In the vast majority of commercial gyms in America the most crowded training session of the week occurs every Monday.
Many men from all parts of the country, from all colors and creeds line up like programmed robots to do one thing; train CHEST.
International Chest Day is the most prominent day in the iron game for the the average male meathead. Even though the key to an incredible physique is balance, ICD is deeply revered and embedded into the majority of men’s minds as the apex of training.
Arnold Schwarzenegger put the wheels in motion for how many male lifters wanted their chest to look. Even though most of us will not ever reach a super muscular 57-inch chest, most men who have lifted weights are inspired by Arnold.
I’m all about building a bigger and more muscular chest as I sported the definitive skinny man bird chest for all of my youth and into my early 20’s. The problem I saw for many years when I trained at the commercial gym is that despite men pumping their pecs into oblivion on ICD, the vast majority of the results were trash.
Soft pecs, sagging pecs, and weak pecs littered the gym. You would think with all the attention to detail that the pecs were receiving that most cats would have a stronger and more muscular chest. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
One of the main issues facing lifters and trainees when it comes to chest development is using too many movements. There is absolutely no good reason to do the following on ICD:
-barbell bench press 3-5 x 10-15
-seated chest press machine 3-5 x 10-15
-smith machine incline press 3-5 x 10-15
-pec dec flyes 3-5 x 10-15
-dip machine 3-5 x 10-15
-cable crossovers 3-5 x burnout
When you combine this haphazard plan with half-reps, low intensity, taking selfies, and spending about 2-3 hours in the gym for chest, the end results will always be a complete joke.
What it comes down to is training harder and staying focused throughout your workout.
If you are using a weight that creates no challenge, how can you expect to grow? I promise that if you came to train upper body on ICD at The Center, you will learn the definition of accountability in the iron game.
I covered the top 3 exercises needed to build a bigger and stronger chest in this article. Today we are going to focus on how to properly execute the top chest builder of all time.
The Barbell Neck Press
The neck press was the top chest movement of the legendary Iron Guru Vince Gironda.
While the bench press was getting all the headlines, Gironda advocated using the neck press to truly maximize pec development. He was right.
When you bench press with textbook form, you will get a more balanced distribution of strength coming from your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
When you perform the neck press with textbook form, your chest will take on the brunt of the work during the exercise. Your triceps and shoulders are still obviously working, but nowhere close to the degree that they do in the bench press.
While the neck press is the ultimate chest builder, you have to use sublime form in order to maximize the results. Using bad form will lead to injuries.
I’ve got the 4 cues that will allow you to perform the neck press like a professional:
Cue 1: Take a wider grip on the barbell
The medium grip that a lifter would typically use on the bench press is not technically wrong. But remember the goal of building muscle is to put stress on the specific muscle that you are looking to improve.
You can get good upper body development from benching but your chest will not be maximized because of how the movement is performed.
To increase the work that your chest will do you will take a wider grip on the barbell. If you have ever performed a wide grip bench press then you know you feel your chest more during that movement vs. the standard bench press.
The neck press requires a wide grip in order to be an effective movement. Your grip width will vary based on your arm length.
Cue 2: Bring your legs up
In the traditional bench press your feet stay on the ground to give you more leverage and strength. For the neck press the game changes.
After you grab the barbell, you will bring your knees up to your abs and cross them at the ankles. This will eliminate the natural arch in your back that occurs when your feet are flat on the floor.
A flatter back makes the movement harder and will force the chest to do even more work when you begin to press.
Note: You can also unrack the barbell with your legs on the ground and then bring your legs up afterwards. The method showed in the video and the method I just mentioned are both based on preference.
Cue 3: Flare out your elbows
This is the most important cue to ensuring your chest receives the most stress during the neck press.
In pressing movements like push-ups, dips, and bench presses, a half-tuck of the elbows during the exercises is standard fare. This allows us to perform these movements with a balanced distribution of strength between the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
The neck press is not about balance. We want to put the bulls-eye right on the chest.
When you are performing reps with your elbows flared out, you minimize the impact of the triceps and shoulders but especially your triceps.
This will cause your bench press numbers to drop significantly when performing the neck press. I’ve seen men who could bench 225lbs and then struggle badly to get 5-10 clean reps at 135lbs in the neck press.
Cue 4: Bring the bar to your neck
In the standard bench press the bar typically comes down to your lower chest around the nipple line.
What really separates the neck press is that the bar is being brought down to the neck. This will allow you to get a massive stretch in the pecs at the bottom of the movement.
Bringing the bar to your neck also requires a lifter to have control of the barbell. Have you ever watched the NFL Combine where many of the young athletes are literally bouncing the bar off their chest like a basketball and trying to get more hollow reps for their evaluation?
That would not be considered good form at all. If you try to do the NFL Combine bounce style reps into your neck, your story will have a horrendous ending.
You must exhibit excellent control of the barbell and gently kiss your neck with the barbell on the descent.
Bonus: Rep Styles
There are 2 rep styles that you can use to maximize your chest growth.
Rep Style 1: Constant Tension Reps
The neck press lends itself very well to constant tension style reps.
Constant tension reps involve you never locking out the barbell until you have completed the set. You will only go to about 85-90 percent of the lockout at the top.
This makes the neck press much more difficult than when you are performing traditional repetitions. You will want to pump the barbell in a smooth, piston-like fashion throughout the duration of the set.
Rep Style 2: 1 and ¼ Reps
1 and ¼ reps will reveal your character when you use them in training. They are painful, but in a great way!
1 and ¼ reps add another layer of intensity to constant tension reps. You will not be able to use as much weight due to the quarter rep, but the pump you receive in the pecs will be otherworldly.
To perform 1 and ¼ reps you will:
-lower the barbell to your neck
-press it up ¼ of the way
-lower the barbell back to your neck
-press the barbell to the top
You can create the ultimate intensity for your pecs by combining constant tension reps with 1 and ¼ reps.
Grow Pecs Grow
For your next upper body workout use this routine that includes the neck press. By consistently using this routine and getting proper nutrition and sleep, you can start the process of unleashing new growth in your chest.
Sample RP-21 Upper Body Workout A
Dips SS Neutral Grip Chin Ups 7×3
Barbell Neck Press 6×5
EZ Bar Triceps Extensions SS EZ Bar Curls 2×8
Sample RP-21 Upper Body Workout B
Incline Barbell Press SS Chin-Ups 7×3
Barbell Neck Press SS Barbell Rows 5×10
Lateral Raises SS Rear Delt Raises 2×12
-SS denotes Superset
-Initally start lighter on your neck press than you would on your bench press
-Slightly lean into your dips to shift more emphasis to the chest
-Progress to using a dip belt for dips and chins
-On workout A, you will not superset the neck press with the pull-ups
-Refer to this article to learn about how to perform the RP-21 Training System
When the majority is going right, you go left. You be the light.
I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer,
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