The barbell bench press is the king of all chest movements. It’s an exercise that’s been performed and perfected by some of the biggest names in fitness history, with some of the biggest chests to prove it.
But, like all things, nothings works forever. If you are performing the barbell bench press week after week, with the same weight and same rep scheme, you are eventually going to hit a plateau.
In order for your body to grow you need to adapt, switch up your training occasionally, and understand how small changes can produce big results. By improving your approach and form you will put yourself in a position to dramatically improve your chest development.
Here are 5 chest-training tips that will help you get back on track to improving your chest strength and build a thicker, wider chest.
#1 Strengthen Your Triceps and Shoulders
\While your chest is the main muscle group targeted through pressing movements like barbell and dumbbell press, we tend to forget how the front deltoids and triceps play a major role in improving your pressing strength.
Your triceps and front deltoids are active and assisting with each pressing movement. By improving your strength within these muscle groups you will strengthen your press movement as a whole.
Try incorporating more sets of close grip bench press, bodyweight dips, and overhead presses into your weekly routine to strength your front deltoids and triceps. These two movements will help you to improve your pressing movements from the bottom of the press to the lockout portion of the movement.
#2 Perform FULL Repetitions
If you want a full looking chest, start perfecting your form and performing full reps. Performing half reps during your pressing movements will help you increase your strength at the top, lockout portion of the movement, but your strength at the bottom portion of the movement will continue to decrease.
Now, partial reps shouldn’t be completely thrown out of your training as they can help build strength and give you that extra pump within those last couple reps at the end of a grueling set. But failing to perform full reps within every exercise and every set will seriously hinder your chest strength and development.
#3 Perfect Your Fly Form
Are you performing your dumbbell or cable flyes properly? Fly movements are typically performed as a 3rd or 4th exercise on chest day, after your compound pressing movements. Chances are you are more fatigued when performing chest flyes and your form can suffer.
With single-joint movements like flyes, your elbows should be locked in a slightly bent position throughout the whole movement. Many of us tend to bring our elbows out of this locked position and once that happens you are pressing the weight and reducing the isolation focus of this exercise. With fly movements you don’t have to load on the weight. This movement is all about isolation and pushing blood throughout the chest for that final pump before you leave the gym.
#4 Focus on Your Dumbbell Strength
Sometimes we get so focused on the barbell press that we forget about the dumbbell press. With dumbbell presses your hands aren’t placed into a locked position as they are with a barbell, so you are able to contract and squeeze the chest in a different manner.
Dumbbell pressing allows you to isolate each pectoral muscle to a greater degree. By focusing on dumbbell pressing you are fine tuning your pressing strength, while at the same time improving any weaknesses within your chest. Since each pectoral is responsible on its own for pressing that single dumbbell up, your left or right pectoral is not relying on the other to assist in lifting the weight up. Strengthening your weaknesses through dumbbell pressing will allow you to become stronger within your barbell pressing.
#5 Train at All Angles
Your typical chest day may be going something like this: Flat Bench Barbell Press, Incline Dumbbell Press, Decline Barbell Press. So far, that’s great because you’re hitting your chest at multiple angles to build an even chest all around. But, if you really want to ramp up your training and your upper or lower chest development is lacking then you need to start training at different angles.
Most incline benches and decline benches are set at a specific angle, so you are training at that same angle every time you use that bench. By using an adjustable bench you can change the incline or decline to a specific angle and perform a press movement with your body at a new angle. Pressing at a high incline or a minor decline can activate muscles within your chest that may have not been targeted as frequently, helping you to build further strength in your upper and lower chest.