Eccentric Chest Flyes For Massive Pectorals
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
When it comes to building functional strength and hypertrophy as well as injury prevention, eccentric overload is one of the most effective techniques in existence. Although there are a variety of methods that can be employed to induce eccentric overload, many of which I’ve highlighted in past articles (i.e. BANA 2:1 method, PREP method, partner eccentric manual tension method, eccentric potentiation pivot press, table top squeeze press, supramaximal negatives, KBox method, eccentric accentuated push press, and more), one technique that’s incredibly simple yet effective is the compound isolation method or biomechanical drop rep technique. Essentially you perform an isolation movement for the eccentric phase of the exercise then immediately transition to a stronger compound movement position for the concentric phase.
The idea is that since the muscles can produce 20-35% more force during the eccentric phase compared to the concentric, we simply alter the biomechanics of each phase to maximize the overload effect. This is done by performing the eccentric phase of the movement using a biomechanically disadvantageous position while adjusting to a more structurally sound position during the weaker concentric phase. Similar to a biomechanical drop set where the lifter alters their positioning once they fatigue mid-set to allow them to perform more reps (i.e. front squat followed immediately by back squats with the same load), the biomechanical drop rep uses the same principle only applied mid-rep rather than mid-set. Hence the term biomechanical drop rep.
Although one of the more common examples of this is the eccentric accentuated skull crusher to chest presses, another combination that works exceptionally well is the eccentric chest fly to dumbbell chest press. Simply perform a slow eccentric chest fly using 110-130% of your max chest fly weight, slowly collapse to the bench/floor, slide the arms close to the sides, perform a deadstop chest press, then repeat this sequence for the desired rep range.
There are 3 primary methods that can be used as I demonstrate alongside my awesome client and figure competitor Leslie Petch. The first one I demonstrate involves a t-bench position, the second shown by Leslie highlights the slide-board version, and the third version I demonstrate involves a slick wooden platform.
One element all 3 of these variations share is a slick surface area. The reason being is the arms need to be able to slide on whatever surface you use, therefore, the lifter needs to be wearing either a long sleeve shirt or t-shirt with sleeves that go down at least to lower tricep level. Unfortunately, tank tops or muscle shirts won’t work as the skin tends to stick to the surface preventing the lifter from being able to slide and adjust their arms when needed. For narcissistic iron game fanatics this could be problematic but for most folks this shouldn’t pose an issue. However, if showcasing your muscles during your workouts is a necessity, the lifter can also apply chalk to their triceps as a means of preventing the arms from sticking into the surface.
The eccentric chest fly to chest press combo has several unique benefits.
First, and as previously highlighted, this allows the lifter to incorporate supramaximal loads (greater than your 1RM) on the eccentric or isolation portion of the movement without the fear of being able to complete the concentric movement. For instance, the heaviest loads I’ll use during chest flyes is roughly 60-65 pound dumbbells, however in this video I’m using 85’s. Similarly Leslie is using 45’s in this video but typically handles 30-35’s for chest flyes. This produces incredible mechanical tension and micro-trauma both of which are critical mechanisms of muscle growth.
Second, performing a chest fly immediately prior to each chest press repetition produces slight pre-exhaustion to the chest fibers thereby ensuring the chest is activated and fatigues more so than the triceps and shoulders during the subsequent chest press phase.
Third, most lifters use excessive range of motion during chest flyes by collapsing and using an exaggerated stretch in the bottom position. In reality, the optimal stopping point on a chest fly is a position where the triceps are approximately 1-2 inches above floor height. Besides the enormous eccentric overload, using the t-bench or floor versions helps prevent the lifter from over-stretching in the bottom position which is also acts as a safety feature (to catch the arms) during the heavy supramaximal eccentric phase. Learn more about proper chest fly form here.
On a side note the level of muscle soreness and fatigue to the chest fibers is inordinately high from these. In fact, my pectorals rarely get sore, however, my chest was sore for 3 days after this protocol which is probably the most sore my chest has been in years. With that said I recommend using this semi-sparingly such as once every 2-4 weeks to prevent excessive micro-trauma and recovery issues.
Learn more about implementing unique chest presses such as these into your routine with my Complete Templates.