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“Bigger Torso Muscles”: Balance is the key

Building bigger torso muscles is an aspiration among many ectomorphic bodybuilding neophytes as well as seasoned and well-developed muscle builders alike. Given this fact, there’s no shortage of written advice on how to add muscle mass to the chest, back, and shoulders. What’s typically in short supply – both instructionally and practically – are tactics for building bigger torso muscles in a balanced manner. This is evident with any astute observation of the many unbalanced upper bodies one sees meandering around the countless gyms scattered across the world.

By addressing this, am I implying that the development of my body (both lower and upper) is somewhere even close to perfect? Absolutely not. However, I have balanced my muscular development much since I first started natural bodybuilding well over twenty years ago.  I’ve learned some lessons along the way and noticed some blatant imbalances that can easily be corrected with a few tips within the context of building bigger torso muscles. So let’s address some of those tips right now.

Building upper body muscle

Bigger torso muscles' should not be sought after at the expense of aesthetics in upper body appearance

             Balance in Building Bigger Chest Muscles

There are two common mistakes I’ve observed in building the pec muscles:
  1. Overall underdevelopment of chest muscles due to inadequate isolation of pectorals.
  2. Imbalance between the middle pecs and the upper pecs – with an overemphasis on the middle.
I can’t even recall how many guys I’ve run across who want bigger pectorals yet don’t seem to know how to really isolate and work the muscles of the chest. They typically perform set after set of flat bench presses. They often use dumbbells to do an exercise that halfway resembles a fly movement and halfway resembles a pressing exercise. To really build the pectorals, you need to get your arms and shoulders out of the picture and really zero in on moving the weight from the chest – even if that means lightening up on the weight. I know “lightening the weight” goes against conventional wisdom, but if conventional wisdom is so wise – why are there still thousands of guys who want a bigger chest and aren’t getting one through following conventional wisdom?

Let’s address the imbalance between upper and middle pectorals. When the upper pecs are underdeveloped in relation to the middle pecs, the outcome is a somewhat feminine appearance to the chest (not good if you’re a guy).  By contrast, the best appearance for bigger torso muscles that also gives balanced aesthetics to the upper body is to have somewhat more protruding muscles in the upper chest than in the middle area. This gives the torso a powerful look that doesn’t resemble the ‘Pillsbury Doughboy’ or a need for the aspiring bodybuilder to purchase a line of braziers.

Many bodybuilders are already acutely aware of this. However, it’s an inadvertent overcompensation due to this acute awareness that often leads to underdeveloped upper pectorals. It’s a counterintuitive point, but over enthusiasm in building upper pectoral muscles resulting in performing too many incline presses and flyes often leads to overtraining the upper chest region. Overtraining is one of the biggest reasons for cessation of muscle building progress. This can obviously lead to the exact opposite of what one is striving for, namely: a chest that’s slightly bigger in the upper section than in the middle.

Muscle Building Tip: Remember that the pectoral muscles are divided into three regions; upper, middle, and lower. When you work the middle region with flat benching movements (presses and flyes), you’re actually working the mid-pectoral muscles heavily and the upper and lower regions lightly. However, when you work the upper and lower chest muscles respectively, you’re isolating those regions (mid chest muscles don’t come into play during inclines and declines). Therefore, it’s important to stimulate the upper chest with its own exercises, but make sure you limit the number of those movements because it’s easy to hit that region with too much exercise.

             Balance in Building Bigger Lat Muscles

In building bigger torso muscles, nothing looks worse than having a big chest without thick and wide lats to counterbalance it. The body looks front heavy when the latisimus dorsi muscles are underdeveloped. Yet as important as development of the lats are for upper body aesthetics, no imbalance is more common among bodybuilding enthusiasts as are lats that are small in comparison to the shoulders, arms, and chest.

There’s a major reason for this: Most bodybuilders never learn how to pull weight with their lat muscles (during rows, pull-downs, and pull-ups) instead of their arms. Many apparently believe that as long as they’re heaving and slinging “heavy weights” in a pulling motion, the lats will come into play no matter how much momentum and arm movement they throw into the exercise. This is disastrous from the standpoint of wasting both time and energy. If you utilize momentum or arm muscles rather than your lats when doing rows and pull-downs, your lats will experience negligible growth if any growth at all – period.

