Build Massive Pecs with This Bottoms-Up Chest Press
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Earlier this year I wrote an article about using anti-fly chest presses to maximizing chest growth and pectoral development (read more about Anti-Fly Presses Here). As a recap, the chest muscle’s two primary functions (although there are several smaller functions) are flexion of the shoulder/humerus and adduction of the shoulder/ humerus. You can accomplish these two functions in one movement by using bands or cables (attached to your arms) to produce abduction forces while simultaneously performing standard chest presses with free weights. Although the movement is typically applied to dumbbell presses it can also be applied to bottoms-up chest presses for one incredibly effective movement.
In fact the anti-fly bottoms up chest press provides several unique benefits.
1. Bottoms up movements are some of the most effective exercises for improving pressing technique and upper body mechanics. Unfortunately, most individuals lack the appropriate grip strength to handle significant loads during bottoms up exercises oftentimes resulting in their grip strength failing before their pressing muscles do.
By applying anti-fly resistance to the pressing arm in the form of lateral or anti-abduction resistance this allows the lifter to use relatively light loads which won’t be enough to cause the grip to give out but will still provide extreme tension to the chest and upper body pressing muscles. In fact, don’t be surprised if you feel like your chest muscles are going to cramp during these.
2. One of the most common mistakes on bottoms up presses or any chest press for that matter is excessive elbow flare. This anti-fly press helps to master bottoms-up pressing mechanics as the bands force the lifter to keep their elbows tucked and fire their lats. That’s because the lateral or abduction forces are literally feeding dysfunction by providing forces that want to pull the arm and elbow away from the torso. The only way to successfully complete this lift and maintain control of the load is the keep the elbow and arm close to the body by firing the lats and centrating/packing the shoulder joint into the ideal position.
3. Lack of proper full body tension and intramuscular tightness is another common problem many lifters encounter. Not only does this minimize the total load you can handle in a safe and effective manner on any lift but it makes it nearly impossible to handle substantial loads on bottoms-up movements. Fortunately this specific anti-fly press resolves this issue within minutes as the movement literally increases concurrent activation potentiation (CAP) and irradiation (increased neural drive throughout the body) ultimately leading to greater tightness from head to toe as well as the elimination of energy leaks. As a result the individual has greater motor control and more stimulation to the targeted musculature. Once you go back to traditional presses (including standard bottoms up movements) and transfer this newfound full body tightness previously discussed, don’t be surprised if you’re able to handle significantly heavier loads.
4. A side benefit of the single arm anti-fly press is increased core activation. In essence there are two rotational forces you’re resisting, one from the weight and one from the band, both of which want to rotate your body and pull it out of position. With this in mind, the movement feels like a combination chest press and lying Pallof press (one of the best anti-rotation movements). Just be prepared to fire your entire abdominal and core musculature to near maximal effort in order to keep your body fixed to the floor as you resist rotation.
I recommend periodically incorporating these into your routine using 2-3 sets of 5-8 repetitions. In addition I suggest super-setting these with a single arm rowing variation that also involves rotary stability.
Can You Apply Overload To This Protocol??
The answer is yes, you can focus more on pure overload by applying the anti-fly (anti-abduction) to dumbbell variations. In fact here’s one of my awesome clients Todd Weiland pushing his final set with a 100 pound dumbbell. Not too shabby for a male in his mid 50's.
When combining the lateral band resistance with a heavy single arm dumbbell floor press the degree of anti-rotation, rotary stability, and core strength needed to lock this movement in is unreal. In fact this was verging on too heavy even for Todd’s standards but periodically pushing the envelope to see where you’re at isn’t always a bad thing as long as proper mechanics are employed.
I should also point out that Todd had several orthopedic issues including shoulder pain and limited mobility when we began less than 6 months ago. By simply addressing his technique, mechanics, and form, guess what? He’s pain free. So to all you pseudo "pain experts" out there (who downplay the importance of technique and its relationship to pain) yes proper form and mechanics as well as the elimination of dysfunctional movement patterns is paramount for addressing pain, inflammation, joint health, and quality of movement. In fact it’s the single most important factor when it comes to the elimination of pain (although it’s not the only factor).
And as a side benefit from eliminating pain and dysfunction this has allowed Todd to gain incredible strength and muscle mass in a fairly short period of time. It’s also allowed him to drop his body fat not only because he can train more intensely but because eliminating inflammation and pain in his body (by correcting his mechanics and diet) actually helps improve insulin sensitivity of muscles thereby allowing him to absorb his nutrients including carbohydrates more readily. It also helps optimize endocrine function including testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, and other hormones. So yes technique, mechanics, and form really are that important as they impact many aspects of physiological function even more so than what most in this field are aware of. Stay tuned for my book coming out later this year discussing eccentric isometrics and how it pertains to these aforementioned topics.