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  1. #1
    Registered User Red-rum's Avatar
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    Bench press not working chest

    Apologies in advance if this topic has come up before.

    I have had a lingering problem since I started weight training, the bench press never seems to work the pectorals. Once I go underneath the bar and start pressing all the effort seems to be exerted on my anterior deltoids, and as a result they're becoming quite nicely developed. However, I fear this will lead to a muscle imbalance if just my shoulders are being worked, not only that but the supposed "bread and butter" exercise isn't working what I want: my chest.

    I've attempted arching my back, feet on floor, feet off floor etc. and I'm starting to question whether incorrect form isn't the problem. The indicator that I'm relying on is soreness the next day, my pectorals seems not to be as sore - if I'm being pedantic the soreness seems to be more on the outside of the muscles than the inside whereas my anterior deltoids are completely smashed!

    One exercise that does seem to work the chest is flyes, so I'm relying on cable flyes and dumbbell flies to work my chest. I feel a burn on in the pecs in this exercise.

    I've attempted dumbbell press, incline bench press, incline dumbbell bench press- all these exercises seem not to have any effect. Could it possibly be that my pectorals are simply stronger than my anterior deltoids? Because before I started pressing, I used my school's press machine which mostly isolated the pectorals.

    Could it be my body? I'm 6' 2" and have long arms thus I have difficulty lowering the bar to touch my chest, using lighter weights to bring the bar down to the chest doesn't make a difference, my anterior deltoids are still being worked a lot more.

    So what is the problem? Form? Wrong exercise? Pecs stronger than shoulders? Or is it anatomical?
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  2. #2
    'Defiant to Injuries' Ironlife's Avatar
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    Could it be my body? I'm 6' 2" and have long arms thus I have difficulty lowering the bar to touch my chest, using lighter weights to bring the bar down to the chest doesn't make a difference, my anterior deltoids are still being worked a lot more.

    Interesting i was going to say this^^ lol

    But the problem is (without seeing you bench press) a lack of simple MMC this can be developed through sepcialised training scheme but also in time as well.
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  3. #3
    Hai guiz! TheHitStick's Avatar
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    how's your grip look? different grips works different muscles stronger.

    close grip works your triceps more. if you have your pinkies on the outer rings then it'll work your chest more. you can go super wide grip and that's be nothing but chest basically.

    dont super arch your back like powerlifters but dont put your back completely flat on the bench. when you lay back, keep your NATURAL ARCH, no more and no less. If you do want to take shoulders out completely then have your back arched way back like the powerlifters

    EDIT: how do you have trouble touching your chest? im also 6'2" now and i have no problems at all. lower the bar all the way to your chest lmao. Bench Press requries a full range of motion.
    Last edited by TheHitStick; 04-25-2009 at 08:07 AM.
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  4. #4
    Registered User lancs_hotpot's Avatar
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    Im the same mate i have tried all sorts of techniques. With 135 i can manage a nice feeling in my chest but i need about 10 sets of that to fatigue my muscle. Much heavier than that and i cant feel much in my pecs, its tyhe same with any flat press movement even machines. It could be that i need to practice more but i see myself as being very clue up on form and how to recruit certain muscles to move weight. I keep going back to the flat bench and trying to make it work but with no luck.
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  5. #5
    Squats traps to grass Defiant1's Avatar
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    That is a common problem in varying degrees. Some people just need a form change, others need to use dumbbells. Still others (maybe you) really have to try to find what works for them.

    Try decline presses, especially with dumbbells. These work for many people who have a difficulty feeling their chest.

    If you can find ONE pressing move that works well for you, you can work the hell out of it with high and low reps and lots of sets, then finish with other exercises (flyes/cable flyes) that work for you. Keep in mind that a SLIGHT angle change can make a huge difference in pec feel (incline or decline; any degree).

    You will likely find that as your pec MMC or "feel" improves, other exercises that didn't previously work for you will work.

    Also, try some sets with VERY high reps (like 50-100).
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  6. #6
    Registered User Red-rum's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by TheHitStick View Post
    how's your grip look? different grips works different muscles stronger.

    close grip works your triceps more. if you have your pinkies on the outer rings then it'll work your chest more. you can go super wide grip and that's be nothing but chest basically.
    I use a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width, recently I've started using a wider grip as I work my triceps (using isolation exercises) after my chest.
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  7. #7
    Registered User Red-rum's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Defiant1 View Post
    That is a common problem in varying degrees. Some people just need a form change, others need to use dumbbells. Still others (maybe you) really have to try to find what works for them.

    Try decline presses, especially with dumbbells. These work for many people who have a difficulty feeling their chest.

