The weekend is finally here – and it’s time for another installment of How Do I Get Rid Of… our new strand for those of you struggling to train those problematic body parts!
Today is all about pigeon chests, which are more common than you may think, in both men and women. What is a pigeon chest? It’s when your sternum sticks out and the center of your chest kind of sinks in a bit. Now truth be told, some people are simply born this way, but sometimes it’s the result of how you train your chest muscles. But whatever your situation, you can certainly pump up your chest a bit if you train the right way…
Here’s my own personal experience with this issue. While I’ve never had a ‘sunken’ chest per se, I was also not genetically blessed with big, full round pecs (I wish!) So for years, like most trainees, I used the go-to barbell bench press, and worked myself up to a sizeable weight. I also performed flyes, both with dumbbells and with cables, but still my chest was lagging. Like many other people, the outermost portion near my armpits was thickly muscled, but as you moved towards my body’s centerline, the muscle thinned out noticeably. How was this possible? I was benching 315 for several reps, had big shoulders and arms, but a weak chest. Hmm…
So here’s what I figured out. For one, I ditched the barbell and went to a dumbbell-only routine with all my presses. Not only do they provide a greater, more natural range of motion, but they also develop stability, as they require you balance and control the weights in your hands. I mean if you just look at the movement, it’s obvious the chest muscles work through a more complete range.
On the other hand, barbells keep your hands fixed in a position that reduces the range of motion. At the top of the lift, your pecs are nowhere near a full contraction. It’s like flexing your bicep with a 60 degree bend in your arm.
Next, I realized there’s a fine line between using appropriate weight to train your chest, and too much that will force you to use your triceps and shoulders to lift the weight. Think about it, how many of you finish a set of bench presses and say “I felt that in my shoulders”? So, I reduced the weight and focused solely on squeezing the chest through the full range of motion, and I slowed the speed of the exercise down as well.
Another interesting change I made was eliminating flat position pressing as I get a better squeeze and pump in the chest muscles while on a slight incline. This really made a huge difference. I know some of you love the opposite position – the decline press – but this is nothing more then a modified, inverted dip if you really look at it. So I suggest you go with inclines instead.
My next exercise choice may surprise you. I used close grip triceps presses on a Smith Machine in my chest training. Yes it works the triceps, but due to the hand position, I also really felt it my chest. Especially using the fixed position of the Smith Machine, you can really squeeze the chest. Lastly, I hit the dip station, for multiple sets of slow, precise reps.
There are different schools of thought regarding range of motion and how a muscle shape forms and develops. Some say whether you use a barbell or dumbbell, your muscles will grow the same. I have to disagree as I’ve personally experienced a change in my chest’s appearance. Something that may interest you is the theory of muscle maturity. I once read an article that stated that men only develop a full muscled chest when they hit their 30’s, due to a combination of hormonal changes, and simply having years in the gym under their belt. I know that I personally look – and feel – better
So whether you have a sunken chest, or just the appearance of one from how you’re training, I think if you try my suggestions and keep at it for a while, you’ll see marked improvements. I know I did. Let me know how you get on everyone…