T Nation

Newb Question

To be clear, I’m not a beginner by any stretch, but I wanted to get everyone’s thoughts on something I never quite figured out about my body over the years. Specifically, I’m having issues isolating my chest.

I’ve been lifting on and off for about the last 16 years, and much of it has been purely for strength, performance, etc. I’ve competed in highland games, strongman, oly lifting, powerlifting. More recently I’d like to focus more on physique improvement, and I just don’t have a lot of experience isolating my chest.

Firstly, I welcome all advice, but before you ask “why isolate?” I’m about to answer that. For one, a supraspinatus that has been inflamed for literally decades along with a torn labrum and slap lesion that doesn’t help things, as well as triceps that are grossly overdeveloped in the lower portion near the elbow in proportion to the upper portion that ideally would create the horseshoe look. I have the kind of tricep development that would lead one to believe I’m just big-boned rather than actually muscular. I’ve even been told I have a “big frame” even though people don’t realize I haven’t grown an inch since I was 15 and I was a small, scrawny bastard before I started lifting.

I’ve tried all manner of flies and presses, dips, etc. The only thing that actually makes my pecs sore at all is changing my bench form such that my elbows are flared out as wide as possible rather than tucked, and bringing the bar down much higher on the chest. Higher meaning closer to the clavicles and above the nipples. But even doing this my triceps seem to do so much of the work that they are the limiting factor. I end every set with my lower triceps burning and not hardly feeling anything in my chest. I know it’s not always feeling a pump that leads to gains, but I NEVER experience a chest pump no matter what.

Dumbell presses aggravate my shoulder tremedously, and mainly seem to only work the delts and my already over-developed distal tricep region.

Similarly, with flies it seems like I’m mostly working my biceps. Doesn’t matter if it’s DB, machine or cable. Flies actually work my biceps so much that I’m sure I could use them almost exclusively for bicep development. I’ve played around with different elbow angles as well as keeping my elbows as immobile as possible, but it still seems to work my biceps more. A lot more.

One last thing, I’ve tried using pullovers as well, with limited success, mostly works my lats.

Has anyone who has experienced similar issues overcome this? Any advice on exercises or form tweaks greatly appreciated. Thanks.

I have a torn labrum so it’s hard for me to get a good contraction in my right pec so it’s hard to get a pump. If I was to suggest something it would be carbs Intra workout and pin presses or high volume paused bench

Have you tried slight decline BB? These seem to hit my pecs more than flat or incline.
And Db’s always used to hit pecs pretty good. Have you tried floor DB presses if conventional hurts your shoulders?

[quote]Juggs wrote:
I’ve tried all manner of flies and presses, dips, etc. The only thing that actually makes my pecs sore at all is changing my bench form such that my elbows are flared out as wide as possible rather than tucked, and bringing the bar down much higher on the chest. Higher meaning closer to the clavicles and above the nipples. But even doing this my triceps seem to do so much of the work that they are the limiting factor. I end every set with my lower triceps burning and not hardly feeling anything in my chest. I know it’s not always feeling a pump that leads to gains, but I NEVER experience a chest pump no matter what.
[/quote]

While I’m not going to comment regarding impact on the shoulders and rotator cuff tendons… since it can be rough…

A fairly wide grip, high up on the chest toward the clavicle, elbows relatively flared, and sticking to the bottom half of the ROM should give you most of the pec stimulation you want without too much tricep involvement. Try to drive the elbows toward each other using your pecs as you go up.

Using a slight incline or slight decline will allow you to shift things from your upper to lower pecs as you see fit. Slight incline might involve a lot of front delt also, this seems to really depend on the person.

Explosive concentrics + higher intensities + lots of volume seems to work for me, then finish with a lighter set or two of as many reps as possible, a 10-15 second break, then as many reps as possible.

A couple things to experiment with at least.

[quote]chobbs wrote:
I have a torn labrum so it’s hard for me to get a good contraction in my right pec so it’s hard to get a pump. If I was to suggest something it would be carbs Intra workout and pin presses or high volume paused bench[/quote]

Yeah, my right pec is noticeably smaller than the left as a result.

