One of the most popular muscle groups to focus upon is the chest, with many bodybuilders seeking significant muscle mass in the pecs through performing many sets of heavy bench pressing. Despite most weight lifting routines centering upon the bench press as the main upper body muscle building exercise, there are numerous bodybuilders who produce disappointing results in the chest region, and are searching for an alternative to the bench press for added muscle gain.

Many bodybuilders may still be unaware as to the true reasons why the chest in many cases does not develop as quickly as other smaller muscle groups, and replacing the bench press is not a viable solution, since this particular exercise is very effective in packing on additional chest muscle, that is, assuming that the shoulders and triceps do not fail prior to the pecs, which occurs far too often. This is the factor that many neglect when analyzing how to produce an effective chest building routine, as there are many muscle groups that participate in compound exercises such as the bench press, and if they are weaker than the target muscle that a bodybuilder is attempting to train (such as the shoulders or triceps experiencing fatigue prior to the chest during bench press), the supporting muscles (shoulders or triceps in this example) will fail first, and this will cause disappointing results in the primary muscle group (chest).

How this applies to the chest muscles in particular is that the triceps and shoulders are frequently insufficiently powerful to allow the pecs to fail first during the bench press exercise, which leads to lackluster muscle gain in the chest. Therefore, to rectify this scenario, a bodybuilder must institute pre-exhaustion, a technique that targets the chest in a more direct way, which fatigues the pectorals sufficiently to allow them a far greater chance for failure prior to the shoulders and triceps during the bench press, and this will result in far faster and more elaborate chest muscle growth.

The most effective pre-exhaustion exercise for the chest is pec deck, where both hands or elbows are brought together from an outstretched position either holding handles or placing the forearm behind padding, and this greatly overloads the pecs, causing them significant fatigue. When performing such an exercise prior to bench pressing, the shoulders and triceps will in most cases outlast the pecs due to proper performance of this pre-exhaustion exercise (pec deck), and this allows the chest to receive the majority of stimulation during all bench press movements.

Some choose to use dumbbells instead of the pec deck, performing a weight training movement known as dumbbell flies, but doing so is not as effective as using pec deck since the dumbbell fly exercise allows less weight to be used, in addition to requiring the bodybuilder to balance the two dumbbells above his or her chest as if performing the bench press, which introduces unnecessary shoulder fatigue (and the goal is to target the pecs and avoid as much shoulder or triceps overload as possible). The pec deck targets the chest in a very direct fashion, which is the goal of any pre-exhaustion technique, and thus the pec deck should be performed immediately prior to the bench press for any bodybuilder who experiences disappointing chest muscle growth.

For bodybuilders who cannot access a pec deck machine, the cable crossover is a somewhat less effective, but acceptable alternative, yet the chances are that those who are unable to use a pec deck also do not own a cable crossover unit, therefore, in such cases, dumbbell flies are acceptable for chest muscle pre-exhaustion prior to bench pressing. Keep in mind that the weight used during bench press will decline as compared with what you were able to use prior to introducing the pec deck as a pre-exhaustion technique, as your pecs will have experienced fatigue from pec deck prior to performing the bench press exercise, but this should not be of concern to you, as the total amount of overload will increase due to a combination of the extra pec deck exercise, and the greater focus upon chest fatigue during bench press that occurs as a result of pre-exhausting the pecs. The goal is to use the greatest amount of weight while targeting the intended muscle group, and for many, when performing bench press as the first exercise of a workout, without pre-exhaustion, the pecs never receive sufficient stimulation to begin achieving their impressive muscle growth potential.

Author's Bio: 

Francesco Castano is the owner of IncrediBody, a physical fitness company dedicated to helping others learn exactly how to gain muscle mass and lose weight without supplements or drugs. He authors two programs, one called MuscleNOW, teaching the correct bodybuilding diet and weight training program for muscle gain at, and Fat Vanish, which teaches how to lose weight & burn fat for natural weight loss, at He includes lifetime email personal training with both programs, where he personally assists all of his clients with training and diet questions, and has hundreds of testimonials validating the effectiveness of his techniques. He also offers weight training equipment, protein powder and fitness accessories at Please visit his web sites, and feel free to contact Francesco at any time with your muscle building or weight loss questions!