T Nation

Stagnating Chest, Need Advice


Right, I've literally just come from the gym and I'm frustrated about the progress of my chest. Ever since I started uni I have not added a significant amount of mass/strength to my chest and it's pissing me the hell off, here's a quick run down of what's been happening:

September 2010-
I start uni, can dumbbell press 110 x 8

December 2010-
Can only dumbbell press 110 x 6

Today -
Can STILL only dumbbell press 110 x 6

What worked in the past-
I have long limbs therefore doing barbell bench presses meant pain in my shoulders, if I tried to lower my upper arm any lower than parallel to the ground I'd get shoulder pain. On consultation with a bodybuilder at my previous gym he suggested dumping the BB bench and subbing it for the following routine (modified with my input):

1)DB bench, no lock out and not going beyond parallel [between 8-12 reps]
2)BB incline, pause at the bottom. [6-8 reps]
3)Hammer strength flat bench, not maximal weight, only working on mind-muscle connection
4)Hammer strength incline bench, not maximal weight, only working on mind-muscle connection

This shit WORKED. Then I went to uni...

What DOESN'T work now-

The uni dumbbells only go up to 110lbs vs my old gym which went up to 140lbs. I thought "pfff... I'll need a new main exercise for chest now"... but I could never hit 110lbs for 10 reps here.

I tried switching my routine up many times, I currently employ this (as of 3 weeks ago):

1)Floor Pin press [1-3 reps]
2)Dumbbell Press [8-10 reps]
3)Machine flat press [8-10 reps]


So, here are the problems I think I need to address with the help of T-Nation:

1) If my arms go below parallel, I get pain - can this be fixed, or should I just NOT go below parallel?
2) Is this possibly a mental block, since the 110lbs are the heaviest dumbbells in my current gym?
3) Are there any activation exercises or mind-muscle tricks I can employ?
4) Can you just outright suggest a new rep scheme or magical protocol that will get my chest bigger and stronger?

Before you ask me, diet is not a problem. All my other lifts are going up, now despite the fact that I'm currently recomping, I've had this same problem when I was bulking [I was gaining mass but not on my chest]. Here was my diet yesterday [this is my recomping diet]:

Breakfast: 2 Chicken breasts + cous cous

Lunch: Chicken stuffed pita (a good amount of chicken) + piece of chicken

After workout: 2 scoops whey + milk

Dinner: Steak and coleslaw

Dinner two: 2 Chicken breast + coleslaw

Dinner three: 9 chicken strips

...so as you can imagine when I was bulking there was more food than this and yet, my chest didn't improve.

Understand, I'm a poor uni student, and in comparison to the other people around my I eat like a king. I don't believe diet is the problem, unless someone can chime in and tell me that my eating habits are the cause...



The one thing I haven't seen you talk about at all is Flies. You haven't been doing any flies. Add some dumbbell incline and/or flat flies in and see how that works.


Flyes wreck my shoulders even worse than BB bench pressing. Cable flies aren't as bad as dumbbell flyes, but still do the damage. If I started doing flyes for 4 weeks by the 5th week I doubt I could do ANY upper body exercise without shoulder pain.


Wait,.. is your goal primarily chest hypertrophy, or strength gains? I ask because there would be a difference in what people might suggest as possible plans of attack.



Could your tris be holding you back? How ofter are they worked?


you can incline barbell but not flat? the pinch on the shoulder is much higher the higher the angle of the bench this doesnt make sense. Try close grip regular bench or reverse grip, these will boost your triceps and pecs guarenteed as well as strength carryover.


Hypertrophy. But an early sign of growth is an increase in strengh, hence why I mentioned it.

They are never trained before chest day or at any time that would hinder my pressing strength. I have done dips with 110lbs attached at 235lbs bodyweight.

I go parallel and don't touch chest, it just happens to workout that doing controlled inclines with a barbell is doable without too much shoulder discomfort. And regarding close-grip pressing, I am a tricep-dominant presser so doing CGBP will only lead to tricep development + I get nasty shoulder pain doing them.


You could try doing flies but also do band pull aparts several times a week.


Curl grip incline bench?
Just gave it a shot today and my chest is feeling SORE


I am no expert but make sure your rear delts are in proportion to your front delts.

I used to get a lot of shoulder problems until I really started to pay attention to that.

As far as chest goes, mind muscle connection goes a pretty long way imo. Especially for the chest. Maybe drop the weight a bit and focus on contraction atleast until your shoulder gets better

My shoulders could always handle inclines better than flat for some reason as well.


@WP - I'm in the same boat as you dude - large limbs, and struggling with pec development. To date, I've had some success with a volume/intensity based approach. But before I go on let me state that (1) I'm a beginner compared to the core on this site, and (2) if your weight goes down because your technique is improving, don't worry about it. So here's what I've been doing lately:

Chest Day (Day 1, 4 day split):

Exercise 1: Press from pins @ various heights with heavy weight (3x4 quarter press, then 3x3 half) then 3x5 full db press with lighter weight (little less than normal) concentrating on moving the weight thru the sticking points in my pecs (I used to cheat thru the stickys- stay in the moment). I reckon the heavy's are like activation work. Thanks to Thibs, I'm not killing myself on the eccentric so much noadays and my shoulders are happy because of it. This is my main exercise.