    If you can find ONE pressing move that works well for you, you can work the hell out of it with high and low reps and lots of sets, then finish with other exercises (flyes/cable flyes) that work for you. Keep in mind that a SLIGHT angle change can make a huge difference in pec feel (incline or decline; any degree).

    You will likely find that as your pec MMC or "feel" improves, other exercises that didn't previously work for you will work.

    Also, try some sets with VERY high reps (like 50-100).
    I think decline movements might be the solution, I normally avoid it because you can only use dumbbells for decline presses (in my gym) and I hate dropping weights after sets. Thanks for the suggestion.
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  8. #8
    Hai guiz! TheHitStick's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Red-rum View Post
    I use a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width, recently I've started using a wider grip as I work my triceps (using isolation exercises) after my chest.
    the closer your hands are to the center of the bar, the more it works your triceps

    the further your hands are to the center of the bar, the more it works your chest

    i put my hands out shoulder width (straight out) and it isnt far enough out at all. you need to widen your grip more.

    im tellin ya, put your pinkies on the rings and it'll be better

    but i stay away from barbell now. the only reason i do is for football conditioning but the program sucks. personally i like dumbbell's alot more.

    but what makes your chest burn is dips while leaning forward
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  9. #9
    Registered User tchudt's Avatar
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    i've been experimenting with a rest pause instead of touch and go; i think a tendency of touch and go is tafter touching the chest i'll roll my shoulders forward while pressing the bar up, making the chest work less.

    with a pause, i'll momentarily relax my arm and shoulders, allowing the shoulders to settle more on the bench and engage the chest in the first initial portion. just make sure you're holding your breath.

    found an article on training like this.

    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/schultz50.htm
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  10. #10
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    Another common mistake is flaring the elbows out way to far. when you do this it puts alot of the stress on teh shoulders. Try pointing ur elbows more in toward ur chest than straight out to teh side to really put the chest into play and take the shoulders out of it. it will also save ur rotator cuffs from being smashed later on.
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    1) Arch your back, with your feet flat on the floor
    2) Elbows in
    3) Pause at the bottom
    4) Deadlift and do pull-ups
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  12. #12
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    Originally Posted by poundit View Post
    Another common mistake is flaring the elbows out way to far. when you do this it puts alot of the stress on teh shoulders. Try pointing ur elbows more in toward ur chest than straight out to teh side to really put the chest into play and take the shoulders out of it. it will also save ur rotator cuffs from being smashed later on.
    FINALLY! this^^^
    repped.

    heres your answer bud.. has nothing to wiht size, a guy that is 9 feet tall lowers a bar down to his chest just as easy as a guy who is 4 feet tall. dont get caught up in that stuff. take those 2 heights for example, 6 feet, and 4 feet. does the guy who is 6 feet has only longer arms?no, everything is longer, and wider. so, there is no excuse for a guy 6'8 or something to now get full depth in any move.
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  13. #13
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    Originally Posted by zildjian_4 View Post
    FINALLY! this^^^
    repped.

    heres your answer bud.. has nothing to wiht size, a guy that is 9 feet tall lowers a bar down to his chest just as easy as a guy who is 4 feet tall. dont get caught up in that stuff. take those 2 heights for example, 6 feet, and 4 feet. does the guy who is 6 feet has only longer arms?no, everything is longer, and wider. so, there is no excuse for a guy 6'8 or something to now get full depth in any move.
    So many people say pull your elbows in and almost every time its these people who have little to no chest development. Ask any pro with a big world-class size chest and they will all tell you the same thing and thats to flare your elbows out. When I started doing this my chest blew up in size and i'm really sore after each workout. The main problem with people injuring there rotator cuff is because their using too much damn weight which bring there shoulders and arms into play. If you use slow proper form and keep your back arched- ribs/chest pushed out - elbows flared out it will murder your chest and you will see improvements. Here's a video that shows more in depth on what i'm talking about and also saved me from continuing to have an under-developed chest.....http://thefitshow.tv/remastered/season1/episode3.html
    Last edited by RCATES; 04-25-2009 at 04:34 PM.
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    Originally Posted by RCATES View Post
    So many people say pull your elbows in and almost every time its these people who have little to no chest development. Ask any pro with a big world-class size chest and they will all tell you the same thing and thats to flare your elbows out. When I started doing this my chest blew up in size and i'm really sore after each workout. The main problem with people injuring there rotator cuff is because their using too much damn weight which bring there shoulders and arms into play. If you use slow proper form and keep your back arched- ribs/chest pushed out - elbows flared out it will murder your chest and you will see improvements. Here's a video that shows more in depth on what i'm talking about and also saved me from continuing to have an under-developed chest.....http://thefitshow.tv/remastered/season1/episode3.html
    I would say the majority of trainers would benefit more from a bench where they pushed more weight. Elbows at 45 degrees or so, back arched, feet planted, shoulders pinched, and touching the bar below the pecs. See the thing about the bench press is that its NOT a chest isolation move. It's a compound that involves tons of different muscles. Lifting more weight = more work being done. More work + more food = more growth.

