We know that you want a chest that you can be proud of – but to get there, your chest workout must be equally pride-worthy! There are many great chest builders out there, but they don’t work the same for different people, so from time to time you should make sure to breathe new life into your chest training program by trying new things or re-introducing some classic moves into your routine.
The following article highlights five old-but-gold chest busters (and how to perform them for best gains!) that will help you separate your pecs from those of the average bench pressing guy and load some serious muscle mass. Let’s get started!
1. Barbell Bench Press
When performed correctly, this popular exercise can definitely help you get the huge, mighty chest of your dreams. But just as with any other exercise, proper form and solid technique aren’t the only requirements for success. In order to reap the benefits of the bench press, you also need the right workout structure.
First of all, don’t be that guy who neglects the importance of a good warm up and then ends up being unable to give their max or getting injured. For the warm up, perform two sets of 15 reps with just the bar, then increase the weight by 25% of your 1RM and perform another 12-15 reps. This will stimulate blood circulation and warm up your muscles, preparing them for the working sets, which you will perform in a pyramid to maximally fatigue your pecs.
Start your first working set with a weight that allows you to get 12 reps with good form, then increase the weight by 20 lbs for the second set and perform 10 reps. Increase the weight again by adding 20 lbs and perform 8 reps, then add another 20 lbs and go for 6 sets. Again, add 20 lbs and perform 4 reps, then get to the top of the pyramid by adding the final 20 lbs and perform only 1 rep.
Now it’s time to come back down by reversing your steps. Decrease the weight by 20 lbs and perform 4 reps and keep removing 20 lbs on each set and perform the same number of reps you did while coming up the pyramid. Take no longer than 2 minutes of rest between sets.
2. Incline Barbell Bench Press
The incline barbell bench press is another exercise that’s a key part of developing chest thickness. After the pyramided flat barbell bench presses, your chest muscles will be severely fatigued and this will limit the weight you can lift on the incline bench, so keep it real.
Pick a weight that’s roughly 70% of what you would normally lift on this exercise and go for 5 sets of 6-8 reps with 2 minutes of rest between sets. Focus on perfecting your form – take it slow on the eccentric part of the movement but perform the concentric portion in an explosive manner.
- The bench should be at a 30-45 degree angle.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor at all times.
- The back is slightly arched and the wrists are straight with the elbows directly beneath your wrists and arms tucked at a 45 degree angle.
- Use a medium-wide grip.
- When going down, the bar should either touch your chin or the upper chest area.
- Inhale on the way down, exhale on the way up.
- Avoid bouncing the weight off your chest by pausing for a brief moment at the bottom. Focus on executing the movement in a controlled manner.
3. Dumbbell Flyes
Flies follow a wide arc pattern of movement, as opposed to the direct up-and-down movement of the chest press and should be used to balance out the heavy pressing part of your routine. The flat dumbbell fly primarily works the chest and shoulders but also engages the rhomboids at the upper back and the biceps as stabilizing muscles. Adding dumbbell flies will help you maximize the contraction in the pecs and build greater definition in the chest area, as well as strengthen the shoulders and prime them for working with heavy loads. Again, proper form is crucial.
- To begin, set the bench to a slight incline (this allows for more emphasis to be placed on the upper fibers of the pecs) and take a dumbbell in each hand.
- Raise the weights up like you’re pressing them and stop just before lock out. Start slowly lowering the weights down and out on either side in a wide arc while keeping your arms as straight as possible but with a slight bend at the elbow.
- Squeeze your pecs and lift the dumbbells up in an explosive manner and repeat.
- Make sure that the movement only occurs at the shoulder joint.
Perform 5 sets of 8-12 reps with 2 minutes of rest between sets.
4. Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
Back to the barbell. The close-grip barbell bench press is a key exercise for improving power and athleticism in the upper body. Grip positioning affects the way the muscles are being worked, so this time around you’ll narrow the grip to target your inner chest while also allowing for a greater engagement of the triceps.
- Lie back on a flat bench.
- Lift the bar with a close grip and hold it straight over you with arms locked.
- Breathe in and lower the weight down until you feel the bar on your middle chest.
- Push the bar up and lock your arms in the peak contracted position.
- Keep in mind that it should take at least twice as long to go down that to come up. Achieving optimal tension in the muscle is crucial for achieving maximal hypertrophy.
Perform 5 sets of 6-8 reps with 2 minutes of rest between sets.
5. Cable Flyes
The cable fly is similar to the regular fly, but it comes with a different package of benefits. The use of cable helps you keep constant tension on your chest throughout the entire range of motion and also increase the tension on your inner peck by allowing you to cross one hand over the other. When doing a cable fly, the height of the pulleys determines the angle of your pull, so by adjusting the height you can shift the emphasis on different parts of your chest.
Use cable flies as finisher to your chest routine to fatigue your chest muscles even further. If you’ve worked as hard as you should on the first four exercises, your chest will be burning by now so you will keep the weight relatively light on this one.
- Make sure to set the pulleys high enough so that you’re bringing the cables down from above. Lie on a flat bench between the pulleys and keep your feet on the ground.
- Grab each handle attachment with a palms up grip, extend your arms by your side with a slight bend in the elbows and ensure that your arms are parallel to the floor.
- Start lifting the arms in a semi-circle motion directly in front of you by pulling the cables together until both hands meet at the top of the movement. Hold the peak contraction at the top for a second before going down, then really focus on the squeeze at the bottom of the motion.
- Avoid turning the flies into presses by recruiting other muscle groups to assist in moving the weight, which is common among people who go too heavy on this exercise.
Perform 12 reps, then drop the weight and perform another 12 reps. Drop the weight again and perform another set of 12 reps to really fatigue your pecs. Take 90 seconds of rest between each drop set.
To grow like a champion, you also have to make sure your nutrition is in order. As an addition to eating a well-balanced clean diet, you should consider using certain supplements that can further increase your training gains by accelerating the rate of muscle growth and repair. Here are some useful suggestions:
Impact whey protein
The post-workout shake is the best way to give your exhausted muscles the much needed protein-boost after a strenuous workout. Opt for impact whey protein because it has over 80% protein content and comes in a variety of flavors so that you never get bored of the same old shake.
Creatine monohydrate is a crucial supplement for anyone looking to put on lean mass. In fact, it is the most cost-effective supplement that can increase mass and strength gains and help you get more out of each workout by increasing your levels of ATP.
BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) represent three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Since amino acids are essential to protein synthesis and muscle growth, an adequate intake of BCAAs on your training days will help you train longer and harder and reap more gains from your gym efforts.
It’s no secret that not all proteins are created equal. All proteins offer their own unique advantages, and the main perk of casein protein is that it has the ability to provide your body with a slow and steady flow of amino acids and keep your muscles fed for many hours. With the help of good timing, regular casein supplementation is guaranteed to enhance your training performance and speed up recovery.
When it comes to chest training, it’s way too easy to let your ego run wild and ruin your long-term gains. The desire to progress too quickly may lead you to sacrifice your form and miss out on the opportunity to fulfill your true muscle building potential.
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We’re pretty sure that you’re bored of hearing this by now, but it’s worth repeating yet again: real gains are made by focusing on maintaining time under tension and correct form and technique, not the amount of weight you are able to lift. Therefore, don’t allow your ego to get the best of you – if you want stellar gains, just keep training smart and eating clean and soon enough you’ll be shopping for new T-shirts.