T Nation

Please Advise on Chest


First off, if you get your jollies by belittling others, please don't waste my time. I am genuinely asking for some input from those who know more than I. I am 48 and have been back in the gym for about 8 months. In that time I have shed about 25 pounds of fat and gained about 7 pounds of muscle. I'm only 5'5 and currently weigh 133 with about 15 to 17% body fat according to my bathroom scale which has a body fat calculator (although I'm skeptical of its accuracy).

My goal is to hit 150 with less than 10% body fat by the time I'm 50. The problem I'm asking about is my pecs. I can't seem to get them wide. They just fall off from my nipples to my armpits. I have made decent progress in depth, just not width. I will attempt to add a front and side view photo. What can I do to "widen" them? My chest workouts consist of Incline dumbell flys, flat dumbell flys, Dips on a machine, flat and incline press on a machine and occasionally, cable crossovers. I should mention that I have a bad left shoulder so I avoid flat bench like it was molten lava.

I have read several threads about "round vs. square pecs" and whether you can really affect a specific part of a muscle, but I don't know enough to know what to do or if there is anything I CAN do. Please advise and also let me know if I should post this in a different forum.


Don't know why that first photo came out sideways. Here is an attempt at the side view.


I have no idea why the first photo came out sideways, its not like that on my computer and then I tried to add the second and it doesn't look like it uploaded so I'm trying again.


You can't do Shit except build muscle


You need less fat and more muscle. I could give you bullshit like bench with a wider grip, do flyes but really you just need more muscle and less fat.


The answer to your question is likely 'no,' by which I mean there's little (if anything) you can do to re-shape your lower/outer pecs (which look normal to me, BTW). In fact, if I were to offer any advice, it would be to focus your Chest workouts on upper pecs, as this is the area that tends to lag on most individuals.

The fat loss/LBM gain you have enjoyed thus far is no easy feat at your (our) age. Obviously, you're doing something right, so keep at it. Enjoy your improved (and improving) physique, and try not to sweat the little stuff. Best of luck.


Most of that is just genetically how your chest muscle is shaped. Nothing really you can do about that. Just take Arnold's advise when talking about his weirdly shaped bicep, which is basically to build as much muscle as you can there, cuz that's all you can really do.


Nice progress so far. But yeah, those scale bodyfat measuring things are known to be inaccurate. You can try using it to chart changes (up or down from a starting point), but even then each measurement can be off by a good amount.

What does your full week's plan look like? Not just for chest, but everything - the days, exercises, sets, and reps. Your routine (frequency, volume, etc.) could probably be tweaked for progress.

Other than that, like the guys are saying, there's only so much you can do with the hand you're dealt, muscle shape-wise. But since you're still a relative beginner, it sounds like it's just a matter of putting more time in with a good diet and a well-designed program.


Why would he want to tweak his routine right now for progress? OP you have made excellent progress. Dropping 25ibs of fat and gaining 7ibs of muscle! In 8 months! Great job. Just keep building muscle it will work itself out


Could probably be tweaked. I think it's more important to see what he's actually doing in the week.

Since he's doing 5 or 6 exercises for chest, I'm curious about the volume he's using, as well as what his weekly split looks like. Maybe he's doing that much for chest three times a week "to prioritize it". I've seen guys come up with some nonsensical routines.

Like I said, I do agree he's seen some good progress and needs to put some more time in. But it'll help to make sure that time is still being well-spent.


You make some very good points. And after thinking on it, I can also say that OP has spent the 8 months dropping some good fat weight while building some muscle. Now, might be the time to focus on adding some real muscle, it will help with his pec concern.

I just get the impression you really have a tendency to want to 'tweak' things, and change things up. I also enjoy taking workouts and adding my own twist to them.

When I originally read your post to OP it bothered me for some reason, you do make some good points though.


I appreciate y'alls input. I strained a ligament in my arm and so I'm trying to rest it so I have just started doing a boot camp 3 days a week for fat loss and I'm seeing some results. This morning I was down to 14% body fat according to the mythical scale.

However, to answer your question, what I was doing (and will hopefully be able to get back to soon) was:
Every day starts with warm up on treadmill with 1/2 mile brisk walk, 1/2 mile run, 1/4 mile walk
Monday: upper body
shoulder warm ups (I have a slightly impinged left shoulder) with 5 pound dumbells
Incline dumbell flys (55 pounders, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Seated rows (75 pounds per hand, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Flat flys (55 pounders, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Lat pulldowns (75 pounds per hand, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Seated flat bench-simulating machine (Hammer something?) (65 pounds per hand 3 sets of 10 or 12)
I have no idea what to call these but they hit my traps. Seated on the edge of a bench with dumbells in my hands together under my knees and raise hands up and out. (25 pounders, 3 sets of 30) with a set of 20 shoulder shrugs (50 pounders) between each set.
Seated incline bench-simulating hammer machine. (60 pounds per hand, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Dips on machine (150 pounds, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Abs: ab glider 50 front, 50 left oblique, 50 right oblique, 30 seated sit-up machine with 140 pounds weight, back to ab glider, back to sit-up machine, back to ab glider.

