If you find that your chest is the one body part that you struggle to make gains with, Australian bodybuilding coach Eugene Teo is here to help. While he’s previously outlined his favorite chest-building exercises, he’s now sharing five of the most common mistakes he sees people make when it comes to chest training and what you should be doing instead.
These are all important things to know “if you’ve been struggling with growing your chest, or maybe feeling your front delts or triceps taking over on pressing exercises, or you just feel like you have these gaps in your development,” Teo says. “Maybe it’s your lower chest that’s really well developed but you’re lacking in the top portion, or maybe you have a heard time filling in that middle section.”
Here are five reasons your chest gains are lacking, according to Teo.
Reason 1: You’re using the wrong “arm path”
“When you see people doing presses, you typically see them taking a very high elbow angle and a wide arm path,” says Teo. “There are even presses popularized a long time ago like the Guillotine press that had you intentionally pulling your elbows wide.”
He explains this type of approach is flawed because when you look at the actual direction of the muscle fibers of the chest and the role they play, a wide arm path—holding your elbows straight out from your torso—is a poor choice. Teo says that the best work position is one that matches up with your muscle fibers.
For the upper chest, that means a 45 degree angle lines up with the direction of those fibers.
“If I pull my arms super wide, the fibers are no longer in good alignment from the insertion (in your arm) to the one on my collarbone or sternum for my arm across the body,” he says.
By doing this, you’ll get chest stimulation, as well as stimulation through the front delts and the coracobrachialis, a small muscle that lies underneath the chest that is stretched when your elbows are flared out wide.
The solution: pick a tucked elbow position for all of your pressing. Teo aims for a 45 to 60 degree position, with a grip that is close to a neutral palm.
Reason 2: You choose the wrong bench angle.
Teo notes that your incline bench angle will depend on how much of an arch you naturally take when you press, as well as structural differences in rib cage size and your sternum angle.
“A simple rule of thumb is to try to place whatever region you’re trying to work perpendicular to the direction that gravity is pulling the weight you’re using,” says Teo. “So if we’re doing an upper chest press with dumbbells, gravity is pulling the dumbbell straight down in a vertical line. You want your bench to be angled so your upper chest is roughly perpendicular to that.”
For the upper chest, he notes this could be between 30 to 60 degrees of an incline, possibly lower. Your ideal position also depends on your own structure and mobility.
“Someone who prefers to arch their back more and has a larger rib cage (like me) will probably find a slightly higher incline is better for the upper chest,” says Teo. “Since I’m positioning my upper chest into a flatter position relatively speaking by arching my lower back more.”
Reason 3: You’re not prioritizing any exercises for the costal head of the chest.
According to Teo, this region of the chest, which you might consider to be the lower chest, is widely neglected in typical training plans.
“We always focus on the upper or mid portions, and not this costal portion that attaches toward your upper ab region,” he says. “You’ll hit this by doing things like dips and decline presses that have your arm tracking along the same fibers of that head of the chest. So make sure you include at least one variation of this into your routine.”
Reasons 4 and 5: You’re not doing any exercises that have a converging direction from wide to narrow, and not doing any exercises that emphasize the top lockout position of this range of motion.
Teo combines the last two reasons, because he notes that they’re connected.
“If you think of most chest exercises like your bench presses, dumbbell presses and dumbbell flys, these have you working along this one plane of motion,” he says. “There’s no force to pull you outwards, and there isn’t much tension being places on your muscles as they get into this shortened position. Even if you did bring your arms closer at the top of the movement (like in a dumbbell press), there isn’t any tension on the muscles…so it’s kind of useless.”
To fix this, start doing exercises that not have you pressing just straight up and down, but slightly across your body.
“This is where things like cables and machines are invaluable,” he says.
You should also use exercises and variations that get harder as you reach the top position, such as using bands or chains to increase the tension (what’s usually known as variable resistance). He notes this is a very undertrained position of flexion (the lockout position), and a big reason why so many people have poor chest development.
“My favorite variation is to use a cable press, and to superset it with a band press along the same line of pull,” says Teo. “The same rules apply with your arm path and angle of your chest in different divisions, so make sure you don’t skip past those.”
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io