Do you ever find yourself in the odd predicament of doing a tough chest workout but not getting sore in your pecs?
I’ve heard many lifters complain that even during heavy bench press they feel fatigued in the triceps and delts but never really get a good chest pump.
Sometimes the issue is that the lifter is not lowering the weight far enough.
The bottom portion of any chest press is where you will utilize your pecs the most, as the triceps shoulder most of the load (pun intended) during the top part of the lockout.
Another issue has to do with the nature of pressing movements and the muscles that are utilized. In simple terms, any chest press variation - from bench to dips to pushups - utilizes the pecs, the front delts, the triceps, and the lats (primarily to stabilize the shoulder).
Because the pecs are such a large muscle when compared to the triceps, it is common for a lifter to get stuck half way up as their triceps fatigue or are over loaded.
So if in many cases the triceps are the “weak link”, how do we stress the pecs sufficiently before the triceps give out and prematurely end the set? The answer is 1/4 reps.
What Are 1/4 Reps?
A typical quarter rep involves adding an additional partial rep at the bottom of the movement. Quarter rep variations are a great way to emphasize the “bottom” portion of a passing movement, giving the pecs an extra pump and stretch where they are utilized the most.
The key to any 1/4 rep pressing variation is to lower the weight under control - don’t just drop and bounce the weight off of your chest. Concentrate on the stretch you feel at the bottom throughout the pecs and fight for stability when holding the weight at the 1/4 rep point.
Here are just a few ways that you can utilize quarter reps during pressing exercises:
1/4 rep at the bottom
This is the basic 1/4 rep method. Start by doing a normal eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift. Once you have reached the bottom (or the top in an exercise such as a dumbbell row), press the weight up one quarter of the way, then pause briefly before lowering the weight back down then exploding all the way up.
During a chest press it will feel like an extra stretch at the bottom, when utilized during a dumbbell row it will feel like an extra squeeze at the top.
Iso-1/4 rep at the bottom
This is similar to a basic 1/4 rep, except that you will perform it in iso-rep fashion. Start by pressing both weights up to the starting position and locking them into place. Keeping one dumbbell extended, lower the other side and perform a quarter rep at the bottom.
Once you have completed the 1/4 rep, lock the dumbbell into place at the top position and perform the 1/4 rep on the other side. Alternate sides with every rep until the prescribed number has been reached.
It’s very important to keep your hips and glutes engaged and your feet pressed into the floor in order to avoid getting off balance during an iso-press movement.
Misdirection 1/4 rep method
The misdirection method was first taught to me as a way to eliminate weak points during squatting by one of my mentors, Dr Eric Serrano. For this method you are essentially combining 1/4 reps with 1/2 reps, with a swift change of direction between each.
Start by lowering the weight all the way, then press up to the 1/4 rep position and hold for 2 seconds. Lower the weight all the way and quickly press up to the 1/2 way point, holding static for two seconds. After the pause at the 1/2 way point, lower the weight all the way then press all the way up. That’s a lot of work for 1 rep!
1/4 rep Ladder Method
Ok…now we are starting to get crazy. As if doing a 1/4 rep on every rep wasn’t tough enough, imagine adding more and more with each additional rep. The tempo on these reps is the same as a normal 1/4 rep (down, up 1/4, down, up) but you perform them in a “ladder” fashion, adding an additional 1/4 rep after each rep you complete.
The first rep has a single 1/4 rep at the bottom, the second has two, the third rep has 3 quarter reps at the bottom before pressing the weight all of the way back up. These quarter reps are best done in a “rep out” fashion, there’s no need to pause at the 1/4 position, just try to pump them out as possible and press back up to the top.
One of my favorite ways to utilize this method is to keep the ladder open ended - keep upping the ante and doing reps until you are burnt out. If you can make it all the way up to 10 or more pushups with a corresponding number of quarter reps, your chest will be on fire!
1/4 rep Time Ladder
This is another ladder variation for 1/4 reps, but rather than adding an additional 1/4 rep with each successive rep, you hold the 1/4 position for an additional second. On the first rep go down, up 1/4 of the way and hold for 1 second before going down and back up.
On the second rep hold for 2 seconds, on the third rep hold at the 1/4 position for 3 seconds before going back down and up, and so on. Continue this pattern until you can no longer hold the 1/4 rep position for the corresponding time.
The 1/4 rep chest workout
Now it’s time to put all of those different methods to use! Try this 1/4 centric chest workout for an incredible pump.
|1. Dumbbell Bench Press||5||10, 5, 5, 5*, 3*|
|2. Incline Dumbbell Iso Press||4||5 w/ iso-1/4 rep|
|3. Close Grip Bench Press||3||3 w/ misdirection 1/4 rep|
|4. Dips||2||max reps**|
|5. Pushups||2||max reps***|
*Perform 1/4 rep method at the bottom of each rep for the last two sets.
**Perform 1/4 rep method at the bottom of each rep for the last set.
***Perform 1/4 rep ladder method for first set and 1/4 rep time ladder method for second.
Now you have a great cure for the lagging-pecs blues! I recommend switching to an all 1/4 rep workout at least once a month to help break through plateaus and to really stress emphasize the pecs during your “pushing” work.
Remember, now that you are familiar with all of these methods you can adapt and utilize them on almost any workout. If you want a real killer, try the same format on squat variations…a barbell squat with a 1/4 rep misdirection method will make a normal squat feel easy!