How to Feel Your Chest When You Bench Press for Maximum Chest Size

These cues will help you a lot when bench pressing.

Discover how to feel your chest when you bench press for maximum chest size.

The bench press is one of the best exercises a person can do to develop their chest. In fact, we have said it here, more than once, it is THE best chest exercise. But, that is only true if you know how to perform the exercise correctly. And trust us, there are many ways you can disrupt your training with this movement.

One of the easiest ways to know if you are doing this exercise correctly – or any exercise for that matter – is to feel the tension on the right muscle. For the bench press, you want to feel your chest doing most of the work.

If you feel sore on your triceps or shoulders after doing some heavy sets of barbell bench press, that is your clear indication that you are not performing the exercise correctly. So you need to now a feel tips on how to feel your chest when you bench press for maximum chest size.

These tips you are about to see were explained by Adam Schafer, Sal Di Stefano and Justin Andrews, 3 of the hosts of Mind Pump Podcast. The Mind Pump Podcast is an online radio show that talks all fitness related and, usually, is provocative. Its hosts are Sal Di StefanoAdam SchaferJustin Andrews, and Doug Egge. They also have a YouTube channel with more than 700k subscribers.

See it all below.

athlete performs exercises to improve bench pressSource: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

How to Feel Your Chest When You Bench Press for Maximum Chest Size

Unlocking the secrets to an effective bench press involves more than just lifting weights—it requires a deep understanding of biomechanics, muscle engagement, and the body’s natural tendencies. One common concern that often arises is the sensation of feeling the bench press in the shoulders and triceps rather than the intended target, the chest. This perplexing phenomenon can be demystified by delving into the intricate interplay of muscles and addressing common postural issues.

The prevalence of upper cross syndrome, affecting more than 80% of the population, sets the stage for this bench press mystery. In a society where daily activities predominantly occur in front of us—typing on keyboards, driving, and hunching over screens—rounded shoulders and a forward head become the norm. This postural distortion becomes particularly evident when individuals attempt a bench press, causing the shoulders to roll forward and the triceps to take over. To rectify this, a conscious effort to correct posture and position the body for optimal chest engagement is crucial.

Maximising chest activation during a bench press involves more than sheer strength—it requires a mindful approach to form and positioning. The initial step is to retract the shoulders fully and depress the scapula, creating a natural arch in the upper back. This not only prevents the shoulders from dominating the movement but also lifts the chest, setting the stage for effective chest activation.

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To enhance this mind-muscle connection, individuals can incorporate specific exercises designed to reinforce proper form. Lying on a foam roll, for instance, naturally opens up the chest and allows gravity to pull the shoulders into the desired retracted position. Resistance can be added by having a partner apply gentle pressure while the individual resists, reinforcing the sensation of chest engagement.

A valuable technique to further emphasize chest activation involves altering the intention of the press. By consciously squeezing the hands inward during the bench press, individuals create intrinsic tension, driving the chest muscles to work more dynamically. Although this may necessitate lighter weights, the increased chest activation makes it a worthwhile adjustment for those seeking optimal results.

Source: Bruno Bueno on Pexels

Incorporating shoulder mobility exercises is another vital component of refining the bench press. Addressing issues related to shoulder protraction, such as using the “high five stretch” against a wall, helps individuals achieve a greater range of motion. This stretch allows the chest to open up, and by pulling the arm off the wall, individuals activate the muscles responsible for retracting and depressing the scapula.

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Combining these techniques—foam rolling, resistance exercises, intentional hand squeezing, and targeted stretches—creates a comprehensive approach to enhancing chest activation during the bench press. The goal is not only to lift weights but to do so with precision and mindfulness, ensuring that the intended muscles are engaged throughout the movement.

As individuals embark on their bench press journey, a focus on form, posture correction, and intentional muscle activation becomes paramount. This newfound awareness transforms the bench press from a mere weightlifting exercise into a targeted chest development tool. Starting with lighter weights, slowing down repetitions, and incorporating these techniques lay the foundation for a more effective and fulfilling bench press experience.

