Chest Training Part 2: Common Mistakes

Part 2 in our series of articles about chest training, focuses on common mistakes made when training!

Common Mistake #1: Less is more!

barbell, bench chest press weight training

One of the biggest mistakes that I see when it comes to chest training, is people doing too much! You really don’t need to do a chest exercise hitting every angle in one workout! I often see people doing a flat bench press, then an incline bench press and then the decline bench press. It’s not necessary! I know there are some trainers out there who will say, “You have your upper pecs, your middle and your lower pecs to work,” and this may be true to some degree, but in actuality you are using all of these muscles in each movement!

Various exercise angles effect the shoulders more than the chest. Your incline chest movements are going to involve more of your shoulders. Your decline will involve less of the shoulders. Your flat exercises are going to stress a little less of shoulders. That’s really going to be the main difference between the three angle positions.

People who do a large volume of chest movements (and an unbalanced, unplanned workout routine), will end up with shoulder problems. The shoulders can’t handle the same load as the chest. By doing too many heavy chest exercises, you are actually going to make the shoulders weaker and increase the chance of injury. Eventually, your rotator cuff muscles will become either weak, overstressed or unbalanced or all three and you could end up with a shoulder injury that affects more than just your workouts.

Common Mistake #2: To do or not to do!
Another thing I see people doing, that I, personally, don’t feel is beneficial (for the average exerciser) is the cable crossovers. Cables are good for a variety as a flye movement, but it should not be the mainstay of your workout! Cable crossovers are more of an isolation exercise. Another reason that cable crossovers are overrated for the chest is that most people do not even come close to using the proper form to work the chest! Every attempt should be made to keep the shoulders out of the movement, in order to work the chest. Most often, crossovers are done with rounded shoulders and convulsions! You must focus on getting the chest to initiate the movement of the arms across the chest in cable crossovers. Keeping the shoulders back, down and out of the movement.

Of course, you can use crossovers in your workout routine rotation. Schedule the exercise so that you might do it once every four or five weeks. Do not make it a mainstay of your workout! Your dumbbell exercises should be the majority, since they allow your muscles to go through a full range of motion. Ultimately, this combination of strength and flexibility will keep the muscles healthy with less risk of injury. Dumbbells also enable you to isolate the chest and minimize the use of the shoulders. Additionally, you will use more of your stabilizer muscles such as the rotator cuff system and abdominals, making for a more efficient workout.

Common Mistake #3: Where’s the feet?
Chest exercises with your feet in the air can do more harm than good! [ismember]
Many people like to put their feet up during chest exercises to press their back into the bench. This position also creates additional instability which can be both good and bad. Realistically, if you are pressing your abdominals into the bench, then you don’t need to lift your feet to keep your back down. So focus more on pushing the abdominals into the bench. You’ll have greater stability and force with which to push the weight, making you stronger while working your abdominals and reducing the risk of injury.

Common Mistake #4: What’s working?
Another mistake I see at the gym, are people who arch their backs so much that their shoulders almost come off the bench. When your shoulders come off the bench, then you are cheating your chest! You are pushing with the shoulders and not the chest, while simultaneously risking a neck and shoulder injury! When you are doing a chest movement, your shoulders are supposed to be back and down and on the bench. Before you even start or as soon as you lift off the weight, you should pull your shoulders back toward the bench and down toward your hips (or away from your ears). This will ensure that you are isolating the chest. Remember, you must leave your shoulders back and down through the whole movement!

barbell, bench chest press weight training
barbell chest press

(Click on image to view this exercise…)
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