It is time to overhaul your chest workout. Turns out, there is a big chance you have been training your chest wrong. And below you will find out how to properly exercise it.
The chest is often one of the main areas people tend to work on in the gym – that is certainly the case for most men. And sometimes, even if you have been training for a long time, maybe your pecs haven’t grown as much as the work you’ve been putting into.
That is because, chances are, you’re training your chest wrong. If you are doing the traditional 10 sets of chest exercises every week, 8-12 reps, Jeff Cavaliere might have a better solution for your problems.
Jeff Cavaliere is a fitness trainer, physical therapist, and the creator of the popular fitness YouTube channel called ATHLEAN-X. He is known for his expertise in strength training, conditioning, and sports medicine. Jeff Cavaliere served as the Head Physical Therapist and Assistant Strength Coach for the New York Mets in Major League Baseball from 2006 to 2009.
Scroll down to see what Cavaliere decided to talk about and how he defined that you’re training your chest wrong – and how to properly do it next time you hit the gym.
You’re Training Your Chest Wrong
To understand why you are training your chest wrong, we’re diving into the teachings of the late great Mike Mentzer to revolutionise your chest workout strategy and unlock the secrets to a bigger chest. In his words:
“Momentum is an outside force to the degree to which is brought into play reduces the force of the muscular contraction thereby reducing the intensity thereby reducing the results.”
In other words, what matters most for a muscle to grow, is the amount of tension you can deliver to the muscle in question. What you need to ensure is that your chest is feeling every single inch of contraction and that can only be done if you slow down your reps (a lot) and have control over every single partition of each rep.
The key lies in understanding how to train for a bigger chest, and that involves the right tempo. Chances are, you’re rushing through your chest exercises. Slow it down. Aim for a cadence of 3-4 seconds up and 4-5 seconds down. Even if it means lowering the weight, the focus is on making the chest work harder.
This approach aligns with the science of muscle building, emphasizing three types of contractions: concentric, isometric, and eccentric. You’re strongest eccentrically and weakest concentrically, so to maximize muscle tension and promote chest growth, it’s crucial to harness the power of the eccentric contraction.
Instead of using the pec deck as shown in the video with Mentzer, Cavaliere suggests applying this strategy to the dips exercise, which Mentzer previously said was the best all-around chest exercise.
But before diving into that, a pre-exhaust exercise combination is introduced for your chest workout. Begin with an adduction exercise for chest isolation, like the standing cable fly, followed immediately by a compound chest exercise such as the incline bench press (using a narrow grip).
This combination sets the stage for overload and involves the triceps, creating an optimal environment for chest growth. The video recommends against using the barbell incline bench press and suggests swapping in the dumbbell incline bench press.
Following the pre-exhaust, the focus shifts to the dip—a move that Mentzer considered ideal for building the chest, shoulders, and triceps. This exercise targets the lower chest, complementing the previous two parts of the workout that focused on the middle and upper chest.
Mentzer advocated for performing only one set to absolute failure for a muscle group, but the video offers an alternative perspective. Without access to spotters for forced reps, there’s room for additional exercises. Enter the dip, performed to all three levels of failure—concentric, isometric (holding at the bottom), and eccentric. The video emphasizes the importance of not neglecting the stretch overload stimulus, especially at the bottom of the dip.
By incorporating Mentzer’s insights into your chest workout and adjusting your tempo, you may unlock new dimensions of chest growth. You should also blend isolation and compound exercises, culminating in a challenging dip routine to push your chest to its limits.
Now you know why you’re training your chest wrong. Use the Mentzer methodology when working out, and it doesn’t have to be only the chest, but other big muscle groups, and you will get over plateaus and increase your strength and gains.
For a full explanation, with a bit more flair, from Jeff Cavaliere, watch the video below.
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:
- 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.
- Aesthetics: A well-developed chest can enhance the appearance of your upper body, giving you a more balanced and proportional physique.
- Improved posture: A strong chest can also help improve your posture by pulling your shoulders back and helping you maintain a more upright position.
- Increased metabolism: Chest exercises can also help boost your metabolism, which can help you burn more calories throughout the day.
- 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.
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.
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.
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. Aim for a weight that you can do at least 6 reps and feel exhausted, reaching a point of failure after that.
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.
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.
- Dips (2): John Fornander on Unsplash