T Nation

Chest training

I’ve always done barbell exersizes for chest with my elbows tucked in. This wasn’t on purpose, it just felt natural to do. Anyways I’m getting stronger and stronger on flat and incline press, but my chest is still a weak point.

I recently read that what I’m doing now (elbows tucked in) is good for strength training, but doesn’t hit the pecs as much as it hits the shoulders and triceps (I can’t say I feel my pecs working when doing barbell exersizes for chest this way).

Would flaring my elbows out (so that my arms are in a straight line) help to pack on more mass? Is this how most bodybuilders do the flat and incline bench presses? Thanks.

Try bringing the bar to your neck (but don’t try to bounce it like some do off of their chest). Also, if you’ve only used bars, try some DB movements, or chest dips. I recently read some research by Bompa that found that for recruiting pec major muscle units, decline DB press was best. For the pec minor incline DB press was best.

The best grip for me is when I take a grip where when my upper arms are parallel, they are perpindicular to my forearms. I lower the bar to my clavicles (neck bones), where I get the best stretch, and I do ballistic reps (accelerating the weight as fast as you can through the positive rep). Make sure to do flys in your workout, either before or after your bench presses.

Jagin, the short answer to your question is yes, flaring your elbows out will in fact recruit your chest more effectively. However, I think you’ve got some other options, given that your body follows a natural bar path that leads to your elbows being “tucked in.” (and you should feel your chest working even if your elbows do tuck in during the movement) You may very well have a neurological impingement which limits the ability of your pecs to fire. This is perhaps due to a muscular imbalance or even lack of flexibility, but regardless, you should attempt to correct the underlying problem. First, start an intensive stretching program now!.. Second, try a “motor learning” phase of training, like the first phase of Ian King’s chest and back series. You’ll learn exactly what it feels like to recruit your chest muscles, and this will hopefully carry over to your next training phase should you decide upon higher loading.

Since no one else has responded let me try and help. The normal way to bench press is with your arms flared out so that they form a straight line with your shoulders. This way you have your pecs, delts, triceps, and your lats behind the weight. As for dumbells do almost the same motion. On the downward movement let your arms go back far enough for a good stretch and then explode up. Concentrate on your pecs, squeezing them as you push. Your triceps will also feel this because with dumbells it is more of a stablizing motion working all of those little muscles. Also make sure you mix up what you do with your chest, don’t always do dumbells. That’s it, good luck!

Junior, the “normal” way to bench is definitely NOT with the arms perpendicular to the torso, which I believe you described. Maximum loading potential occurs when the upper arms are roughly 45 degrees upward from parallel to the torso. Of course, this exact position changes from trainee to trainee.
I’m not telling you that it’s not useful to perform bench presses with the upper arms straight out and to a higher point on your chest/neck. That style of benching definitely recruits the chest more so than conventional benching, and so you’re right… it might be useful in this situation. But the key for Jagin is for him to be able to effectively recruit his chest as prime movers in a more “natural” style of benching. (ie with the bar following its natural path, with no focus on keeping the upper arms at any one angle) To do this, you need to address the cause of the faulty recruitment.
Try some heavy stretching combined with the first phase of Ian’s chest and back program and let me know what happens.

Hey, all the advice already given is great, but for my chest this has worked better than anything. Start with heavy fly’s, totally destroy your chest with these fly’s and then move to the presses, by doing the fly’s first you chest will be so weak that you will be pressing almost nothing but you’ll really feel it in the chest and you won’t feel a thing in your tri’s, Give it a try at least once. good luck

Thanks for all the response! I’ve got a much better idea of what to do now. I’ll try flyes before pressing some of the time (I like to alternate my workouts every 2-3 weeks), but even then, I think keeping my elbows flared out, and lowering to my upper chest
eck, will help a lot. Doug, I will definitely get onto a streching program as my shoulders do get really tight when I pull my arms back (in flared out style). Thanks again and I’ll let you guys know how this works out!

OK The truth IS–elbows fared out gets much more chest involvment BUT BEWARE make sure your shoulders are thoroughly warm FIRST. You instinctively bench with you elbows in- you have stronger triceps & shoulder involvment in this position, also lats(THIS IS THE WAY POWERLIFTERS LIFT). Yes pre-fatigue methods are good to cause a growth responce, but don’t stick to ANY method or program for too long or you will be sitting directly on top of a plataeu. Good Luck!!