maintain chest tension

The chest is the number one trained muscle group, it even has its own day! That being said, you’d think you’d see a lot more men with developed pecs around. The truth is, chest training can easily be done the wrong way – and many athletes don’t even realize it.

In part two of Coach Tyrone’s Critical Training Tips, he’ll offer his advice on optimizing International Chest Day.

Critical Chest Pointers:

  1. Lock down the scapula.
  2. Contract first. Follow through second.
  3. Stay in the tension zone.

Barbell Bench Press Exercises:
Before you lift the bar of the rack, you need to retract the shoulder blades. Bring the scapula together and keep them together, against the bench. This will greatly eliminate your front deltoids from the movement, forcing more chest engagement. This will ensure the load starts in the pecs and stays in the pecs. So before pushing the bar from its position, first contract, then simply follow through.

Staying in the tension zone through every rep and every set will result in the most effective workout by creating the most stimulus in the shortest amount of time. The tension zone for the barbell bench press exercise is just short of locking out at the top of the press and 1 to ½ inches short of making contact with your chest.

Incline Dumbbell Press Exercises:
Again, retracting and locking in the scapula is the first thing you need to do in order to perform the incline dumbbell press. According to Coach Tyrone, in every chest exercise you do, you should aim to eliminate the front delts from getting involved. There will always be a bit of tension no matter how on point your form is, but they’ll be much less involved when you’re retracting the scapula. Remember to contract the pecs to initiate the movement. Before you even get started, make sure that you are holding the dumbbells just outside of the elbows to shorten the triceps and lessen their involvement. Then you’re ready to contract your pecs.

When it comes to staying in the zone when performing an incline dumbbell press, it’s not about dropping down as deep as you can. Instead, stop the dumbbells short of the shoulders 1 or 1 ½ inches ensures the load stays on the chest. Even though this is a compound exercise you still want to isolate the load as much as possible.

Standing Cable Fly Exercises:
For this exercise, you’ll be off the bench, but you still need to retract the scapula to keep your shoulder blades in place. To perform the standing cable flys properly, simply squeeze your back muscles together to keep the load on the targeted pecs. Make sure to contract your pecs so hard that you initiate the movement and ensure that they’re the only muscle group responsible for handling that load.

The optimal tension zone is shorter than you probably think. Your arms should come up to level in line with your body, not stretched back behind you where the stress moves from tension to a stretch instead. Your arms should also be in line with your pecs, not crossing over the body’s midpoint where the tension lifts off the targeted pecs.

Tyrone Bell is a member of Team BPI Sports.