Everybody who lifts weights will come to realize that they have at least one stubborn body part that seems to refuse to grow no matter what they do. That body part for me has always been my chest. I was always seemingly “cursed” with a small chest size even though I was bench pressing some pretty heavy weight. I tried a variety of different chest exercises, hoping that the variation would stimulate some new muscle growth. Incline bench presses, decline bench presses, and different forms of dumbbell presses were all added to my routine. However, none of these really helped to promote any dramatic gain in muscle size.
It was not until my strongman/competition coach gave me a little form advice that I began to see a big boost in chest size and strength from the bench press. I wish to share this with everyone, because although it seems so simple, it works so well. As you lay on the bench, squeeze your shoulder blades together as closely and tightly as you can. You will notice that squeezing your shoulder blades together will cause your arms to be further apart than normal. They will also seem to push outward more when you perform the pressing movement. This is exactly what you want. By squeezing your shoulder blades together, you are placing much less emphasis on your shoulders and much more emphasis on your chest and lats. Aside from giving you a much deeper muscle pump, using this technique will immediately allow you to bench press a heavier weight. With your chest and lats being recruited more effectively, do not be surprised to see that you can immediately bench ten to twenty pounds more than your previous max. Now you will be hitting your chest muscles better and will be lifting a heavier load, which in turn will yield muscle growth.
A second tip that I have found to be greatly effective in stimulating your chest muscle is even simpler than the one previously described. This involves widening your grip on the bench press. The wider your grip is on the bar, the more strain will be placed on your chest while at the same time decreasing the recruitment of your deltoids and triceps. Do not go too wide, however, as this may cause injury. As you widen your grip by an inch or two you will notice a much deeper pump in your chest. Be careful, though, because bench pressing gets a little harder as you get wider on the bar. So if your max is three hundred pounds with your current grip, you might not be able to press that same weight with a wider grip. Therefore, you may need to drop a little weight off of the bar. Do not be afraid that you are pressing less weight, because in the end you will be working your chest much better. You will understand this once you try it.
Incorporating these two tips into my chest routine has worked wonders for me. Over the past six months I have packed on 2.5 inches to my chest size, even during a cutting phase. My one-rep max has increased as well. They work, so give them a try and watch as you bust through your plateau.