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Roman gladiators have been portrayed on the big screen by some of largest chest structures that Hollywood could produce. Even a few real-life strongmen have dawned the Roman garbs and mounted a chariot or two to fulfill this fantasy role. In the movies, a barreled thick chest of a gladiator is often covered with thick metal plating, so that the chest appears to be invincible in battle. However, a serious weightlifter cannot hide behind a gladiator’s armor, so his chest must be thick and square from the bottom of the ribcage to the top of the clavicle. The fibers of the pectoralis of the chest must have thickness along the sternum and not just be thick along the lateral edge of this muscle. A well-trained, thick chest should scream power and command attention, even if you are away from the gym and fully clothed. Does yours?

For the most part, massive slabs can be added to your chest with a lot less effort than that which you must expend in thigh and back muscles. It is a bit more difficult to push the thickness along the inner side of your sternum, but certainly, this in an achievable goal. The flat bench press is pretty good at activating a wide range of muscle mass, but it is particularly good at stressing the most lateral parts of the chest. However, a small change to the bench press can turn the focus from the outside to the inside of the chest. That simply is taking a closer grip on the barbell for your bench presses. Close-grip benches can be equally brutal for both the triceps. As you approach your last set, this exercise can make your posterior arm and the medial parts of the pectoralis major of your chest feel like you are driving knives through these muscle bellies. Perhaps not a pleasant feeling, but definitely a great result will be in store if you stick it out.

The pectoralis major muscle is shaped like a fan, which spreads across the entire chest to the humerus bone of the upper arm. It attaches to and moves the arm through the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint. The pectoralis major muscle has two heads. The clavicular head lies along the anterior lower surface of the clavicle (collarbone). The sternocostal head of the pectoralis major muscle begins on the manubrium (the top portion of the sternum), the upper six costal cartilages (cartilages at the ends of the ribs that attach to the sternum). It also attaches to the tendon-like portion of the superior part of the external oblique muscle (a lateral muscle of the abdominal wall). The clavicular and sternocostal heads converge on a groove near the head of the humerus (intertubercular groove) near the shoulder joint. The sternocostal head is preferentially activated by close-grip bench presses.

Both heads of the pectoralis major muscle adduct the humerus bone (draws the arm toward the midline of the body) and they medially rotate the humerus at the shoulder joint. They also flex the humerus bone by moving the upper arm anteriorly (or toward the front of the body), and this is the major function achieved in a bench press. By moving the hands close together, the arms are adducted and the inner parts of the pectoralis muscles are activated most strongly in this hand position.

The triceps are also hammered quite intensely with close-grip bench presses. As its name implies, the triceps has three parts (tri = three) or heads (ceps = heads). The fibers in all three muscle heads taper to attach to a common triceps tendon that crosses the elbow joint to attach to the olecrenon on the ulna bone of the forearm. Therefore, contraction of the triceps brachii muscle primarily causes extension of the forearm at the elbow (straightens the elbow joint). Some people have a short triceps tendon and the triceps muscle belly appears to extend all the way to the elbow. Others have a relatively long triceps tendon, which gives them a more “peaked” triceps, but a short muscle belly. The lateral head of triceps brachii creates the lateral part of the “U” in the horseshoe of the triceps. Its fibers run from a small vertical section of bone on the posterior part of the humerus (upper arm bone), starting about two-thirds of the way toward the shoulder joint and stopping short of the shoulder joint. The long head of the triceps brachii (the “inner head” in gym lingo) begins on the scapula (shoulder blade) just inferior to (below) the head of the humerus at the shoulder joint. Because this muscle belly crosses the shoulder joint posteriorly, the arm should be moved posteriorly into shoulder extension (i.e., arms and elbows back) to fully activate this muscle head. This happens very well in the down position of close-grip bench presses. The medial head of the triceps brachii lies deeper and between the other two heads of the triceps. It encompasses two-thirds of the upper and posterior part of the humerus bone. It is a very thick muscle further up the arm toward the shoulder and provides enormous depth to the curved “U” part of this horseshoe; however, it has a shorter muscle belly than the other heads and this gives the appearance of the hollowed-out center part of the horseshoe near the elbow.

Close-Grip Barbell Bench Presses

1. Place an Olympic-style barbell on the weight stand of a flat bench. Load the barbell so that you can get 10-12 repetitions. You should warm up the shoulders and chest with a light set or two first before hitting the heavy stuff.

2. Lie supine on the bench. Place your hands on the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing to the ceiling and away from your face). Grab the barbell with your hands a little narrower than shoulder width. This will be about 8-12 inches apart for most people. Some people prefer a thumbless grip. This does not affect your chest any differently, but you will have to be a bit more careful with balancing the bar with a thumbless grip.

3. Lift the weight from off of the stands by extending (straightening) the elbows. A training partner can be used to lift the bar for you so it is over your shoulders. Make sure that you are in control of the weight in this position before going to the next step.

