Stubborn Chest

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 08, 2012 4:33 PM GMT
    Hey there - I'm sure there are over a hundred threads on this but I ask for some specific advice.

    I've been weigh training for about 15 months now. I started off back in earlier 2011 117 lbs, 5'8" - so yes. Quite the scary picture. I've made gains over the course of the year (I actually didn't weight train last June since I was studying in Italy) but regardless. I'm looking at my chest and I'm....not too impressed with it. I've been making some good gains with my arms recently so I'm not too concerned about them but my chest isn't where it should be I'm thinking.

    Maybe someone can give tips on where I'm going wrong (pic in profile icon_redface.gif I'm such a tiny guy!)

    I give my chest an entire hour and something minutes every Monday. I start off running for a mile in about 8-9 minutes. I want to be able to run 1.5 miles in under 10:55 for military training eventually.

    Then I do an incline press on the smith machine 3 or 4 sets at 50-55. I really haven't been able to do a full movement any higher then that. Move on to a machine chest fly with 3 sets at 10 reps (the machine is at 150 for what it's worth). Isolated incline chest press machine weights at 65, 4 sets of 8-10.

    Do 3 sets of chest dips at body weight. Then finish off with three sets of cable crossovers. Most of the time I throw in a few sets on a simple chest press machine just to max myself out.

    As you can see, I'm terrified of using weights. I've attempted dumbbells but it almost feels like my wrists are going to snap off.

    Maybe I've got terrible form? Or my sets and reps are off? This hasn't been the routine for 15 months - more like 3 or so months. My diet is ridiculous with 5 eggs, half a box of pasta and whatever I can find to put on it and usually something enormous for dinner along with 1600 cals from a protein weight gainer.

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    Jun 10, 2012 11:49 PM GMT
    I was waiting for someone to jump in who might have a little more wisdom to offer, but here goes:

    I'm assuming that your goal is to have a larger chest, although more strength would be welcome, too.

    With that in mind, I would suggest switching to higher weights and lower reps. Choose a weight where you're approaching failure at 5-6 reps. Once you're knocking out 6 reps consistently, increase the weight by 5-10%, whatever is practical. If you're only able to do 4 reps at the new weight, fine. Give yourself 2 minutes of rest between sets so that you have good recovery.

    I'd also do more sets of fewer exercises: five bench and five dips or crossovers maybe. I do think you'd profit from using a barbell because you'll recruit a greater range of muscles as you stabilize the weight. Plus, it's a confidence thing and you really want to get to the point where you can do whatever the hell exercise you want, right?

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    Jun 10, 2012 11:52 PM GMT
    drop sets
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    Jun 11, 2012 12:26 AM GMT
    Try a little device -- available on line and in most big box stores -- called the "Perfect Pushup," two cylinders that you rotate as you do the pushup. It makes them harder to do -- hence, it builds up your chest faster.

    I noticed a big difference after just a few weeks. We are about the same size, I bet it will work for you too.
  • CuriousJockAZ

    Posts: 19129

    Jun 11, 2012 12:29 AM GMT
    Never underestimate the power of the bar dip.

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    Jun 11, 2012 5:23 PM GMT
    Thanks!

    So in the end, how many exercises should there be made up of 5 sets? Also, does it really matter the order this is done after my cardio or is all the same?
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    Jun 11, 2012 5:58 PM GMT
    jerseywoof saiddrop sets


    Drop sets are a great idea. Also, make sure you vary your routine every so often. Your body will eventually become used to a regular routine. Doing similar exercises at different angles can also help.

    I have three other questions for you.

    1. How much do you eat?
    2. What are you eating? How much protein are you taking in?
    3. How strong are your shoulders and triceps?

    In order to gain muscle mass, you need a calorie surplus. That doesn't just mean the amount of calories you take in, but it's proportional to how much you burn. If you have a high metabolism, it might be a good idea to drop cardio for a while.

