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Doubt About Chest Development. Pecs Getting Wider, Not Thicker


I’ve had this doubt for a while.
My shoulders, lats and traps seem to grow much quicker than the chest (even with less dedicated exercises), plus my pecs seem to develop more easily in width (horizontally) than in thickness.
I know it’s not possible to “isolate” a portion of the various muscle groups, but I’ve always done at least one “lower pec” focused excercise a week, usually an unilateral cable cross with underhand grip in 3x10-12 range.
My workouts are upper/lower, so far for chest on upper days I’ve always done 5x5 barbell bench press + 3x10-12 cable row on a day, and 3x8 incline barbell bench press + 3x10-12 dumbbell flat bench press on the other (not supersets), along with the usual rest (shoulder presses, rows, chinups & so on).
Wondering if this happens often and if it’s due simply to genetics/muscle insertions or it’s somewhat related to training.


Try pre exhausting chest, do a couple of isolation exercises first, machine fly or cable cross over. Really concentrate on your chest and make sure it’s doing the work, 3 or 4 sets of 12

then move on to what ever press let’s you feel your chest most and work that for 4 sets of 8 to 12. Controlled smooth reps, concentrate on feel instead of chasing weight.

finish up with dips with a nice slow eccentric

learning to use your chest is important to get it to grow, most people can’t do that with just barbell presses.


Biggest chest pump I get is from DB bench when I tuck at the bottom and flare and press towards my face as I come up, same as with a bar. Hands are around 45 degrees at the bottom, but zero (like on a straight bar) at the top. Upper back arched just like for comp bench.


Thanks for the inputs. The best pump I’ve got I think it was when I did supersets of flat DB bench + cable cross, 3 sets in the 10-12 rep range for each. I only did it once and I’m not sure if it’s just a “feeling” thing or has some basis for improved muscle growth.

I’m about to start 5/3/1 so I won’t be able to do a lot of assistance work, I’ll have dips 2x a week (once bodyweight 5x10, once weighted 5x5), I might try to sneak in some DB bench superset in the last 2 sets of the 5x10 dips later on.
I was mostly curious since I seem to read often that people have a hard time on growth for shoulders, while to me it seems all the opposite is true and can’t figure out if it’s just genetics or linked to the workouts


I actually do believe it’s possible to isolate a certain part of a muscle, and I’ll fight any man who says differently.

If I do presses I get a pump/soreness in my outer chest, but exercises like pec dec and cable crossovers give me a pump/soreness right in the inner part of my chest.

That, to me, is pretty irrefutable evidence.


Agreed. Entirely.

My immediate advice would be to move away from barbells for a while and use dumbbells for your pressing movements, so that your pecs can contract using a better range of motion (read: squeeze together more). Another piece of advice I would consider in your case is moving away from an upper/lower split and trying a push/pull/legs arrangement so that you can emphasize your chest more (since it’s visually lagging behind your back), rather than doing chest but saving your energy for the back portion. Maybe your schedule doesn’t allow for that though…

More than anything else, this sounds like a mind-muscle connection issue, man. Your chest’s main job is to move your arm across your body, so instead of pushing the weight up, think of moving your elbows closer together as your drive your arms upwards. That should help move the tension into the sternal portion of your pecs more.

I would also focus more of your energy into “squeezing” motions. So…cable flyes, dumbbell flyes, pec deck, svend press, and hex press (dumbbells touching press). And instead of moving your hands together (during flyes), I would concentrate on moving your elbows closer together rather than concerning yourself with where the weight ends up.

My last bit of advice is to hold your contracted position of any given chest exercise longer. This will, hopefully, force the inner portion of your chest to work harder…giving it more reason to grow.

Hopefully this helps…it’s what I did to fix the same problem.


Someone who might actually understand 531…

I’d suggest doing dips once a week and DB bench once. I’ve always done dips since I started 531 and I’ve always stuck to bodyweight. I figure until I can knock out at least a clean 20 in a set there’s no point in adding weight.


For chest i found if do macro cycle , incline dumbell presses 4x10, then flat bench 3x7 downset close grips 1x8, 1x12for six weeks .
Then go incline barbell press 3x7 down set close grip incline neck press 1x8, 1x12 , then flat dumbell presses 4x10 for six weeks.
Dips are a good high rep exercise to top off chest.
I always start top down , if i was competitive power lifter would use incline dumbell as warmup for bench.
Dont develop lower pecs more than mid and upper pecs, though the old time bodybuilders whose base upper body exercises were ohp i think look way better, how many pros can clean and press 300 at 200 pounds on very low doses.


