If you want a better-looking chest (male or female), the inner chest is a key area you’re going to want to focus on. It’s extremely important from a visual standpoint (think chest cleavage).
The pec is one of the few muscles I’ve found that you can really effectively develop specific parts of it with targeted angles and movements. This is due to the fan-shape of the pecs…they’re designed to move the arms in such a wide variety of directions that you really CAN put more tension on specific areas.
But the inner chest can be tough to really hit effectively with free weight.
Not so with this exercise…and I’ll tell you right up front, it’s a bit evil… ;)
What you’re going to do is a set of bench press where you’ll be shifting your grip first inwards then back outwards DURING the set. The result is EXTREME tension on the inner chest (along with plenty on the triceps as you move your grip in closer).
Here’s how it works:
First, set up in the power rack as you normally would for a bench press, with the safety rails just below chest height.
If you’re using a free-weight bench station, have a good spotter available to keep an eye on you…you probably won’t need one but because of the nature of the exercise, you absolutely SHOULD have one standing by.
Set a light weight on the bar…and by light, I mean LIGHT. I’m using 135 lbs on this one – it’s about 50% or so of my 1 RM at the time I’m writing this. Trust me, it’ll be PLENTY. This one isn’t about weight, it’s about tension.
In fact, the first time you do this technique, use just the bar, so you get an idea of how to shift your grip easily.
Grip the bar as you would for a normal bench press rep. Unrack the weight into the top position of the press.
Lower the bar to your chest.
Now the fun begins…
Rest the bar on your chest and shift your grip slightly inwards. I find the best way to do this is to rotate your elbows inward, which shifts where the bar rests on your palms. Then rotate your elbows outward to shift the rest of your hand over. It’ll probably move your grip over about a half an inch or so.
The evil part is this…you’re doing this shifting while maintaining tension in your upper body and holding your breath, to keep the rib cage and trunk stabilized. It’s also one reason you want to use light weight (and just the bar the first time). It’s not so hard the first few reps but it gets BRUTAL by the end of the set.
The other evil part (yep, there’s more than one) is that on EVERY single rep, you’re starting from a dead stop. The grip shifting takes away ALL the elastic tension you get in a normal press. This forces the muscles to do all the work…and if you’re not used to that, prepare to be humbled.
And I have to say, because of this bar resting, this is actually one bench press version I’m not opposed to a person using a bar pad with.
So once you’ve got your grip shifted inwards a bit, press it up.
Lower the bar back down then repeat the inward grip shift.
Then press up.
Then lower and shift inwards again. This inwards shifting while under tension helps activate the inner chest aspect, while the closer grip fires them.
Keep repeating this cycle until your hands are in a close-grip bench press position, about shoulder-width apart.
Now for the final evil part…
The close-grip position is basically the weakest version of the bench press exercise. So to push everything that much further, we’re going to shift our hands back OUT to the normal bench press position.
You’re going to repeat the same idea as above only doing the opposite, moving your hands outwards.
As you move your hands outward, your pecs will contribute more to the movement and the leverage will get better, allowing you to keep going until you hit that final position.
And you will be VERY happy to hit that final position.
So that’s the technique…it’s an extremely powerful way to target the cleavage of the inner chest and will light up that area with very targeted tension.