    Also, eat lots of protein. Lean meats, greek yogurt, protein shakes, etc. are all great things to eat. Lots of vegetables and fruits.

    Lastly...I'm not sure what your shoulder and tricep strength is like, but it's tough to build chest strength without shoulder (deltoid) and tricep conditioning as well. They go hand-in-hand.

    Hope this helps.
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    Jun 11, 2012 6:01 PM GMT
    I can give some general, but important advice:

    1) Do a variety of exercises. You can use barbells or dumbbells to do any bench-presses or flies. Mix it up by using machines & doing push-ups. Do flat/incline/decline AND/OR close-grip/regular/wide-grip varieties when doing bench-presses. Use cable or dumbbells when doing flies. There's so many different things you can do that in a month, you shouldn't have to repeat a particular exercise. Also do dips and pullovers.

    2) Work on your chest twice a week (with a gap of 3-4 days before doing chest again).

    3) Reduce the amount of cardio you are doing (but you must do some). Focus on short, but high-intensity cardio work-outs.

    4) Increase the weights and decrease the # of reps. You shouldn't do more than 10 reps per set. I usually do 10/8/6 reps, with increasing weight.

    5) Eat more lean meats and vegetables to gain weight properly. Also, try an after work-out protein supplement.

    Hope this helps.
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    Jun 11, 2012 6:42 PM GMT
    This all looks like good advice. The only thing that I'd add is you have to get over your fear of weights. If your mail goal is a big chest, the easiest way is to just bench press: a mix of flat bench, incline bench and decline bench. Flys and cable crosses are all well and good but not the best way to build mass.
  • jim_sf

    Posts: 2094

    Jun 11, 2012 6:45 PM GMT
    imasrxd saidThis all looks like good advice. The only thing that I'd add is you have to get over your fear of weights. If your mail goal is a big chest, the easiest way is to just bench press: a mix of flat bench, incline bench and decline bench. Flys and cable crosses are all well and good but not the best way to build mass.


    Not the best way to build overall mass, no, but they're good for variety or to fine-tune.

    EDIT: clarifying a bit. Flys and cable crosses have their place in the broader scope of exercises, but they won't suit the OP's particular goals. (Which is basically what imasrxd said; I just initially misread his post.)
  • MikemikeMike

    Posts: 6932

    Jun 11, 2012 8:02 PM GMT
    IceBucket saidHey there - I'm sure there are over a hundred threads on this but I ask for some specific advice.

    I've been weigh training for about 15 months now. I started off back in earlier 2011 117 lbs, 5'8" - so yes. Quite the scary picture. I've made gains over the course of the year (I actually didn't weight train last June since I was studying in Italy) but regardless. I'm looking at my chest and I'm....not too impressed with it. I've been making some good gains with my arms recently so I'm not too concerned about them but my chest isn't where it should be I'm thinking.

    Maybe someone can give tips on where I'm going wrong (pic in profile icon_redface.gif I'm such a tiny guy!)

    I give my chest an entire hour and something minutes every Monday. I start off running for a mile in about 8-9 minutes. I want to be able to run 1.5 miles in under 10:55 for military training eventually.

    Then I do an incline press on the smith machine 3 or 4 sets at 50-55. I really haven't been able to do a full movement any higher then that. Move on to a machine chest fly with 3 sets at 10 reps (the machine is at 150 for what it's worth). Isolated incline chest press machine weights at 65, 4 sets of 8-10.

    Do 3 sets of chest dips at body weight. Then finish off with three sets of cable crossovers. Most of the time I throw in a few sets on a simple chest press machine just to max myself out.

    As you can see, I'm terrified of using weights. I've attempted dumbbells but it almost feels like my wrists are going to snap off.

    Maybe I've got terrible form? Or my sets and reps are off? This hasn't been the routine for 15 months - more like 3 or so months. My diet is ridiculous with 5 eggs, half a box of pasta and whatever I can find to put on it and usually something enormous for dinner along with 1600 cals from a protein weight gainer.


