It is Monday Morning, the alarm sets in. You make your weekly weight in. You have breakfast (or coffee/tea if you fast) and then you go to the gym at some point in the day to discover that it is international chest day. You see a lot of gym goers and bros hitting the bench press. But, is the bench press the absolute best way to build a great chest? If you emphasize chest development, is the bench press what you should be doing?
The bench press is a compound movement that trains your chest efficiently and it also trains your front deltoids and triceps. The back and leg musculature act as stabilizers (when performed correctly) so bench pressing is really a very complete exercise. Besides gym bros and recreational lifters, the bench press is a very popular lift since it is part of the power-lifting sport. Bench Pressing has been shown to activate the pectoral muscles in a very high degree and the best part is that the bench press is very conductive to progressive overload. This means that unlike other chest exercises like a cable fly or a
pec deck machine the bench press is your best option to overload the pectoral muscles and gain strength. Given all of this, is the bench press the best way to build your chest?
FACTORS THAT WILL CONTRIBUTE
You’ll see a lot of stories in the internet, some will swear that the bench press will give you massive pecs and some will say that it won’t. If you are a torso dominant person (you recruit more of your chest and back in pushing and pulling movements) you will likely benefit a lot from bench pressing, if you have good chest genetics, you will likely be benefited by the bench press. As with everything, it will depend, maybe you
will need to get a little stronger that someone else to build a big chest due to your genetics, just as that person will have a lagging muscle group too.
I AM ALREADY STRONG AT THE BENCH PRESS AND MY CHEST IS LAGGING
If you already rep out about 1.3 times your body weight and your chest is really really not responding, chances are that you will have to try different things. The good news here is that thanks to your bench press strength you will also have good strength in exercises that will aid to your chest development.
The first recommendation here is to change to dumbbell presses, if you can rep out the 100’s in more of a higher rep range (8-12 Reps) for 3-6 sets per week chances are that your chest will improve, this works since dumbbells allow for a more natural range of motion and it allows you to perform horizontal abduction (one of the functions of the chest) when compared to the barbell bench press. You can also include an additional 2-3 sets of isolation work like cable crossovers or cable presses with lighter weight and feeling the muscle while you progressively overload those movements too.
The #1 tip for pecs development in the bench press
Sometimes changing your technique on the bench can aid with chest recruitment and chest activation. In the bench press and in this case the tweak is to Bench with a pause. Benching with a pause is well known in the power-lifting community and this will build strength from the bottom of the exercise, this will also prevent cheating since a lot of people bounce the weight off their chest, it doesn’t have to be a really long pause, a 1-2(or even three) second pause will give you a better chest activation and prevent cheating, thus giving you a better chest workout.
So in conclusion here, the bench press is a great exercise to build strength and muscle but if you are stuck with it, try this different approaches and see how you start to make gains on your chest, as always make sure that you recover and that you don’t give up.
Let me know if you will try these tips and how it goes!