20 reasons why your chest isn't growing

20 Ranked Reasons Why Your Skinny Chest Isn’t Growing (Advice Verified By Experts!)

Are your pecs being stubborn AF, despite slogging away with chest exercises? Then this is the post for you! Because today, I will be sharing 20 of the most common reasons why your chest isn’t growing.

The chest will not grow without a good workout and nutrition plan. Press and fly movements performed using heavy weights are recommended to target the pectoral muscles. Additionally, a caloric surplus diet and a high protein intake are also essential for muscle growth.

I’ve been there guys…

The skinny dude on the block, dreaming of that powerful physique.

But I managed to add several inches to my chest diameter, through research and grind.

And that’s what I will be sharing with you today.

So let’s press on (get it? Bench PRESS?! Ok no more jokes, I promise).

Download my free blueprint at the end to find out exactly how I did it!

Equipment I Used To Transform My Skinny Chest

If you’re training at home, then you may be interested in knowing what I used to train my pecs and grow a bigger chest at home.

In my opinion, a heavy dumbbell and bench setup are one of the most convenient and cheapest setups to build a bigger chest!

Here’s what I use and recommend:

Now that’s out the way, let’s move onto the bulk of this post!

20 Reasons Why Your Pecs Aren’t Getting Bigger!

Before we begin, let me explain how I arrived at the final list of reasons why your chest isn’t growing.

First, I tracked down 3 forum user polls that asked:

Secondly, I compiled all 119 total suggestions/advice And then I ranked all the suggestions according to how many times they were suggested.

Finally, I verified each of the reasons why your chest may not be growing, by researching expert opinions from a variety of nutritionists, coaches, and powerlifters.

So here we are- 20 reasons why your chest isn’t growing:

bar chart showing 20 ranked reasons why your chest isn't growing

1. You Aren’t Consuming A Chest-Building Diet.

If you aren’t consuming the correct fuel, your pecs simply won’t grow!

Emmie Satrazemis (Sports Nutritionist from Trifecta Nutrition) explains that to gain the most from your chest workouts, you need to:

  • Consume a daily caloric surplus.
  • Hit your daily macronutrient quota.
  • Eat healthy whole foods.

How to do it:

A diet for bigger chest muscles requires you to consume 10-15% more calories than your daily maintenance calories. In addition, you need a complete profile of macronutrients including protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. Ideally, these should be obtained from whole foods.

MacronutrientApproximate % Of Daily CaloriesApproximate Grams Per Pound Of Bodyweight
Protein35%1.5g per pound of lean bodyweight
Carbohydrates25 to 35%2.5g per pound of bodyweight
Fats20 to 30%0.4g per pound of bodyweight

Many beginners struggle to eat enough calories and protein.

I found protein powders to help a lot.

They make for a cheap and convenient way to consume an instant hit of protein, as well as the calories required to bulk up fast.

I use and recommend MyProtein Impact Whey (you can find the nutritional info here). Each serving costs just 30 cents and gives you 21g of protein and 100 calories.

If your appetite is naturally low, then the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass may be better. Each serving is more expensive at $3, but you get a massive 50g of protein and 1,250 calories.

2. Flat Bench Press Isn’t Being Performed Enough.

How To Get A Huge Bench Press with Perfect Technique

To effectively grow your chest, you need to perform the right exercises. An important one is the flat bench press.

Curtis Schultz (IFPA Certified Bodybuilding Instructor from Bodybuilding) notes that the flat bench press should be a foundational exercise for developing chest size and strength.

Why?

The bench press target muscle (pectoralis major) and stabilizing muscle (anterior deltoids) both occupy a prime location on the chest!

How to do it:

Getting a bigger chest requires the dumbbell and barbell flat bench press to be the main focus of your chest workouts. You should perform either exercise at the beginning of each workout when your upper body has optimal strength and energy levels.

You can go to my other post to see how barbell and dumbbell bench press weight should compare to each other.