4. Slowly lower the bar in a slight arch, so that the bar moves from closer to your feet at the top and closer (slightly), to your chin at the bottom. The weight should move from over the shoulders to a position where it just barely makes contact with your chest at the nipple (the fifth intercostal space). You should inhale as the weight is lowered to the chest in a slow and controlled fashion.

5. Without making a strong contact with your ribcage (and never bouncing the bar on your chest), immediately explode upward with the bar. Move it in a slight arch toward your head so that the weight is returned to a position immediately under the shoulder joint. Exhale during the ascent of the barbell. Make sure that your training partner hangs around until the end of the set in case you get stuck with the bar across your chest.


The close-grip bench press clearly involves more than just chest muscles. It strongly activates the anterior fibers of the deltoid and the triceps brachii as the weight is moved upward. The intercostal muscles are active during the forceful inhaling and exhaling. The serratus anterior is active to stabilize and protract the scapula during the lift upward (flexion of the humerus at the shoulder). Even the latissimus dorsi and teres major muscles of the upper back are active, both as stabilizers for the shoulder and when the humerus is extended at the shoulder.

Aside from the safety problems common to all free-weight exercises, any flat bench press, including close-grip benches, can aggravate or induce rotator cuff irritation – especially if you get a little sloppy in your form. That is because these muscles limit movement of the glenohumeral joint posteriorly (and the rotator cuff muscles prevent this posterior location) as the bar is being lowered. Obviously, the greater the resistance and the more times it is done, the more potential irritation is imposed to the rotator cuff muscles. Nevertheless, if your form is excellent, you should be able to benefit from the advantages of the positive effects of close-grip bench presses without tapping into any of the negative potentials.

Neglecting your inner chest is training suicide, and certainly a great body is not complete without fully developed and thick chest muscles. Proper selection of your torso exercises will give you the ability to develop a supercharged and balanced chest, without inducing any injury. Close-grip benches are an outstanding way to pack mass on your triceps while simultaneously packing enough mass on your chest to make any gladiator envious.


Jandacka D and Vaverka F. A regression model to determine load for maximum power output. Sports Biomech, 7: 361-371, 2008.

Koshida S, Urabe Y, Miyashita K, Iwai K and Kagimori A. Muscular outputs during dynamic bench press under stable versus unstable conditions. J Strength Cond Res, 22: 1584-1588, 2008.

Martins J, Tucci HT, Andrade R, Araujo RC, Bevilaqua-Grossi D and Oliveira AS. Electromyographic amplitude ratio of serratus anterior and upper trapezius muscles during modified push-ups and bench press exercises. J Strength Cond Res, 22: 477-484, 2008.

Moore, KL and AF Dalley. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. Fourth edition. Baltimore, Lippincott Williams & Williams, 685-720, 1999.

Norwood JT, Anderson GS, Gaetz MB and Twist PW. Electromyographic activity of the trunk stabilizers during stable and unstable bench press. J Strength Cond Res, 21: 343-347, 2007.

Rambaud O, Rahmani A, Moyen B and Bourdin M. Importance of upper-limb inertia in calculating concentric bench press force. J Strength Cond Res, 22: 383-389, 2008.

The post Want Bigger Arms and a Massive Chest? appeared first on FitnessRX for Men.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Title: Want Bigger Arms and a Massive Chest?
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Published Date: Fri, 02 Jul 2021 12:29:04 +0000

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Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs



Powerful and thick thighs require gut-busting exercises like squats and leg presses. However, once you have acquired adequate thigh mass and strength, you should consider adding some balance and sharpness to the muscle bellies in your thighs. Although tough to accomplish, leg extensions provide a great way to carve the separations between the muscle bellies, and to accentuate the “teardrop” shape of the four quadriceps muscles of the anterior thigh.

Active Muscles in Leg Extensions

The three vasti muscles comprise most of the anterior thigh.1 The vastus medialis covers the medial (inner) part of the femur bone (thigh bone). When it is well developed, it forms a teardrop-like shape over the medial side of the knee joint. The vastus lateralis muscle attaches to the lateral (outer) part of the femur bone. The vastus intermedius connects to the femur bone between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis muscles. The fibers of all three vasti muscles come together at the quadriceps tendon, which crosses the patella (kneecap) to attach to the tibia bone just below the knee.1

Together, the three vasti muscles extend the leg at the knee joint, although the vastus intermedius may be more fatigue resistant than the vastus lateralis.2 The vastus medialis oblique (VMO), which is a small part of the vastus medialis muscle, attaches to the medial part of the patella. It is thought to help the patella track properly during movement of the knee. Improper tracking can increase the likelihood for knee injury.

