lagging chest

this may be long:

i’ve been training steadily for a couple of years and i’ve always noticed that my chest seems to show the least progress (especially in size) when compared to other muscle groups. my chest/tris workout right now is as follows:

3-4 X 8-12 db or bench press
3-4 X 8-12 incline db or bench press
3-4 X 8-12 decline db or bench press
4 X 8-12 butterflies (machine)
3 X 8-12 seated tricep press
3 X 8-12 dips/assisted dips

i’ve always made sure that the weight i started with allowed me to hit 12 reps on my first set of presses, then i increase the weight until i drop to approx. 8 reps for the last set. should i just start with heavier weights on the first set?

also, lately i’ve noticed certain guys at the gym are doing db presses with 80-85-90 lb. dbs but only bringing the weights to about 6 inches from their chests. i think i have pretty good form, but i bring the weights down so that the sides of the dbs are almost parallel with the sides of my pecs and pretty close to my body (i.e. not a very wide grip.) could this be contributing to my lack of progress.

one last thing (long way down): if the answer is to train chest 2X a week, would high volume flat/incline/decline push-ups suffice, or would i have to hit the gym another day?

any serious replies would be appreciated. thanks.

try lowering the volume, thats insane. try 5x5 twice weekly [ what i do, seems to work for me] until you adapt, then do somethin different.
or search this site, and others for a BETTER routine, cause you’ve probably adapted to yours.
peace, flash

just a wild guess but could it be too much volume?

First off, drop the declines, and do some more inclines. Do dips immediately after all of your pressing movements, as this can work your chest and tris depending on your body angle. Do incline flies, as you can get a better stretch with these.

Have you tried doing anything less than 8 reps? Going that high is good for hypertrophy, but honestly, I would try to gain strength first. With strength comes mass. Try going down to say, a 3 RM, and see how that works for you. It may be that you need a little more neuromuscular stimulation, or just a change in program.

For tris, do like rope pushdowns or v-bar pushdowns. You may also want to include close grip bench work.

Lastly, do not care what weights others do. The guys you are talking about are not doing a full ROM and working their tris more than their chest by not getting a good stretch in their chest.

increasing volume is probaably the last thing you want to do. you are already using a signifigant amount of volume as it is.

i too have a chest that is behing my arms and shoulders in development. however my pressing strength is quite good. do you have strong shoulders and triceps? i can alomost close grip bench what i can wide grip because my tris are very strong.

i think some people are geneticaly pr4edisposed to bigger chests. i have seen peopl who dont even train with weights with big chests. thats not to say that you cannot improve on what you have.

i would suggest trying a new routine, dropping the volume as you have probabaly been using that program for a while. look into some strength training and then hit a chest specialization program such as cw’s huge chest in 6 weeks.

First, as far as how far down your bring the weight, I do not bring it down as far as you simply because my biceps are in the way and the goal is to have your upper arm parallel with the ground. That may or may not involve bring the dumbbells to chest level. The goal is to stretch a little, but not become plastic man on the bench. Second, you didn’t mention the weight you are using, however, since you referred to OTHERS using 85lbs dumbbells, I am going to assume you are lifting less than that. If that is the case, how much do you weigh and how much weight have you gained to warrant much growth? If the numbers that you lift are not increasing and the weight on the scale isn’t either, you can give up seeing much progress. 80lbs is fairly average weight to use for that exercise and I have yet to see someone who can do 100+lbs on that who has a small undeveloped chest. Please post how much weight you are using and how much you weigh along with your height. Lastly, I think beginners can benefit from the barbell even though I have experienced the most growth from dumbbells. The bar can aid in balance issues and can really hit those assisting muscle groups. If your shoulders are lacking in size and strength as well as your triceps, that may explain the problem. Usually the issue lies in the fact that the trainer isn’t actually eating enough and isn’t gaining enough muscle to warrant an increase, or they aren’t actually progressing in the weights used. There is nothing wrong with going below 8 reps. I usually keep increasing the weight until I can only get the last set about 4 times. Once I can get that weight up about 6-8 times, it is time to move up in weight. Peace.

I’m confused.

If you’re doing that kind of workout, you must be on a pretty good cycle to handle that much volume.

But you think 90lb dumbbells for military press is heavy, so you clearly are not…

So what’s the deal?

That’s quite a bit of volume. I doubt I could handle 16 sets of anything at 10 reps apiece for a single muscle group. Can you?

Have you attempted lowering the rep range? Tempo? How’s your grip? Wide? What about advanced techniques? Drop sets? Supersets?


I’m very leery of full-range dumbbell presses. The guys at your gym probably aren’t benefiting as much as they could from the exercise, but nor are they at risk of damaging themselves. Rock-bottom presses can put a great deal of stress on the rotator cuffs and pectoral attachment points. Attempting to control the dumbbells to the ground post-set is even worse.

I recently tweaked a portion of my sternum doing exactly that movement with 100 lb dumbbells, and it put me out of commission for two weeks.


A quick addendum:

As Joel Marion (?) pointed out, dumbbell presses are NOT the best chest isolation exercise, particularly when performed with a narrow grip. The higher you lift the weights, the less you invoke pecs. Certainly you notice how little effort it takes to hold the dumbbells above you at the beginning of set. Wide-grip bench and low-pully cable flyes are far more effective.