    How many push-ups can you do?? Do ten warm up ones, then do till you can no longer. The add more push-ups each week. Your chest will get bigger!! Eat a good diet as well.icon_idea.gif
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    Jun 11, 2012 8:04 PM GMT
    redsoxfan791 said
    jerseywoof saiddrop sets


    Drop sets are a great idea. Also, make sure you vary your routine every so often. Your body will eventually become used to a regular routine. Doing similar exercises at different angles can also help.

    I have three other questions for you.

    1. How much do you eat?
    2. What are you eating? How much protein are you taking in?
    3. How strong are your shoulders and triceps?

    In order to gain muscle mass, you need a calorie surplus. That doesn't just mean the amount of calories you take in, but it's proportional to how much you burn. If you have a high metabolism, it might be a good idea to drop cardio for a while.

    Also, eat lots of protein. Lean meats, greek yogurt, protein shakes, etc. are all great things to eat. Lots of vegetables and fruits.

    Lastly...I'm not sure what your shoulder and tricep strength is like, but it's tough to build chest strength without shoulder (deltoid) and tricep conditioning as well. They go hand-in-hand.

    Hope this helps.

    Wow. Look at all the replies. Little embarrassing. icon_razz.gif

    1. I TRY to get in 3600 cals. A lot of the time I screw it up for one reason or another and only get to 2800 or something along those lines.
    2. Letsee...loads of eggs, protein mass gainer (2x a day - 600 cals ea at 60 g), loads of pastas covered in garlic sauteed olive oil, and usually a couple of strips of roast beef, steak, usually a burger when I'm with friends...entire packs of crackers ...
    4. My shoulders are getting better - they aren't ideal but I finally got something out of them within the past few months. I'll try to apply what you guys have been saying to them. My triceps I honestly didn't start really working until recently. They're coming along nicely though truthfully the reverse one arm tricep extension pisses me off to end since I can't get a good grip. But whatever - they're okay for now though I'm ashamed to say I've been missing my tricep days frequently for some reason or another. icon_redface.gif
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 11, 2012 8:18 PM GMT
    buy gloves to help hold onto the weight. my hands sweat a lot and the gloves allow me to at least hold the weight so I can focus more on the exercise rather than holding the dumbbell. Also you might be doing too much weight? I know I used to when I first started (was 5'11, 120 lbs) I could barely pick up a 15 lb weight and do a shoulder exercise...had to start really small and now I'm at about 45/50.

    Your ligaments/tendons don't build strength as fast as your muscles so the variety (as mentioned above) will keep those area's up with your muscles. Can't tell you how many times I've pulled my shoulder cause I could hardly hold the weight icon_razz.gif
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    Jun 11, 2012 8:26 PM GMT
    IceBucket said
    redsoxfan791 said
    jerseywoof saiddrop sets


    Drop sets are a great idea. Also, make sure you vary your routine every so often. Your body will eventually become used to a regular routine. Doing similar exercises at different angles can also help.

    I have three other questions for you.

    1. How much do you eat?
    2. What are you eating? How much protein are you taking in?
    3. How strong are your shoulders and triceps?

    In order to gain muscle mass, you need a calorie surplus. That doesn't just mean the amount of calories you take in, but it's proportional to how much you burn. If you have a high metabolism, it might be a good idea to drop cardio for a while.

    Also, eat lots of protein. Lean meats, greek yogurt, protein shakes, etc. are all great things to eat. Lots of vegetables and fruits.

    Lastly...I'm not sure what your shoulder and tricep strength is like, but it's tough to build chest strength without shoulder (deltoid) and tricep conditioning as well. They go hand-in-hand.

    Hope this helps.

