5 Most Common Chest Training Mistakes

5 Most Common Chest Training Mistakes

Your chest is a contradiction in terms. It appears to be a simple area to train because it only consists of one major muscle pair. The story comes to a close with a press and a fly. However, this is a mystery with unexpected turns. The pecs are surprisingly complex, and exercising them is loaded with mistakes that you'll undoubtedly fall into year after year. This month, we'll show you how to avoid them by identifying the five most common chest-training mistakes and providing tips on how to avoid them. Take notes; you might be surprised at how many pec sins you've been committing.

5 Most Common Chest Training Mistakes

#1 Overreliance on barbell bench presses

"Can you bench a certain amount of weight?" The question is asked to everyone with even a smidgeon of muscle so frequently that it's become the ultimate gym cliche. Nonetheless, the bench press's status as the go-to strength indicator has decimated chests. Bodybuilders bench far too much, far too often, for far too many sets and reps. The bench press is a terrific exercise when done correctly. When overused, it can cause the lower pec region to overdevelop in comparison to the higher, resulting in "droopy boobs" (think Art Atwood). Additionally, benching for maximal sets of low reps regularly will increase your risk of injuries ranging from the shoulder, elbow, and wrist strains to pec tears.


Consider barbell bench presses to be just another chest exercise that you may execute at any point during your workout, including at the end.

Perform sets of eight to twelve reps, pyramiding down to six reps only on rare occasions.

Use an internet calculator with your best 10-rep set to calculate your one-rep max if you're interested in how much you can bench for a single rep.

Start with incline presses–with barbells one workout and dumbbells the next–if you normally do barbell benches first. Alternate between eight-week intervals of no free-weight benches and eight-week intervals of benches with barbells one workout and dumbbells the next.

#2 Under training upper chest

An under-reliance on workouts that target the upper-pec region frequently occurs in tandem with an overreliance on bench presses. This refers to the area between your clavicles and around halfway down your chest. It elongates your torso and visibly connects your pecs with your delts and traps (think Franco Columbu). Because pecs are naturally thinner at the top than at the bottom, anyone can use incline work to target their upper pecs without the worry of overworking their lower pecs.


Start your exercise with incline presses with a barbell or dumbbells.

Include at least as many sets of upper-chest work (incline presses and flyes) as lower-chest work in each chest workout (flat and decline presses and flyes, and dips).

Perform cable crossovers with the cables situated near the floor, bringing the grips up and together on each rep, to target your upper chest.

Practice posing your upper pecs with your hands on your hips or simply tensing them. This can help you develop a stronger mind-muscle connection, allowing you to feel this area contract during specific chest activities.

#3 Overreliance on machines

While many bodybuilders do too many sets of benches, another group goes the other way: on chest day, they rarely use barbells or dumbbells. Although most modern gyms include a profusion of press and flye machines, resist the temptation to base your entire workout on them. Despite modern advantages, Arnold's best chests still hold their own against the pecs in recent Olympia pose-downs. Why? Pecs were nearly primarily worked with free weights back then.


Practice largely free-weight and body-weight fundamentals.

Use equipment for no more than half of your chest exercises.

If you're going to do mechanical presses, attempt to get a unilateral Hammer Strength, FreeMotion, or similar equipment that mimics the freedom of free weights.

Use a dip assist machine to lighten your burden if you're not strong enough to do eight bodyweight reps while dipping. (This isn't a machine-based exercise.)

#4 Failure to contract

The disadvantage of free weights is that they make achieving a maximum contraction in the pecs difficult. There is less resistance on the chest at the top of the movement (when the dumbbells come together) than near the bottom when doing dumbbell flyes. Similarly, the triceps do a lot of the work near lockout during presses or dips.


Use a machine or training bands to do one flye exercise every workout. At contractions, cross one hand over the other (thus the name) if you're doing cable crossovers. Perform repetitions unilaterally if you're using an upright flye or pec deck machine, or if you're using flies with bands, to bring your hand past the center plane of your body and longer contractions.

Presses are locked out. Although your triceps will do most of the work in the end, you can still stretch your chest to its maximum potential during contractions.

#5 Working the weight, not the muscles

One of Jay Cutler's favorite aphorisms is "work the muscles, not the weight." Focusing too much on the number of pounds utilized and so going too heavy is not the same as working the weight.

Working the weight is a precise distillation of how many bodybuilders press, fly, and dip, and it involves employing speed and momentum to pound out reps with little or no concern for the targeted area.


Before you begin each set, decide where you want to focus your attention. To focus your attention on that area, tension your upper chest before a set of incline pushes.

Use the strict form at all times. Because the sloppier your execution on a chest exercise is, the more secondary muscles take over, this is not only safer but also better for targeting your pecs.

Control the negative halves of reps with care. Take around two seconds to reduce the weight and one to two seconds to raise it during presses.

Lessons Learned

Treat bench presses as just another chest exercise with reps in the eight to 12 range.

Prioritize your upper chest.

Do primarily free-weight presses and flyes.

Concentrate on the contraction of each rep.

Keep the focus on your pecs, not on the weight.

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