“How Much Ya Bench?!”
I think I get this question almost 5 times a day at local facilities, and it never seems to get old. When it comes to the fitness industry there are very few muscle groups that really develop some clout… Legs are becoming a bit more popular, thankfully… but the days of pecs, bi’s and tri’s have yet to fade. We are conditioned from the get-go, to get the most epic bench press and heaviest bicep curl in existence from high school gym class onward; and even when we’ve matured in our fitness ways, those little nuances never seem to disappear. The beauty of aesthetics is the driving force of strength output, and to really get that bro-cleavage you can hold a pencil between… you’ve gotta lift heavy and work appropriately!
In many cases, not just for pectoral development but overall, the best stimulus for hypertrophy (aka muscle enlargement) is the use of force output. The demand for this output results in a need to enlarge these muscle tissues to be better recruited both as main movers and to assist in stabilization (antagonistic pairs and synergistic muscles).
The key issue, however, is the excessive focus on the immediately obvious pectorals. Given the joint motion of the pec includes anterior and depressive movement of the shoulder, we tend to hammer and hammer this tissue into oblivion without seeing much growth or change besides being capable of more reps until we cause excessive anterior shoulder tension or injury. While we work the pec, the synergistic tissues tend to suffer, causing a lack of balance both anterior and posterior and thus a lack of force output and safety.
To create the necessary balance, we need to consider the joint actions being conducted… to put it into simple terms, we are pressing forward through the shoulder utilizing:
- - Anterior delt
- - Pec major
- - Coracobrachialis
- - Biceps brachii
- - Tricep
While eccentrically applying action to
- - Subscap
- - Lat
- - Biceps brachii
- - Serratus
- - Posterior delt
- - Traps
to stabilize the movement to the chest. That’s a good deal of tissues to utilize, and a good chunk of muscles to develop in order to grow the overall movement that we can accidently neglect. At the end of the day, the better balance to develop the press itself, the better the aesthetic of the shoulder girdle as well.
How do we find this balance you might ask? Simple… Train everything as a main mover! One common mistake that the aesthetic world makes that the strength world has locked down is the need to make everything strong. You’ll find lots of individuals hitting high reps and low weight of almost everything “small” when those movements really should be trained at a kinetically appropriate heavy weight. Kinetically appropriate basically refers to weight heavy enough but logical enough to maintain the correct full range of joint motion but still require high force output and control. That means no swinging like you’re at a Billy Joel show! (Did I just date myself?!).
Here is an example of a balanced shoulder girdle day:
Daily Max Paused Conventional Bench press
Full Pause Bench Press
50% 1xME* Slow Tempo Conventional Grip
45% 1xME Slow Tempo Wide Grip
35% 1xME Slow Tempo Close Grip
Incline Chest Fly 3x ME for slow tempo
Dumbbell Standing Military Press to an 8 rep max
T-Bar Row 5x8 heavy
Seated Shrugs 3x20 heavy
Cable/PecDeck/Band Reverse Fly 100 Reps LIGHT and SLOW
Tricep Push Down 100 Reps LIGHT and Full ROM
Once the appropriate balance is reached, not only will output improve but stimuli for mass growth will improve as well resulting in better quality shoulder growth and chest growth! Now you don’t have to make excuses to say “well I can bench 225 for 10…” next time someone asks you.. “How much yah bench?!”
Written by Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning
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