The ‘Chest’ is one of the most popular body parts among novice and veteran bodybuilders alike, and for good reason, it’s aesthetic as fuck. Besides being one of the most visually appealing parts of the body, it also seems one of the most basic to train, and so it is very appealing to new lifters. The problem is novice lifters often lack the necessary training and coaching needed for long term success, so in many cases the best advice available to them is from other self-educated ‘gym bros’ who also lack proper fundaments. In turn, the execution of movements suffer from day one for many new physique athletes. Over the course of time, many of these early mechanical errors in muscle activation are not adjusted, and simple mistakes that could have been permanently corrected with just a few small tweaks are instead allowed to develop into vast issues that plague an athlete throughout their career.
So what are the secrets to getting a bulbous and fully developed pair of pecs? Proper stimulation / training without obtaining any major injuries in the process.
The pectorals are the muscles that make up what most people consider the ‘chest’ area of the body, but a popular misconception is where and what purpose these muscles serve in chest development for bodybuilders. One such misconception is the actual location of these muscles, as often times people will consider ‘Pecs’ or ‘Chest’ to be just one body part. While it is true one muscle (Sternal Pec-Major) visually makes up a majority of what people are thinking of when they think ‘chest,’ it is actually two separate muscles, some of which are so big that they (Pec-Major) can be divided into what we think of as ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ chest, while others (Pec-Minor) are so small we rarely think of them except in passing.
Though small in size, the pec minor plays a major role in chest development. The smaller muscle is beneath the large pec-major, but here is a warning: DO NOT mistake this with what we declare ‘upper chest,’ this is a common mistake but one that often causes a lot of confusion for people. The pec-minor serves a fundamental role in chest strength via it’s activation of the scapula and deep tissues of the chest, but often times it is the structure of these muscles and improper training that leads to an overdevelopment of the lower chest, and underdevelopment of the upper chest on many athletes.
These developmental issues stem from the ease with which one often can activate the lower chest in comparison to the upper, thanks in large part to the pectoral minor. This is because as seen in the graphic, the pec-minor attaches at the scapula and upper parts of the ribcage, virtually avoiding what we consider the upper chest, and instead inserts near the sternal attachments of the pec major (rather than the clavicular attachments.) Factor this structural disposition in with the angle of the muscles, and the chest is optimized for pressing downwards at an angle; hence, your decline bench is greater than your flat bench, and flat greater than your incline, but also one of the many reasons upper chest tends to be underdeveloped on most athletes.
Another common mistake leading to an underdevelopment of the upper chest and many potential injuries, is the over utilization of anterior deltoids (front shoulders.) Often times instead of isolating to the very small and hard to activate upper chest, an athlete will compensate by transferring pressure into the deltoids. This unknowing and unchecked change of force often leads to the upper chest being underutilized if not skipped it entirely, and overuse of the front shoulders which are small and prone to injury. This can be avoided with one simple thing, awareness. Though easier said than done, having a mind muscle connection of what muscle you’re activating, especially smaller areas such as the deltoids and upper chest, has a huge impact on how that muscle is developed, and only through regular and repeated proper activation will these connections be built.
It is on this note we conclude Part One of our ‘Perfect Pecs’ series, but be sure to stay on the lookout for Part Two where we will take you through structuring a proper chest workout!