Common Chest Training Mistakes

Just about every guy at the gym is trying to grow a stronger, more defined chest. Many are hitting their chest workouts 1-2 times a week but aren’t seeing the results they want. Here are some common chest training mistakes to avoid so your workouts aren’t wasted.

Improper Bench Press Form

Full range of motion is key. Make sure you are nearly touching your chest with the bar.

I hate seeing guys at the gym who slap more plates on the bar yet are doing ½ to ¾ of a rep.  Unless you are using your full range you aren’t activating all the muscle fibers that you can.

You can use different grip widths to challenge your shoulders, triceps, and chest differently. Just remember that the narrower your grip the more your triceps are working. The wider your grip the more you’re challenging those pecs.

Focus on breathing. Inhale down; exhale up. Don’t hold your breath as you’re pushing the bar back up.

Here’s a great article on specific posture and form to bench press correctly.

Neglecting Eccentric Training

Don’t drop the bar to your chest. For one, that could hurt. Two, the eccentric (downward) phase of your lift is as important as your concentric (upward) phase. Dropping the bar quickly to your chest means you’re missing out on half the workout.

Not Caring For Your Shoulders

Don’t bench press heavy until you’ve developed the shoulder strength to handle it.

Telling the difference between shoulder muscle pain, and pain caused by rotator cuff tears or impingement is difficult. But if you are experiencing soreness specifically inside your shoulder you are lifting too heavy, and might even be doing too many repeated movements.

As your chest training develops, take your shoulder building more seriously than your chest building. What’s the hardest part of the bench press? The bottom. And that’s where the shoulders really come in to play. Build and take care of your shoulders and you’ll see your ability to develop your chest increase much further.

Spending Too Much Time on the Bench

Mix it up. Don’t spend 20 minutes only doing the traditional olympic bar bench press. Challenge your chest training in different ways.

High Reps of Push Ups

Pushups are an excellent exercise that WILL make you stronger and more athletic. But making these the primary staple of your exercise is another common chest training mistake that robs you of strength and mass gains. 3 heavier sets on the bench are going to do more for your chest strength and size than 60 pushups.

If you do like mixing pushups into your chest routine, do them right after you’ve finished a set of a different chest exercise. This allows you to further challenge and exhaust your chest muscles.

Using Machines vs. Free Weights

Working out on machines will certainly challenge your muscles. But there is nothing better than using free weights to maximize the resistance your body is experiencing.

When using a barbell or dumbbell more of your body has to engage during the exercise than during the use of a stationary machine. Free weight use will not only help you build muscle faster but burn more calories.


Don’t be a victim of these common chest training mistakes! You don’t want to hurt your shoulders or do anything else to set back your gains. You also want to make sure you are absolutely maximizing your time invested in the gym.

No matter what anyone says, the best way to build a shredded chest is to combine excellent chest training and impeccable eating.

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About Todd Mayfield

He's a lover, not a fighter. But he's also a fighter, so don't get any ideas.

He works for a series of private schools to advance innovative education to combat ballooning classroom sizes and challenge the status quo of the current public and private education format.


  1. Great information! I’ve been lifting weights for about 2 months now and I must admit I’m still learning the basics. I just really want to get perfectly fit and strong.

    Also, I’m thinking about trying a new workout. Have you heard about p90x workout? Do you think this kind of workout will be good for me knowing that I just started about 2 months ago?

    • Todd Mayfield says:

      I have done P90X. It was summer 2009. A lot of people, about 20, where I worked tried it out as well. I think anything that gets people more active and eating better is great.

      P90X is a good program for overall athleticism. A person will certainly burn fat and gain some muscle. But the program takes muscle confusion to the extreme, and doesn’t really take time to focus on and engorge a muscle for maximal growth and strength.

      Having said that, I still do the Ab Ripper X and Yoga X DVDs. Those are two great workouts!!

      • I havent done my Chest in 3 days being away and feels my chest has gone down is that just a mental thing or really has happen?

        • Todd Mayfield says:

          3 days is a very short period of time. Most leave more days of rest in between. If anything, you’re body is still repairing. Remember, your muscles don’t grow in the gym, but while you sleep. That pumped look you get is because of blood engorgement. That goes away pretty quickly.

  2. Personally, my biggest chest training mistake was doing too many exercises. For beginners 1-2 exercises (bench press as one of them) is enough.

  3. Honestly, I have 1 and a half days for chest and whilst I’ve only been doing this exercise program for 3 weeks, I’m beginning to notice changes. My first day for chest is the day I do my shoulders. I start with a heavy bench, 4 sets of 5 reps. That gets the blood going and then I’m off to hammer my shoulders and triceps.

    My full chest day sees an incline bench at the start followed by dumbbell presses at three different angles then dumbbell flys, narrow grip bench, triceps superset and finished off with a 5-8 flat bench. 5-8 is something special and I recommend a spotter. You start with a weight you can only do 5 reps with. Then you drop 5 pounds and go for 5-8 reps and you continue that until you’re only lifting the bar then you try to hit 20 reps. Do not rest, the only rest you should get is when you’re taking off the plates. Also, if you want that nice definition like Schwarzenegger, you want to be doing chest dips. Start off like you would for a regular triceps dip but lean forward, you should feel the squeeze in your pecs.

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