Training

The Best Exercises for an Awesome Chest Pump

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The Best Exercises for an Awesome Chest Pump

 QUESTION 

I don’t feel much of a muscular pump when I’m training chest. What exercises are best for attaining that? 

 ANSWER 

Few people get a pectoral pump from chest workouts, because few people actually engage their pecs fully during them. In truth, many tend to use almost every muscle in their upper body except their pecs!

Here’s what I mean. The chest muscles are normally expanded and contracted by movement of the arms and shoulders, an action that applies weight resistance to the chest indirectly. Since the primary resistance is felt in ancillary limbs and muscle groups, those are the areas in which the lifter assumes he should feel the pump.

That’s wrong. You can develop a palpable pec pump by training yourself to involve your pec muscles more directly in the movement so that your pec muscles control the chest exercise, a technique otherwise known as honing your mind-muscle connection.

Since the flat bench press is the most basic mass and strength builder for chest, and not an isolation exercise, it is usually given a pass from getting a pump. People expect merely to feel fatigue from it, not pumped pecs — that, however, means they are bench-pressing incorrectly. Most likely, they are staying flat against the bench and using their shoulders and arms to press the bar up and down.

Instead, they should think of their two pecs as antagonistic muscles that, as the bar is lowered, are pulled apart and backward by the shoulders and arms, so that at the bottom of the movement, their lats (or shoulder blades) are squeezed together behind them. As the bar is pressed upward, the process is reversed: the lats expand, and the shoulders rotate forward, squeezing the pecs together.

Those are the mechanics that should be involved in a bench press. But there’s another, more important, factor: namely, mentally taking control of your pec muscles, so that they, not the shoulders or arms, pull themselves apart as the bar is lowered. This action is easy to feel, if you concentrate on starting the pull from where your pec muscles tie into the middle of your sternum. As you lower the bar, keep a tight rein on your pecs, letting them stretch all the way, until your shoulders are behind you and your lats are squeezed together under your back.

To press the bar upward, willfully — mentally — “think” the start of the contraction into the outside (lateral insertions) of your pecs. Then, to move the bar upward, gradually pull the contraction inward toward the center- line of your pecs. With practice, you will not even know your arms, shoulders or lats are being used. All you will feel is your pecs stretching themselves apart and pulling themselves together like bungee cords.

For chest exercises, do not think in terms of “presses,” “flyes” or “crossovers.” If you do, your shoulders, lats and arms will automatically take over the movement. Instead, say to yourself, My bungee-cord-like pecs are what make my arms, shoulders and lats expand and contract, and you’ll get a drum-tight pec pump every time.

 YATES’ ULTIMATE PEC PUMP ROUTINE 

  • Incline-Bench Presses* | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-12
  • Flat Bench Presses | SETS: 4 | REPS: 6-10
  • Incline Dumbbell Flyes* | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-12
  • Cable Crossovers | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-12  

NOTE: The above is not Yates’ pec routine, just his suggestion for attaining a pump. * Bench set at 15-30 degrees. 

 FLEX 

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