T Nation

Building a Big Chest

Dr. Darden

What are your tips on building a good chest? My chest has always been my weakest area when it comes to muscle size. I’m a long limbed lifter and the standard flat BB bench press has never seemed to do a lot for my pecs. I seem to be very tricep dominant. Would pre-exhaust routines work well with let’s say a chest fly press (CT style) followed by a decline bench press? Or will there maybe be a Gold article about the chest someday?

Looking forward to your insights.

With Barbells I never really had much chest involvement (that I could feel). I have long arms as well as a lagging chest. I’ve found plenty of machines do a fantastic job of targeting the pecs as well as dumbbells and cable flys. I don’t use a barbell for much anymore.

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Any suggestions for us who work out in garage gyms? I found the decline bench press helps me feel my chest working and welcomes plenty of soreness.

Depends on why you have. I have a cable machine and can do flys. I also do flys with cheap workout bands, I have some that are heavy AF and they are cheap. You have dumbbells? I use them for pressing but don’t do DB flys as they hurt me.

I always found that picturing the pecs pulling your arms together as you lift worked well for involving the chest muscles when using a barbell.


How do you position your grip? If narrow, moving out will lower triceps involvement, and increase chest involvement. I am chest dominant, so I do narrow bench to hit triceps more.

Obviously, other exercises can hit the chest, but the bench is especially good for progressive overload (pretty hard to do with DB flys for example). Dips can be pretty good. How you lean your body will determine which muscles will get involved to a degree.

Also, there is always the get stronger argument. What do you bench now? I have yet to see a 405 lb bencher with a small chest (perhaps small in relation to arms, but not small).

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I have long arms , legs and I am 6”1.

My chest is meaty and it grows very easily. Including my back. My back is just strong and gets huge regardless of what I do.

For Chest i don’t ever push the bench press. ‘Mainly barbells. I do more reps in the 10-15 range. This puts meat on my chest. I also use time under tension techniques by squeezing and releasing slowly…

I wonder if you can find a way to fully activate the muscle with different chest work. If you don’t feel the chest activating it’s not going to grow.

Shoulders back. Chest out… I also have found decline presses on the machines work well for me. They really activate my chest from that angle. Incline not so much, but I don’t lack in that area of the chest. Cable fly also works really well for me.

I used to push heavy weight on calves and dumbbells. Since I lowered the weights and increased reps I’ve noticed big gains.

These are all ideas that come to mind when I think of my struggle.

I bet the doc will have some interesting answers and guidance for ya.

Chest exercises: bench presses, flyes, dips, and pushups. There are many variations of those movements. I want to hear what others recommend before I presents certain workouts.

Havent found anything better than pre exhausting the pecs with a flye or pec dek movement. Especially with longer arms. Otherwise triceps and front Delts give up first. My personal routine is

One set of
Flye machine to failure 6 second negatives supersetted with
Machine presses to failure.
Sometimes adding forced reps, rest pause, or negatives

Lots of good answered and suggestions guys I appreciate it. I’ve probably never been the best at focusing on making the chest work during pressing exercises. The heaviest I’ve benched is 275 and that was a year ago or so.

Heavy benching or pressing almost never stimulates the pectorals. Most power lifter have comparatively smaller chests and huge triceps. One thing that is real helpful is to keep continuous tension on the exercise and eliminate the top 10 or 15 percent.

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It becomes a bit like pulldowns: go too heavy and it’s more of a biceps exercise and less lat.

OP - are you keeping your shoulder blades retracted during pressing exercises?

tuesdays i do one set 30-10-30 on a nautilus nitro chest press
fridays i do one set of 30-10-30 machine incline presses on a life machine incline and sometimes i pre-exhaust with one set of seated pec deck flyes of about 12 reps (4/4 cadense) or 30-10-30

My favourite chest exercise is the decline press, followed by the dip.
I also will occasionally utilise fly variations and incline presses.
Also for something a bit different i like the fly-press which I believe that T-nation’s Christian T mentioned in one of his articles .


For myself, a flat chest press movement has always been optimal. Maybe around the 10 rep range. Dips also worked very well, but I don’t like the stress they put on my shoulders and find them too risky at 48 years old. I’m not sure how effective dumbbell flies are, but I also incorporate them from time to time for variation. Decline press has a good feel to me as well. I’ll do inclines as well from time to time to change things up. After 30 yrs of training, you have to make things interesting.

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Here is a surprise,I like Dips. Normal dips and negative only.


I’m like you in the long arm dept. One thing I like is to pre-fatigue:
Pec-Deck/Fly Machine first, concentrating on the ROM from NOT full stretch to complete contraction (Use Hole #1 on the top cam). You’ll do only about 2/3 the full ROM
Follow this with Machine or DB Presses or Inclines, concentrating on the LOWER 2/3 of the ROM (the closer your arms get to straightening-out, the more triceps are engaged)