3. You’re Not Practicing Good Form On Your Bench Presses.

Heavy lifting promotes muscular hypertrophy (growth). But only if you maintain good form!

David Morenas (Strength Coach and Founder of How To Beast) explains that correcting your bench press form will maximize pectoral activation in the chest.

As a result, you will stimulate greater pectoral growth!

How to do it:

Good bench press form requires:

  • Completing a full range of motion- barbell/dumbbell should reach the chest-line.
  • Tucking elbows into the torso- not flared out.
  • Retracting the scapula- hold them in this position throughout the lift.
  • Slight diagonal bar path- the weight should travel slightly forward/backward during the path of movement.

You can go to my other post for ways to improve your flat dumbbell bench press weight standards!

4. You’re Not Performing Chest Flyes.

The ONLY Way You Should Be Doing A Dumbbell Fly!

If the bench press is the king of chest-builders, then the chest fly is the prince!

Cory Gregory (CSCC Strength Coach from Muscle And Strength) goes even further by noting that the chest fly is the perfect way to isolate your pectorals and complete your chest workouts.

So focus on the bench press. But don’t forget about the chest fly!

How to do it:

Dumbbell and cable chest flyes can be performed 2 to 3 times a week to increase your chest size. You should perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 20 reps using ~60% of your 1RM, after you have completed your main bench pressing exercises. This isolation-type exercise provides an additional stimulus for pectoral growth.

Find out the best way to get bigger pecs with dumbbell training in my other article!

5. Your Training Volume Isn’t Optimised For Hypertrophy.

As with all muscle groups, chest training should be done with a plan. And training without a plan is unlikely to yield good muscle returns!

Marco Walker-Ng (Strength Coach from Outlift) explains that training volume is the total amount of weight, sets, and reps lifted per exercise per week. And those exercises should cover both the lower and upper chest.

Marco also recommends you optimize training volume, specifically for hypertrophy.

How to do it:

Training volume can be optimized for chest hypertrophy by completing 10 to 22 sets of chest exercises per week, 6 to 20 reps per set, at 70-80% of maximal lifting capacity for a particular exercise. Furthermore, the chest muscles should be trained with two or more workouts per week.

Chest Hypertrophy Training VolumeWeekly Target:
Sets10 to 22 sets.
Reps6 to 20 reps per set.
Weight70 to 80% of 1 rep max.
Rest Between Sets2 to 5 minutes.
Training FrequencyTwice per week (minimum)

You can check out my other post for more details on what percentage of your rep max you should lift to build muscle.

6. You’re Not Performing Incline Bench Presses.

Incline Bench Press Tips For Maximum Upper Chest Activation

The flat bench press is an awesome chest-building exercise.

But Mike Deward (CSCS Strength Coach at Barbend) recommends that you also include the incline variation.

Mike explains that the incline angle will shift emphasis to the upper pectorals, as well as the anterior deltoids. And when you do this, you will achieve a “fuller-looking” chest.

How to do it:

To build a high-volume chest, you should combine the incline bench press with the regular flat bench press in your chest workout. Alternate between performing the flat bench press one week, and the incline bench press the next week. This will ensure balanced chest development

I found the best value way to do this at home is to get an adjustable bench and adjustable dumbbells.

This doesn’t have to be ultra pricey.

I use and recommend the Powerblock Elites (you can find the full specs here). They are fully adjustable and can be set at light and heavy poundages (with increments in between).

You can also use cheaper spinlock dumbbells like the Yes4alls. But the increments are large and this makes it harder to progress (since it’s much easier to add 10lbs to a bench press compared to adding 20lbs+).

I use this with a Flybird bench (you can see the reviews here) which can be set flat, inclined, and declined.

If you’re interested in this bench, then you can go to my other article to find out why I like the Flybird so much!

Or check out my other article for different bench press exercises you can do with this setup!

7. You’ve Not Been Training Long Enough.

line graph showing timeline for chest muscle growth
Image adapted from Muscle Engineered

From my personal experience, I can tell you that muscle gains are a slow process…

And Hamad Ahmed (Fitness Coach from Muscle Engineered) confirms this.

