Why Can’t I Feel My Pecs Working When I Do Chest Workouts?


question-icon-newI just bought a used home gym that has 3 stations. For my first workout, I decided to concentrate on my chest. I chose dips, machine bench press, pec decks and sit-ups. A one hour session turned into about 1/2 hour due to fatigue and pain. For some reason, the only part of me that I felt stimulation was in my biceps and my shoulders. I don’t feel my chest was worked at all. Did I do the exercises incorrectly and what can I do to help stimulate my chest muscles?

answer-icon-newEveryone has their favorite body part they love to train since it seems to get an amazing pump and grow from each and every workout. On the other side, each person also has their least favorite muscle group which seems to never grow even though it gets blasted all the time. Common muscles groups that give a lot of people trouble are pecs and calves. Genetics plays a huge role in the overall size and development of a specific muscle group and some blessed individuals seem to grow quickly from any type of stimulation while others can’t seem to add an inch of size even though they are training like crazy.

Having shoulder fatigue is completely normal since your shoulders are heavily targeted as a secondary muscle in all chest movements. However, you should not be feeling any type of pain or discomfort which will indicate other issues. A good rule of thumb is to always switch the exercise if it doesn’t feel right. Some people can’t do any type of barbell bench press since it places too much tension on the shoulders and rotator cuffs which cause issues overtime. However, these same people can easily throw up 100 pound dumbbells on flat bench without any pain or discomfort in their shoulders. It comes down to the angle that the shoulders are placed in when the barbell or dumbbell comes down to the lower position. So, if a movement hurts then don’t do it and move onto exercises that you can really feel and that don’t cause issues.


The pec deck may have caused you to feel the tension in the biceps since you are pulling in with your arms versus pushing out with your chest. The pec deck exercise is a shaping and toning movement, so I recommend leaving that one out of your overall chest routine for now to see if it helps. Try to focus more on the basic mass building movements for your chest workout to see if you start feeling any stimulation in your pecs. These exercises include:

Try only using these 2 exercises in your next workout. Do 5 sets of each exercise for 8-12 reps per set. This should completely hit your chest muscles and you should feel a good pump. If you have access to free weights like dumbbells or kettlebells, I highly recommend incorporating these into your workouts for additional chest building exercises. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right exercise that hits the chest perfectly and you might need to try a bunch of different movements with different angles in order to get that pumped up feeling of being stimulated in the chest. Go to your local sporting goods store and grab a couple dumbbells or some kettlebells along with an adjustable bench (if you don’t have one). Adjusting the position of your upper body from an incline to a decline angle will allow you to target different areas of your pecs which include your upper, middle and lower portions. This will really help you find the “sweet spot” for a killer workout that you can actually feel along with developing a well-rounded and full chest.

I wouldn’t recommend doing too many dips since they are very hard on your shoulders and this might be the reason why you feel pain and discomfort. I know several people who have had serious rotator cuff injuries from doing dips since it’s a very delicate exercise when it comes to your shoulders and any minor miscalculation in technique could result in big time problems. If you’ve been starting out with dips before moving to machine bench press then this is a big mistake. You always want to do your heaviest and biggest mass building exercises first in your workout routine when you have the most amount of energy to push the heaviest weights. Dips and the pec deck exercise would always be included at the end of your workout when you’re finishing up your chest workout in order to blast them with higher reps.

If you only have access to your home gym and don’t want to spend the money on some dumbbells or kettlebells, then stick with the machine bench press and some pushups as the core movements for your chest workout. If you want to pick up some additional free weights to add to your home gym, you will have access to a bunch of new and different chest exercises to include into your routine. Add some incline dumbbell bench press, decline dumbbell flyes and flat dumbbell press to your routine and sooner or later you will find the perfect combination of exercises that totally stimulate your chest in just the right way to cause it to achieve a massive pump from a killer workout!

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  1. Avatar

    I don’t feel a pump in my chest when I do chest exercises such as bench press, dumbbell press and flyes, but I feel a pump in my chest when I do push-ups only. Why is this?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Leong – It might be the number of reps you’re using. Higher reps usually provide a better pump in the muscles. It also comes down to the specific exercise you’re using. Some people just get a great pump using a certain exercise and don’t feel anything on a different movement. Choose the exercises that feel the best to you.

  2. Avatar

    I’ve tried every chest workout there is and have only have added size to half of my chest from the top to the outer part. The top of my chest down to my middle part has not changed. What can I do?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Jason – You might try adding variety in your chest workout by changing the angles of how you target your chest. Try doing decline bench press (2-3 sets), incline dumbbell press (2-3 sets) and cable flyes (using different angles) for another 2-3 sets. Finish your workout with basic pushups (2-3 sets). By hitting your pecs from multiple different angles, you should see some improvement in your chest development within 2-3 months.

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