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In conclusion, the bench press holds the potential to be a transformative chest-building exercise when approached with knowledge and intention. By addressing common pitfalls, correcting posture, and incorporating specific exercises, individuals can unlock the true potential of the bench press, feeling the activation in their chests rather than their shoulders or triceps. It’s not just about lifting weights; it’s about lifting weights with precision, purpose, and a profound connection to the muscles at work.

Watch the video below for a better understanding of how to feel your chest when you bench press and to visually comprehend what you can do to apply the tips mentioned earlier.

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Training your chest can have a number of benefits for your overall fitness and physical health. Here are some reasons why you might want to train your chest:

  1. Strengthening your chest muscles: Chest exercises like bench press, push-ups, and dumbbell flyes can help you build stronger chest muscles. This can improve your overall upper body strength and make it easier to perform daily activities that require pushing or pulling.
  2. Aesthetics: A well-developed chest can enhance the appearance of your upper body, giving you a more balanced and proportional physique.
  3. Improved posture: A strong chest can also help improve your posture by pulling your shoulders back and helping you maintain a more upright position.
  4. Increased metabolism: Chest exercises can also help boost your metabolism, which can help you burn more calories throughout the day.
  5. Improved athletic performance: A strong chest can improve your performance in a variety of sports and activities that require upper body strength, such as basketball, football, and rock climbing.

Overall, training your chest can have numerous benefits for your physical health, appearance, and athletic performance. It’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises into your chest workout routine to ensure that you’re targeting all the muscles in your chest, as well as other muscles in your upper body.

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How Often Should You Train the Chest?

The frequency at which you should train your chest depends on several factors such as your fitness goals, overall fitness level, and your training program.

In general, it is recommended that you train your chest muscles at least once per week to see improvements in strength and muscle growth. However, some individuals may benefit from training their chest more frequently, such as 2-3 times per week, especially if they are more experienced lifters and are looking to target specific areas of the chest.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t train your chest muscles on consecutive days as this can lead to overtraining and increase the risk of injury. Additionally, it’s important to allow your muscles to rest and recover between workouts, so that they have time to repair and grow.

Source: Calibra / Pixabay

Overall, the frequency at which you should train your chest will depend on your individual goals and fitness level, so it’s best to consult with a certified fitness professional who can help you design a personalized workout plan that meets your needs.

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How Heavy Should you Lift When Training for Muscle Growth?

When training for muscle growth (hypertrophy), the weight you lift, often referred to as the training load or intensity, is an important factor to consider. Here are some guidelines to help determine how heavy you should lift:

Use a weight that challenges you: To promote muscle growth, it’s important to use a weight that challenges your muscles. This means selecting a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions within the hypertrophy rep range (generally 8 to 12 reps) with proper form, while also feeling challenging towards the end of each set.

Choose a weight that elicits fatigue: The weight you select should cause fatigue in the target muscles by the end of each set. You should feel a sense of muscular burn or fatigue during the final few reps, indicating that the weight is appropriately challenging.

Progressive overload: To continue building muscle, it’s crucial to gradually increase the demands on your muscles over time. This can be achieved through progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the weight you lift as your muscles adapt and grow stronger. Aim to progressively increase the weight as you become more comfortable with a certain weight range to continue stimulating muscle growth.

Form and technique: While it’s important to challenge yourself with heavier weights, it’s equally important to prioritize proper form and technique. Lifting weights that are too heavy and compromise your form can increase the risk of injury and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Focus on maintaining good form throughout each repetition, even when using challenging weights.

Source: Scott Webb

Individual capabilities: The appropriate weight will vary depending on your individual capabilities, strength level, and experience. What may be heavy for one person might be light for another. It’s important to listen to your body and select weights that are appropriate for your current fitness level.

Variation in training: Incorporating a variety of rep ranges and training modalities can be beneficial for overall muscle development. While the hypertrophy rep range (8-12 reps) is commonly associated with muscle growth, including both higher rep ranges (12-15+) and lower rep ranges (6-8) in your training can provide different stimuli and promote well-rounded muscle development.

Remember, finding the right weight is a process of trial and error. Start with a weight that challenges you within the recommended rep range, and adjust as needed based on your individual capabilities and progression. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can also provide guidance and help you determine the appropriate weight selection for your specific goals and needs.

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