Chest training is usually the workout we most look forward to during the week because it tends to be the most enjoyable of them all for many reasons and the most important one being the pump. Don’t get me wrong, even though back and legs are my favorites to train I’m usually so focused on not puking while doing them that I can’t really enjoy the moment, with chest on the other hand it’s a lot different because not only can you feel the pump but you can also see it. There really isn’t a lot of gym rats out there that don’t enjoy training chest but there is a lot of them that don’t really know how to properly train and maximize their time in the gym for maximum results, that’s why I am going to provide you with three tips for maximizing chest growth that will take your pectoral development to the next level.
Focus on free weight movements
This not only applies for chest, using free weights for every single body part is crucial in order to achieve the best level of development possible. Machines will always have their place and time in more advanced training sessions but for simple and effective training, free weights should be the main focus of your workout. In order to build size and thickness you need to generate stress and tension on your muscle fibers that can only be achieved by performing basic and heavy movements such as Bench Presses, Dumbbell Presses, Dumbbell Flyes, Dumbbell Pullovers, and all of their variations, these being in decline, flat or incline positions.
Machines are great tools for overloading and finishing the muscle at the end of the workout or even for simply warming up before performing the heavy sets, but they will not build muscle like the classic movements do. If your workout is made out of 80% of free weight movements you are on the right path to building a good chest but if this isn’t the case you might want to subtract a few assisted (machine) movements and incorporate more exercises that involve dumbbell and barbell use.
Use full range of motion
A common mistake that every single beginner makes at the gym is not using full range of motion, this can happen for various reasons, the more frequent one being lifting too heavy. We all started somewhere and from day one we associate big muscles with lifting heavy weight (progressive overload) and it’s totally normal and accurate. No one can build muscle by lifting the same dumbbells they lifted on their first training day, the muscles and bones will start growing and adapting, and will therefore need to be trained in a different manner in order to keep achieving growth, this can be done by weight increases, modifying the form or by even including more complex training tricks such as super sets, drop sets, failure sets, etc.
There is nothing wrong with trying to lift more weight that you actually can, only by doing this will you be able to grow and eventually move crazy amounts of weight. After a few years you will be lifting and pushing good amounts of weight and that’s where full range of motion comes into play, as time progresses you will develop the famous “Mind-Muscle Connection” in which you basically feel and know how your muscle reacts to a certain exercise, you will only be able to develop this and make your muscles exponentially grow if you use full range of motion. Imagine you’re performing a dumbbell press; full range of motion would consist of pushing the dumbbells all the way up while squeezing the chest and then bringing them back down slowly while still maintaining tension in the pectoral area.
Emphasize on the negative
The negative portion of any movement (exercise) is really important, a lot of fitness experts on the subject have actually stated that focusing and controlling the negative part of a repetition can be even more beneficial than the positive. The negative places stress and tension on different muscle fibers than the positive does, if you perform full range of motion and manage to do a slow and controlled negative on each repetition you will surely develop a wider and thicker chest.
If you watch a powerlifter perform a bench press you will notice than he focuses on strength and explosiveness, we as bodybuilders focus on muscular development; this can only be achieved by activating and injuring the muscle inside the gym. Each chest movement needs to be fully controlled on the negative and explosive on the positive, if you want to make your exercises more difficult and target different muscle areas you should try different grips and angles, maintaining focus on the negative portion while pressing, this will enhance your pectoral development and increase your strength levels.