Chest Training Fundamentals
It’s chest day and you’re ready to hit some heavy barbell and dumbbell presses. While chest training often brings upon a feat of strength your real goal is to simply build a bigger chest, not just push a bunch of weight. There’s a balance between going for strength and actually building a big chest when it comes to chest day. Most chest exercises (and any exercise for that matters) will recruit other muscles so you really have to focus on the muscle you’re trying to build. This is where the mind-muscle connection comes in. This is especially true for chest training.
How Much Can You Bench Press?
If I had to guess about 80% of hardcore weightlifters and bodybuilders favor chest training over any other body part. Walk into any gym on a Monday evening and you’ll have a hard time getting a free weight bench (doesn’t it seem like Monday is International Chest Day?). And one of the most frequently asked questions you get is: ‘How much can you bench?’ Personally I think too many weight training enthusiasts focus too much on chest workouts in the beginning and not enough on back and legs. Let’s be honest; we all want a huge, defined chest and a big bench press. And the fundamentals of chest training start at the bench press. But there’s much more to chest training that just throwing up a few plates on the bench press if you want to build and shape your chest.
Dynamics of Chest Training – Hitting Different Angles of the Chest
If you just do heavy bench presses all the time you’ll indeed get stronger on your bench press but this won’t necessarily result in muscle growth. Just as well, training chest multiple times a week while neglecting other body parts won’t result in a big chest or a balanced physique for that matter. You need to work the actual muscle and hit your chest from different angles. To do this you need to use a variety of exercises as well as play around with different rep ranges. Everyone that knows me knows that I’m a firm believer in training with heavy weights especially on basic compound exercises such as bench press or dumbbell presses. But you also need to work all muscle fibers and exhaust the muscle; a good way to do this is mixing up the exercises and rep ranges.
Although many good chest workouts start with bench press I sometimes prefer to start out with an incline exercise such as incline barbell press or incline dumbbell press. Both exercises allow you to push some heavy weight, though you may not be able to lift the amount of weight you lift with flat presses. However, as far as building a humongous chest nothing beats heavy incline movements. It’s been said even by many pro bodybuilders that you can’t have too much upper chest development.
As I stated above it’s also good to have a variety of rep ranges in your chest workout to hit all muscle fibers. I always recommend starting out with heavy weights and compound exercises (after a thorough warm up, of course). But as your workout progresses you should go for more reps and go for the pump. Once you get to your last exercise which should be something like cable crossovers or some sort of flyes you should be going for about 12-15 reps each set.
Basic Chest Workout
Here’s a basic chest workout that starts out with incline presses. You can substitute incline for flat presses if you want, or alternate them each workout.
Incline Barbell Press – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Dumbbell Press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Cable Flyes or Crossovers – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
You can add a 4th or 5th exercise to the above workout but that’s just a basic chest workout listed to give you a general idea of a typical chest workout. Some professional bodybuilders do a few sets of chest flyes to pre-exhaust their chest before going into barbell and dumbbell exercises for chest. The reason for this is to ensure that the chest muscles are being worked during the compound exercises rather than the recruiting muscles. This may work for some while others may stick to starting out with barbell or dumbbell presses then later moving onto to flyes or cable exercises. I’ve experimented with doing high rep sets at the end of my chest workout for a pressing movement, such as 5 sets of 20 reps on the Hammer Strength Incline Press. This goes back to mixing heavy weights with low to moderate reps with higher rep ranges to exhaust the muscle, and to hit multiple muscle fibers within the muscle.
Train with Passion,