A: In the last installment of this column, one of the questions I covered dealt with the breathing pullover as a possible way to enlarge the chest—especially for young bodybuilders. The Rader chest pull is an alternative and was strongly recommended by Peary Rader, founder of Iron Man, particularly as part of a 20-rep-squat routine.
To perform this static exercise, stand at about arm’s length from a vertical bar, with your feet hip-width apart. Alternatively, use a sturdy, stable object that can be grasped at about head height. If you use an upright of a power rack or a vertical bar, keep your hands together. If you use another object, keep your hands as close together as possible.
While keeping your arms straight, take a deep breath and simultaneously pull down and in with your arms. Don’t contract your abdominal muscles. Keep them relaxed. If you tense your abs, this will flatten your chest and defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Done correctly, the Rader chest pull will raise your chest and produce a pull and slight discomfort in your sternum. If you don’t feel that, you’re not doing it properly. You may get a better effect if you bend your arms slightly, because that will enable you to pull harder. The harder you pull, the better the effect on your rib cage, so long as you pull in the right way.
Once you get to grips with it, you’ll feel a pronounced stretch in your rib cage. It may take a while to get the exercise right. You may have to fine-tune the height of your hands, the spacing between your hands, the distance between your feet and the base of the object you hold and the angle of pull. Persist until you get it right.
Hold your breath for as long as is comfortable—you should be able to feel the pull and slight discomfort in your sternum the entire time—but don’t hold your breath until you’re almost ready to burst, because you need to be able to perform up to 20 reps for a single set. How long you can comfortably hold your breath will depend on the state of your breathing prior to performing the chest pull and your general conditioning. Aim for around four to six seconds per pull.
Some of the cautions concerning the breathing pullover also apply to the Rader chest pull. Each is usually performed immediately after an exercise that gets you heavily winded—often high-rep squats or deadlifts. Take it easy to begin with. The forced and exaggerated breathing may make you feel dizzy unless you work into it over a period of a few weeks. Your chest may get very sore, too, if you don’t work into the Rader chest pull gradually.
Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or www.Home-Gym.com.