep that tilt through the whole
exercise) keeps tension on the pecs. If you
keep them horizontal or tilting outwards,
the tension goes to the shoulders.
4. Concentration Flyes
These are done
standing, in a bent-over position, with light
weight. They're a great exercise for developing
that "feel" in the chest. They won't
build a chest - just assist in getting that
Grab the dumbell
and bend over a bit.
your arm slightly bent but stiff (no movement
other than at the shoulder), bring the dumbell
up and across your body as though trying to
touch it to your opposite shoulder.
arm is hanging down and the dumbell is coming
across your body, it takes the front delt
pretty much completely out of it, forcing
the pec to do all the work. Hold at the top
and SQUEEZE the pec hard.
go light on this one - it's not about building
but developing that mind-muscle connection.
And be absolutely sure you're NOT bending
your elbow - the movement must occur only
at the shoulder.
5. The Rolled-Up Towel Trick
This is a technique
I came up with to force the shoulders down
and back (as I mentioned with the flyes above)
and get the pecs involved in the bench press.
This is done on the flat bench.
Roll up a towel
and lay it lengthwise down the centerline
of the bench. Set it on the bench right between
where your shoulder blades will be. Your head
should be on a flat section and your butt
should be on a flat section.
Lay down on
the bench, feeling the towel run right down
your spine. This elevation immediately forces
your shoulders back and down (the proper position
for benching and feeling it in your chest).
It's not particularly
comfortable but it's a great teaching tool
to force your body into the proper position.
6. Stop Trying To Go So
Half the time,
you're probably just trying to go too heavy
on the chest exercise and you just lose the
feel for the exercise. Back off on the weight
and feel the pecs working rather than focusing
on blasting up the weight.
When you load
the exercise heavy, your body immediately
turns to its strongest movers. If your chest
isn't part of that A team, it won't be called
7. Don't Grip So Hard
One of the things
I've noticed with chest exercises is that
the harder you grip the bar/handles, the more
the tension gets moved to the shoulders and
Try easing up
on your grip a little - not to the extent
that you make the exercise dangerous, but
back off on the death grip and see if you
feel a difference. If you're training heavy
on bench press, though, KEEP the tight grip.
In that case, safety is more important.
This is best
done on the very first set of your workout
with NO warm-up. You're going to just be using
a moderate weight, so don't worry about not
doing a huge warm-up. If you have a decent
amount of training experience, you'll be just
to literally "shock" your chest
muscles into responding here. Load the bar
with (or select dumbells) a weight you'd normally
be able to get about 12 to 15 "strict"
reps in your regular workout.
Now lay down
and CRANK OUT as many reps as you can with
that weight as fast as you possibly can. Don't
worry if your form isn't perfect...just hammer
the reps out.
And when I say
crank, I mean CRANK...don't bounce the bar
off your chest or anything but you must quite
simply EXPLODE out of the bottom of every
single rep...and don't even think about slowing
down to get the negative.
The idea here
is very rapidly call upon every available
muscle fiber worked by that exercise to contribute
an emergency situation, especially the power-oriented
type 2 muscle fibers.
And this emergency
idea is why you're not going to do a warm-up...we
want it to be a TRUE emergency situation where
you go from zero to kablammo!
ONE set of this
is all you need. Because once you do that
first set, not only will the entire area be
fatigued, you won't be able to get nearly
as many reps and it won't have the same emergency
effect on your body.
This can be
done on almost ANY chest exercise...though
it doesn't work too well on dumbell flyes
or presses. It works best on cable cross-overs
or pec deck, where the tension is greatest
at the top, when the arms are close together.
It's also pretty good on barbell bench.
A straight static
hold means just hold that contracted position
for as long as you possibly can. Then fight
the negative all the way to the bottom.
exhausts all the muscle fibers of the chest
AND gives you time to really get your mind
into the muscle, shifting your arm and body
position during the hold until you really
feel it targeting the pecs. By taking this
time, you get to feel what you don't normally
get during a standard exercise.
And those pushes
As you're holding
that static contraction, have a partner push
down on the weight stack (if you're on a pec
deck). Just a quick push is all you need.
This sets off a stretch reflex in the pecs,
activating even more muscle fibers. It's basically
another emergency situation.
When using cable
cross-overs, have your partner put their hands
in between yours and push outwards really
quick. If you're doing a static hold in the
top position of the barbell bench, have them
push down on the bar really quick while you
maintain the hold.
A couple of
these pushes is all you need.
10. Cable or Band Push-Ups
combines two type of resistance - a bodyweight
push-up and direct outwards-pulling resistance
of cables or bands. When you put them together,
it's CRAZY how much tension you'll get on
It's like combining
a static hold with a dynamic exercise - two
of tension, both targeted on the pecs.
For the cable
version, set two handles on the low pulleys
and use a light weight. Kneel down holding
Now set your
fists on the floor in the push-up position.
Straighten out your body and start doing push-ups.
The cables will
be trying to pull your hands directly out
to the sides. Your pecs have to fight this
outwards-pulling tension. When you add in
the push-ups, you'll feel these even more
in the chest than you usually would, simply
because your pecs are ALREADY working by holding
the cables in place.
It's a two-for-one
exercise that will light your pecs FAST.
You can easily
accomplish the same thing with bands by hitching
a couple of bands to solid objects out to
the sides of you. The just hold the bands
in your fists or loop around your wrists,
make sure you get tension in them, then do
YOUR CHEST WILL BE TOAST...
I have to say,
if you've not really felt your pecs before,
these techniques should get you seriously
moving in the right direction. I would recommend
taking a few "chest" days and just
trying all these techniques to see which ones
work best for you.
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