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A Little Crossed Over Crossovers

I’ve been doing weightlifting a few months now, but just recently set some actual goals. To be vague, my main goal is to get stronger, but I’m not interested in building lots of muscle, or getting the bodybuilder image. BUT, there’s a little vain streak in me that wouldn’t mind a little extra chest development (anyone here relate to that?

). So I’m trying to go about it smart, I’m doing my benches, and I’m doing a lot of back work (probably more than my chest work right now), and I recently started adding cable crossovers, and this brings up my dilemma:

I’m tall and skinny, which means I’m light weight. If I put more than 15 lbs on the cables, I start fighting against the machine to stay grounded. In other words, it starts pulling me back. My chest can handle moving more weight, but my actual bodyweight can’t, if that makes sense.

Since I’m not planning on getting huge, just strong for my bodyweight, what do you guys think? Do I ditch the crossover machine completely (assuming I don’t gain much more weight, then presumably forever) and stick with dumbbell flies, or is there something I can do to make it work for me the way it should?

I understand flies are great, I’m just wondering about me and my future with the cables for chest development.

Honestly if someone tells me that 15lbs on cables is giving them trouble with form, the problem is not with the chest muscle but with the person’s core strength and stabilization. Overall, I’m pretty sure everyone has more trouble with X-overs than flies just due to the full body requirements of the cross over movement.

I’d say keep doing flies and your other chest movements, but the full body strength developed by movements like the X-over should not be ignored and you should keep working at it. If it seems like it’ll pick you up off the ground try to slow down the movement and focus on your stability so that you can finish the set.

Okay, that makes sense. Stability and balance are not my strong suite, so it may just be me knocking myself over, not the machine. Thanks for the advice.

[quote]Hattusili wrote:
To be vague, my main goal is to get stronger, but I’m not interested in building lots of muscle, or getting the bodybuilder image.[/quote]
Vague is near-useless. Specific goals will let you, and us, figure out exactly how to get there.

What is your (exact) current weekly training schedule - days, exercises, sets, and reps?

What’s your current age, height, weight, and general fat level (not bodyfat percentage, but are you pudgy, average, kinda lean, ripped, etc.)?

If that’s not a typo, and you can’t stabilize yourself against more than a single plate on crossovers then, like lbraga said, you have much bigger issues than muscle growth. There’s a slim chance it’s a “just” technique issue, but still, it’s something that needs to be addressed.

My first instinct is, if you’re having that much trouble keeping form with such a light weight on that exercise, you need to develop more overall strength and muscle. You’ll most likely see that chest size you’re looking for simply by sticking with a good program for a bit longer.

First, listen to Chris.

Second…

Just so you know, you’re not going to ‘accidentally’ get the bodybuilder image. You’re not even going to ‘accidentally’ build a lot of muscle. It takes years of hard work, and good diet. Even if you spent the next year working out very hard, very regularly, you’re not going to end up looking like a bodybuilder.

What you can do is start building some muscle, and stop when you get to where you want to be. If you work hard and you work intelligently, you can get there faster. Does that make sense?

Final note… you should be doing some compound leg work too, if you’re not already doing it. This will stimulate the hormones so that you can grow faster everywhere.

This is the definition of “majoring in the minors”

Stop worrying about some damn cable crossovers, and worry instead about doubling your bench press numbers.

[quote]Chris87 wrote:
This is the definition of “majoring in the minors”

Stop worrying about some damn cable crossovers, and worry instead about doubling your bench press numbers.[/quote]

Also, listen to this Chris. :slight_smile:

Sorry I was unclear. I was being vague for the thread, because I didn’t want to write a huge post. I actually have some pretty concrete goals written down, I review them often, and my workout is tailored to them. What I meant by being vague is that they are almost all under the heading of “strength building” as opposed to “bodybuilding,” etc.

Basically, like most beginners, I did some random weightlifting for a few months, then I started to figure out what I want to accomplish. About a month and half ago I decided on the 5/3/1 workout, but I immediately realized that I wouldn’t get anywhere until I worked on a. flexibility (I couldn’t do a proper deadlift because of my hip mobility), and b. technique (didn’t want to fool around with Wendler’s percentages til I could establish good form-habit with lighter loads). I’ve been working at it hard for the last few weeks, and I’m starting to feel confident with these lifts (e.g. a trainer at the gym helped me with deadlift technique, and now I’ve got the ROM to do it right with heavier loads).

