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How to Isolate the Chest With Bench Press

author image Mike Samuels
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.
How to Isolate the Chest With Bench Press
A muscular man performing a bench press. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Large chest muscles improve the overall appearance of your physique and help give you the edge as a bodybuilder. The barbell bench press is a good exercise for developing strength and muscularity in your chest muscles, but many people often find that they feel the exercise more in their shoulders or triceps muscles. To make sure that you isolate your chest to really get the most out of bench pressing, you can use a few simple tricks.

Step 1

Put your bench presses at the end of your workout. While most people often begin their chest workout with bench pressing, putting it at the end means that your chest muscles are already fatigued, so you will have to work extra hard to bench properly. Charles Poliquin, owner of the Poliquin Performance Center for elite athletes, believes that pre-exhausting a muscle group with isolation exercises before doing a compound exercise can spark new muscle growth, and bodybuilder and strength coach John Meadows advises doing bench presses last in your workout, as this will lead to better chest development and is less likely to cause injuries.

Step 2

Use a wider grip on the bar. The most common grip when bench pressing is a shoulder-width one, but to isolate your chest, try widening your grip by 12 inches or so wider. This bench press variation is known as the guillotine press, and it allows you to bring the bar lower down, meaning that you get a greater range of motion and less shoulder and triceps involvement, and it places much more focus on your chest muscles.

Step 3

Utilize partial reps in your training. During a bench press, two main actions occur -- adduction at your shoulder joint and extension at your elbow joint. Your chest muscles are responsible for the adduction, while your triceps extend your elbow. To isolate your chest when bench pressing, perform partial reps, where you begin the movement with the bar touching your chest, but only lift it halfway up. This takes your triceps out of the exercise, which means your chest muscles have to work harder.

Step 4

Use resistance bands once every few weeks to boost chest growth. Loop one end of a pair of heavy bands over the top of a power rack, and the other end over your bar, so that they are fairly tight, then perform bench presses in your usual manner. Doing this enables you to use heavier weights, as the resistance bands are aiding you in the lift, which means that you can focus on squeezing your chest muscles at the bottom and top ends of the movement.

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