If you have a weak chest, it not only will show up when you take your shirt off and look in the mirror but it will also have a detrimental effect on your bench press and other lifts in your chest workouts. In this video, I’m going to show you the 5 biggest red flags for a weak chest, and most importantly, what you can do to fix them.
The first thing you want to do is look at the way in which you are performing your dumbbell bench press or barbell bench. If you have the tendency to allow your shoulders to drift forward ahead of your chest on the pressing portion of the lift then you likely are compensating for a weak chest. This becomes especially true if you find that it happens even more as you fatigue during the set.
Next, take a look at your performance and strength on the overhead press as compared to the bench press. If you find that you are meeting or coming close to pressing your bodyweight on the OHP but are far less capable of pressing one and a half times your bodyweight on a bench press, you likely have a very weak chest. Why is that? This is because the OHP requires primarily the strength of the delts to perform it well. Given that your delts are also needed on the bench press, if you have incredible strength in them that should carry over to the bench. If yours falls apart however, the most likely cause is that your chest is not nearly as strong as your shoulders.
Sticking with the bench press, you also want to be aware of where in the range of motion you seem to most often fail or struggle. Generally, the shoulders are most responsible for getting the bar off of your chest at the bottom of the lift. On the opposite end, the triceps are relied on tremendously for locking out the lift. The chest however, is most active and recruited during the midrange of the lift. If you find that it is here that you are failing on your reps or getting stuck, then it is something that you are going to want to work on and at the very least, identify as a major red flag.
Continuing on, you don’t just want to be concerned with your absolute strength in your chest but also your ability to produce force over time repeatedly. The muscle endurance of the chest can be tested by simply performing 25 pushups as I show you in the video, breaking them up into 5 reps at a time with a 5 second hold in the midrange of the exercise each time. Without stopping, see if you can get all the way to 25 reps while accruing 25 seconds of holding time. If not, you want to be alerted to the weakness you likely have in your chest muscles.
Finally, take note of any potential discrepancy in your performance of the dip. We know that leaning forward in the dip is going to more effectively recruit the muscles of the chest rather than relying heavily on the triceps (as happens in a more upright dip). If you find however that you can do more reps upright than you can tilted forward in more of a chest dip, this is a major red flag.
The fixes for each of these red flags are included. Be sure that you keep your shoulders held back during all pressing movements so that your chest can more actively contribute to the lift. Likewise, it is ok to work on including partials in the midrange of a bench press or even paused reps in the midrange to evoke more work from the chest and strengthen it. Finally, with dips, don’t just treat them as a high rep exercise. Remember to include some weighted dips and lean forward into the chest dip position and work on increasing your strength on the exercise in the lower rep ranges.
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