Anyway, the one area I decided to veer off my strength gain goals is to put a little size on the chest. Is it vain? Yeah, but it is one more reason I like to go to the gym on upper body days. I’m not trying to gain a massive chest, just a little more noticeable one. I do my bench and my pulls like I should, but I wanted to add a little isolation in there too, because I have room in my workout.

So for the specs: I’m 24, 140 lbs, 6’1" and very little fat. I actually want to stay around the same size (allowing for some modest weight gain), so I was worried that if my size limits my crossover pulls, then I have got a problem. If that helps you formulate an opinion, great. Ibraiga’s explanation makes sense to me. 6 months ago, I was an imbalanced, unstable, inflexible, stringy mess. I probably need to put more effort into core stability.

Oh and in pitiful defense of my ego, I can do 15 lbs on the crossovers just fine. It’s 17.5 that’s hard. :slight_smile:

[quote]Hattusili wrote:
Sorry I was unclear. I was being vague for the thread, because I didn’t want to write a huge post. I actually have some pretty concrete goals written down, I review them often, and my workout is tailored to them. What I meant by being vague is that they are almost all under the heading of “strength building” as opposed to “bodybuilding,” etc.

Basically, like most beginners, I did some random weightlifting for a few months, then I started to figure out what I want to accomplish. About a month and half ago I decided on the 5/3/1 workout, but I immediately realized that I wouldn’t get anywhere until I worked on a. flexibility (I couldn’t do a proper deadlift because of my hip mobility), and b. technique (didn’t want to fool around with Wendler’s percentages til I could establish good form-habit with lighter loads). I’ve been working at it hard for the last few weeks, and I’m starting to feel confident with these lifts (e.g. a trainer at the gym helped me with deadlift technique, and now I’ve got the ROM to do it right with heavier loads).

Anyway, the one area I decided to veer off my strength gain goals is to put a little size on the chest. Is it vain? Yeah, but it is one more reason I like to go to the gym on upper body days. I’m not trying to gain a massive chest, just a little more noticeable one. I do my bench and my pulls like I should, but I wanted to add a little isolation in there too, because I have room in my workout.

So for the specs: I’m 24, 140 lbs, 6’1" and very little fat. I actually want to stay around the same size (allowing for some modest weight gain), so I was worried that if my size limits my crossover pulls, then I have got a problem. If that helps you formulate an opinion, great. Ibraiga’s explanation makes sense to me. 6 months ago, I was an imbalanced, unstable, inflexible, stringy mess. I probably need to put more effort into core stability.

Oh and in pitiful defense of my ego, I can do 15 lbs on the crossovers just fine. It’s 17.5 that’s hard. :-)[/quote]

You will never have a bigger chest if you continue to weigh 140 lbs. That’s fucking anorexic weight.

Dude your 6’1 and weigh less than my 14 year old cousin he is 5’4 granted he is a defensive lineman and has been licking for about two years under my care your STILL INCREDIBILY SKINNY. Let me give you just a few guide lines to go off of that work for well… 99% OF all people

  1. EAT MORE- I know you don’t wantt to be a freak or huge or a bodybuilder but man at 140 anything unless your 5’2" with 3% body fat your nothing. A strong wind would kick your ass and I can say this confidently because your telling me 35lbs on a cable machine is pulling you around. EAT… and if your are supposedly eating please eat more.

  2. DROP THE CABLE CROSSOVERS- once again man your well below average on the body weight scale. I know you want a big chest so why the hell do a little move. Stick the BIG chest movements if you want a big chest. Bench, Incline, and Dips will produce much more than cable cross overs. If you try to argue you trying to hit the middle of your chest then bench with DB still a better choice.

  3. KEEP UP THE POSTERIOR CHAIN WORK- its not a bad thing in my opinion your doing more pulling as opposed to chest work. You need that and its often the most under trained in a new lifter espeacially the “vain” ones as you say looking for bigger chest and biceps.

  4. GET ON A GOOD PROGRAM- 531 is a awesomeness program from what I have heard. I prefer westside but I recommend starting strength for you and slightly modify it you must. Your still crazy new under devoleloped beginner something like starting strength I believe would work wanders for you.

  5. Just keep putting in your time you have a long way to go but your asking questions and and are taking the time to do things right. That’s important and and will help you tremendously down the road. So eat more, lift smarter, get stronger.

Good luck.