The secret that will put wider and thicker back muscles on you is to use lighter weight and perform your rows and pull-downs with a slow and focused effort. The movement should begin with a slow backward rolling of the shoulder blades in order to initiate the upper back muscles into the movement. At the same time, you should temporarily imagine your arms as nothing more than “dead handles”; as mere extensions of the actual handle that you have your hands wrapped around. While maintaining this focus, the movement should be done while concentrating all of the pull from the lat area while thinking of the arms as nothing but connecting equipment that’s attaching the weight to the lats. This is a secret that has added more thickness and width to my back than anything else. It’s the reason that I’m often asked if I have a genetic predisposition for getting nice lat muscles (especially for a natural bodybuilder).

             Balance in Building Bigger Shoulders

In getting bigger torso muscles, thick and wide shoulders are a must. “Cannon ball deltoids” will cap off and accentuate the V-shape created by the wider back you’ll be gaining by changing your pulling exercises from sloppy ‘arm/momentum’ efforts into focused lat-thickening ones.

Personally, my deltoids suffered from slow development for a long time. Fortunately, that’s now a phenomenon of the distant past. My delts are growing like gangbusters now and the reason is that I’m hitting them with only one compound pressing movement per workout followed by only one ‘raising’ movement for each of the three deltoid heads – front, side, and rear. That’s it – no overlap, redundancies, or overtraining.

This brings me to the primary reason for lack of shoulder development despite intense training. The deltoids are used indirectly and as stabilizers in so many upper body exercises that they’re extremely susceptible to overtraining. Put them in a relatively “undertrained” state and you’ll likely see them start making progress if they’re currently in a slump.


Let’s recap this. If you want bigger torso muscles that are aesthetically balanced as well, begin focusing on these main points:
  • Overdevelop the upper chest by using incline exercises that target the upper chest while avoiding overtraining the area by abstaining from too many exercises.
  • Balance your bigger chest with a big back by making sure your pulling movements are done with your lat muscles and not with your arms or momentum.
  • Get your shoulders growing thicker and wider by utilizing only one shoulder press exercise followed by one raising movement for each of the deltoid heads – front, side, and rear.
Of course, when these principles are combined with the workout and recovery strategies that I cover in my more detailed muscle building routines, success is nearly a foregone conclusion.


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This is a very helpful guide to improve fitness and appearance, and as you rightfully put it, the key is balancing out your workout exercises. By focussing on just one part of your body, you risk making unnecessary stress on that muscle only, and the result would not be aesthetically pleasing. By following the tips provided here, I believe that one can understand more why certain exercises are performed for particular parts of his/her body. I would also advise that the level of training is increased gradually, not given as a shock to the body.

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A single way to go about getting a greater chest area is to know the proper varieties of exercises to complete. Among the best workouts to enhance the pectoral muscle are usually bench presses. Bench presses can be a classic exercise yet still an example of he most effective approaches to develop an even bigger and tougher chest area. You need to just lay back on the bench plus grab on the bar. Be sure that your arms are about shoulder size separate.

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Hi Vitamin D,

Thank you for the comment. I'm happy you liked the article. I have a lot more articles on my website and more information to come.

Train Intelligently!


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My brother is always interested to build his body.Its really nice article and it will be helpful for my brother.Thank you very much for sharing this with us.

Dean Crawford

Another excellent article Scott. It's really psychologically difficult to reduce weights when trying to build a bigger, stronger body, or change reps and exercises to avoid unwitting overtraining of specific muscle groups. I've been following your work very closely since discovering your blog, and find myself rejecting more and more of the so-called 'expert' advice produced elsewhere by suspiciously faceless bloggers.

Quite often I feel as though I'm not training enough when following your advice (!), but my measurements speak for themselves. I've gained an average 1 lb per week for the past seven weeks, with no noticeable gain in body fat. I'd guess that maybe 3 lbs of that may be pure muscle, along with the extra natural water content and a small amount of ( hopefully ) evenly distributed body fat.

It seems incredibly counter-intuitive but it really does work. I'm just waiting now to reach my first 'plateau', at which point I'll increase the rest periods between training days as, all else being equal, I'll simply need more time for muscle regeneration.

Thanks for all the hard work you do in making this blog, and for the advice contained within!

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