Jay Cutler, Mr. Olympia 2009, suggests using the inclined hammer, otherwise known as inclined chest press, for warm-ups. This machine is very good to get blood flowing to the pectoral muscles and it loosens the shoulder joints. Use medium weights and medium speed.
Adjust the seat so that when your hands are on the handles they are about nipple height. Also keep your head back and your feet on the ground. Breathe out as you push the weights away from your body and keep your elbows low because the machine will go on an upward incline. When you come back down, keep your elbows pointing down and stop at 90 degrees, then push up again.
Flyes, also known as “flat bench flyes”, are an excellent exercise for the chest but you have to do them properly otherwise you will end up training your traps instead.
First of all, use medium weight dumbbells, it’s not necessary to pile weight on. If you put on too much weight you will not be able to stretch out enough and so your exercise will be more similar to a dumbbell bench press than to flyes.
When you are doing the exercise allow your arms to slowly stretch down to a full, controlled stretch, then squeeze your pectoral muscles and take the weights back up to hover just over your armpits. Don’t bring them up too far; if you close them in front of you, you will lose all the tension in your chest.
Arch your back slightly so that you are forced to lift by squeezing your chest muscles. If you push your back flat against the bench you will end up using deltoids and traps for the lift.
The speed coming up can be a bit faster than the controlled slow speed you will need to go down.
Get your training buddy to check that your arms are working symmetrically. Also have him ready to support your elbows on the last sets.
Flat hammer press
Once you are nice and warm you can do some sets on the flat hammer press. The inclined hammer press targets the upper chest whereas the flat press targets the middle chest. You can also use a barbell but the flat hammer press is a bit safer and allows you to push to failure even if you are on your own. If you have a training partner, get him to assist you at the end of the movements so you are able to squeeze out a few more reps.
The grip of your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep your mind focused on trying to bring your hands together. Of course this is impossible, but keeping that intention in your mind will allow you to get the squeeze that you need in your chest muscles. As with the flyes, keep your lower back arched so that you are putting the strain on the chest and not on the deltoids and traps.
It’s very important to keep your feet on the ground whilst doing any sort of flat press. Go down slowly and up at slow, medium and fast speeds.
For the cable crossover, don’t lean forward. Keep your body in the upright position and do your crossover just below shoulder height. Squeeze your chest muscles on each rep.
Stagger your feet, keep your back straight and your palms facing out. Inhale as you bring your arms to the middle of your chest, exhale on the way back. Don’t swing the weight or move very fast.
A lot of people don’t do this exercise anymore but it’s really very useful. Laying cross wise (not lengthwise) on a flat bench, get the dumbbell up over your head then pull it up and position it just above your chest. Make sure you are keeping your hips as low to the ground as possible to get the maximum arch into your back. Also when the dumbbell is up over your head you can keep it there for a second or two before pushing it back up.
Bend you elbows a bit as you lower the dumbbell to avoid injury or strain to your elbow joint.
Get your training buddy to hold your hips down if you tend to lift them up.