The vastus medialis and especially the VMO part of this muscle are primarily responsible for tibial rotation (rotation of the tibia bone of the lower leg on the femur) during knee extension. This rotation or “twist” has been shown to increase the activation of the VMO portion of the vastus lateralis even more than doing knee extensions with the hip adducted (thigh rotated so that the medial portion of the knee is facing mostly upwards).3 Dorsiflexion of the foot (moving the ankles so the toes are pointing towards your head) also increases the activation of the VMO by more than 20 percent.4 Likely this is because the dorsiflexor muscles stabilize the tibia during knee flexion and resist rotation of the tibia on the femur as the knee straightens.

The fourth muscle of the quadriceps group is the rectus femoris muscle. It attaches to the anterior part of the hip bone just above the hip joint.1 The largest bulk of the muscle fibers are located on the upper three-quarters of the thigh, whereas the largest belly of the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis are more inferior (i.e., closer to the knee). The distal end of the rectus femoris muscle becomes tendinous and it creates a deep valley between the lateral and medial vastus muscles as it approaches the knee.1 It assists the other quadriceps muscles by extending the leg at the knee joint, although it is less effective when the hip is flexed than if it is straight.

Leg Extensions

The three vastus muscles of the anterior thigh are strongly activated by single-leg knee extensions. The rectus femoris is not activated as strongly, but it does undergo some overload when the anterior thigh is under contractile effort, about halfway up to the top of each repetition.

1. You should always warm up your knees with some stationary cycling prior to getting into leg extensions. Furthermore, the resistance on your first set should be fairly light to allow the joint to fully warm up before you get to the heavier stuff.

2. Adjust the knee extension machine so that the pivot point of the lifting arm is directly adjacent to the center of the side of your knee joint.

3. Position the ankle roller/leg pad over the lower part of the leg (above the ankle joint).

4. Take about three seconds to slowly extend (straighten) both leg so that the weight is lifted upward from the stack.

5. Continue upwards until the tibia and the femur bones form a straight line and the knee angle is straight. Hold this for two seconds at the top.

6. Slowly lower the weight (about four seconds down) towards the starting position. Once the knee has reached 90 degrees, start the upwards extension phase again. Continue for 12-15 repetitions for the first set. Lower the number of repetitions but increase the resistance for subsequent sets.

7. On the next sets, lift the weight upwards until the knee joint becomes almost straight, but just slightly short of a total knee lockout. Be careful that you do not “jam” the knee joint into a fully locked out position, because this could cause knee cartilage damage5, especially with heavy weights. Hold the top position for a count of three before lowering the weight.

8. Lower the weight slowly (four to five seconds) towards the starting position where your knee is flexed to 90 degrees. Just before the weight stack contacts the remaining plates at the bottom, start lifting it upward for the next repetition.

The downward movement should be slower than the upward phase because you are resisting the pull of gravity. The slow lowering of the weight stretches the muscle under a resistance and this is a great stimulus to improve muscle shape and size.6

Make sure that you do not hold your breath during the lift upwards.7 Rather take a breath at the bottom (start) of the lift, and exhale as you extend the knees/legs. Take another breath at the top and slowly exhale as the weight is lowered. Take another breath at the bottom and repeat the sequence.

This is a mechanically simply exercise, but it really can be very challenging and blood depriving8,9, especially if you try to control the weight as it is moving up and down. However, if you are willing to work through some discomfort, you will be soon enjoying your new shape and slabs of carved thighs.

GettyImages 674163248 600


1. Moore K.L. Clinically Orientated Anatomy. Third Edition. Williams & Willkins, Baltimore, 1995; pp 373-500.

2. Watanabe K, Akima H. Neuromuscular activation of vastus intermedius muscle during fatiguing exercise. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2010;20:661-666.

3. Stoutenberg M, Pluchino AP, Ma F et al. The impact of foot position on electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extension. J Strength Cond Res 2005;19:931-938.

4. Coburn JW, Housh TJ, Cramer JT et al. Mechanomyographic and electromyographic responses of the vastus medialis muscle during isometric and concentric muscle actions. J Strength Cond Res 2005; 19:412-420.

5. Senter C, Hame SL. Biomechanical analysis of tibial torque and knee flexion angle: implications for understanding knee injury. Sports Med 2006;36:635-641.

6. Alway SE, Winchester PK, Davis ME et al. Regionalized adaptations and muscle fiber proliferation in stretch- induced enlargement. J Appl Physiol 1989;66:771-781.

7. Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011;43:1334-1359.

8. Denis R, Bringard A, Perrey S. Vastus lateralis oxygenation dynamics during maximal fatiguing concentric and eccentric isokinetic muscle actions. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2011;21:276-282.

9. Ueda C, Kagaya A. Muscle reoxygenation difference between superficial and deep regions of the muscles during static knee extension. Adv Exp Med Biol 2010;662:329-334.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Title: Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs
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Published Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2022 19:11:16 +0000

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PRIMAL Preworkout



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30 minutes prior to training, consume 2 rounded scoops (20.3g) with 8-12 oz of water or your
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PRIMAL Preworkout

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†These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not
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By: Team FitRx
Title: PRIMAL Preworkout
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