Hamad explains that in the first 4-10 weeks of training, your chest will first undergo neural adaptations that strengthen the signal between the brain and chest muscles.

And it’s only after 4-10 weeks, that your chest muscles will begin to grow in size!

So keep on grinding!

How to do it:

A minimum of 4 to 10 weeks of regular training needs to be completed before the pectoral muscles in the chest become noticeably larger. During this period, you should continue to perform a variety of chest exercises that target the upper, mid, and lower pectorals, at increasing weights.

You may also be interested in my Skinny Guy’s guide to gaining their first 10lbs of lean muscle here.

8. Not Doing Dumbbell Chest Work.

dumbbells provide different kind of stimulus to the chest

Barbells often hog the limelight in hypertrophy training.

But Andrew Heffernan (CSCS Coach at Onnit) vouches for the overshadowed dumbbell.

Andrew explains that dumbbells:

  • Allow a greater range of motion- increasing chest muscle activation.
  • Work the pecs harder- promoting greater hypertrophy.

In support of this, a 2016 study showed the pectorals see 4% MORE activation during a dumbbell bench press, compared to the barbell bench press!

If you like, you can check out my other article for a list of other dumbbell bodybuilding exercises to try.

How to do it:

Dumbbells are a great substitute for barbells when performing exercises aimed at increasing pectoral muscle mass and chest size. You should alternate between using barbells one week and using dumbbells the next. This will provide the varied stimulus required for your chest to grow bigger.

Having researched over 2 dozen different models, I found the Powerblock Elite dumbbell and Flybird bench to provide the greatest value for money to dumbbell press at home.

Read my other article for the pro’s and con’s of dumbbell training!

9. Variety Is Absent From Your Chest Training.

chest exercise angle targets different regions of the pecs

It is commonly touted in the world of hypertrophy that stagnation is a killer of muscle gains.

And the Gents at Men’s Journal expand on this.

They (rightly) claim that the best way to build a bigger chest is to choose a variety of exercises that exhaust all the different regions of the pectorals.

Why?

The pecs are large muscles, spanning a large surface area on the chest. This means you also need a large variety of movements to engage the pecs at every angle!

How to do it:

Getting a bigger chest requires you to perform a variety of exercises that engage the pectoral muscles with different angles and movements. This includes pressing and flying movements both performed at flat, incline, and decline angles. Doing so will isolate all the different regions of the pectoral muscle.

If you don’t have a weight bench, you can check out my homemade DIY weight bench alternatives.

10. You’re Not Performing Decline Bench Presses.

Decline bench press

Many people discredit the decline bench press, saying it’s a redundant exercise.

Not Avi Silverberg (2010 World Bench Press Bronze Medalist from Power Lifting Technique).

According to Avi, the decline bench press is a great way to promote lower pec development, whilst simultaneously engaging the mid and upper pecs.

And the result?

Voluptuous pecs with a chiseled definition!

How to do it:

The flat and decline bench press should be the primary focus of a chest training program. But performing the decline bench press once a week will add variety to your chest workouts. And this will lead to an overall greater chest volume, with an increased definition in the lower chest.

If you’re currently skinny, you might be interested in my home muscle-building program here.

11. Dips Are Absent From Your Chest Training.

How To Do Dips For A Bigger Chest and Shoulders (Fix Mistakes!)

Most people think dips are only good for the triceps.

But Josh Bryant (CSCS Coach and Powerlifter from Muscle And Fitness) explains that dips are also great for building bigger pecs.

However, to maximize pectoral engagement, you need to make sure your torso is held with a forward lean, and the elbows flaring outwards.

In support of this, a 1995 study showed that this dipping position results in less deltoid activation, and more pectoral activation!

How to do it:

Weighted dips with the body leaning forwards, and elbows flared outwards, will engage the lower pectorals in a similar manner as the decline bench press. You should incorporate weighted dips alongside the flat and incline bench press to maximize chest size, volume, and strength.

