Struggle contracting the chest when benching? Perhaps you often hit a sticking point in the bottom p

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It is common knowledge that in order to maximise the development of a particular muscle, you must place it under the right amount of mechanical and physiological stress. The problem is, most people tend to ignore this and instead focus on simply moving the load from point A to point B.

You must focus on contracting the muscle you are wanting to develop! Some call this the "mind-muscle connection", as explained here in an article by Bret Contreras.

Often, this involves decreasing the load and slowing the tempo in order to improve exercise technique. Unfortunately, doing so will reduce the rate force production, a stimulus that is required for developing the central nervous system optimally (force = mass x acceleration).

Through both personal and coaching experience, I have found that most struggle with contracting the muscles of the chest during movements such as the bench press, dips, and flies. This may come as a result of postural issues, meaning that most of the work is done by the anterior deltoids and triceps.

The solution?

Work on your shoulder health!

Not what you wanted to hear? Then try benching from pins.

I find that this exercise is excellent for helping to isolate the pectoralis major. It also serves as a great tool to help you overcome that sticking point at the bottom of the repetition.

Coaching points:

  1. Position the pins at a height that allows you to lower the bar to a height just above your sternum.

  2. Select a grip that is wide enough so that the wrists are directly above the elbows in the bottom position of the rep.

  3. Maintain a braced posture by firmly contracting your glutes and abdominal muscles.

  4. Retract your scapular.

  5. Lower the bar down the pins under control and relax at the bottom.

  6. Re-contract your chest, ensuring that your scapular is retracted.

  7. Drive the bar upward forcefully, finishing the rep so that the bar is directly over your chin.

  8. Ensure that your scapular remains retracted throughout the entire rep.

Although in the video I only demonstrate a short relaxation period, there is research suggesting that applying an inter-repetition rest period (in this case 20 seconds) allows the performance of more repetitions at greater velocities with the same load (Valverde-Esteve, et al., 2013).

More reps performed with greater force production = more muscle!

Give it a go and let me know what you think. It would be great to hear your views, so feel free to email me on or message me on either facebook or twitter.

Author: Karl Page


Valverde-Esteve, T., Juan, M., Pablos-Monzó, A., Pablos-Abella, C., Juan, M. and Rodríguez-Ruiz, D., 2013. EFFECT OF THE INTRODUCTION OF PAUSES BETWEEN REPETITIONS IN THE CAPACITY TO SUSTAIN MAXIMAL MAGNITUDES OF PEAK VELOCITY DURING BENCH PRESS. British Journal Of Sports Medicine, 47(10), p. 16.

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