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Building Perfect Pecs

by Verne McDonald -- 1993

There are three attributes of pectorals which usually flash across the mind of the beholder to imprint an image of perfection. These are, one, grand width -- width to the outer limits -- that spreads form sternum to the great beyond of the shoulders; two, a bold shape-line that almost squares the bottom pecs, and downplays any sag there, while it goes on to hug the outer and upward curves; three, snappy displays of intra-striations.

Of the three attributes, the third (fully "cut" separation) is the least emphatic, simply because it's the most fleeting. A temporary condition, actually, it's derived during pre-contest fine tuning through nonfat, low-carb nutrition and light-weight, high-rep isolationism.

The attributes of width to the outer limit and shape of the proper alignment are (or should be) lasting. To develop these permanent qualities, 10 exercise have been carefully chosen. Before considering them, auxiliary muscle function and exercise innovation must be factored in, and, even before these considerations, types of attachment inherent for the individual should be determined.

Attachments: Subtle Factors in Imaging -- Attachment can be an obvious factor in physique shape and image, as in calves and lats, or no factor whatsoever as in delts (which are largely predetermined by bone structure). In the case of pecs (and the majors in particular), although width and curve are influenced by attachments, his influence is subtle by comparison to the lats which can range beyond the norm to very high or very low. In pectoral attachment vocabulary, the term "high" is not relevant. "Low" remains apt but on a modified basis. That is, the bottom pecs are pendulous to a slight degree only. Referring vertically, otherwise, "normal" is the only other description. Completing the variable descriptions of pec attachments are those for the horizontal, from their three points of origin clear to the convergence point of insertion. These may be described as "compact" or "wide."

The combination of vertical and horizontal attachments amount to four groupings:

Vertically low and horizontally wide, as exemplified by Lee Haney, Lou Ferrigno and Tony Pearson.
Vertically normal and horizontally wide, a la Lance Dreher, Samir Bannout, Shawn Ray, Eddie Robinson and Frank Zane.
Vertically low and horizontally compact, via Bertil Fox, Tim Belknap, and Kalman Szkalak (remember this past Mr. America?)
Vertically normal and horizontally compact, as displayed by Chris Dickerson, Tom Platz, and Mohamed Jakkawy.
Now, those picture-perfect pecs being touted are those sported by Dreher, Bannout and company -- of the "vertically normal and horizontally wide" variety. This does not mean to imply that the other three pec types are adverse or wrong. (Who would dare call Handy's pecs "wrong"?!). In fact, since Haney is so massively curved, his pecs fit his hulkish frame, as the compact but pendulous pecs of Fox suit his compact but massive body (and ditto for the fireplug form of Belknap,) while the normal and compact pecs of Mr. Olympia Dickerson complement his compact stature and his overall build. It's just that the "normal and wide type best fits the premium value put on them by not only the physique world, but by the aesthetic and public worlds as well.

The ten exercises are designed specifically to attempt an emulation of the most desirable pectoral type, despite a given genetic foundation. In order for this to occur, use of stretch and some innovation is essential.

Incorporating Stretch: A Must Principle -- Of the five characteristics of muscle function, only contractibility seems to spring to most people's minds. Makes sense. Why should the principles of irritability (response to stimuli) and conductivity (nerve impulse) supersede initial thought? But extensibility (plus elasticity), or stretch, best not be over-looked -- especially in the quest, for ultra wide pecs, for tendons of origins (at ribs, sternum, clavicles) and of insertion must be gently and persistently extended.

Furthermore, extensility must be used as both a primary function and subsidiary function. So, warm up with light pullovers, using a bar of 20-30 pounds (collars only and probably no plates, will suffice), do 10-12 reps with a wide-grip. Rest briefly, do same reps with a normal grip and again entire procedure for a third sets with a narrow grip. Finally, use a palm-locked grip on the inner face of the plate of 20-pound dumbbell to finish up with a fourth set of warm-ups.

Most of the 10 selections, which will be narrowed to form a routine best suited for the individual purposely incorporate stretch for the most favorable overall results.

Prime Motion Wide-outs: Emphasizing Outer Pecs and Squarer Lower Pecs:

Wide-grip bench press: A hand's width beyond delts is far enough; any further spacing outward would rob stress throughout entire breadth of pecs and place it on the far edges, almost exclusively.
Lean dips on crossbar: This is an innovation on regular dips to underscore bottom pecs as well as achieve ultimate width for them, as promised by wide-grip bench presses. Place a short, plate-less bar upon the bench's safety stands and, with hands placed just outside shoulders, lean forward to do dips.
Cambered bar bench press: The bar has the one long curve to accommodate the chest.
Dumbbell bench press: An option to the cambered bar, it accomplishes the same effect. (in both selections the bench is flat, of course.)
Dumbbell Bench Press: The most advantageous angle setting should be 40-50 degrees; press should start below pecs and finish above forehead. Upper pecs are stressed too, and that's a bonus.
Close-grip barbell incline press: Another innovation, again on a 40-45 degree pitch, again begun below pecs (with hand spacing of six inches0 and again complete above forehead. As with dumbbell incline press, upper pecs are strongly stimulated, too. this selection crowds shoulders a bit. Should the isolations that follow fail to suspend the tightness and actual joint pain occur, discontinue this version of the incline press.
Choose one or two of the three prime motion selections. Reps recommended at 8-10 per set. Set and weight amounts left to the discretion of the individual.

Precision Delineators: Keying Pec Width and Bold Shape-lines --

Cable incline flyes: As with presses, incline of 40-45 degrees produces best results: cable handles avoid clash of dumbbell plates, thereby permitting fuller contraction. Though primary emphasis still fails on upper pecs, a greater curve of contraction stimulates entire pectoral region. Be certain to begin flyes with elbows bent and back as far as possible without actually straining shoulder and clavicular joints.
Alternate dumbbell flyes on incline: This is an innovation to mimic cable incline flyes (or an attempt at mimic). By alternating dumbbell swoops, the bells do not hit, and contraction is more pronounced. Incline setting, start finish and end result of this exercise are the same as for the cable version.
Pec Deck: Being a machine, its configuration does not allow the fuller stretch that's desired or possible in free flyes, but it's excellent for pronouncing shape-line from shoulder tips to midpoint via the sternum.
Tuck flyes: Hold dumbbells in the position of a partially completed bench press; then swing elbows inward and upward. Hold and tense at midpoint. Return to start position. This somewhat simulates pec station isolation.
Choose one of the two delineators to complement the one (or two) prime mover(s). Make reps 10-12 per set. Again set and resistance amounts are left to the discretion of the individual.

Do Nots and Final Results -- The "do's", which were just given, require a last suggestion: one or tow of the prime movers, and one of the delineators should be done for six months or more; then, if desired, the remaining prime mover(s) and the remaining delineator should be doe for several additional months. (Although possessing pecs of the "vertically low / horizontally wide" type. Mr. America Toy Pearson has at times programmed his pecs on a course of the uppermost and ultra wide persuasion. Depending on how Pearson presents himself, he can feature pectoral idealism as envisioned by the consensus.)

The "do nots" are; too many heavy crossovers, regular / power bench presses, decline flyes / presses and all others which overly punctuate the lower and inner-most pecs. Even in the present age, there's a stigma attached to the over-thickened boob-look that the dichotomy with the mammaries of "cheesecake" in certain centerfolds.

The course of ten recommended pec blasters will certainly prevent such a stigma. And though picture-perfect pecs are not in the realm of possibility for everybody, photogenic ones are surely likely.

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