By Tim Rigby, NSCA-CPT
Photos Of Jase Stevens By Jason Breeze
They say Monday is Chest Day at most gyms, and there’s a lot of truth to that. In the evenings, you’ll often have to wait to get on the bench; this is due to the fact your chest is the king of all upper-body parts and it evokes obsessive training from lifters seeking to look top-heavy. While the bench press is one of the three big moves in weight training (the others being the squat and deadlift), the reality is that so many more muscle groups are also worked with each rep. Your shoulders, triceps, and even your back are a huge part of raising that barbell. But what if you’re looking to specifically target your pecs alone? Many lifters head for the dumbbell rack (often with enormous grimaces on their faces) and try to fry their pecs using flyes. The good news: there is another way!
Keeping in mind there is more than one pectoral muscle, if you really want overall size you need to hit both your upper and lower pecs from a multitude of angles. The cable apparatus is a highly appropriate choice for pec training, as it offers a full spectrum of angles to hit the top of your chest to the bottom. Since you don’t have to stabilize the weight like you do with dumbbells, cables afford you the opportunity to load up with heavier resistance. The other beauty of cables is they are suitable for applying time under tension, where you keep your target muscles stressed for longer periods of time, ultimately stimulating peak growth. This workout will cover every angle you need to keep your pecs stacked huge in your favour!
Barbell Bench Press
Start: Lie face up on a bench with your calves tucked 90 degrees under your thighs and feet in a comfortable position for stability. Grasp a loaded bar using an overhand grip at a width moderately wider than that of your shoulders. Position yourself so that when you unrack the bar you’ll be able to bring it down to your lower pecs.
Execution: Taking a deep breath, unrack the bar. Lower it in a controlled manner toward your lower pecs and hold at the bottom for a half-second. Press forcefully throughout your whole body, beginning with your feet into the ground. Your body will become an efficient kinetic chain, ending with your hands, to provide great force to raise the bar back to the top position. Be sure to exhale steadily on the ascent.
Tip: Many lifters make the mistake of flaring their elbows out as they lower the bar, which places excessive strain on your delts. Keep your elbows tucked in toward your torso at about 45 degrees.
Plate-Loaded Machine Press
Start: Load the apparatus to your desired resistance. Adjust the height of the chair to a level where the handles are at the level of your lower sternum. Sit comfortably in the chair with your back straight and secure against the pad. Position your feet comfortably on the floor and keep them motionless. Grasp the handles using an overhand grip.
Execution: Inhale sharply to produce intra-thoracic pressure. Forcefully press the handles in a more or less horizontal range of motion, steadily exhaling on the press and keeping all other body parts motionless. At the top position, hold for a full second (taking advantage of time under tension) and then return the handles back to the start position.
Tip: Keep your head level and resist the urge to watch the handles move. This causes you to drop your head and your back will raise off the pad — a definite no-no.
Incline-Bench Cable Flye
Start: This exercise is best done with a spotter. Set the D-handles to the low position on the apparatus. Position an incline bench set to 30 to 45 degrees at precisely halfway between two cable pulleys. Sit on the bench with your back securely against the pad and head facing slightly upward. Have your spotter hand you each D-handle individually, keep a slight bend in your elbows, and take a deep breath.
Execution: Raise the handles above your upper chest and steadily exhale. Keep all your body parts still — including your arms, as the only moving part should be your shoulder joint. In the top position, the handles will come together above you. Hold for one second and then slowly lower the handles back down to the start. After the last rep, have your spotter assume control of each handle to return them safely to the apparatus.
Tip: It’s an oldie but really a goodie: keep your vision fixed on a spot on the ceiling to help you raise the handles overhead while keeping the rest of your body motionless. You might even focus on a spot in line with the point where the handles come together.
High Cable Flye
Start: Position yourself in the middle of the apparatus and assume a split stance, with one foot slightly farther ahead. Set the Dhandles to a high position and grasp them with an overhand grip. Your extended arms will be just forward of perpendicular to your torso. Inhale deeply and lean forward slightly from the waist, about 20 degrees.
Execution: Using the force from your pecs, press the cable handles down and in front of you so they meet at the bottom, inhaling steadily as you perform the movement. Hold the handles together for a single count to eradicate any momentum, then release them steadily back to the top position.
Tip: Maintain a slight bend in your elbows during this move to take any undue strain off your biceps tendon. By doing so, you’ll also set your pecs into a better power position.
Low Cable Flye
Start: Position yourself in the middle of the apparatus and assume a split stance, where one leg is a moderate distance in front of the other. With the D-handles set in the low position, grasp them with an underhand grip. Stand upright with your extended arms just behind your torso. As you prepare to begin, inhale deeply.
Execution: Using force from your upper pecs in particular, raise the handles with a pulling motion. At the top position, try to bring the handles together in front of you at about eye level. Keep a slight bend in your elbows and imagine you’re hugging someone exceptionally tall. Hold the handles for one second to maintain time under tension, then lower them in a controlled manner back to the bottom position.
Tip: Keep in mind that the low cable flye works your upper pecs, while the high cable flye targets your lower pecs to a greater degree. Make sure you feel a good squeeze in the targeted muscle areas when you hold the handles briefly at the top position.