Pectorals are the icing on the cake of a well-built torso, especially among men. However, chest training is usually very poorly focused, and that is usually the first muscle that is trained when the week begins!
If you take a look at the chest workouts that are usually done in gyms you will discover that there are usually many exercises and often very redundant.
In this article We are going to explain what you need to know to correctly select your chest exercises.
How are our pectorals anatomically?
The pectoralis major is a muscle that only has function on the shoulder. It originates in the sternum and from there in the form of a fan it is inserted in the shoulder.
Due to this shape the pectoralis major is divided into two parts:
- The sternocostal portion It originates along the sternum and inserts into the bicipital groove of the shoulder.
- The clavicular part It originates from the clavicle and inserts into this same groove.
The function of both portions is that of horizontal shoulder adduction, that is, hug or push. In addition, the sternocostal portion is responsible for extending the shoulder and the clavicular portion for flexing it. This means that they also participate in the action of raising the arm to the front.
Lastly, the pectoralis is also capable of internally rotating the shoulder.
What do we have to take into account when choosing our chest exercises?
When choosing our exercises for the pectoral (or for any other muscle group) we must take into account the arm peaks that occur when putting into practice the functions that we have previously commented on.
The moment arm is the distance between the place where a force acts and the place where the moment is produced. (place where the muscle inserts into the joint).
- In the adduction movement in the frontal plane (bringing the arm closer to the body when it is raised to the side) the moment arm peak occurs between 41º and 64º.
- In the shoulder flexion-extension movement (raise and lower the arm forward) the peak increases from 25º of shoulder flexion to 71ºthat is, below parallel.
- In the movement of horizontal shoulder adduction (bringing the arm forward when it is raised and to the side), the pectoralis major is the muscle that has the largest moment arm compared to other muscles that also participate in the gesture. This movement is the same as when we clean the surface of a table, for example.
Having discussed the arms for the moment, we must mention the degrees of inclination of the bench where we work and how they affect the activation of the different portions of the pectoral.
This topic can be summed up as:
- The flat, traditional bench press would be an all-rounder when it comes to activating all portions.
- The incline press may activate the upper (clavicular) portion of the chest more, although from 40º there are no significant differences. With an inclination of between 30 and 40º it is more than enough.
- The decline press engages more of the lower (sternocostal) portion of the chest.
Likewise, the crossovers of pulleys parallel to the ground would also be like the bench press, all terrain. However, upward pulley crossings activate more of the upper or clavicular portion.
In this way, the ideal would be to include exercises such as the following in our chest training:
- Flat presses with barbell, dumbbells or machines.
- Incline presses with barbell, dumbbells or machines.
- Decline presses with barbell, dumbbells or machines.
- Horizontal and ascending pulley crossings.
Let’s keep in mind that dumbbells can give us more travel than the bars, since these find the maximum travel when they touch our chest.
The use of machines or pulleys can provide us with constant tension and homogeneous throughout the movement.
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