When people think of building their pecs the first exercise that comes to mind is the bench press. Now, I love the bench press as much as the next guy, but the bottom-line is that the bench press is not really the best choice for your chest muscle building program. At least not the way most people perform it.
If you are serious about building your chest, here are some tips to turn the bench press into a pec-building beast:
1. Use a wide grip
For shorter guys, put your pinkies on the rings, or thereabouts. For taller guys you may go as wide as index fingers on the rings. Widening of the grip increases the stretch on the pecs which increases their involvement in the lift. If you typically use a fairly close grip then you will be probably be weaker with a wide grip. Because of this, make sure to warm-up and work-up in weight slowly. Dont just jump to your usual weight or youll be asking for an injury.
2. Squeeze the bar together
By pushing your hands together throughout the movement you increase the recruitment of the pectoral muscle fibers. Please note that your hands dont actually move during the movement because you are gripping the bar tightly. But by isometrically pushing your hands toward each other you will get a similar effect to doing flyes.
3. Bring to nipple line or higher
Make sure to touch the bar on your chest at the nipple line or even higher. This increases the activation of the chest muscles and limits triceps involvement to a degree. You can even go as high as the collarbone, but the weight you use will have to be much lighter than usual.
All of these tips run counter to what most people do with the bench press. This is because people get caught-up in how much weight they can move. These tips will definitely decrease your strength in the bench press, but they will also increase the stress on your pecs so that they can grow. This turns the bench press into a great exercise for your chest muscle building program.
Please note that all of these tips put the shoulder in a slightly more compromised position than a traditional bench press. If you have any shoulder problems at all you should not use these variations. Even if your shoulders are healthy make sure to perform these variations with lighter weight and higher reps than you would for a normal bench press. This will allow you to get the most benefit from the exercise without fear of injury.
Keep in mind that while changing one exercise may moderately improve your progress over the short-term, long-term success and huge increases in muscle and strength require you to follow a synergistic training and nutrition program.