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Not Feeling It In Your Chest When Bench Pressing? Here’s the Fix…

  Apr 13th, 2013

Feel It In Your Chest When Bench PressingI remember when I was new to weight training and no matter how many sets (or how many reps) I performed, after a round of bench pressing my chest never felt like it was bearing the brunt of the stimulation.


Most of the time my triceps would feel tighter and have a better pump than my pecs. Since I didn’t know any better, I just assumed this was normal.


Over the years, as I’ve continued to work on perfecting my bench pressing form, this problem has been corrected. Make no mistake, if you aren’t feeling your chest muscles engaged to a high degree while bench pressing it isn’t serving its purpose and your chest development will inevitably fall behind.


I was hitting my chest with plenty of sets and reps, but a few flaws in my bench pressing form were taking the emphasis off of my chest and transferring it to my triceps and shoulders instead.


So, instead of blasting my chest, I was training several muscle groups with a similar magnitude of stimulation, doing little to build any of them up and training my chest in a fashion that was far less than optimal.


If you want your chest to be maximally engaged when bench pressing, I’m about to hit you with the knowledge bombs you need to make it happen.


Squeeze Your Lats Together

When you’re laying on the bench, before you begin to un-rack the bar from the rack, you need to bring your lats as close together as possible.


This will raise your chest off the bench and provide a solid platform for you to press from. When you squeeze your lats together, your shoulders will pull back toward the bench and your chest will also naturally protrude upward, which is important for reasons I’ll get into in a moment.


Positioning your body this way will instantly de-emphasize your shoulders and triceps.


Puff Out Your Chest

Squeezing your lats together will naturally cause an upward expansion of your chest, but you’ll want to take this a step further.


Just before un-racking the bar you will want to inhale with a huge breath and hold it in until you’re around halfway through with the concentric portion of the movement. At that point you will then blow out the air in a slow and forceful manner by pursing your lips as you blow the air out of your chest cavity.


Taking in a huge gulp of air (and holding it) will expand your chest cavity as far as possible, while stabilizing your core.


Another extremely important point that needs to be made is the fact that squeezing your lats and expanding your chest will lessen the distance the bar will have to travel.


This allows for a greater percentage of the range of motion to predominantly rely on the muscles in your chest.


When pressing with a flat back, and a chest that’s not expanded out, the bar has to travel considerably further. And much of that additional distance is more triceps driven than anything else.


Shortening the distance of the movement will better target the chest and allow you to lift more weight and perform more reps.


Why will shortening your bench pressing range of motion allow you to lift heavier? Physics tells us that work is the product of force and distance (warning: my nerdy, engineer side is about to come out).


By shortening the range of motion, thus decreasing the distance, you’ll then be able to exert greater force (i.e. lift additional weight) per rep without increasing the amount of total work required to complete a set consisting of the same number of reps.


The best part: You’ll also effectively increase the stimulation your chest muscles receive in the process.


By the way, in order to make sure that the bar is traveling the minimal distance, the bar should touch your chest at its highest point before pressing the bar upward. Most guys get this wrong.


The highest point should be just below your nipples and this is where the bar should touch before exploding the bar away from your chest.


Keep Your Elbows In

Feel It In Your Chest When Bench Pressing- No Flared ElbowsIt’s arguable whether or not keeping your elbows near your torso will increase the engagement of your chest while bench pressing. But it’s not arguable, however, that not flaring your elbows will help keep you pain free and eliminate most of the injury-risk associated with bench pressing.


Most bench pressing pain emanates from the elbows and shoulders. Sometimes this stems from overuse. Bench pressing or performing similar pressing movements too often will all but guarantee the development of tendon and/or joint pain, regardless of how much weight you’re lifting.


An even more prevalent, completely avoidable set of strains placed on the tendons and joints when bench pressing are those that result from pressing with the elbows flared out away from the body.


Pressing with flared elbows places incredible strain on the elbows and the shoulders. If you’ve been bench pressing with your elbows flared out and have yet to experience any pain, consider yourself lucky.


Stop flaring your elbows right away before it develops into a more serious problem.


An easy trick that will help you keep your elbows in is to simply rotate your elbows in toward the body before lowering the bar for the first rep. Be sure to maintain this form until you’ve completed the set.


Bench pressing expert Mike Westerdal breaks down how to fix the problem of flaring your elbows in this short video:



If you’re looking to increase your bench press and use it to build your chest as fast as possible, you can click here to learn the exact strategies Mike used to increase his bench press by hundreds of pounds to reach a personal best of 630 pounds, while packing on 75 pounds of muscle.


As you lower the bar your elbows should be tucked in near your torso. If you’ve been pressing with flared elbows it’s going to take a little practice to correct this, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple of bench pressing sessions to get comfortable with this new form.


Actually, it should feel more natural and comfortable for you to keep your elbows in, making it an easy habit to quickly develop.


The bench press is one of the best lifts for developing the chest, when it’s done the right way.


If you haven’t been bench pressing as I’ve described in this article, my guess is that you’re probably less than satisfied with the development of your upper body and I can assure you that your bench pressing form is part of the problem.


For more on improving your bench press, you’ll want to read my posting on bench pressing more weight by using your feet.



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