[quote]Chris87 wrote:

[quote]Hattusili wrote:
Anyway, the one area I decided to veer off my strength gain goals is to put a little size on the chest. Is it vain? Yeah, but it is one more reason I like to go to the gym on upper body days. I’m not trying to gain a massive chest, just a little more noticeable one. I do my bench and my pulls like I should, but I wanted to add a little isolation in there too, because I have room in my workout.

So for the specs: I’m 24, 140 lbs, 6’1" and very little fat. I actually want to stay around the same size (allowing for some modest weight gain), so I was worried that if my size limits my crossover pulls, then I have got a problem. If that helps you formulate an opinion, great. Ibraiga’s explanation makes sense to me. 6 months ago, I was an imbalanced, unstable, inflexible, stringy mess. I probably need to put more effort into core stability.

Oh and in pitiful defense of my ego, I can do 15 lbs on the crossovers just fine. It’s 17.5 that’s hard. :-)[/quote]

You will never have a bigger chest if you continue to weigh 140 lbs. That’s fucking anorexic weight.[/quote]

x2. Coming from someone who was 138 at 5’11 a month and a half ago (now 152). If you’re built anything like me – and I’m assuming you are – you’ll probably see your biggest noticeable initial chest gains if you also focus on the upper pecs. I’m using guillotine presses, but unless your shoulders are awesome (and based on your mobility explanation, it sounds like they aren’t), I wouldn’t recommend doing those.

The focus on the upper pecs helps “widen” the chest so it actually crosses the armpits and goes out to the shoulders. I believe (but I’m not certain) that incline bench also targets the upper pecs assuming you’re able to actually feel your pecs doing those and not your front deltoids.

As far as some options per Professor X in the Bodybuilding forum: http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding/is_my_coach_correct_about_the_bench_press#5316723

But I’ve not done those myself.

Oh, and just to repeat what everyone else is saying, you’re probably not going to see much of anything if you’re not eating enough (both in terms of calories and in terms of protein). While I’m better off at my 152 than 138, it’s still only minimal.

eat more than you think you can, every day. work harder than you ever have. Every day. results: you’ll lift more than you ever thought you could.

BOOM.

Edit: almost forgot - don’t do cable flys. They’re not for you right now. Save them for later. Much later.

Is it possible that your not leaning forward at all for the cable flies? Anyone standing straight up is going to have difficulty maintaining balance with weight pulling them back, it’s basic physics. Lean forward, have a split stance (one foot further ahead then the other), and BOOM, stability issues gone. Yeah you’re still going to feel like your being pulled back because there IS weight there, everyone “feels” the pull but any healthy person (even untrained) should be able to support themselves enough to handle 15 lbs.

I don’t care if your 140 lbs, the fact that 15 lbs is pulling you back too much to do the movement is just not possible if you actually brace yourself using a split stance.

And as someone else said, you will never have a big chest at 140 lbs and over 6 foot tall. Doesn’t matter how hard you hit it or what angles you use, it’s just not possible.

140 lbs over 6 foot tall is damn skinny. Im 185 and 6 ft 2, with a shirt on I look like a twig.

[quote]Chris87 wrote:
You will never have a bigger chest if you continue to weigh 140 lbs. That’s fucking anorexic weight.[/quote]
This is the most direct answer to your issue.

[quote]Hattusili wrote:
I actually have some pretty concrete goals written down, I review them often, and my workout is tailored to them.[/quote]
Are they secret? :wink:

But yeah, really, it’d be helpful to know your current training plan and exact mid-to-long term goals. And for reference, what are your current bests on the basic lifts?

It’s very cool that you realized how important it was to address these issues before going further and getting into trouble down the road… but… along that exact same line of thinking, changing your program in order to “build your chest” while your total body is still so seriously underdeveloped (from a muscular standpoint) would be as just as ineffective as trying to deadlift with bad technique and poor mobility.

Work up to flat benching 225 for 1-2 and 135 for 12-15, while gaining bodyweight, and then re-evaluate your muscular development. Your chest likely won’t be noticeable for at least another 20 pounds or so, bodyweight-wise.

You probably shouldn’t.

Also, I have a feeling you’re ditching any major leg work. Am I wrong?

Everyone’s personal goals are their own thing, and that’s fine. But can I ask why you’re looking to remain close to such a borderline-dangerous bodyweight?

From what you’ve shared so far, the only one of these you’ve resolved so far is “inflexible”. If you’ve been training for 6 months and you’ve ended up where you are now, I’m thinking we need to adjust your nutrition and training, pronto.

