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Team Conditioning Systems:
Pecs Appeal

Sunday, March 2, 2003

By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

When it comes to chest training, there are several schools of thought. Do you just go in and lift as heavy as you can? Do you do thirty sets? Do you train Super-Slow? What's an athlete to do? First, let's define the situation. The function of the pec is to push objects away from the body, and is considered one of the biggest muscles in the body. With that in mind, we now have a better idea as to how to attack this problem. There is a proverb that asks, "How does one eat an elephant"? The answer, "one bite at a time” and that is the approach we use when training chest.

I had the chance to talk with Mike Wolf, Strength and Conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, and he said something that made a lot of sense. He talked about how some people go out of their way to make things more difficult then they have to be. Mike said that what we do "is just exercise, not rocket science." Truer words may never have been spoken. Our protocol calls for just 3 exercises, exercises that can be done on many different planes and with many different variations. In the interest of time and space, we will go with just the "Big 3" and by that I mean the Flat Bench Press, the Incline Bench Press and the Flye. These moves are essential to the development of the area and when done correctly will be all you need.

The Flat Bench Press can be substituted with the Push -Up and it can be done with dumbbells or it can be done on a Physio-Ball just to name a few of the variations. The main thing though is to execute the movement correctly through the full range of motion and great things will happen. The concept that makes the Bench Press more efficient than the Push -up is the fact that the bench press is more time efficient. When people start doing push-ups, they may not be able to execute as many as they would like, but the more they do the more they can do. After awhile you have to do so many that it takes a lot longer to get them all in. With the bench, once you get to the point where the weight is no longer challenging you, just add more weight. So your time costs are still the same and you have increased the intensity.

The Incline Press is one of my favorites, for no particular reason, I just like it. It's a move that requires the lifter to focus and the benefits can be amazing. Also the fact that it's a multi-joint movement, you are actually getting in some shoulder work as well, not as much as if you concentrated on the shoulder but enough. The Incline sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of chest exercises. If the technique isn't performed correctly, there could be some issues with the elbow and shoulder. Take your time when performing this move and the chances of you getting injured are greatly reduced.

The Flye is a move that offers the greatest variety, in my opinion. You can do it with dumbbells, with the cables, off the incline bench or using the Physio-ball, and it adds such great shape and definition to the chest area that in most cases this move should be done first on your chest day.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the decline bench press, and for good reason. When I asked people to show me the part of the pec that the decline is supposed to work, more often then not they pointed to an area just under the pec. I then pointed out to them that that was actually their ribs and there was little in the way of muscle there. So athletes I work with don't do those. I'm not saying that if you are doing them to stop, just saying that you want to make sure that each exercise you do is effective and efficient.

Chest day is a day that most people who lift always look forward and by being a bit more efficient, you can only add to the enjoyment you get. Remember always train smarter not harder. I would like to thank Beth Rose for participating for this month special feature.

Photos by Art Redd

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