T Nation

Chest Question: Strength and Mass

Ok so basically I’m wondering why the hell my chest is so weak compared to my other body parts?

My BB Bench hasn’t moved much considerably versus my other lifts. In fact, I just went to the gym today, back on a mass phase, and was trying to get 6-8 reps. My friend/workout buddy easily gets 4 sets of 8reps at 235, while I struggle at 215. The only thing different between us is that his triceps are larger than mine. However, when it comes to flies, I could do more weight and reps then him.

He was telling me that it was because I have weaker triceps/shoulders than him, is this true?

I’m just getting annoyed that I am improving greatly on the other two main lifts, Squats(1RM 325) and DL (1RM 450) while I probably could barely get 250 for my 1rm on bench.

And it’s not like I have a small chest. I actually look like I could push more weight, but it’s all just looks…when push comes to shove I fail.

So would his theory about my triceps/shoulders being weak being the reason for my low bench? And if so…how the hell can I get beat my tris and shoulders down to bring up my bench?

Thanks guys.

His theory makes sense to me. If his bench is higher, and your flies are higher, and he has meatier triceps, it makes sense.

Are you taller than your friend? My deadlift and squat are a lot higher than most of my workout buds but my bench is shit compared to theirs. I am the tallest by about 4 inches (I’m 6’1).

Man, I’m a lot like you. I’ve been thinking lately that my delt problems and long arms have played a significant role in the bench press. I’ve been trying to put my grip a bit wider for more pec activation, and it’s been doing well so far. Try messing around with different techniques, hand positions, things like that and see how it works for you.

CGBP, skullcrushers/fp for tri’s.
How much you military/shoulder for a 5RM (say) compared to flat bench?
Also where are you stalling in the lift? chest, midway or lockout?

Me and my friend are the same height actually. Both 6ft. He has longer arms than me, so I don’t see why the hell he isn’t struggling more.

I believe the last time I did Military press I did 5x5 of 145lbs. My 5RM with bench? I’m not sure, but when I was training strength I had gotten 6 sets of 3x235lbs.

The thing is, when it comes to shoulders/tris me and my friend are pretty even when it comes to lifting, except that my muscle endurance is worse and I start to go down in reps later in sets while he continues strong. I’d say when it comes to military/push press he can probably do 20lbs more than me. However, when we do skull crushers or french press I can do more weight…but still…his tris are far more massive than my own.

My overall gripe is that I haven’t been able to progress in strength much and then turn what little progress I make over into my mass/hypertrophy workouts.

I’m not 100% sure where I stall, but I’d say it’s somewhere between the bottom and midway.

Rather than perform multiple sets with the same weight for your main chest exercise, try pyramiding up to a top weight for a single max set. As you say, you lack your friend’s strength endurance, so perhaps you’re better off with less total exposure to a given weight. You could pyramid for a while just to break your plateau, and then return to straight sets, or you just may find that you’re more suited for pyramiding.

Also, give a little extra attention to your weak points, i.e. triceps.

[quote]leon79 wrote:
Rather than perform multiple sets with the same weight for your main chest exercise, try pyramiding up to a top weight for a single max set. As you say, you lack your friend’s strength endurance, so perhaps you’re better off with less total exposure to a given weight. You could pyramid for a while just to break your plateau, and then return to straight sets, or you just may find that you’re more suited for pyramiding.

Also, give a little extra attention to your weak points, i.e. triceps.[/quote]

Good advice.

As for specific triceps exercises, try “Rack Lockouts”, “Floor presses”, or “board presses”. All of those are triceps/shoulders exercises specific to bench press strength.

One last question, are you gaining scale weight/getting bigger?

Tribunaldude was barking up the right tree with his question. Where do you stick on the bench? I feel strongly that the best way to bust plateaus is to diagnose the problem first. My favorite quote in that regard, courtesy of Dave Tate (paraphrased):

“If your chest can bench 315 but your triceps can only handle 275, guess what you’re gonna bench?”

If you know where you’re weak, you know what to address, and by your info it may indeed be triceps. I imagine your sticking point is likely about halfway up, no?

Either way, the first step is to find out for sure where you’re weak.

Sento - Yes I am graining weight/size. However, my triceps are lagging. It seems that me and my friend have the opposite of each other. I’ve got huge biceps/small tris, and he’s got huge tris/small bis’.

I think if I were able to press more weight that my chest would be even more massive than it is now. I mean, I’ve obviously have good genetics when it comes to my chest considering the size of it when compared to the little weight that I’m able to push.

Doubleh - If memory serves me right I do think it is somewhere around the middle that I get stuck. I’d say it’s def between the bottom to around near the middle of the press that I get stuck and need a spot, and once I’m past that point I’m able to get the weight myself. Now if I’m getting stuck around that area…what does this mean?

Also, I’d just like to say, though my friend does have bigger triceps…I’m able to lift more weight when it comes to skull crushers and frenchpress, so why the hell is he still beating me in bench? The fucker is repping 255 while I sit at 215-225. I mean, I’m not in it for the weight. I’m satisfied with gaining mass though I’m weak in certain lifts, but it would be great to look like I could press 300+ and actually be able to do it.

Also, as far as pyramiding, what kind of set/rep scheme would you guys suggest? 4 sets of 10/8/6/4 ?

And should I work in those rack lockouts and floor presses on chest days or put them with my shoulder/tri day? I would think put them with chest, but just want to make sure.

Thanks for all the responses guys.

Get some more tricep work like everyone’s been saying, weighted dips, close grip bench did wonders for my bench.

[quote]Sir wrote:
Sento - Yes I am graining weight/size. However, my triceps are lagging. It seems that me and my friend have the opposite of each other. I’ve got huge biceps/small tris, and he’s got huge tris/small bis’.

