Why is it that all around the world in most commercial gyms you will see people chasing a big bench press?
Before I continue, I just want you to know that this article is NOT for powerlifters, football players or any athletes for that matter who get tested on the lift, but for RECREATIONAL LIFTERS who are trying to get JACKED.
I personally feel like these recreational lifters who are trying to get jacked are just benching because they feel like they have to. Now I am not saying or advocating that you shouldn’t be benching, but most lifters put the bench at the top of the list because they make it their first exercise at the beginning of the week which is why Monday is called “international bench” or “international chest day”.
I feel like a lot of lifters who are trying to get very jacked think that if they get a big bench then they will automatically look incredibly muscular.
This is false.
If you’ve read Naturally Enhanced by Alex Leonidas then you know that the chest and triceps are NOT as big as people really think. In fact, the biggest and meatiest part of the triceps is the long head and they don’t really get hit from benching (its more of the lateral head). So benching alone won’t get your triceps as jacked as people think, so what about the pecs now? People think that getting bigger pecs will have a really huge impact on their physique and although you still want some development, it should NOT be at the top of the list in most cases because its not as big as you think.
If you look at a human anatomy chart then you could see that the chest really doesn’t stand out that much. In other words, the shoulders blow the pecs through the waters.
The shoulders will ALWAYS have a bigger impact on the way you look than the chest will because its a muscle group that is so hard to ignore. Not only that, but the shoulders are EXTREMELY hard to develop to an appreciable size when you are drug-free, but I’ve seen plenty of drug-free guys with big pecs yet they still look small.
This is contradicting because the recreational lifters who are trying to look jacked who bench a lot usually neglect shoulder work to a large degree which is a shame and always seems to amaze me.
My suggestion and recommendation for people trying to look MASSIVE is to make overhead pressing variations their main pressing variations.
A common question that is asked is “OHP’s and benching both hit the front delts hard so whats the difference?”. The big difference is that overhead presses hit the front delts just as hard, but they also hit the side delts very hard as well and the rear delts also get some stimulation too (especially if you press behind the neck)!
What are some other benefits of overhead pressing variations?
1.LONG HEAD DEVELOPMENT: Unlike the bench, the overhead press will actually give you really big upper arms because the key to having bigger upper arms is to add mass to the long head of your triceps which is exactly what overhead pressing does!
2.TRAP DEVELOPMENT: Out of all pressing variations, overhead presses hit your traps the hardest and the stimulation might not be crazy, but its not uncommon to have sore traps after a day of heavy OHP’s. Another cool thing is that the neck also gets a bit of stimulation as well. Yes its true that OHP’s aren’t neck and trap exercises, but they do get hit way more than when you do horizontal presses.
3.UPPER CHEST DEVELOPMENT: Another benefit of shoulder pressing variations is that you get great upper chest development which is great because the upper-chest is very hard to develop as a drug-free lifter. Luckily for you, doing shoulder presses with a pause at the bottom will hit this area very well which is good because if we are going to be prioritizing vertical presses from now on then atleast we could get some indirect chest stimulation sprinkled in as well!
4.STRONGER CORE: Overhead pressing also hits your core very hard because having a couple of hundred pounds over your head does force you to stay very tense which teaches full body tightness.
If you look at most strongman competitors then you will notice that they do not have the biggest pecs around. In fact, a lot of them don’t do as much benching as you think because the vertical presses are in all of their events so they have to make sure that they could press a lot of weight overhead (although horizontal presses will usually be done for assistance work).
Strongman competitors still look extremely huge and that’s because they have a huge upper back, traps, neck, delts and forearms (for the upper body). These are the upper body muscles that are located on the outer extremities and this is what creates mass and size, its not the chest, abs, triceps and biceps.
CHEST VS SHOULDER COMPARISON
What sounds worse:
1.Having an extremely narrow frame
2.Having a small chest
Both of them sound bad, but nobody could argue with the fact that if you have these teeny tiny shoulders and narrow frame then you are basically screwed for life as far as aesthetics are concerned because nobody is going to take your physique seriously. With no shoulders you will have a hard time filling out a Large t-shirt and from far people won’t even be able to see notice you because of your small frame.
Whereas if your chest is a bit on the smaller side then its not even that much of a big deal because from the front view your shoulders will be getting most of the attention anyways. I know that you are probably thinking “what about the side view”, but from the side view its really your upper back needs to be developed in order for your upper body to look thick from the side and not so much is it the pecs. Your pecs could help the measurement out, but most of your chest measurement will actually come from your upper back.
SHOULDER PRESSING TIP FOR OPTIMAL SHOULDER DEVELOPMENT
A lot of lifters out there claim that they could shoulder press a lot of weight and they are wondering why their shoulders are not getting any bigger, but there are a few cases here.
1.The person isn’t that strong yet (lifting standards will be below)
2.The lifter is using half reps.
One scenario that is quite common that I see is that a lot of lifters will be using half reps on their vertical presses. I am not saying that you have to make the bar touch your upper chest, but at least bring the bar to nose level. As for vertical dumbell presses, you have to understand that as you get stronger the dumbells are already getting bigger and blockier so technically the reps are already becoming partials. This is why I recommend that you make the dumbells touch your shoulders on every rep because your hands will most likely be at ear level at the bottom of the movement anyways.
If you only do half reps on dumbell shoulder presses then you are mostly only working your triceps and your shoulders won’t get the stimulation that they truly deserve!
As far as my lifting standards are concerned with shoulder pressing variations, here are some good stats to shoot for:
STANDING BB STRICT OHP: 185lbX4-6, 225lbX1
ONE ARM DB PUSH PRESS: 130lbX5
DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS (SEATED): 100×5
ARNOLD PRESSES: 80lbX10
These are some rough standards and they are in no particular order, but the point that I am trying to make is that if you want bigger delts then you have to stop obsessing over doing countless lateral raises because if you don’t have a solid vertical pressing foundation then you won’t have big delts, the isolation stuff is important, but it comes after.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t be bench pressing, but what I am saying is that if you have healthy shoulders and you want to look jacked in the upper body department then having a big chest won’t do as much as you think. I am also not advocating that you stop training your chest, but I am saying that you should focus on bringing up your shoulders more because they will have a bigger impact on the way you look.
This article was also meant to educate you in a sense because the fact that everybody takes the bench seriously does not mean that you have to do the same. You need to have a mind of your own and make decisions based on your goals and particular situation.
As a bonus, chasing a strong OHP will also mean that you will have a pretty strong bench press so don’t think that you will be a weak horizontal presser because if you could OHP 225 then I can almost guarantee that you could bench 315.
Follow my advice and in the next few months you will NOT be disappointed!