Top 5 Chest-Training Mistakes & How to Correct Them

#4 Failure to contract

The downside of free weights is that they make it difficult to attain a maximum contraction in the pecs. When you do dumbbell flyes, there is less resistance on the chest at the top of the movement (when the dumbbells come together) than near the bottom. Likewise, during presses or dips, the triceps do much of the work near lockout.


  • Do one flye exercise each workout with either a machine or training bands. If you do cable crossovers, cross one hand over the other (hence the name) at contractions. Similarly, if you use an upright flye or pecdeck machine, or do flyes with bands, perform repetitions unilaterally in order to bring your hand past the center plane of your body to lengthen contractions.
  • Lock out on presses. Although your triceps will do much of the work at the end, you can still maximally flex your chest at contractions.

#5 Working the weight, not the muscles

“Work the muscles, not the weight” is one of Jay Cutler’s favorite aphorisms. Working the weight is different than focusing too much on the number of pounds used, and thus going too heavy.

Working the weight is using speed and momentum to pound out reps with little or no regard for the targeted area and it’s a precise distillation of the way many bodybuilders press, flye and dip.


  • Feel where you want to focus each set before it begins. For example, tense your upper chest before a set of incline presses to keep your attention on that area.
  • Always utilize strict form. This is not only safer, but also better for targeting your pecs, because the sloppier your execution on a chest exercise is, the more that secondary muscles take over.
  • Carefully control the negative halves of reps. During presses, take approximately two seconds to lower the weight and one to two seconds to raise it.

Lessons Learned

  • Treat bench presses as just another chest exercise with reps in the eight to 12 range.
  • Prioritize your upper chest.
  • Do primarily free-weight presses and flyes.
  • Concentrate on the contraction of each rep.
  • Keep the focus on your pecs, not on the weight.
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