I think if I were able to press more weight that my chest would be even more massive than it is now. I mean, I’ve obviously have good genetics when it comes to my chest considering the size of it when compared to the little weight that I’m able to push.

Doubleh - If memory serves me right I do think it is somewhere around the middle that I get stuck. I’d say it’s def between the bottom to around near the middle of the press that I get stuck and need a spot, and once I’m past that point I’m able to get the weight myself. Now if I’m getting stuck around that area…what does this mean?

Also, I’d just like to say, though my friend does have bigger triceps…I’m able to lift more weight when it comes to skull crushers and frenchpress, so why the hell is he still beating me in bench?

The fucker is repping 255 while I sit at 215-225. I mean, I’m not in it for the weight. I’m satisfied with gaining mass though I’m weak in certain lifts, but it would be great to look like I could press 300+ and actually be able to do it.

Also, as far as pyramiding, what kind of set/rep scheme would you guys suggest? 4 sets of 10/8/6/4 ?

And should I work in those rack lockouts and floor presses on chest days or put them with my shoulder/tri day? I would think put them with chest, but just want to make sure.

Thanks for all the responses guys. [/quote]

It’s hard to compare lifts against other people. A Lot of it is body mechanics…how short are his arms compare to his height…stocky, tall? Or is he similar build to you?

They toss around the example in the squat, if someone has long femurs, their gunna have a tough time squat compare to someone who has short femurs. Same goes for bench. Guys with shorter arms and bigger chest have to move the weight less distance.

Rack lockouts and floor presses are triceps/shoulders dominant exercises. So I’d probably put them in a shoulder/tri day.

It somewhat depends on your split though. If you already have a shoulder/tricep day, then yeah, do them then. If you are on more of a Westside style routine, or an Upper/Lower split they obviously go on the Upper days.

The thing is, you don’t want to blast your shoulders/triceps on chest day, and then again on shoulders/triceps day. They need time to recover, just like any other muscle.

They should still be getting hit on chest day of course, but I wouldn’t suggest doing exercises specifically meant to target them (like rack lockouts/floor press).

As far as your sticking point…usually the bottom half of a bench is chest dominant (especially right off the chest to a couple inches above it) and the top half is more triceps/shoulders dominant. If you are getting stuck in the middle, then chances are that’s when you have to start relying on your triceps/shoulders to start kicking in.

Once you get to the point where your leverages start to improve again (near the top) you are once again able to press the weight on your own.

There are lots of possible ways to help get through a sticking point. But since you’re not a powerlifter, I’d simply suggest trying to improve your strength in the weak muscle in the chain (which you believe is your triceps). If that doesn’t work, then you can start to get more specific.

If you’re getting stuck coming off the chest, you may want to throw in more dumbbell work.

Also, I’m wondering if you are resting enough between your chest day and shoulder/tricep day. You may want to consider consolidating those in some way to give your chest absolute priority.

As for pyramiding, since it sounds as though size is your primary concern, I would think 4x12,10,8,8 would do the trick, although you could always run a 10,8,6,4 every three or four weeks.

Also, keep in mind that some people just have a naturally higher strength curve than others. I was oddly strong even when I first started lifting, but had little if any gains in size for a while. I remember training at an old powerhouse I used to go to, and I’d be repping with 315, while this guy I’d always see there was struggling with 225, and he looked a hundred times better than I did (especially his chest).

S

Yeah I know it’s a bit pointless to compare yourself to someone else, except I have more of a v-shape where he has more of an a-shape and his arms are longer than mine.

My rest between chest and shoulder/tri days are good, I believe. I was doing an upper/lower split before my new routine and still had this problem.

My new split is a little something like…

Mon-legs, Tues-rest, Weds-chest, Thurs-rest, Fri-back, Sat-shoulders/tris, Sun-rest.

I’m not a fan of the way this is setup…rather rest on Weds/Sat/Sun, but me and my friend both have class all day on Tues/Thurs so this is how it has to go. It’s been running smoothly so far though.

I guess I’ll stop beating myself up about my bench and work on strengthening my shoulder/tris.

But one last question, since I can’t get everything I want out of my bench, what else could I focus on to build my chest up until I get my numbers in my bench where I want them? I’m probably worrying about this too much, but figure my chest wont gain in mass as much as it would if I was pushing more so would heavy fly’s and some other chest workouts be something to pickup the slack?

Thanks again guys, appreciate the advice.

[quote]Sir wrote:

But one last question, since I can’t get everything I want out of my bench, what else could I focus on to build my chest up until I get my numbers in my bench where I want them? I’m probably worrying about this too much, but figure my chest wont gain in mass as much as it would if I was pushing more so would heavy fly’s and some other chest workouts be something to pickup the slack?

Thanks again guys, appreciate the advice.
[/quote]

I know several guys who get much more out of dips than they ever did out of benching when it comes to chest development, so if you’re not already using them, you might want to add them, or, if you’re already using them later in your chest workout, you might try performing them first as your main chest exercise. I would suggest finding a position that targets the chest and triceps equally, or you could alternate between a specific emphasis.

Personally, I get nothing out of flys, but some guys swear by them.

If it was me, I would focus on strength for a for 4-6 months and then go for increased size. I also love doing pyramids, but personally gain more strength from doing 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 going up 10 pounds each time, and then when the plateau sets in switching to 3 sets of 6. As with any workout with a 1RM, make sure you have a good spotter who knows your workout well. Finish your chest workout with 3-4 sets of incline, decline, close-grip etc. at 3 sets of 10.

My dad used to work in a prison, and he started lifting with the inmates. He went from benching 155 to 355 in 2-3 years mainly due to pyramids! They are second to none when it comes to building strength. Hope this helps!