    Wow. Look at all the replies. Little embarrassing. icon_razz.gif

    1. I TRY to get in 3600 cals. A lot of the time I screw it up for one reason or another and only get to 2800 or something along those lines.
    2. Letsee...loads of eggs, protein mass gainer (2x a day - 600 cals ea at 60 g), loads of pastas covered in garlic sauteed olive oil, and usually a couple of strips of roast beef, steak, usually a burger when I'm with friends...entire packs of crackers ...
    4. My shoulders are getting better - they aren't ideal but I finally got something out of them within the past few months. I'll try to apply what you guys have been saying to them. My triceps I honestly didn't start really working until recently. They're coming along nicely though truthfully the reverse one arm tricep extension pisses me off to end since I can't get a good grip. But whatever - they're okay for now though I'm ashamed to say I've been missing my tricep days frequently for some reason or another. icon_redface.gif


    Maybe someone will disagree with me, but 3600 calories seems like a HUGE intake for someone that's currently 21, 5'8" 145. Unless your metabolism is crazy high (which it sounds like it might be), my concern is you'll gain a little more fat than you want (along with the muscle). I mean, you're going to gain some fat when bulking regardless. Seems like you're eating a lot of the right stuff though...except for maybe the crackers. You might want to talk to a nutritionist though. Tell him/her your goals, have them determine your basal metabolic rate, and go from there. Otherwise, be patient, don't skip workouts, and keep working hard. It takes a while to build muscle.
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14342

    Jun 12, 2012 3:07 PM GMT
    I have the same problem with my chest as the OP, it is stubborn and it refuses to grow. Most of my upper body is like that stubborn and slow growing in both strength and mass. On a positive note, my lower body is the total opposite.
  • FRE0

    Posts: 4863

    Jun 12, 2012 11:03 PM GMT
    Running a mile in 8 - 9 minutes? At your age, that should be an extremely easy pace. When I was 45, I was able to run 10 miles at about a 6 minute 50 seconds per mile pace which, compared with elite runners, is rather slow. Consider that some guys can run a marathon (26.2 miles) in 2 hours 15 minutes, which is about 5 minutes 15 seconds per mile. Just before his 70th birthday, Johnny Kelly ran the Boston marathon in about 3.5 hours which is barely more than 8 minutes per mile.

    I'd suggest working on your running 3 days per week, and working with weights and machines 3 days per week, but not on the same day if possible. Your runs should not all be the same. Consider doing timed intervals one day per week, on a track if possible, perhaps as follows:

    First, warm up by running about 1/2 to 1 mile at an easy pace. Then,

    3 1/4 mile intervals, all run at the same speed, but so that you can barely run at the same speed for the last interval. After each interval, jog for 1/4 mile to recover.

    3 1/8 mile intervals, done similarly to the 1/4 mile intervals, but obviously at a higher speed since the distance is shorter.

    3 100 yard dashes, all at the maximum possible speed.

    After finishing the intervals, jog for perhaps 1/2 mile to recover, then walk for a few minutes.

    On another day, run 3 miles at a moderate pace.

    On yet another day, run 6 miles at a moderate pace.

    The total distance per week is not great and unless you have joint or other problems, you should have no trouble with that routine. Once you are in shape for running, you should find an 8 minute per mile per pace very easy and an 7.5 minute per mile pace not difficult which should make it easy to beat your goal of running 1.5 miles in under 10:55. If you wish, you can gradually increase the distances, but doing so is not really necessary.

    You will find that your resting pulse rate will gradually drop as your physical condition improves, and probably be somewhere between 40 and 45.

    The number of calories required to run a mile is about 100 for a 150 pound man, but you weigh less than that so you will be expending only about an extra 1,000 calories per week. It should not reduce the effectiveness of your weight training at all as long as you don't do the weight training on the same days on which you run.