Thanks guys.

LoRez: It’s good to know I’m not alone. I’m trying to eat more. I just recently subscribed to a website where you can punch in what you eat and it’ll tell you how many calories, protein, etc. it gives you. I do struggle at eating a lot, just because it gets mentally exhausting, but I guess that’s part of the package and I need to suck it up. I’ll drop the cables though. That seems to be the consensus and it makes sense. Thanks for the alternatives. I’ve been working a lot on shoulder mobility too, so I’ll try the guillotine today (today’s my shoulder dsy anyway). If it proves too much, I’ll save it for later. Thanks for the tip, and the link.

fisch: I do lean forward, but I’m starting to think that by being tall and skinny, my center of mass is high and unstable. Obviously this isn’t a problem for kickboxers, etc., but they also weigh more and get balanced.

Chris collucci: No, not secret. So my main goals are based off getting my deadlift, squat, bench, and overhead presses up to “decent” strength according to one of Tom Henrique’s articles*, where my goals are calculated based on my bodyweight. So my squat and deadlift goals are 210 lbs. Not a lot by TNation standards, but it’s my first bench mark as a beginner, so I’m happy with that. I’m not sure what my max for these exercises are. I only do each of these big lifts once a week, and I keep going up every time I do. I’d guess my 1RM is probably around 130 for squat, and maybe a bit more for my deadlift. So yeah, I’ve got work to do, but I’m okay with that. And for the record, I’m not actually so much looking to stay at my weight, as I figure that if I just do the exercises and eat right, the weight will come on its own. I’m not against growing, but I’m not focusing on it either. Is this a bad mentality (honest question)?

My other goals are even more bodyweight related. So, I can almost do 5 dragon flags, I’m on my way to 50 pull ups (at 20 now), I can do 5 handstand pushups against a wall, and am progressing towards doing 3 unaided ones, and I can do one really shoddy muscle-up, but I want to get 5 solid ones down. In two more months, I’m going to look at where I’m at and reset my goals accordingly. This is my first time, so I think I’ve made some too hard (pull ups), and some are probably too easy (I’m almost there with the dragon flags). But that’s part of the experience, right?

Also, when I started exercising 6 months ago, I started with crossfit. It’s fun. It introduced me to a lot of exercises, my teacher drilled proper squatting technique into me, and I experienced some gains, but I realized it wasn’t solving my flexibility issues (and I was smart enough to realize that would mean injuries down the road), and I wasn’t really getting much stronger from week to week. That’s a little more of where I’m at.

[quote]Hattusili wrote:
I’ve been working a lot on shoulder mobility too, so I’ll try the guillotine today (today’s my shoulder dsy anyway). If it proves too much, I’ll save it for later. Thanks for the tip, and the link.[/quote]

FWIW, I just took a week off of any upper body shoulder movements – overhead press, guillotine press and rows – because my shoulders started hurting. This is the first time in my life I’ve had shoulder issues. I’m not sure which movement is the culprit, but it could be the guillotine presses. I lost about week of training because of it, and little things like grabbing something out of the passenger seat of the car were causing me pain.

Also, if you’re not doing your bench pressing in a rack with safety bars, do not attempt the guillotine press. You don’t want to ever risk dropping the bar on your neck.

Basically it comes down to this: if you could seriously hurt yourself with something, don’t do it. If you start feeling some pain (not soreness, but actual pain), lay off of whatever’s causing it until it heals. You don’t want to aggravate it and make it worse.

Sure. I go to a small gym, and since I’m a student, I do it in the middle of the day. Often I’m the only one there, so I usually end up doing my benches in the squat rack with the bars, and I only lose a couple inches at the bottom for it (small price to pay for safety-and it’s nice because there’s lots of mirrors so I can easily watch my squat and deadlift form). I just came back and switched in the guillotine press for the cables. Awesome advice. Thanks for it. I didn’t feel any shoulder tension (but I’ll be wary if I’m feeling it), but it definitely shows in my upper pecs (the one great advantage of being this skinny and just naturally having super low bodyfat).

This is also great because I can’t figure out how to activate my upper pecs with incline dbs. Even at a low incline, it only hits my shoulders. I’m not sure what I do wrong, but the guillotine was awesome, and I’ll stick with it.

Glad to hear that. Got the idea from some reading I was doing on Vince Gironda; it was his preferred variant of the bench press.