    When people have developed a solid base with a solid bench, and become more like bodybuilders then yeah there is a place for elbow flaired training. The thing is, not many people i see in the gym are bodybuilders. They are just people trying to improve their strength and looks.

    Also since we are throwing anecdotal evidence out there, I always bench in a powerlifting style. And my chest very large, definitely one of my most developed muscle groups.
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  15. #15
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    Originally Posted by RCATES View Post
    So many people say pull your elbows in and almost every time its these people who have little to no chest development. Ask any pro with a big world-class size chest and they will all tell you the same thing and thats to flare your elbows out. When I started doing this my chest blew up in size and i'm really sore after each workout. The main problem with people injuring there rotator cuff is because their using too much damn weight which bring there shoulders and arms into play. If you use slow proper form and keep your back arched- ribs/chest pushed out - elbows flared out it will murder your chest and you will see improvements. Here's a video that shows more in depth on what i'm talking about and also saved me from continuing to have an under-developed chest.....http://thefitshow.tv/remastered/season1/episode3.html
    http://www.criticalbench.com/benchpressarticles8.htm
    read tip 5
    but rather than asking the pros where they keep their elbows, go watch some youtube vids of the pros. you`ll see, flaring elbows is a no no.
    but hey, maybe YOUR rc's can take it, but most cant.
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    I notice I can get a really good squeeze/pump in the chest whenever I:

    take a narrow ( 10 - 12 inch) grip, like a close grip bench press

    and/or

    tuck my elbows in
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    mind-muscle connection. work on it. When you bench, you should be squeezing your arms together, not pushing the bar up.

    Pushing the bar up will make you move it with your front deltoids, and your shoulders will roll forward a lot. Squeezing your arms together will have the same effect on the bar, but your pecs will be doing the work of pulling your arms in and your shoulders will do less work, and remain almost stationary. (since you are gripping the bar, your arms can't actually move in, instead your elbows pull in and the bar moves up. You should be hugging, not pushing.

    oh, and your grip should be wider than shoulder width.
    Last edited by Opies; 04-25-2009 at 05:40 PM.
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    I think Defiant1 nailed it in his post. The bench, for all its drawbacks, is still considered by many to be the best basic chest exercise around. However, there are some guys who will use perfect form/grip/elbow position/back arch and rep range etc. and STILL get no benefit from it. IF that is the case, then perhaps the OP should think about doing it with dumbbells, or trying another exercise (declines or inclines) which may bring better feeling and benefits.
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    Originally Posted by dantheman999 View Post
    I would say the majority of trainers would benefit more from a bench where they pushed more weight. Elbows at 45 degrees or so, back arched, feet planted, shoulders pinched, and touching the bar below the pecs. See the thing about the bench press is that its NOT a chest isolation move. It's a compound that involves tons of different muscles. Lifting more weight = more work being done. More work + more food = more growth.

    When people have developed a solid base with a solid bench, and become more like bodybuilders then yeah there is a place for elbow flaired training. The thing is, not many people i see in the gym are bodybuilders. They are just people trying to improve their strength and looks.

    Also since we are throwing anecdotal evidence out there, I always bench in a powerlifting style. And my chest very large, definitely one of my most developed muscle groups.
    I couldn't disagree more with you on the bench press not isolating the chest and being more compound. It depends on if you are doing it to isolate chest by using proper form. Most people just try to push as much weight as possible which almost always leads to improper form and using far too much of other muscles to push the weight making it more of a compound exercise. When I work chest I isolate it with bench movements by using proper form to stimulate the chest. If you or anyone else can't pull this off then its your chest development that's being sacrificed.
    Last edited by RCATES; 04-25-2009 at 11:32 PM.
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    Originally Posted by GuyJin View Post
    I think Defiant1 nailed it in his post. The bench, for all its drawbacks, is still considered by many to be the best basic chest exercise around. However, there are some guys who will use perfect form/grip/elbow position/back arch and rep range etc. and STILL get no benefit from it. IF that is the case, then perhaps the OP should think about doing it with dumbbells, or trying another exercise (declines or inclines) which may bring better feeling and benefits.
    I doubt if proper form and weight range for that individual was used that there would be no benefit from it.
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    tuck them elbows. I was doing a 90 degree angle thing, and maaan it killed my shoulders, I got with a powerlifting crew who are training me in the ways of lifting sorda, i learned to tuck and maaan I can lift so much more and i sure can feel it.
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    Lulz.

    absolutely ZERO reason to force the flat bench in bodybuilding, unless one can only train at home.

