It is not odd to feel a burn in another area of your body while training a completely area when it comes to isolated training. When we train any part of our body there are muscle that are worked indirectly no matter what. This is because those muscles are required to engage and fire to move the weight through the rep.
When training bigger areas like legs, back, and chest, bigger and more abundant muscles will have to be engaged because the weight being moved is usually heavier.
Shoulders seem to get the grunt of virtually every upper body push movement, especially when training chest. Yes, you can go in and hit chest by jumping on a bench and grabbing some dumbbells or pushing the barbell, but more than likely the shoulders will feel it as well.
In some cases, the shoulders may feel worked a little too much. The most obvious sign is the burning sensation in the shoulders which leads to fatigue. This is kind of a double kick in the pants when it comes to training because you do not want your shoulder training day to also be your chest training day, but that is what it feels like. So, by exhausting a muscle out indirectly, it renders it useless when you are ready to train it directly sometimes.
So, what is the cause? What can be done to make chest day about the chest with feeling like the shoulders are going to explode?
There are three things to look at: set-up, mental approach, and weakness.
Set-up is meant in numerous ways when it pertains to chest training. When bench pressing with a barbell, one must look at how wide their grip is. If the grip is too wide, the shoulders are engaged way too much, and the chest is taken out. A quick fix to this is pinching the shoulder blades together and then leaning back on the bench. This will force the chest to pop out more, bringing the elbows in closer to the torso, and take a lot off the shoulders, allowing you to put more emphasis and power on your chest directly.
Weakness is as the word demands. If you have weak shoulders they will get exhausted very quickly during any pressing movement, especially one that involves isolated chest training. Doing unilateral shoulder movements are a great way to balance out strength in the shoulders. Unilateral means that each side is responsible for its own weight and resistance. So instead of doing military presses with a barbell, grab a dumbbell and train each side separately so one side cannot compensate for the lack of strength in the other side. The focus is getting the shoulders stronger, so they can be more of an effective assistant in training other muscles such as chest.
When it comes to mental approach, sometimes visualizing the movement in a different light can help in conjuring up a little more strength or even break through some plateaus. Looking at the barbell bench press (because it is the most common chest exercise), try focusing on pushing your body away from the bar instead of pushing the bar away from your body. Believe it or not this can do the trick when being stuck at a certain weight. The brain conceptualizes the movement differently which then in return can cause more engagement in muscle fibers, developing more power.
Try these little “tweaks” next time you hit chest if you have been dealing with tired and exhausted shoulders when trying to build a bigger chest!