Flat bench, incline bench, dumbbell bench, decline bench, flyes. If I just described your chest workout, don’t sweat it, you aren’t alone. If I just described your entire lifting program however, then get help, like now. The typical bro chest session has been around forever and is based on what is commonly thought of as the holy grail of chest development, the barbell bench press. Most men have been brainwashed by the bench press gods from an early age. Since high school, your bench press is what defines your level of strength. Even as an adult, nobody asks you how much you leg curl when you tell them you lift. To most dudes in the gym, bench is how you build a bigger chest, so naturally, doing what equates to the exact same thing at 4 or 5 different angles must be even better. More pressing, more weight, more reps and sets to build that massive chest that would make the chick with the DDD’s located in your browsing history jealous. Not only does a ton of horizontal pressing wreak havoc on your shoulder joint, it doesn’t stimulate half of the pec located closer to the sternum.
Looking at the pec major, there are two sections (heads) that are each responsible for their own action:
1) Clavicular head (located closer to the shoulder): flexes the humerus (upper arm bone). e.g. lifting a child into a car seat.
2) Sternal head (closer to mid chest): adducts the humerus. e.g. giving a big hug
While barbell pressing hammers the clavicular head, the sternal head that adducts the humerus is left unstimulated. Ever wonder why after a ton of chest pressing your muscle soreness is isolated to the upper part of your chest closer to your armpit? That’s your clavicular head you just smashed while the sternal head is yearning for more, leaving precious pec gainz on the table. Try this exercise on your next chest day to stimulate both heads of the pec at the same time while also giving your shoulder joint a breather from all that heavy pressing.
I discovered this exercise in a John Meadows Mountain Dog program I was following a few years back and have seen it pop up online from time to time in the feeds of some high-level coaches and trainers.
Primary: Pec Major
Secondary: Anterior delts/triceps
Execution: Lying flat or slightly inclined on an adjustable dumbbell bench, hold the dumbbells together with a neutral grip. Press the dumbbells forward while squeezing them together as hard as possible for the entire range of motion. Pause for a second at the top of the movement and squeeze as hard as you can during the pause. Bring the dumbbells back down to the starting position with a controlled tempo and repeat.
Instead of choosing three or four heavy pressing movements on a day when you train chest, choose one to focus on and then sprinkle in a few lighter accessory lifts like the hex press to maintain shoulder health and hit your entire chest with the right amount of volume. 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps will do the trick.
Cranky shoulders? Ditch the bench all together (blasphemy!!) and focus on lighter chest movements that provide a big pump.
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