Tuesday: legs (of the bird variety)
Leg press (348 pounds, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Leg extensions? (130 pounds, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Reverse extensions? (hammys) (110 pounds, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Abs (see above)

Wednesday: arms
shoulder warm up
incline dumbell curls (35 pounders, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Skull crushers with 50 pound bent bar (3 sets of 10 or 12)
Isolation curls (30 pounders, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Triceps pull down with bar (70 pounds, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Standing curls, arms in front like PopEye. 30 pounders, 3 sets of 10 or 12)
Triceps pull down with rope (50 pounds, 4 sets of 10 or 12)
Bent bar curls (60 pounds, 3 or 4 sets of 17)
More triceps pull down with rope till I can't go no mo.
Abs (see above)

Thursday: legs
See Tuesday

Friday: Upper body
See Monday, plus as much of the arms stuff as I can take.

Once I get my arm healthy I am thinking of trying the reactive pump program but I'll have to modify it because my gym (Planet Fitness) doesn't have all the equipment mentioned such as chains and my aforementioned shoulder.

Thanks again for your input and advice. I'm sure there are many things I could be doing better, I just don't know what I don't know.


dude, 3 leg exercises? Is that it? You've got a bajillion upper, but hardly anything for legs. That ain't right.


Agreed.....the O.P. could double the work done on leg day.
Upper body variation to the point of dilution.
Additionally; although I'm a fan of direct arm work; an entire day wouldn't be what I would recommend at the OP's stage.


I did forget calf raises which I do on the leg press machine with the same weight but still, that's only 4. What do you suggest?




Maybe, but if I do, it's only because on some level, I expect most beginners (probably most people asking for help in general) to need a change from what they're doing. Certainly not always, but more often than not. Also, after seeing his training week laid out, I won't say told 'ya so. :wink:

Reactive Pump is intense straight-up bodybuilding. If you can follow it as closely as possible (the recommended nutrition, supps, and training), you should do fine. However, that's light years from where you are now, in terms of intensity, volume, pretty much everything.

I think a more reasonable transition is appropriate. Something like this is a very basic start:
Something along those lines should sort out your lifting while you address your shoulder (are you doing specific rehab or just letting it heal more on its own without making it worse?) and continue the fat loss (which will come from keeping your diet on point and the boot camp stuff).


Haha. You were right to ask, obviously.


Awesome, dude. Thanks! I've just been flying by the seat of my pants. I try to read the threads but to be honest, I don't know what most of it means. The thing I liked about the reactive pump was he explained what the lift was and how to do it. I wish there was a glossary for beginners of all the lifts and the CORRECT way to do each and what it was for (what muscles it works).

To answer your question, the shoulder is a chronic problem that I have had since high school. Not bad enough for surgery but limiting because I know what will happen if I'm not careful. It appears that my muscles can endure more than my joints. Don't know if that is genetic or age related (48) but my current problem is that I have strained both arms at different spots near the elbow. My left one was doing what I call "lawnmower pulls" (knee and same hand on a bench, weight in other hand towards the floor and pull straight up). I didn't know you weren't supposed to go all the way down and strained something (I think a tendon) in my left forearm. With arm straight out and palm down, it is on the bottom about an inch from the elbow. Within a week I strained my right arm doing curls with a bent bar as a finisher after upper body and without doing any other bicep work.

Now I feel a very sharp pain when I turn my steering wheel to the left with just that hand. It even hurts to carry my Plazma bottle into the gym in that hand. I have been using straps for tennis elbow on both arms and that helps but the right one doesn't seem to be getting better. I have been using some hooks that strap to my wrists so I can try to keep some strain off the left one for things like lat pulldowns etc. I think I'm gonna have to bite the bullet and go to an orthopedic specialist. This all happened in June. Family doc barely looked at it and said to rest it. Sorry, got on a roll and probably told you way more than anyone wants to read.
Again, I appreciate all you guys sharing your experience and advice!


1]The are plenty of resources...search Amamzon,etc. for something like 'Anatomy for Strength and Fitness Training' or 'Strength Training Anatomy'
and you will get plenty of options. Start with one or two and move on from there.

2]The elbow/forearm issue is from too much arm work IMO. The hooks/straps will help during back work. Reduce the load and try to row/pull with your thumb on the same side of the handle/bar as your fingers. Stop doing bar or machine work for bicep. Again reduce the load and begin all bicep workouts with d.bell hammer curls until the problem is gone and discontinue anything referred to as a 'finisher'. It is not uncommon for it to take several months to a year before the issue clears up. IMO it would help if you temporarily stopped performing all tricep extension movements for a while (6-8 weeks)

3]Your family doctor was correct. Learning to properly deal w/injury issues is usually what separates the apprentice from the journeyman.