You can get a power tower like this Sports Royal (link for the customer reviews) delivered cheaply from Amazon.

I’ve had this for 2 years now and it’s well worth the investment!

You can go to my other post to find out which chest muscles the dip works.

12. You Aren’t Developing Mind-Muscle Contractions.

Building a killer chest doesn’t require you to turn into a mindless, robotic, pressing machine.

Instead, Brent McGrath (Bodybuilding Writer at Bodybuilding) explains that you should focus on mind-to-muscle contractions.

In other words, actively think about contracting your pectorals!

Pectoral movement is activated by the brain. So by improving your mind-to-muscle connection, you will work the pecs much harder!

How to do it:

Improving your mind to muscle contraction requires you to lift a weight in a slow and controlled manner. Once you have reached the peak of the movement, actively think about contracting the target muscle. This will recruit more muscle fibers and promote greater muscle growth.

13. Incorrect Bench Press Grip.

diagram showing different bench press grips target different chest regions

Did you know that adjusting the width of your bench press grip can significantly change the muscles activated?

Bill Geiger (Sports Journalist at Bodybuilding) identifies the standard and wide-grip to be the most effective way to engage the chest.

The standard shoulder-width grip is the most comfortable grip for most people, allowing you to efficiently work the chest muscles.

But the wide-grip variation redirects tension to the outer pecs, leading to a fuller chest.

So make sure your grip isn’t too narrow if you are bench pressing for a bigger chest!

How to do it:

Widening your bench press grip will shift tension to the outer pecs, leading to a fuller chest. But it may be comfortable for beginners. To perform the wide-grip bench press, slowly increase the distance between your hands every week. This allows your muscles to adjust to the new stimulus.

14. You’re Not Warming Up Before Doing Chest Exercises.

You hear all fitness trainers tout this. Warm-ups are important.

And this couldn’t be more true for growing your chest.

In fact, a 2006 study showed that performing dynamic stretches before your training sets will improve a muscle’s strength, power, and agility.

And this will help you to lift heavier weights on your chest exercises!

How to do it:

Performing dynamic stretches targeting the triceps, pectorals, and deltoids will improve your ability to lift heavier weights on chest exercises such as the bench press and chest fly. It is also recommended to do a general warm-up and warm-up sets before training sets. This promotes greater muscle growth.

Warm-Up ActivityReason
Dynamic StretchingIncreases muscle elasticity.
General Warm-UpIncreases heart rate and blood flow.
Warm-Up SetsPrepares target muscle for training.

15. The Pecs Aren’t Being Worked To Failure.

diagram showing how to work your pecs to failure

You may have heard that working a muscle to failure is beneficial for muscle growth.

But you may be doing it wrong…

Joe Wuebben (Fitness Writer at Muscle And Fitness) explains that many people mistake taking their TRICEPS to failure as taking their pecs to failure when doing the bench press.

That’s because the triceps are a much smaller muscle compared to the pecs. So they tire first.

But in reality, the pecs still have gas in the tank!

How to do it:

To take your pecs to failure on a bench press, you should reduce the range of motion by stopping the press movement before the elbows are fully extended. Continue to work within this range of movement, until you are unable to push the dumbbell or barbell past the halfway point.

You can check out my other post for ways to improve your dumbbell incline press weight standards.

16. You Aren’t Overloading Your Chest.

line graph showing progressive overload

Consistent progressive overload is essential to continue growing the chest muscle.

Bret Contreras (Sports Science PhD and CSCS coach from BretConreras.com) describes progressive overload as increasing your workload over time.

When you do this, your pecs will adjust to the new demands. And as a result, they will grow bigger!

How to do it:

Progressive overloading on chest exercises such as the bench press and chest fly can be achieved by increasing weight, repetitions, training frequency, range of motion, and improving form. But you should focus on one method at a time. This will result in muscular adaptations which lead to a larger chest.