    It's best to run on an empty stomach except that in warm weather, it would be a good idea to pre-hydrate. But if you drink too much water before running, you may tend to regurgitate. Also, too much water in the stomach reduces lung capacity. If you tend to become dehydrated while running, carry some water and drink a bit while running. You can monitor your hydration by weighing yourself accurately while nude before and after running. Clothing makes the apparent weight change inaccurate because sweaty clothing weights more.
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    Jun 13, 2012 1:53 AM GMT
    Well, I never said I couldn't run 1.5 miles in 10:55. TBH, I never tried since I didn't want to exhaust myself on a day that I managed to get to the gym. But thanks regardless for the information. One of these days I'll put myself to the test.

    3600 I know is a lot but my metabolism is one of those crazy ones. It'll eventually slow down but for now - gotta make do. I'm not sure about an nutritionist right now since y'know...money. icon_neutral.gif
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    Jun 13, 2012 1:59 AM GMT
    Kob is right. His advice is right on. Do less sets and lift more weight.

    Most guys make the mistake of doing exercises that are more triceps or front deltoids, shoulders. Cable flyes, dumbbell flyes, exercises like that that are pure chest. I love bench. I benched 415 at 190lbs. But it is a chest, shoulder, tricep movement. If my chest suffered I would do flyes, elbows out dips, ect. Do pure chest movements. Flyes are the best.

    Good luck.

    If you are not sure what a chest movement is: It is a movement that only pulls your upper arm across your chest. That is all the chest muscle does. It does one thing: pull the upper arm across the chest.
  • BuckeyeJock13

    Posts: 44

    Jun 13, 2012 2:11 AM GMT
    I checked out your shirtless pic in your profile and it appears you have been making some great progress in the last year. In addition to what some have already suggested I would add I think you should work more on your shoulders and upper chest. I was frustrated with my chest and a trainer gave me some great advice that really part of the issue was I wasn't broad enough up top. The added muscle made me more proportional and helped me when working on the chest.
  • FlypinHigh

    Posts: 465

    Jun 13, 2012 2:17 AM GMT
    up your intensity

    /thread
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    Jun 13, 2012 2:18 AM GMT
    LittleDudeWithMuscles saidTry a little device -- available on line and in most big box stores -- called the "Perfect Pushup," two cylinders that you rotate as you do the pushup. It makes them harder to do -- hence, it builds up your chest faster.

    I noticed a big difference after just a few weeks. We are about the same size, I bet it will work for you too.

    sweetyork said3) Reduce the amount of cardio you are doing (but you must do some). Focus on short, but high-intensity cardio work-outs.

    Excellent overall advice, but I wanted to emphasize the above.
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    Jun 13, 2012 3:05 AM GMT
    runnersjock saidI checked out your shirtless pic in your profile and it appears you have been making some great progress in the last year. In addition to what some have already suggested I would add I think you should work more on your shoulders and upper chest. I was frustrated with my chest and a trainer gave me some great advice that really part of the issue was I wasn't broad enough up top. The added muscle made me more proportional and helped me when working on the chest.

    Anything in particular I should be doing in regards to shoulders and upper chest?

    I would always try to increase intensity but then I end up sacrifice form so it's...a little frustrating.
  • FlypinHigh

    Posts: 465

    Jun 13, 2012 3:09 AM GMT
    You shouldn't be able to work one bodypart for over an hour. You should be spent way sooner.
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    Jun 13, 2012 3:11 AM GMT
    A few questions.

    1) Are you doing the same routine week after week with no increase in sets or weights? Your body is very adaptable and becomes very efficient at what you're doing. Just because you're moving weight that doesn't mean the body incentive to put down lean mass. Doesn't matter how much protein you eat...protein supplements are highly overrated, and too much protein stresses out your kidneys.
    2) Are you working your back out just as hard? This ensures that you're not creating a muscle imbalance. A lot of people (especially people who work behind a desk) walk around with rounded shoulders. Truthfully many men could get their chests to pop more if they worked to bring their shoulders back by strengthening their mid backs (Mid traps, and rhomboids).
    3) Why is your fly weight so high but your presses so low? If you're afraid of weight, can you find a training partner to spot you or can you afford to hire a personal trainer? Presses work more muscle mass, therefore can handle heavier weight.
    4) Are you working your legs and hips hard? This is important because 65% of your body's muscle mass is carried in your lower body. When you work your largest muscle groups (below the belt) your body will release more testosterone and HGH naturally.

