Does Disappointing Muscle Gain In The Chest Require Weight Training Pre-Exhaustion?

By: Francesco A. Castano


One of the most common muscle groups to target is the chest, with many bodybuilders seeking significant muscle growth in the pecs through performing numerous sets of heavy bench pressing. Despite most weight lifting routines centering upon the bench press as the primary upper body muscle building movement, there are numerous bodybuilders who produce disappointing results in the chest region, and are searching for an alternative to the bench press for significant muscle growth.

Many bodybuilders are likely still unaware as to the true reasons why the chest in many cases does not grow as quickly as other smaller muscle groups, and replacing the bench press is not a viable resolution, since this particular exercise is very effective in packing on additional chest muscle, that is, when the triceps and shoulders do not fail prior to the pecs, which occurs far too often. This is the factor that many neglect when analyzing how to produce a powerful chest building regimen, as there are many smaller muscle groups that participate in compound exercises such as the bench press, and if they offer less stamina than the target muscle that a bodybuilder wishes to train (such as the triceps or shoulders experiencing fatigue prior to the chest during bench press), the supporting muscles (triceps or shoulders in this example) will fail first, and this will cause disappointing results in the primary muscle group (chest).

How this applies to building larger chest muscles specifically is that the shoulders and triceps are frequently insufficiently powerful to allow the pecs to fail first during bench pressing, which leads to poor muscle gain in the chest. Therefore, to transform this scenario, a weight lifter must institute pre-exhaustion, a technique that targets the chest in a more direct way, which tires the pectorals sufficiently to allow them a significantly greater chance for failure prior to the triceps and shoulders during the bench press, and this will lead to far quicker and more elaborate chest muscle growth.

The most effective pre-exhaustion exercise for the chest is pec deck, where both hands or elbows are brought together from an outstretched position either holding handles or placing the forearm behind padding, and this greatly overloads the pecs, causing them increased fatigue. When implementing this specific exercise prior to bench press, the triceps and shoulders will in most cases outlast the pecs due to performance of this pre-exhaustion exercise (pec deck), and this allows the chest to receive far greater fatigue during all bench press movements.

Some decide to use dumbbells instead of the pec deck, performing a weight training movement known as dumbbell flies, but doing so is not as effective as using pec deck since the dumbbell fly exercise allows less weight to be used, in addition to requiring the bodybuilder to balance the two dumbbells above his or her chest as if executing the bench press, which introduces unwanted shoulder fatigue (and the goal is to target the pecs and avoid as much triceps or shoulder overload as possible). The pec deck targets the chest in an isolated fashion, which is the true reason behind any pre-exhaustion technique, and thus pec deck should be implemented immediately prior to the bench press for any weight lifter who experiences disappointing chest muscle growth.

For weight lifters who cannot access a pec deck machine, the cable crossover is a somewhat less effective, but acceptable alternative, yet those who are unable to use a pec deck likely also do not own a cable crossover unit, therefore, in such cases, dumbbell flies are suitable for chest muscle pre-exhaustion prior to bench pressing. You will find that the weight used during bench press will decline as compared with what you were able to utilize prior to introducing the pec deck as a pre-exhaustion technique, as your pecs will have experienced fatigue from pec deck prior to executing the bench press exercise, but this should not be concerning, as the total amount of overload will still increase due to a combination of the extra pec deck exercise and the greater focus upon chest fatigue during bench press that occurs as a result of pre-exhausting the pecs. The goal is to use the greatest amount of weight while targeting the intended muscle group, and for many, when performing bench press as the first exercise of a workout, without pre-exhaustion, the pecs never receive sufficient overload to begin achieving their impressive muscle growth potential.

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Francesco Castano authors MuscleNOW.com, a bodybuilding routine for muscle building without supplements or drugs.

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