One of the biggest mistakes bodybuilders make when bench-pressing is moving the bar along an incorrect path. Many people bring the bar down to their chest, then press it straight toward the ceiling. First, make sure you bring the bar to your lower chest, not your middle or upper chest. You’ll find you’re much more powerful if you take the bar a little lower on your pecs. Second, as you explode upward, allow the bar to travel in an arc over your face. This arcing motion allows for more pectoral involvement, as opposed to the straight-up-and-down motion, which involves the triceps unnecessarily and reduces the stress on the chest.
Incline Bench Press
Several critical mistakes are common on the incline bench press. One involves grip, which should not be the same as your standard bench grip (at least not all the time). On the incline bench press, use a wider grip than usual, allowing for a greater range of motion at the bottom of each rep. A narrower grip makes it harder to bring the bar to the very upper portion of your chest at the base of your neck.
Incline Dumbbell Flye
This exercise is probably one of the best for chest when performed correctly; it works especially well as a pre-exhaust move. To make the most of the incline flye, you must keep constant tension on the pecs at the bottom of each rep. To achieve this, stop when you feel a good stretch, pause, then explode upward. If you allow your arms to drop too low while opening the bend in your elbows, however, you lose tension in the pecs, not to mention risk injury to your shoulders. One more thing: At the top of each rep, squeeze your pecs to drive as much blood into them as possible. Relaxing at the top is probably the second most common mistake when it comes to the flye.
A fundamental requirement of this exercise is to keep your head in a neutral position throughout the motion. Personal trainers may tell you to “keep your head up,” probably because that’s what they’ve always said. In reality, keeping your head up puts a lot of unnecessary stress on the cervical spine and causes back sway. Keep your eyes fixed on the floor in front of you. Also, vary the spacing of your hands; a narrower grip involves your triceps more.
This is an excellent isolation exercise for the pecs, whether you use it to pre-exhaust your chest before heavier compound moves or as a finishing exercise to pump the muscle full of blood at the end of a session. Many bodybuilders, however, fall into a rut when it comes to the crossover angle they use week to week. For optimal pec development, you need to hit the crossover motion from various angles (bent over, 45 degrees and upright). It’s the upright version we focus on here, which will help you develop serious lower-chest thickness and definition. As with any version of the exercise, make sure to maintain the slight bend in your elbows for constant pec tension.
Decline Dumbbell Press
Probably the most underutilized angle in chest training is the decline; even rarer is this angle combined with dumbbells. Perhaps it’s due to the potentially awkward setup or dismount, or maybe it’s because the decline press has a bad rap as a “not-so-crucial” chest exercise. In fact, this is a vital move you should include in your routine.
You’ll find you’re very strong in the decline press due to two main factors: decreased range of motion and lat involvement. Make sure you allow the dumbbells to descend only to your lower chest or level with the top of your abs. Don’t lower them all the way to shoulder level or the top of your chest, both of which put you at risk of injury. Also, in spite of what you may see at the gym, don’t pull your head off the bench; keeping it on the bench protects your cervical spine and upper back.