    Flat bench angle is TOTALLY arbitrary, and is not more likely to work for pec development than any other angle.

    Exercises are a means to an end for bodybuilding, not an end themselves.

    If a different exercise in the same "class" works better, than f*ck the original exercise.
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    Originally Posted by zildjian_4 View Post
    http://www.criticalbench.com/benchpressarticles8.htm
    read tip 5
    but rather than asking the pros where they keep their elbows, go watch some youtube vids of the pros. you`ll see, flaring elbows is a no no.
    but hey, maybe YOUR rc's can take it, but most cant.
    This article failed from the start (A Bigger Bench). This is bodybuilding not powerlifting, who gives a rats ass on how much you can bench. Bodybuilding is about muscle growth from stimulation. Weight doesn't equal size just stength. The sooner your ego takes a back seat to form the sooner your muscles will actually benefit from your workouts.
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    Thumbs up

    ...OK

    The elbow positioning doesn't make a difference, I've tried changing it and it doesn't make a noticeable change in exertion: it's still the delts being worked.


    Originally Posted by Opies
    mind-muscle connection. work on it. When you bench, you should be squeezing your arms together, not pushing the bar up.

    Pushing the bar up will make you move it with your front deltoids, and your shoulders will roll forward a lot. Squeezing your arms together will have the same effect on the bar, but your pecs will be doing the work of pulling your arms in and your shoulders will do less work, and remain almost stationary. (since you are gripping the bar, your arms can't actually move in, instead your elbows pull in and the bar moves up. You should be hugging, not pushing.
    A "squeezing" action on the bar isn't something I've tried before, but next training session I will try it and report back. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Originally Posted by Defiant1
    Try decline presses, especially with dumbbells. These work for many people who have a difficulty feeling their chest.
    Since I trained my chest yesterday the next opportunity to try out decline presses is next Saturday (I'm a weekend warrior, my school commitments are massive at the moment). However, since my chest is sore from cable flyes it meant I could try out a little experiment. I stood at forearm's length from a wall and placed my arm at a 90-degree bend, similar to a bench press, I then placed my fist on the wall and performed a pushing action for an isotonic contraction: at shoulder-height (like a flat press) I felt pain in my shoulders, the pecs did contract though, at about 30cm above shoulder-height (like an incline press) the pain was almost exclusively in the shoulders, at 30cm below shoulder-height (like a decline press) the pain was felt in the pecs.

    I think we have a winner, decline presses are most likely the solution. Thanks Defiant1. + Rep (if my 0 rep makes a difference )
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    Originally Posted by RCATES View Post
    I couldn't disagree more with you on the bench press not isolating the chest and being more compound. It depends on if you are doing it to isolate chest by using proper form. Most people just try to push as much weight as possible which almost always leads to improper form and using far too much of other muscles to push the weight making it more of a compound exercise. When I work chest I isolate it with bench movements by using proper form to stimulate the chest. If you or anyone else can't pull this off then its your chest development that's being sacrificed.
    i couldnt disagree with you more. if youre not overloading your muscles, they not going to grow to their full potential. if your not going to go heavy on bench, and just focus on squeezing your pecs the entire move, you might as well stay home and flex your chest all day.


    Originally Posted by RCATES View Post
    This article failed from the start (A Bigger Bench). This is bodybuilding not powerlifting, who gives a rats ass on how much you can bench. Bodybuilding is about muscle growth from stimulation. Weight doesn't equal size just stength. The sooner your ego takes a back seat to form the sooner your muscles will actually benefit from your workouts.
    "The sooner your ego takes a back seat to form the sooner your muscles will actually benefit from your workouts"
    so youre saying anyone who can press more than you must have bad form. what the heck bud.
    powerlifting form is different, we all know that, but to say that their form is wrong is down right ignorant.
    like i said, please, go watch some bodybuilding vid's of the pro's on youtube and see how many of them flare their elbows.
    your chest is over loaded WHEN your other muscles kick in to help. just because other muscles are helping at this point doesnt make your form bad lol. i can have the exact same form as you but the only different would be is your flexing your chest...where as im pushing my chest past its limits(this = growth)
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    Originally Posted by zildjian_4 View Post
    i couldnt disagree with you more. if youre not overloading your muscles, they not going to grow to their full potential. if your not going to go heavy on bench, and just focus on squeezing your pecs the entire move, you might as well stay home and flex your chest all day.



