Have you ever had to ask yourself, “should my arms be sore after chest day?” If you did a tough chest workout yesterday but find that your arms are more than your chest, it can be confusing.
Let’s discuss the main reasons why this can happen.
Should My Arms Be Sore After Chest Day?
Your triceps work together with your chest when performing pushing movements. If you are using poor form, too much weight, or aren’t activating your chest properly, then you may feel chest exercises in your triceps.
Your Triceps Play a Role In Chest Exercises
Your triceps are a main stabilizer in chest exercises. Stabilizer muscles work together to assist the primary movers in an exercise. The triceps along with the shoulders assist the chest muscles in most chest exercises.
Both the chest and triceps work together whenever you perform any push exercises. This is why push workouts contain both and triceps exercises.
It is impossible to work the chest without getting at least some tricep activation.
If your triceps are underdeveloped, they may cause you to fail the lift before the chest gives out. This will also cause them to be more sore than the chest muscles.
The triceps take over in the last 1/3 of movements such as the bench press. This is known as the lockout portion. If you want to work the chest more and triceps less, consider not locking out on each rep. More information here.
A main reason for feeling a chest exercise in your arms is because of poor form.
If your elbows are coming too low below your chest when performing a barbell or dumbbell bench press, it can put stress on the triceps.
If your elbows are tucked in too closely to your sides, it will turn the movement into more of a tricep exercise, taking the tension off of the chest.
Your grip width is another factor that changes which muscle groups are being worked. A narrower grip targets the triceps more, whereas a wider grip will target the chest. Keep a wider grip when performing chest exercises to prevent feeling the movement in your arms.
Don’t squeeze the barbell or dumbbells with your hands. This will take the tension off the chest and shift it onto your forearms or triceps. You want to have a more relaxed grip and really focus on contracting your chest throughout the movement.
To properly contract the chest, the elbows must come forward and cross over the chest. The dumbbell chest press is one of the best chest exercises for chest activation, as it allows the elbows to do exactly this.
You should try to mimic this movement through all chest exercises, even the bench press. Even though you can’t bring your hands together since they are on the barbell, still mentally imagine that you are. This will increase chest activation, removing the arms from the exercise.
You’re Using Too Much Weight
If the weight is too much to handle, you will feel the exercise in other body parts, such as your arms. It’s very difficult to properly contract the chest if the weight is too heavy.
Often guys want to stack on as much weight as possible as they believe this is the best way to gain muscle. While more weight does break down muscle more, it won’t matter if you’re unable to work the intended muscle group.
For example, if you are trying to do the chest press machine for chest but the weight is so heavy that your triceps and shoulders are taking over, then you won’t be getting as much chest activation.
The bench press is very commonly done with too much weight. Guys throw on as much weight and use their entire body. This will allow you to get higher bench numbers, but it will not work your chest to a great extent.
Lowering the weight will allow you to properly contract and keep your form in check, working the chest muscles as much as possible.
How To Activate Your Chest
Some of the best ways to increase chest activation are;
- Mind muscle connection
- Using lighter weight
- Start with activation exercises
Increasing your mind muscle connection is a great way to activate chest fibers. Really focus on mentally squeezing your chest muscles as you complete each rep.
Think of squeezing your elbows together at the top of each rep.
By using lighter weight, it is much easier to properly focus on contractions. If the weight is so heavy that you can barely press, you won’t be able to think of squeezing your chest.
Doing a chest activation exercise before you start is a great way to help work your chest. Many people have difficulties feeling their chest working in movements such has the bench press. By starting with an activation exercise, your chest will be already fatigued so you will feel it working more.
Any cable chest press is a great way to do so. Use lightweight and really focus on squeezing your chest, allowing yourself to feel it activating. By using lightweight, you won’t tire out your muscles too much. This will still allow you to go heavy on your compound lift.
If you find that your arms are continuously sore, you may not be recovering properly. Let’s start with nutrition. Your muscles need adequate protein in order to rebuild themselves after a difficult workout.
Make sure that you are stretching out your arms before and after working out, especially if they are sore.
This reduces tightness and increases blood flow into the muscles. Perform a few lightweight sets of which ever exercise you are doing to prepare your muscles for the heavier sets.
Ensure that you’re getting 7 hours a sleep a night. Protein synthesis and growth hormone release happen while the body is sleeping. This allows your muscles to rebuild and grow back stronger.
Blood supply to the muscles is also increased while we sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you risk having remaining muscle pain for your next workout.
Consider taking BCAA’s to help promote muscle recovery. Branched chained amino acids will deliver amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins into the body.
The amino acid leucine has shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. BCAA’s also decrease protein breakdown during exercise and decrease levels of creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage. This will make DOMS not as severe.
Sometimes light movement is a great way to speed up the recovery process even if it’s painful. Light activity will increase blood flow in the legs, increasing nutrient flow to the muscles which helps them recover.
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