How to keep your workouts honest: Floor chest press

Editor's Note: In July, Philly.com launched its first contest to find Philly's Next Top Trainer. Over 1,000 readers voted and local trainer Nick Deacon's video on how to keep your push ups honest took the top honor. Today, we're launching the first video of Nick's “Honesty Workout Series," which will run every wednesday for the next four weeks.

The holidays have come and gone, and you might be feeling a bit regretful. Not about the cookies you consumed on Christmas, but all the extra cookies that you kept snacking on into the New Year.

Now is the time to correct those holiday habits.

‘Tis the season of the “New You”. Maybe you want to climb a flight of stairs without getting winded. Perhaps you’d like to hear your doctor tell you your cholesterol numbers are down. Maybe you’re feeling a bit bummed about your body and you want to show off clothes worn by your former stylish self.

You’ve been to the gym before and know your way around the equipment but now you’re ready for more. So, you look up some exercises and copy others you see in the gym. But the problem is that plenty of people do exercises incorrectly, often without knowing it. Perhaps you’ve met a few of them.

The guy swinging dumbbells in front of the rack. Or the workout partners rushing through shallow lunges up and down the aisle.

If you don’t perform the exercises properly, will they actually yield results?

Here are the most common exercise faults and the one solution you need to correct all of them:

Problem: Using momentum instead of controlled contraction.
Think: throwing instead of squeezing. Tension, which builds muscle, is wasted due to an over reliance on gravity, momentum, or bouncing with the muscles’ own elastic energy. Which leads into a whole new problem…

Problem: Weights are too heavy.
If dumbbell curls resemble more of a full body swing than a targeted biceps move, then your weights are too heavy. In this case, you’ll use anything but the target muscles to lift the weight, so they get a pass to not work as hard. Without a feeling of fatigue in those muscles, it can seem like the weights were just too easy, so you decide to lift even heavier. The cycle continues.

Problem: Under fatigue, you’re likely to get sloppy towards the end of a set.
Regardless of the weight you’re using, using bad form changes the movement. In turn, this changes the muscles that are benefitting (or not benefitting) from the workout.

All these problems lead to one thing: Strength is not developed and the workout is wasted.

Now you’re wasting time, effort, and money without even achieving your desired results!

The solution? The Dead Stop Method.

The Dead Stop Method is a style of performing the tried-and-true exercises that build strength, burn fat, and develop your body.

Here’s how it works:
The most important aspects of the Dead Stop Method are the beginning and end of each movement.

The beginning of a Dead Stop exercise must be stable. Make sure the weight (or your body) is supported by the floor or anything other than the target muscles. You must be able to put the weight down or “rest” between each rep.

The end of every rep has a similarly distinct endpoint. You must be able to feel the target muscles contracting hard until they reach a dead-end. Once they reach this point, they can go no further. You’ve found a new point of stability and may now return to the start.

I use this solution with my trainees to make sure they get the most out every one of their reps. This helps them train effectively, while also developing the foundations needed for more complex moves in the future.

By choosing specific exercises that use a Dead Stop at both the beginning and the end of the movement, we fix all the problems mentioned above:

  • You’ll be more likely to feel the right muscles working by starting in a good position on every rep.
  • The pause between reps will prevent bouncing. It also forces you to slow down enough to make sure you’re being honest with every rep, even when the set gets hard.
  • You’ll know when the weight is too heavy because you won’t have momentum to help you complete the exercise.

Once you fix these problems, you can be confident you’re performing all of your reps properly.

Over the next four weeks, I will demonstrate five exercises that use the Dead Stop Method. This week, I’m showing you an honest chest press. Check back every Wednesday as I unveil the remaining exercises:

  • Dumbbell Row
  • Step Up
  • Deadlift
  • Chin Up

By using the Dead Stop Method, you can be confident that you’re getting the most out of your efforts in the gym.

Time to make 2017 your year.


Nick Deacon is an ACSM certified personal trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist who operates out of 12th Street Gym and Drexel Recreation Center. Nick offers personal training services, as well as nutrition and distance counseling. To learn more about Nick, visit his personal website at nickdeaconfitness.com.

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