If there’s one muscle that you really want to be big and ripped, it’s your chest. There’s just something about that muscle that draws attention more than any other.
But one of the problems is that it can be difficult to get that perfectly shaped chest. And just having a big bench press isn’t going to get you there.
If you really want a defined chest you have to learn to isolate those muscles during your workouts. This means you have to target those specific muscles, which requires techniques that go beyond just lifting a weight from point A to B.
In this post, you’ll learn three powerful methods to isolate your chest muscles. I’ll also give you a complete chest workout and other strategies you can use to get that huge, ripped chest that you aspire to have.
Oh, you may want to get your pre-workout drink ready because after you read this you’re going to want to hit the gym for a chest workout!
1 – Force Your Pecs to Work Harder
Almost every bodybuilder and weightlifter gets hung up on this one thing when it comes to chest training. Bench press.
Among guys, it seems to be the ultimate measurement of strength (although the true measurement of overall strength is exercises like squats and deadlifts!). It’s a perception and misconception, yet many of us get caught up in the ‘How much can ya bench?‘ syndrome.
The problem with that mentality is that you’re using your entire body with explosive power to lift the weight. This is great for strength gains but it’s not very effective for building your chest muscles.
For building and defining your chest, you need to shift your focus to forcing your pecs to do more work and work harder. This means taking a lighter weight and making it feel heavier by the way you perform the exercise.
Here are some ways you can force your chest muscles to work harder:
- On the eccentric part of the rep (as the weight is coming back towards your chest), control the weight by applying more tension to your chest muscles. This means taking your time to lower the weight back to the starting position.
- Consciously use your chest muscles to push the weight back out.
- Contract your chest muscles at the peak of each rep and do a brief pause as those muscles are contracted.
- Be focused on your chest muscles throughout each rep, visualizing your chest growing.
If your goal is to increase your bench press, then be sure to read my post about the Critical Bench 2.0 Program here.
2 – Flex Your Chest Muscles Between Sets
Another way to really shape your chest muscles is to flex your pecs between sets. It’s so simple and easy to do but often forgotten.
The reason this works so well is for the same reason that lifting weights builds muscle. You’re applying tension (and more time under tension). But not only that, you’re directly targeting those muscles when you flex them.
Here’s how to apply this:
- Immediately after your set, stand straight up and place your hands or fists close together down by your stomach area (your elbows will be bent at less than a 90-degree angle).
- Shift your shoulders back so that your chest is poking out, kind of like a rooster letting everyone know what time it is, which the time is ‘gains o’clock!’
- Flex your pecs and hold that pose for about 3-5 seconds.
- Repeat after each set.
Again, this is one of the simplest ways to add more shape to your chest muscles. Try this and you should notice a difference after a few weeks.
3 – End Your Chest Workouts with Multiple Sets
Another practical method to build and shape your chest is doing more sets than normal at the end of your workout. And specifically with an isolation exercise for chest.
There are several training concepts that use this strategy. One of the most common is the FST-7 program. In short, this method has you ending your workout with seven sets.
Some use the 10 x 10 method for this as well. I’ve even done five sets at the end of my workouts and have gotten noticeable results.
Regardless of what strategy you follow, the idea is to expand your muscles by exhausting them. And by doing this at the end of the workout gives your assurance that you’ll be using your chest muscles even more since they’re already fatigued from the prior exercises.
Some days seven sets may work perfectly for this. Or you may find that 5-6 sets work great. Or you may want to try the 10 x 10 strategy at the end of your workout.
I mentioned the FST-7 method, which is an excellent way to build size and definition. You can read more about these types of workouts in this post: FST-7 Full Workout Routine for Mass Gains
3 Chest Workouts for Mass and Definition
Now it’s time to put these strategies into action. Below are three complete chest workouts that you can try on your next chest day, which hopefully is today!
Here are some notes about the workouts:
- You’ll notice that each workout ends with using the 3rd method (doing multiple sets). For those exercises, rest 30-40 seconds between sets.
- For all other exercises, you can rest 45 seconds to a minute between sets.
- Make sure that you feel your pecs working hard and that you feel that pump. If this is not the case, try reducing the weight a little.
- Don’t forget to flex your pecs for 3-5 seconds between each set (your rest time will start after your flex session).
Chest Workout 1 – FST-7
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Incline Bench Press||4 x 6-8|
|Dumbbell Press||3 x 8*|
|Hammer Strength or Smith Machine Incline Press||3 x 10|
|Pec Dec Flyes||7 x 12|
*Drop set on final set
Chest Workout 2 – Ending with 5 Sets
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Bench Press||4 x 6-8|
|Incline Bench Press||3 x 8|
|Dumbbell Pullovers||3 x 10|
|Incline Dumbbell Flyes||5 x 12*|
*Drop set on final set
Chest Workout 3 – 10 x 10
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Incline Bench Press||3 x 6|
|Dumbbell Press||3 x 8|
|Cable Flyes||10 x 10|
Inspiration for a Ripped and Huge Chest
One of the most inspirational chests in bodybuilding was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chest. He was known for that big fan-shaped chest when he hit a side pose.
I’ll never forget to first time I saw him when I was a kid, and it was either in one of the old Flex magazines or one of his movies like Conan the Barbarian. But I immediately wanted to start training to have a chest like that.
I must also mention Lou Ferrigno. I remember reading one of the classic bodybuilding magazines where the author said that Lou’s chest enters the room five minutes before he does! Lol! I wish I still had that magazine!
So I want to encourage you to find your inspiration for building your chest. Perhaps it’s Arnold as well. Or some other bodybuilder like Kai Greene, Phil Heath, Jay Cutler, or Ronnie Coleman. Or it could be an actor or a fitness body.
Keep a photo on your phone of someone that has the type of chest you aspire to have. Look at it daily, and especially before every chest workout to get that inspiration and remind yourself of your goal.
And visualize yourself having the chest that you want. Huge, ripped, muscular, and fan-shaped. Visualize it and you will achieve as long as you push yourself and you’re consistent.
Next, be sure to check out my training programs and more on my shop.
Train with Passion,