[quote]Grove wrote:
Have you tried slight decline BB? These seem to hit my pecs more than flat or incline.
And Db’s always used to hit pecs pretty good. Have you tried floor DB presses if conventional hurts your shoulders?[/quote]

I actually NEVER do decline, but I might give it a shot. Thanks. At this point I’m willing to try anything.

I have done BB floor press, which kind of hurts. Haven’t tried DBs.

[quote]LoRez wrote:
While I’m not going to comment regarding impact on the shoulders and rotator cuff tendons… since it can be rough…

A fairly wide grip, high up on the chest toward the clavicle, elbows relatively flared, and sticking to the bottom half of the ROM should give you most of the pec stimulation you want without too much tricep involvement. Try to drive the elbows toward each other using your pecs as you go up.

Using a slight incline or slight decline will allow you to shift things from your upper to lower pecs as you see fit. Slight incline might involve a lot of front delt also, this seems to really depend on the person.

Explosive concentrics + higher intensities + lots of volume seems to work for me, then finish with a lighter set or two of as many reps as possible, a 10-15 second break, then as many reps as possible.

A couple things to experiment with at least.[/quote]

Thanks for the tips. I will try these out.

This helps me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENcjNnwci4Q&list=PL2F8A4BD406176C34&feature=c4-overview-vl

Also find some Ben Pak videos where he talks about shortening the pec and the plain of movement, it really helps with training and contracting the muscles.

bump 4 videos

I’m no expert, but 2 things to try that haven’t been mentioned:

  1. pre-exhaust the tris/bis
  2. machines

Thanks for all the tips guys. Definitely a lot of stuff mentioned that I have little or no experience with given my training background.

[quote]1 Man Island wrote:
I’m no expert, but 2 things to try that haven’t been mentioned:

  1. pre-exhaust the tris/bis
  2. machines[/quote]

Are you a proponent of the pressing machines? I’ve always trained in the “machines are evil” camp, but I’m open to anything given shift in goals. I’m not really sure where to start there, but I will do some experimenting with machines. I have a rather complete home gym I use mostly, but I also have a Gold’s membership, and they have about 15 different pressing machines.

I typically do bi’s on chest day, but I do them last. I will try doing them first and see what happens with my flies. Might also throw in some tricep pressdowns first, but I’m worried that will throw off my 5/3/1 numbers. Might have to reset to a lower weight until I can wake up my chest. Thanks for the tips.

[quote]chobbs wrote:
I have a torn labrum so it’s hard for me to get a good contraction in my right pec so it’s hard to get a pump. If I was to suggest something it would be carbs Intra workout and pin presses or high volume paused bench[/quote]

I forgot to respond to your suggestion. I actually just bought a fast-carb type PWO product called Dark Matter. It has a little protein in it as well. I’m going to give it a shot drinking it intra-workout.

I’m not really set up for pin presses as I have a squat stand instead of a cage, but I could go to the gym and try those. If they work, I’ll be going to the gym on chest day. Seems to me like it would work the tri’s more though?

I would try pre exhausting the chest with pec deck flies, then staight into a flat bench variation, a bit of rest, then rest pause on the flat bench with maybe a 7 second pause, a bit more rest,then heavy negatives on an incline bench or machine with a spotter. Maybe throw in one or 2 sets of dips to failure. This has helped me lately. I have learned that my upper chest needs its own exercise, and doing the heavy negatives has made a nice improvement. A completely different option, just for a pump, is to do 50 reps in a row on a machine, choosing a weight that you are struggling at the end to complete the reps. Confusion

I would try pre exhausting the chest with pec deck flies, then staight into a flat bench variation, a bit of rest, then rest pause on the flat bench with maybe a 7 second pause, a bit more rest,then heavy negatives on an incline bench or machine with a spotter. Maybe throw in one or 2 sets of dips to failure. This has helped me lately. I have learned that my upper chest needs its own exercise, and doing the heavy negatives has made a nice improvement. A completely different option, just for a pump, is to do 50 reps in a row on a machine, choosing a weight that you are struggling at the end to complete the reps. Confusion