    "The sooner your ego takes a back seat to form the sooner your muscles will actually benefit from your workouts"
    so youre saying anyone who can press more than you must have bad form. what the heck bud.
    powerlifting form is different, we all know that, but to say that their form is wrong is down right ignorant.
    like i said, please, go watch some bodybuilding vid's of the pro's on youtube and see how many of them flare their elbows.
    your chest is over loaded WHEN your other muscles kick in to help. just because other muscles are helping at this point doesnt make your form bad lol. i can have the exact same form as you but the only different would be is your flexing your chest...where as im pushing my chest past its limits(this = growth)
    I never said you were lifting wrong. You can lift however you want for what works for your goals. In bodybuilding weight(ego) will always take a back seat to form. The style of lifting you do and are recommending for the Op is more of a powerlifting technique. The weight will go up on bench gradually with time as you progress, but to say more weight equals more size is whats flat bs. I see guys at my gym all day long pushing 300+ for 5-7 reps with bad form with little to no chest but have huge shoulders. They look at me doing 205 with strict form for 10-12 reps and stand up with chest blown up. Maybe one day they will get it. You clearly do not.
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    Originally Posted by RCATES View Post
    I never said you were lifting wrong. You can lift however you want for what works for your goals. In bodybuilding weight(ego) will always take a back seat to form. The style of lifting you do and are recommending for the Op is more of a powerlifting technique. The weight will go up on bench gradually with time as you progress, but to say more weight equals more size is whats flat bs. I see guys at my gym all day long pushing 300+ for 5-7 reps with bad form with little to no chest but have huge shoulders. They look at me doing 205 with strict form for 10-12 reps and stand up with chest blown up. Maybe one day they will get it. You clearly do not.
    As long as we are trying to prove something using biased anecdotal evidence....

    I have a decent powerlifting style bench, i push heavy things and dont try to make it an isolation, and have a very developed chest. I also see tons of guys at the gym who read a post on BB.com that said to flair his elbows and try to isolate the chest, and they weak little chests and shoulder problems.
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    Originally Posted by dantheman999 View Post
    As long as we are trying to prove something using biased anecdotal evidence....

    I have a decent powerlifting style bench, i push heavy things and dont try to make it an isolation, and have a very developed chest. I also see tons of guys at the gym who read a post on BB.com that said to flair his elbows and try to isolate the chest, and they weak little chests and shoulder problems.
    Well man I'm glad that's working for you. Flaring elbows out and lowering the weight works better for me personally. I tucked elbows in slightly and pushed as much weight as possible for about 8 months and made some gains but primarily in strength and my shoulders put on tons of size. I switched to elbows out and lighter weight and my chest blew up in size. I believe the majority of people who damage their rc's from this type of bench are forcing up too much weight too quickly. If they would have started off lighter and gradually increased the weight they could have avoided this in most cases. Can we get some pics of the said very developed chest?
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    Originally Posted by RCATES View Post
    Well man I'm glad that's working for you. Flaring elbows out and lowering the weight works better for me personally. I tucked elbows in slightly and pushed as much weight as possible for about 8 months and made some gains but primarily in strength and my shoulders put on tons of size. I switched to elbows out and lighter weight and my chest blew up in size. I believe the majority of people who damage their rc's from this type of bench are forcing up too much weight too quickly. If they would have started off lighter and gradually increased the weight they could have avoided this in most cases. Can we get some pics of the said very developed chest?
    You want a picture of my he hooters eh? haha. I am a fan of the anonymity of the internet, so you can either believe me or not.

    But seriously, i don't doubt that flared elbows will isolate the chest more. I just think for most people, who arent body builders, should just weight lift in the safest and strongest way possible. Even yourself admitted that you trained for strength first before trying isolation.

    You can disagree with this if you want, just dont make it sound like lifting the way i am talking about is "bad form".
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    Originally Posted by dantheman999 View Post
    You want a picture of my he hooters eh? haha. I am a fan of the anonymity of the internet, so you can either believe me or not.

    But seriously, i don't doubt that flared elbows will isolate the chest more. I just think for most people, who arent body builders, should just weight lift in the safest and strongest way possible. Even yourself admitted that you trained for strength first before trying isolation.

    You can disagree with this if you want, just dont make it sound like lifting the way i am talking about is "bad form".
    I didn't lift for strength thats basically all I gained along with some shoulder growth by pulling the elbows in slightly. It was seriously like night and day on soreness and gains when I switched to flared out.
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