Exercise 2: Bicep exercise (I alternate bi/tri thru my 4 day split)

Exercise 3: Decline press with dynamic emphasis. I'll hold the last rep on the latter sets if I feel like it.

Exercise 4: Another bicep exercise

Exercise 5: Core Exercise (I hit one upper abz, lower, and oblique 3/4 of my split days)

Exercise 6: Another bicep exercise, for added volume if time allows (# 7 takes precedence over this)

Exercise 7: (time & body allowing) Standing fly-like movement on cable machine (low, medium, high pulley). These are very light and I focus on the squeeze, TUT, and being able to move deliberately through my sore spots. I do them uni-laterally. Each l-m-h group is a set and I aim for 2-3 sets (minimal rest between l-m-h; probably get thru set 3 40%). I'm breathing like I just ran a sprint after these. Imagine you're one of those kung-fu, nija mo'fos as you slowly lower the weight. The benefit of the cables is that you can vary the angle of movement so you don't inflame your shoulders (although I would say you want to be exploring the areas where it hurts).

Shoulder Day (Day 3).

I've added some chest work here (guillotine or incline - not both in same workout) as my body allows. These are dynamic and for volume/form mostly (chest twice every 8-9 days isn't enough).

If I have the time/energy on other days (mostly not), I'll do some push-ups at night for volume. I'm 45, so my stretching/mobility work needs to be pretty good to support this. Are you stretching/rolling any?

Also, as I read thru your posts, I was wondering what kind of frequency/volume you're currently throwing at your pecs?

Good Luck - Chris


And what about your form? The following points (all learned on T-Nation - some are obvious) have helped considerably lessen my shoulder pain from BB pressing:

  • Start every pressing exercise with just the bar to re-enforce proper technique

  • Build up to your working weight

  • Make sure your lats and traps are tight before you un-rack the weight. Pull the weight off the rack with your lats. Keep 'em tight thru the movement.

  • Don't go too wide with grip. Experiment to find the best spot for you

  • Keep elbows tucked, not flared

  • Start the concentric with weight toward the lower chest

  • Arch the weight towards upper body during press

  • Don't go lower than your shoulders want you to


Why in gods name are you doing floor press????? That's ALL triceps. And that's specifically why powerlifters use it to train the lockout portion of their bench. Even if your shoulders are giving you pain, it will not help you with chest development.

So it looks to me like you're doing one completely useless movement for hypertrophy... and ONLY 2 solid chest movements.

Let me ask you this, why not stick with the routine that worked for you?


I have long limbs, doing the floor press means that I limited the ROM from going beyond parallel. Secondly, I feel it in my chest. Thirdly, it was toying around with the idea of "muscle activation" or whatever the cool word is these days; while I don't take bodybuilding science too seriously, I'm kind of stuck so I decided to give it a try. Besides, I distinctly remember precursor vid to the IB program which involves CT doing floor presses as part of a chest workout.

Regarding my original routine, I don't follow it any more because it stopped giving me results - the latest routine I tried out was I've only been doing for the last 3 weeks. On top of that, I don't have hammer-strength machines at this new gym.

Regarding the questions about rep range - I'm ramping up to a top set, here's an example:

44 x 20
66 x 10
88 x 10
100 x 5 [sometimes, if I feel like my form was off]
110 x as much as possible


I'll let more experienced members discuss things in more detail, but here's something I've noticed that might help you.

Regarding flyes - do all variations give you shoulder pain? I've noticed that my shoulders don't "like" flyes if my arms are close to straight, but they're ok with "short flyes", i.e. flyes with arms bent at about 90-135 degrees (I usually start wider and if I want to get more reps I go more narrow for the last couple).

I use the same setup for dumbbell and cable flyes whenever I do them.

I hope this helps a bit,


Blacklabel...I think your a little off the mark that its all triceps. Dr Clay uses it and Dexter Jackson credited as being th e reason for what Dr Clay described as "the thickest upper chest he's ever seen".


i would do at least 4-6 reps for floor press...3 reps is not enough imo...

you could do db bench(preferably low incline if your shoulders can handle it) as a second exercise and do 2-3 straight sets with a manageable weight stopping 1-2 reps short of failure until last set...try moving the weight as explosively on the concentric that way you can use lighter weight yet still activate a large amount of muscle fiber(as fiber recruitment is based on force)...

maybe one more exercise...have you tried decline flys? it may eleviate some of your shoulder issues...

also, don't expect to gain a ton of strength on a recomp diet...


So you "feel it in your chest" by doing 1-3 reps? That is not going to do anything. I also have long limbs, im almost 6'4... but the fact remains that doing floor press is going to be working the lockout portion of your bench (triceps breh).

And, you've been on this "routine" for 3 weeks and your already bitching about how it's not working?

Lastly... there is a serious problem if you have THAT much shoulder pain and you are benching... 110 pound dumbells. If it's hurting you that bad... maybe you should look into proper shoulder health, I know they have quite a few articles here on T-Nation about it.


Regarding long arms - I'm 5'9 and have an 83 cm reach - Your likely under estimating the seriousness of your shoulder injury if bad pain is occurring during the BB Bench. - There are plenty of effective protocols for chest development, however it almost seems as though your looking to train around your problem and avoiding curing it...?


OP does decline BB press bother you shoulders?