I know that with most chest exercises, the triceps are greatly involved. My concern is that by the time my triceps burns, I barely feel anything in my chest. My coach has suggested I put more conscious effort into my pectorals when lifting. I'm not sure whether I'm simply unable to do so, or it doesn't work, because it hasn't changed a thing.

Two theories I have are:

  • My pectorals are way too strong, and my triceps can't keep up with the required effort level.
  • My chest is so weak that my triceps are doing all the work.

What I'm looking for is advice as to how to approach my issue. I'd like to find out whether any of my theories is correct, and how to solve my issue. Also, maybe this isn't an issue at all, and I'm overreacting?

EDIT: I usually do bench press. Incline, flat, decline. Also cable/dumbbell fly, and lever pec deck fly. Combination depends on the day, I try to keep it varied. The issue described above appears mostly with bench presses with wide grip. I put my ring finger on the mark that is on olympic barbells. I shoot for 12-15 reps on moderate/high load.

  • 2
    Which exercises? What weights? How many sets and reps? What's your weekly programming? Aug 28, 2012 at 16:38
  • 2
    Without knowing what exercises you're doing (and fairly specifically, e.g., grip width matters) it's difficult to help. Aug 28, 2012 at 17:01
  • 2
    You doing close grip work or wide grip? Are you using barbells, dumbbells, or machines? If the goal is pectoral work, I recommend dumbbells for the big finish. Aug 28, 2012 at 17:37
  • Edited the question to include some details about my workout program, grip, load.
    – mkaito
    Aug 28, 2012 at 21:27
  • What kind of burn feeling?
    – DForck42
    Aug 29, 2012 at 16:53

3 Answers 3


I honeslty don't know if it's a muscle imbalance, a form issue, or other. What I would do though is deload to the point where your triceps aren't burning and then slowly progress up from there. This gives you two benefits.

  1. Deloading allows you to focus on form to make sure you are doing everything properly and reduces the chance of injury.
  2. This also allows for your triceps to catch up with the rest of your body. You might have progressed faster than your triceps were ready for, even if the rest of your body is fine.

Please note that I'm not a professinal lifter. Most of what I'm saying is information that I've gleamed from reading through the strong lifts material.

  • 1
    +1 If an exercise feels wrong, or that you're not engaging the muscles you're supposed to, try using a lower weight, and see if the exercise makes more sense. If people start off with too much weight for a given exercise, they'll often use bad form (which could lead to an injury), and the wrong form could make you engage the wrong muscles. My personal experience (from my own bad lifting). :)
    – DavidR
    Aug 29, 2012 at 17:44
  • This is in line with what I've gathered from other sources, so I'm going to give it a go next chance.
    – mkaito
    Aug 30, 2012 at 11:45

I may not be able to back what i'm about to say with an article or any sort of evidence, but I do have a theory based on my own personal experience. I have the same problem that you describe when I am working on my chest, but for me it also happens when I'm working my bi's and back. For instance when I do lat pull-downs or bicep curls, the muscles that begin to really hurt are my forearms. The interesting thing is, that the next day the muscles that are sore from the previous workout are the bi's and lats, but during the actual workout I never felt them ache. The same thing happens to me while training chest, I can go through my sets feeling only my triceps hurt, but in the morning I'll feel my chest as well.

All this lead me to believe the following: When doing chest presses we know that it's not only the chest that is being worked, but also the triceps. In other words the triceps and the pecs are working together to achieve a certain goal, which in the case of a press is to press the weight up. The triceps are there to help the pecs, so as long as the pecs are still fresh the triceps don't hurt, but once the pecs begin to get tired we feel that through the fact that our triceps start hurting. The same thing is true for the bicep curl and the lat pull down. In order to do these exercises, we must grip the equipment. As long as our bis and back are fresh the forearms don't have to work that much, but when our biceps and back begin to tire out the pain is felt in the forearms.

In conclusion, you were concerned that your chest is not getting worked because your triceps are tiring out too early, but from my own personal experience the chest is being worked out just fine. The proof for me was the fact that the next morning my pecs were on fire, and by the next week I was able to press even heavier weight.

  • I see where you're coming from, but I have yet to feel any soreness in my pecs, which was one of the main points of concern.
    – mkaito
    Sep 1, 2012 at 0:58

going too wide will impact delts, going too close will impact triceps, find a good middle grip, try not to stretch too far down, move the bar slowly to your chest to you feel the stretch, then use an open hand, dont push with shoulders or arms, but instead focus on pushing up with chest and squeeze chest at the top...

hope this helps

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