Thanks everyone for the replies

Err… I tweaked it quite a bit, lol. Took off the bench press as a main lift, replaced with push press, looking to do dips 5x10 on one pushing day and dips 5x5 on the other (weighted, keeping track of weight and reps like I’d do on a main lift).

As above, pressing stuff overhead will be in my main lifts twice a week. It’s a kind of movement I really like, along with the fact that (barbell) bench pressing just doesn’t feel good to me. I’m hoping the combination of heavy overhead pressing and dips manage to keep my pecs in check and bring some fullness to the area.
Once I have a better understanding of the program and see how I adapt to it, I can eventually try to make some tweaks in accessory stuff and maybe do cycling periods more focused on the pecs to make sure that they keep up with the rest of the body properly.


That’s not the biggest tweak, nor the worst I’ve seen. I’m just curious why you’d approach weighted dips like a main lift.


Hmm it’s because overall I seem to understand that dips are the best chest developer period. Plenty of trainers (like CT) address them as superior and more complete than the bench, in my super small experience I have to admit that I’ve seen quite a lot of people who (1) bench press good weights but still have average pecs; (2) bench press good weights but are still weak as hell on everything else; (3) bench press good weights but can barely do bodyweight dips.
I personally also think to nail the technique better - with bench, I put a ton of focus on retracting the shoulder blades, and can’t focus properly on moving the weight; with dips, when I descent it comes much more natural to squeeze back the shoulder blades, and when I come up to squeeze the armpits and push the shoulders down and back.
In theory, given that my pecs are lagging in the lower portion/thickness, they should also take care of that.
Mind it, I’m not saying I want to use them as a main lift - main lifts are OHP, DL, Push Press and Front Squat. But 5/3/1 has a very “just do it” approach to assistance exercises, keeping things simple, it’s all good because originally the 4 main lifts include the Bench for chest.
If I take off the bench, I need to be 100% sure I have something that replaces it for chest development - both strength and mass. So this means that I can’t “just do them” and call it a day, when I say that I’ll treat them like a main lift I mean that I want to keep note of how many reps I do and focus on actively progressing on them.
This means that:
-the 5x10 dips day (OHP day), I’ll start to bodyweight, see if I can even do 5x10 clean good reps, then shoot for 5x12, then for 5x15. Once I reach 5x15, I’ll add weight (even just as low as 5lbs) and start back from 5x10;
-the 5x5 dips day (Push Press day), I’ll start weighted (probably 10lbs), and I’ll do like in a generic 5x5 protocol - if I manage to do 5x5 clean reps with good form, I’ll up the weight 2-4lbs, and keep on adding weight every time I complete the 5x5 in a clean way;
-I will do them both times right after the main lift, to give them more priority and energy

it’s a bit less straightforward and will require some more notes and writing but I’m totally ready for it, if it helps me to focus on overhead pressing + ditching the bench press + still have proper chest development


Remember the best day to do chest is not mon as most think, but friday.
If you are single after a good chest workout , go to club , and when you speak to girl, slightly flex chest and biceps when you drink your beer.
Just kidding, i dont actually like dips much as they are uncomfortable for me as maybe the flat bench is for you.
Kind of like behind the neck press which some see as a staple , when the seated front press is more comfortable for most.
The bench press is seen as staple for chest development, Vince Girona a top trainer from 60,s thru ? Only let his bodybuilders do neck press with barbell , and no standard bench press.


Since no one ask… i dont think what is your Height and Weight?

^^ what kind off poundage are you using on the pressing movements on average?


I’m 5.75" (175cm) and 176lbs (80kg).
I reached 172lbs bench press in 5x5, underhand cable row 66lbs per side (3x10-12), incline bench press 136lbs (3x8), DB bench press I used 40lbs dumbbells (3x10-12).
Consider that bench press was the first exercise of its day, incline bench press was on another day and after overhead press, while the cable row and DB press were towards mid workout with accessory stuff.
I could try to attach a picture if I find one, I don’t take many pictures and usually suck at them


:+1:Ok thanks for the information… before I add my 2 cents may I ask your Height, weight actual age and how long have you been lifting consistently ? At this point I have a few general suggestions. that might be useful but Id like more info before hand .


Thanks, my stats:
Height: 5.75" (1.75cm)
Weight: 176lbs (80kg)
Age: 25
Been lifting consinstently for : exactly 1 year (started early December 2015)
Other 1RM: 128lbs overhead press, 308lbs deadlift, didn’t test the front squats but I can do at least 5 reps at 180lbs (almost did a full 5x5 with that weight)

Here’s a picture, was from a couple days ago. It’s crappy, and I’m leaning on one side, so there’s some asymmetry (and no, lol, I won’t shave my legs/arms: done that once when I was young, never again)