Imagine if you could walk into a gym and know instantly how effective an exercise was on a rating of 1 to 10. That would allow you to hone in on the ones that rate a 9 or 10 and steer clear of those that are 4s and 5s. As a result, you’d be able to avoid the ineffective, time wasting and downright dangerous exercises and get the absolute best bang for your buck out of every rep of every set.
Well, guess what?
Thanks to the objectivity of physics and biomechanics we can do exactly that. By relying on science, we take all of the emotion, subjectivity and bro-science out of the picture, and we reveal the undeniable truth of how good an exercise is. And that is precisely what we are about to do, starting with the chest.
What you are about to read may be confronting for you. You are going to discover that exercises that you have been taught are the best thing you can do for your chest are actually not very good to build bigger pecs. Yet, every point made will be backed up by the physics of the human body – in other words, undeniable science.
Ok, let’s start rating some chest exercises to determine which are best for serious size and strength, starting with a couple of old standbys . . .
The Barbell Bench Press – Rating: 4
The barbell bench press, seen by many as one of the core exercises to build a stronger chest, is not an effective chest muscle builder. Here are four reasons why that statement is true:
- The barbell flat bench press restricts your range of motion. That’s because the bar keeps your hands locked in position about a foot wider than your shoulders. As a result you are not able to bring your hands in together in the top position of the press. That robs you of 20 percent of your range of motion.
- Reduced mind muscle connection. Most bench pressers are focused on moving the bar from a lockout position down to touching their chest. This is different than when you use a cable or dumbbells. In those cases you are able to focus on contracting and stretching the pectoral muscles.
- Incorrect direction of movement – when you bench press, you will naturally push the bar upward and outward, away from the midline of the body. When using dumbbells or cables, the direction of movement is upward and slightly downward to the midline of the body, which follows the natural direction of movement of the muscle as well as the fiber direction. The bench press upward direction activates the triceps more and the pecs less.
- Lack of unilateral movement. Most people have one side that is stronger than the other. When you use a barbell, you are not training each side unilaterally. As a result, your strength and muscle imbalance never gets addressed.
Incline Bench Press – Rating: 3
Everything that is wrong with the bench press also applies incline presses, and then some. It turns out that the incline press does not, despite what you have been told, isolate your upper chest. Your pec major is one muscle. You cannot isolate any part of the chest, be it the upper, lower of middle portion.
For any chest exercise to be effective, it must move your upper arm (humerus) to the area on your body where your pectoral fibers originate. The highest pec fibers on your chest are on your clavicles. So, pushing a weight any higher than your clavicles is a waste of time if you are trying to build muscle. That is why when you extend your arms above your head at an angle, your pecs are flaccid and not contracted – try it right now and see for yourself!
Decline Dumbbell Press – Rating:10
The best chest press movement will move your humerus towards the area of greatest pectoral origin. That movement will have you angling your arms down slightly so that they meet in a line with your middle sternum. To achieve that ideal direction of movement you should do your chest pressing on a 30 degree decline bench.
From our analysis of the bench press it should be clear that dumbbells are a far better option for chest pressing than a barbell. Using dumbbells allows you to bring your hands in to the midline of the chest as you push up. This gains back that vital 20 percent of movement that is lost with the bench press.
The decline dumbbell bench press on a 30 degree decline bench is one of the best exercises you can do for your chest. It puts you in the ideal positioning to press in accordance with the intended direction of movement of the chest, which is to move the humerus in toward the midline of the body.
How to do the standing decline dumbbell press
Decline Cable Press – Rating: 10
The decline cable press is essentially the same movement as the decline dumbbell press, except that you are using a double cable machine. You can do this exercise standing or you can be seated on a bench with the angle set slightly back at 20 degrees. Set the cables at the level of your shoulders. The angle of your arm movement will be the same as when you are performing the decline dumbbell press.
How to do the standing decline cable press
The decline cable press allows for optimal early phase loading where the hardest part of the movement is at the beginning. Early phase loading provides the ideal resistance curve for any exercise. Many people also find that doing the decline press seated upright with cables is more comfortable as you don’t have to worry about getting into position with a pair of dumbbells on a decline bench.
Note: Check out this in which Mr Universe and Biomechanics expert Doug Brignole demonstrates both of these exercises.
Despite the fact that virtually everyone in your gym will be pumping away on the fat and incline barbell bench press on chest day, you now know that those two chest exercises and workouts are far less than ideal. In this article, you’ve been shown two far superior exercises for building your chest to replace them. The question is, are you prepared to act on the objective science you’ve just read, turn away from the mainstream and do what is right rather than what is popular?
Here’s the challenge I’m leaving you with!
For the next six weeks, ditch the barbell bench and incline press for your chest training and do the Decline Cable Press and the Decline Dumbbell Press for your chest workout. Do six sets of each, with the following pyramid rep scheme:
- Set One – 30 reps
- Set Two – 15 reps
- Set Three – 10 reps
- Set Four – 8 reps
- Set Five – 8 reps
- Set Six – 6 reps
Pay attention to the feel in your pecs during and after your workouts. Focus on form, extension and contraction on every rep. Then compare the difference!
This is also an excellent home workout to building strength and getting a bigger chest if in you have the equipment as part of the home gym.
SmartFitnessResults is written by experts and to give you the best lower and upper body exercises to incorporate in your workouts. For example best arm workout, how to videos to exercises correctly like what is the correct plank position, how to do cable crossovers. Feel free to check out more to help your fitness objectives.