    Seems to me you're doing a lot of exercises to work upper and middle pecs, but you're not doing a whole lot to work your lower pecs. Working back, and doing pull ups will help a lot with your grip strength. Getting off the machines and doing push ups and other forms of exercise will help your stabilizer muscles. The bottom line is if you're not working your muscles to the point of fatigue, then you're just going through the motions of the exercise, and not much.

    Lastly if you're set against hiring a personal trainer research these 5 things.

    1) Periodization-this is what people are talking about when they tell you to switch up your routine.
    2) Training for muscle hypertrophy.
    3) The endocrine system and it's roll in your body's adaptations to strength training.
    4) Different chest exercises you can do.
    5) Body types and type I vs. Type II muscle fibers.
    6) Compound vs. Isolated exercises

    Need a 10 page report typed and double spaced by 10 am Monday and you thought you were done with school. icon_razz.gif
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    Jun 13, 2012 7:21 PM GMT
    Runninchlt saidA few questions.

    1) Are you doing the same routine week after week with no increase in sets or weights? Your body is very adaptable and becomes very efficient at what you're doing. Just because you're moving weight that doesn't mean the body incentive to put down lean mass. Doesn't matter how much protein you eat...protein supplements are highly overrated, and too much protein stresses out your kidneys.
    2) Are you working your back out just as hard? This ensures that you're not creating a muscle imbalance. A lot of people (especially people who work behind a desk) walk around with rounded shoulders. Truthfully many men could get their chests to pop more if they worked to bring their shoulders back by strengthening their mid backs (Mid traps, and rhomboids).
    3) Why is your fly weight so high but your presses so low? If you're afraid of weight, can you find a training partner to spot you or can you afford to hire a personal trainer? Presses work more muscle mass, therefore can handle heavier weight.
    4) Are you working your legs and hips hard? This is important because 65% of your body's muscle mass is carried in your lower body. When you work your largest muscle groups (below the belt) your body will release more testosterone and HGH naturally.

    Seems to me you're doing a lot of exercises to work upper and middle pecs, but you're not doing a whole lot to work your lower pecs. Working back, and doing pull ups will help a lot with your grip strength. Getting off the machines and doing push ups and other forms of exercise will help your stabilizer muscles. The bottom line is if you're not working your muscles to the point of fatigue, then you're just going through the motions of the exercise, and not much.

    Lastly if you're set against hiring a personal trainer research these 5 things.

    1) Periodization-this is what people are talking about when they tell you to switch up your routine.
    2) Training for muscle hypertrophy.
    3) The endocrine system and it's roll in your body's adaptations to strength training.
    4) Different chest exercises you can do.
    5) Body types and type I vs. Type II muscle fibers.
    6) Compound vs. Isolated exercises

    Need a 10 page report typed and double spaced by 10 am Monday and you thought you were done with school. icon_razz.gif

    1. I always try to bump the weight up. I tend to have issues getting my incline press weight up though.
    2. No way in hell. Good advice. My back needs serious work...
    3. Double the presses - I write down by how much weight on one side to save me 2 seconds of math so it's really 100-110. It may also be with the flys I'm not going back all the way.
    4. I did not know that. I do try to get one or two exercises in. I'll put in more now.

    Personal trainers are way out of my budget unfortunately. I finally managed to get back to the gym today and lowered the amount of exercises but increased the weight and sets I was doing (4-6 reps at 5 sets) except for those damn incline presses. I lowered it down since I wasn't able to get the full motion and I was shaking quite a bit. I did do drop sets on a very simple chest press machine - I like to do them for my biceps for which I don't know why I never tried it with my chest since my arms were stubborn.