Monday, July 23, 2012

3 Drills to Train the Pecs Outside the Box

The pectoralis muscle is often associated with the bench press or push up exercise. As a powerful arm adductor and humeral flexor, we tend to look at the pectoral muscles as nothing more than just "show" muscles. Anyone--especially males--would love to have thick sleek pecs underneath a thin T-shirt or dress up shirt. So the notion is to train the pecs with major compound movements like the bench press, dips, and cable crossovers. 

We tend to forget that the pectoralis major is also an important humeral stabilizer at the clavicular head whenever the arms is extended with a loaded end. The best example of this is seen in the Iron Cross in gymnastics. 

The pectoralis tendon--one of the strongest in the body--works very hard to keep the arms isometrically abducted under the load of the body [and gravity]. With the popularity of gymnastics rings popping up in warehouse gyms and Crossfit gyms everywhere; there is a greater chance of injuring this powerful muscle. One reason being is that the majority of exercisers do not purposely train the pecs to be upperbody stabilizers. They are typically trained to "push off" as in bench pressing. 

With the introduction of gymnastics ring work in the exercise community,  you can appreciate that injuries are likely to occur in people with no gymnastics background, poor isometric strength, and poor technique. 

Its important to include some drills that focus on the pectoral muscles as humeral stabilizers during long lever movements. Not only will this prevent any injury to this muscle-tendon junction; but it will strengthen the arm in long lever positions such as painting overhead for long periods of time, construction work overhead; or sports such as basketball and volleyball.

An exercise that combines pectoral stabilization and ab bracing is the TRX Ab Roll exercise. This drill can be modified for ease. One may start from a kneeling position and can shorten the distance that is traveled forward based on their level of strength. This drill can also be performed using an Ab Wheel or Ab Dolly or Valslides. 

For a simpler drill that can be used as part of a warm up or rehab exercise, there is the Standing Band Circle Drill. This drill is great because the rubber band causes reactive forces to travel through the humerus and pectorals must stay contracted and are proprioceptively "turned on".

Not only does this do a terrific job as described above, but it is great for learning how to "pack" the shoulder--including how to depress the scapular. You will also get some serratus activation and core stabilization [while standing.] This drill can be modified based on strength levels by simply watching how many steps forward to take; band tension strength, and how large you want to create the circles with your arm fixed. Ideally,  the stronger one is, the bigger the circles made. If one is new to this, you may want to stick with smaller circles and slower movements. 

Lastly,  another movement that may be interpreted as JUST a shoulder exercise, really can be added to this list of pectoral stabilization drills. The Front-Loaded Cable Press is great for scapular stabilization, but is also a great contributor to pectoral stabilization because of the location of the load. With the load vector coming anteriorly, the pectoralis and anterior deltoids must act as stabilizers at the top of the movement: 

This drill can also be modified depending on strength levels. One can increase stress by lowering the pulleys on a cable tower. The lowest position on the cable tower will create the greatest resistance. In the video, I use a mid level position. Also, you can also modify the exercise to meet your needs by observing the distance you are from the cable tower. The further you step back,  the greater the stress is put on the anterior delts and the greater amount of stabilization put on the pectorals at the top of the movement (when arms are out-stretched overhead).

Try these drills out next time you hit your chest. They are great as chest "finishers" and most effective with higer repetitions. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article rich in insight and remediation. Good stuff.


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