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It’s not about how much you can bench as you get older. Yes, the bench press is good for building pec, delt, and triceps mass in the early stages of one’s development, but its usefulness doesn’t last. And it’s actually a good idea not to get your pecs too big, especially the lower pecs. Why?
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With aging, muscles invariably shrink, and bigger muscle masses can shrink more, leaving behind tissues that do not shrink as much as the skin. Any part of the body that gets too big and then shrinks will leave loose skin in its wake. Not only that, but the skin itself changes with age. It literally becomes thinner, revealing all sorts of minor imperfections that you might have gotten away with as a younger man. The problem is obviously compounded by shrinking muscles.
So what to do? Don’t strive for massive pecs in the first place. What if you already did? Then you have to work your pecs with the right exercises on a regular basis. This is the situation I’m in, and pec work has become a major part of my upper-body workout—all in defiance of developing man boobs. I’ve seen some of my my contemporaries with this this condition, and it isn’t prepretty. That’s not for me.
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Here’s what I do. I’ve found a bunch of exercises I can do on machines that don’t hurt my shoulders: the pec deck, dip machine, and incline press on a machine, or more recently, barbell incline press. I’m training my pecs once a week, and it’s working because I’m keeping my body weight light. It would be even more productive to work them twice a week, but with the archery I do, it’s enough for my shoulders and it’s effective.
My first exercise is the incline press. A better way to isolate upper pecs is using dumbbells for the incline press holding a neutral grip. This permits lower stretching and really targets the pecs. Pec deck is next for me, and I have a good one that gets both my inner and outer pecs since I have it loaded with rubber bands, increasing tension at the end of the movement. It’s a V-1 machine, and it’s banded on its weight stack, making the use of really heavy weights unnecessary. It’s also easier on the joints and gives a better pump. On all these exercises I keep the reps in the six to 12 range, working up in weight and down in reps for three sets.
If you don’t have access to a good pec deck, then dumbbell flyes on a slight decline are best. It may be better than the pec deck if you do it right, stretching deep down each rep.
Parallel dips on a dip machine are also great. This machine is pin-loaded, giving great resistance as the cable stretches. I do higher reps here and might do 15, 12, 10 reps as I increase weight.
Try supersetting these or working them as a circuit. You’ll keep great shape in your chest and never have to worry about man boobs.
QUICK TIP: Once you’ve built a good foundation with compound exercises like the bench, you can get a lot more mileage out of isolation moves like crossovers.