You can check out my other article for information on how to progressive overload here.

17. You’re Not Including Enough Rest Days.

Did you know that your pecs actually grow AFTER a workout?

This makes it important to accommodate sufficient rest days in between chest workouts.

James Krieger (CSCS Coach at Weightology) suggests working with each muscle group twice per week.

When timed right, this equates to 2-3 rest days between workouts for that particular muscle group.

How to do it:

Rest days are important for muscle growth. Each muscle should be worked with two separate workouts per week, with 2 to 3 days rest in between for muscle recovery. Additionally, If you exceed more than 15 sets per muscle group per workout, you should split the sets over 2 days.

DayTraining
MonRest (or train another muscle group)
TueChest
WedRest (or train another muscle group)
ThurRest (or train another muscle group)
FriChest
SatRest (or train another muscle group)
SunRest (or train another muscle group)

18. You’re Not Working The Different Chest Angles.

diagram showing exercises to grow the chest

The pectorals span the entire surface of the chest.

Ian Lauer (CSCS Coach and Bodybuilder at Muscle And Performance) notes that with such a high surface area, you need to find ways to target each region if you want to get a big chest!

Doing so ensures a high-volume chest across the lower, mid, and upper sections.

How to do it:

Training your chest at different angles can be achieved by performing press and fly movements that move the humerus perpendicular to the torso midline (engaging the mid-pectorals), away from the torso midline (engaging the upper-pectorals), and towards the torso midline (engaging the lower-pectorals). This leads to even chest development.

19. Shoulder Work Is Being Neglected.

If you neglect your shoulder training, then your chest training will also suffer.

Keith Hansen (Powerlifter and Olympic Weightlifter at Seriously Strong Training) explains that the anterior deltoid stabilizes many of the chest exercises.

Therefore weak shoulders = weak chest!

As a result, your chest muscles will not grow as big as you’d like.

So don’t forget to train the deltoids!

How to do it:

Training the deltoids will stabilize the pectoral muscles and allow you to lift heavier on chest exercises such as the bench press, dip, and chest fly. The best exercises to increase deltoid strength and size are the lateral raise, overhead press, and hammer-grip shoulder press.

20. Compound Lifts Aren’t In Your Chest Programme.

In the polls, surprisingly few people recommended performing compound lifting.

Maybe because most people take the compound lifts for granted.

But in case you don’t know- a compound lift is any exercise that engages multiple muscle groups around multiple joints, simultaneously.

And Mike Matthews (Author of The Shredded Chef and Founder of Legion Athletics) recommends making the compound chest exercises the foundation of your training.

That’s assuming you want to grow a bigger chest…..

How to do it:

Compound exercises that engage the chest include the flat bench press, incline bench press, decline bench press, and weighted dips. These exercises require movement around the shoulder and elbow joints and engage the pectoral muscles, anterior deltoids, and triceps. These are essential exercises to build a bigger chest.

You can check out my other post for a list of compound dumbbell exercises.

Recap: Equipment I Used To Build A Bigger Chest At Home

Conclusion

That’s it!

Today, I have ranked and shared 20 common reasons why your chest isn’t growing.

Growing a bigger chest can be hard, but not impossible (if you know what to do!).

You will need to perform a variety of chest exercises such as:

  • Flat bench press.
  • Incline bench press.
  • Decline bench press.
  • Chest fly.
  • Weighted dip.

Additionally, you will need to adopt good hypertrophy practices such as:

  • Eating the right nutrition.
  • Practice good lifting form.
  • Progressive overload.
  • Optimising training volume for hypertrophy.
  • Keeping your workouts varied.

If you do this, your chest will begin to grow! Trust me!

Why do you think your chest is so stubborn?

Let me know in the comments below!

Let me know in the comments below! Alternatively, download the FREE Kalibre Muscle Blueprint to find out exactly HOW I GREW MY CHEST!

kalibre skinny to muscle transformation blueprint

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,

Kal

(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.