Top 4 Chest Training Mistakes

Your chest is a very complicated muscle. Considering the size of this muscle, you‘d think it‘d be easy to stimulate growth. Do some flat bench, another secondary movement, and your chest starts growing. But your chest is a much more complicated area than that.

The pectoral muscles are decidedly complex – training them is a major puzzle to most bodybuilders. This month, we expose the puzzle‘s answer, discussing the five most often chest-training errors and describing tips to avoid them. Read carefully; you’ll be surprised how many mistakes you’re likely making.

  1. Performing the barbell bench too often

    The question “how much can you bench?” is one asked by so many people it‘s often the deciding factor in one‘s true strength. However, the fact that the bench press is the go-to strength barometer has had a terrible effect on chest development on people all over the world.

    Used properly, the bench press is amazing for chest development. Overused, it can potentially overdevelop the lower-pec region, giving you droopy, saggy looking pectoral muscles. Furthermore, consistently benching as heavy as possible in low rep ranges can make you more injury-prone.

    The Fix:

    • Switch up your rep ranges. Include sets where you perform 10-12 repetitions, and others as low as 4-6.
    • If you have to know your one-rep maximum bench, use an online calculator to determine it. Don’t waste a workout maxing out.
    • It’s also a good idea to alternate in-between performing your chest workouts with dumbbells and barbells. This will help you to avoid stagnation with your numbers on chest day, and also helps give your rotator cuff a break from bench pressing.
  2. Using machines too much

    Another extremity you’ll see in gyms quite often is the “I only train chest with machines” crowd. Actually, a lot of these people train everything with machines, not just chest. Little do they realize, your best bet to move towards an impressive level of chest development is with free weights.

    Check out this list of the top 5 best chest exercises. These exercises stimulate the muscles in a natural manner, and it leads, generally, to better pecs. Want proof of this? Look at the chests of bodybuilders from the classical era (1970s-1980s) compared to now. Most of them had good chests.

    The Fix:

    • Perform primarily free weight exercises
    • Keep machine exercises to a minimum.
    • If you decide to use machines, use a Hammer-Strength machine, if available in your gym, as you’re able to use free-weights for overload.
  3. Not training upper chest enough

    Often in harmony with an over-done focus on the barbell bench press, is not enough focus on the upper pectoral muscles. This is the area from your clavicles to approximately halfway down your chest. A developed upper chest will give your torso a more impressive level of development, especially compared to your under trained counterparts.

    The Fix:

    • Always do incline work first.
    • In each chest workout, include several sets of upper chest work. Perform at least as many sets as you do for lower chest.
    • Contracting your upper pectoral muscles while doing a hands-on-hips most-muscular is a good way to practice controlling your upper chest. As you improve your control of this region, your ability to stimulate it will improve.
  4. Not training upper important supporting muscles enough

    It is a well-known fact that the triceps are a significant contributor to chest training. It is a lesser-known fact that the muscles of the back also contribute immensely to the progress you can make with your chest training. Think about it, the triceps are used secondarily to the pecs on every chest exercise, and the back is the direct antagonist muscle to the chest.

    Lag on your triceps training and you will fail to lock out your heaviest sets, or to achieve maximum acceleration on your lighter sets.

    Lag on your back training and your body will refuse to allow your chest to continue to grow. The body wants to stay in a state of equilibrium… it doesn’t want you to bench 300 but only be able to use 135 with bent over rows. Increase your back strength along with your chest strength to maximize progress.

    The Fix:

    • Chest training should be equal to back training.
    • Check out this list of the top 5 best triceps exercises to learn how best to train your tris. Add triceps training to your workouts twice a week to spur amazing growth.
    • Peep this list of the top 5 best back exercises and add some of them to your routine if you haven’t already.

Lessons Learned

  • Train chest and prioritize it in the same manner as other muscle groups.
  • Focus on upper chest development.
  • Avoid machines; free weights will stimulate more fibers in your chest overall.
  • Focus on feeling a contraction in your chest; not just moving weight around.
  • Remember to also train your back and triceps with as much intensity as you train your chest.

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5 thoughts on “Top 4 Chest Training Mistakes

  • March 17, 2011 at 6:47 am

    An impressive chest is one of the most attractive features of athletic men so please do it right guys :)


  • November 20, 2010 at 4:32 am

    Awesome article. Lots of good stuff here. One thing people training chest need to consider is that the back needs equal work. Overtraining the chest is terrible for posture contributing to forward shoulders. Strengthening the rhomboids and subscapular muscles is a must in order to create balance and help prevent potential shoulder injury.

    Lat pull downs are a mistake if people consider this to be the answer for chest as lat tightness contributes to the forward shoulder issue. Anyhow, a person training chest should also consider reverse grip bench as well as using dumbells, flys and push ups.

  • November 19, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I just started to do some chest training exercises few days back. These points are really helpful. I have been doing the 3rd mistake that is not training the upper chest. Helpful article. Thanks for sharing

  • November 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Hey Steve: I like how you really lay out the choices and fixes for us. This means I can refer my students to this article and they’ll understand what to do. And the information about reps is really spot-on! Great job. Great info.

    • November 23, 2010 at 9:19 am

      Thanks. I wish I knew how NOT to train when I was learning how to train all those years ago.


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