Pushup variations are perfectly acceptable for a second workout. The trick is modifying the movement to lower the rep range. Try a 5351 tempo with a single foot touching the ground, elevated 18 inches. Or have a kid or two sit on your back.


some info is missing here like the rest of your training schedule, your nutrition, stress levels, accessory muscle strength (delts, triceps, bsck)

generaly, to bring up a lagging body part I would try to use some conjugate form of chest training i.e train to times a week, or once in four days, alternating these workouts:
the max effort and speed work will teach you how to recruit more fibers for your hypertrophy work and how to maximize tension (and strong and fast)

ME day - up to a comfortable double on bench/incline and with 2 minutes rest add as many singles with the same weight
2. 4-5 sets of 8 reps dumbell press, 1 minute rest
3. no rest to dumbell pullover- one set of 10 reps.

DE day

  1. 8-15 reps (terminate when speed is not maintained) of speed benches - see dave tate’s article, 8 principles part III, using 40% of your 1RM bench, no bands or chains.
  2. 4-5 sets of 6 reps of dips targeting chest (head down, feet touching your ass) supersetted with flys, 8 reps.

every third workout, lower the weight a bit and use a slow tempo(4-6 seconds) on the eccentric(yielding) portion of the db presses and flys, to maximize hypertrophy-inducing muscular microtrauma.

after 4-5 weeks your chest will be HYOOGE :wink: (well it will be bigger)

  • change everything up


well for starters you are doing too much. that workout is borderline ridiculous.
try a 5x5 program for something quite different.
try to keep your forearms perpendicular to the floor when pressing (ie you are using too much triceps)
you could try pre-exhaust type program for a couple of weeks to kick start some growth (i quite like this method for short infrequent cycles but am in the minority) that is doing flies first (3 x 10) then a pressing exercise.
hope this gives you another perspective.

Is that all done in one workout?If so it’s probably waaay too much unless you’re juicin’.That looks like a “Muscle and Fiction” routine.Why don’t you try one of the many programs available on this site.Maybe OVT or Anti-Bodybuilding.

Ike, how is 13 sets of 8-12 reps for chest high volume, followed 6 sets for triceps?

I’m confused.

And there may be a reason those guys at the gym bring the DBs only to 6 inches over the chest - that’s because when you first push the dbs off your chest you use mostly your back muscls; for the mid oirtion of the movement you use mostly your pecs and anterior delts; for the last part of the movement you use mostly triceps to lock out (If you consistently reach failure in lower, mid, or upper portion you can tell which link is weak)

I didn’t think this thread would be so interesting. I was wrong.

First off, glute & professor x had good points as far as you letting us know what else you’re doing nutrition and training-wise.

The whole volume issue is tricky. Like prof x said, let us know what kind of weight you’re using. I’d venture to guess that you’re using pretty low weight, compared to what you could be using, to crank out those set & rep numbers.

I will have to differ with JWright (outside of his homosexual tendencies) and say that ditching declines entirely is not a good idea. While they shouldn’t be used every time you go to workout your chest, it could help to incorporate them every so often. Very few things have worked for my pecs like declines have. They don’t work for everybody, but they’re worth a shot. The range of movement should allow you to use more weight than on a flat press. And I never have done DB declines, as I really don’t want to mess around with getting dumbells that heavy into a decline position.

Also, to continue picking on JWright, I will quote him:

“Have you tried doing anything less than 8 reps? Going that high is good for hypertrophy, but honestly, I would try to gain strength first. With strength comes mass.”

While that statement seems to contradict itself, there is truth in it. If you get stronger, which you will by utilizing some low reps, you will get bigger. Figure out how much you bench & dip. Now up those figures. Your chest will be larger once you do so.

And prof x nailed the DB flat bench topic pretty well. It’s nice having him back.

That would be me, but I’m all triceps.

Ike, how is 13 sets of 8-12 reps for chest high volume, followed 6 sets for triceps?

I’m confused.[/quote]

I must be the one confused. Somewhere along the line I heard dips also involved the pecs. Sheesh, wonder where I got that.

Silly me.

All sarcasm aside: If you cannot see the inherent flaws of this program, there is no hope for you. Who thinks in terms of bodyparts anyway? Bench variations hit the pecs, triceps and anterior delts big-time. They also hammer the CNS because they are such large movements. Dips? All of the above with even more emphasis on the shoulder girdle.

Ike - dips all depend on body angle. Lean forward, and the movement is similar to a decline press, stay vertical and it works the tris a lot.

Jared - I have homophobic…er…homsexual tendencies? Sheesh!! I never knew!!

For me, dips always worked my chest more than my tris no matter what angle I use. Although I feel it in my tris, the main ephasis is always felt in my chest.

ok, so it looks like the general consensus is that volume is too high (which i had suspected) and that i need to switch up my routine and do strength training for a while. i had considered doing 5X5, but i read that it’s recommended only if your <12% bf (i’m more in the 16-17% range.)

any other suggestions for sample training routines or at least a specific volume for chest and tris combined?

I have to agree on the issue of dips hitting the chest. I wonder if arm length plays a part?

I just gave a great routine.