#3. You Rely Too Much on Machines!
This is the complete opposite of the previous point. I’m sure you’ve seen these guys – they work out and work out constantly on a number of flye and press machines. However, this is counterproductive – make sure to have an equal number of free weight exercises in your routine as well. Barbells and dumbbells are your friends on chest day and if you want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his best days, make sure to use them. Remember, back when Arnie was training, he almost didn’t use machines and his pecs are one of the most impressive ever. In order to fix this, you need to:
- Integrate free weight exercises as well as bodyweight basic exercises into your routine.
- Don’t do over half of your exercises with machines.
- Free weights are important – if you can’t get them, try to work out on FreeMotion or HammerStrength unilateral mechanical press machine.
- If you can’t do eight reps of dips with your own bodyweight, using a dip machine is okay to make it easier. This doesn’t count as a machine exercise nor a free weight exercise.
#4. You Are Not Contracting Your Muscles!
Free weights have that flaw of not making it easy to contract your muscles as much as possible. When you perform dumbbell flyes, your chest is under less intensity when the dumbbells touch than it is when they are the most apart. Also, when you do dips or presses, your triceps takes over a lot of the intensity when you’re near lockout. To fix this:
- Insert a flye exercise in every workout with either training bands or a machine. If you’re doing cable crossovers, for best contractions cross your hands with one going over the other. Also, if you’re using a pecdeck machine or an upright flye, or you’re performing flyes with bands, do them one hand at a time in order to have that extra movement that will put extra intensity on your chest. When you do it with both hands, they both stop when they reach your central plane, but with one hand you could extend that by a lot.
- When you do presses, try to lock out! Your chest will be as flexed as it can be at the end, and your triceps will take on a lot of the load, but locking out is still the best way to do these.
#5. Working the Weight, Not the Muscles
When you don’t do this, you are utilizing your momentum and speed to do your reps without any attention on the area being exercised. This goes against common bodybuilding principles which are the bases for the presses, flyes and dips. To remedy this:
- Flex the part of your body that you are about to exercise. If you’re going to do incline presses, try to toughen up your upper pectoral muscles and boost your body-mind connection to that specific area.
- Make sure your form is correct! Using correct form is more efficient for building muscle but it’s also much safer. If you don’t watch out, your secondary muscle groups will take over and you will have no effect even if you exercise a lot.
- The negative halves of reps should be strictly controlled. When you do bench presses, you should lift the weight in one to two seconds, but it should take you a full two seconds to lower it back down.
So, to sum up, make sure you exercise your upper chest with free weight presses and flyes, make sure that you focus on your muscles and not the weight, concentrate on the mind-body connection for every single muscle group that you exercise and don’t waste energy, time and muscles.
Finally, you should realize that bench presses are just another exercise and there is nothing distinctly special about them. Do them for eight to twelve reps per set and you will be getting the absolute best results possible. The most important thing to take home is the realization that all exercises can be done with free weights or with some kind of machine, but free weights will always have a better effect because of the fact that machines don’t let you make mistakes. Free-weights do.