Men's Fitness - - Contents -

…on how to build a big chest with­out bench press­ing, why park­our is the foun­da­tion of run­ning, di­et­ing jet lag away, and the pros and cons of mul­ti­vi­ta­mins

‘What can you bench?’ It’s a ques­tion that crops up in any gym-re­lated con­ver­sa­tion, and any guy knows what it means. It’s a fun ex­er­cise and lets you lift heavy weights, which is great for your ego. But it also car­ries sig­nif­i­cant risks.

Bench­ing forces your arms and shoul­ders into an un­nat­u­ral move­ment pat­tern by lock­ing them in a straight line. This stresses your shoul­der and el­bow joints, and can lead to in­juries. If you were mov­ing a heavy load in real life, you wouldn’t do it with your arms wide apart and your el­bows up by your ears. You’d keep ev­ery­thing tucked in by your sides.

Press­ing is­sues

I’ve seen many ex­pe­ri­enced lifters who have never both­ered mas­ter­ing the press-up, but done cor­rectly, it’s an ex­tremely ef­fec­tive full-body ex­er­cise and a cru­cial first step to build­ing big pecs. The key, as with most ex­er­cises, is form.

Adopt a plank po­si­tion, with feet to­gether and hands shoul­der-width apart – any wider places too much stress on your shoul­ders. Spread your fin­gers wide and ro­tate your shoul­ders so the ‘pits’ of your el­bows face for­wards. Keep your body straight, your quads and glutes tensed and your core braced.

Lower your­self, with­out arch­ing your back or let­ting your hips sag, un­til your nose is 1cm off the ground, then press back up, keep­ing your el­bow pits fac­ing for­wards. Build up un­til you can com­plete three sets of ten to 12 reps with strict form.

Best of the chest

Once you’ve mas­tered the press-up, you need to progress to more chal­leng­ing ex­er­cises. My favourite is press-ups per­formed on gym­nas­tics rings. The ba­sic start­ing po­si­tion and move­ment pat­tern are the same but the rings make it less sta­ble. You can in­crease the dif­fi­culty fur­ther by el­e­vat­ing your feet on a box, bring­ing your hands down to your waist dur­ing the low­er­ing phase or wear­ing a weighted vest.

A sim­pler bench press al­ter­na­tive is the dumb­bell chest press. The key is to keep your hands and el­bows at 45° to your body to main­tain a nat­u­ral move­ment. If you turn your wrists too far in­wards you end up in the same shoul­der-dam­ag­ing po­si­tion as in the bench press. Keep­ing your palms fac­ing is the safest op­tion, but it places more em­pha­sis on your tri­ceps than your chest – 45° is a happy medium.

Struc­ture your work­outs cor­rectly [see be­low] and th­ese moves will al­low you to build a heroic chest with­out the in­jury risks as­so­ci­ated with bench­ing. ja­son­fer­rug­

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