The Ultimate Chest Workout for a Big Chest (and Big Bench Press)

February 9, 2021

ultimate chest workout

We all want to increase our bench press and throw a few more plates on the bar. But we also want to build and define our chest muscles.

Training for pure strength can conflict with training for muscle gains. To boost your bench press, it’s all about explosive force.

But for a huge and ripped chest, it’s all about making the weight feel heavier than it really is by forcing your chest muscles to work harder. And that’s not feasible when you’re lifting max loads.

If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself torn between the two. Do you want to get stronger? Or do you want a bigger and more defined chest?

The good news is you don’t have to choose. I’m going to give you the ultimate chest workout that will help you increase your bench press as well as build and define your chest.

**If you’re serious about taking your gains to the next level, be sure to check out my recommended test booster and use it with this workout I’m giving you below.

Also, be sure to use my discount code that’s at the beginning of that post!

The Workout

Below is the workout at a glance. It’s centered around helping you build and shape your chest muscles while also gaining strength on the bench press.

Here’s the ultimate chest workout:

  • Bench Press: 5 x 10, 8, 5, 5, 3
  • Incline Bench Press: 4 x 8
  • Cable Flyes: 4 x 12
  • Machine Press: 5 x 15

That’s the workout. But there’s much more to it…

I’m now going to show you how to make this workout more effective by sharing the details and methods you can use for each exercise.

Heavy Bench Press to Increase Your Bench Press Strength

Jason Stallworth 405 bench
  • 5 sets x 10, 8, 5, 5, 3 reps
  • Rest time: 2 minutes between sets

Naturally, you’re starting out with the bench press. And don’t let anyone fool you by saying you can’t build a big chest with bench press. That seems to be a trendy saying but it’s the furthest thing from the truth.

This exercise is building the foundation for you to have a bigger (and more defined) chest. How? Because getting stronger on the bench press is going to make you stronger on all of your other chest exercises, thus building more muscle. It’s that simple.

For this first exercise, you’re doing:

5 sets of 10, 8, 5, 5, 3 reps

These are your working sets and does not include any warm-ups. I suggest doing 1-2 light sets of 10-12 reps to warm-up first.

Here’s how your sets will go:

  • Set 1 x 10 Reps: Start with a moderate weight and don’t go all-out on this set. This set is to prime you for the heavy sets to come.
  • Set 2 x 8 Reps: You’ll go up about 10-20% in weight on this set for 8 reps. This set should more challenging but don’t push it to failure.
  • Set 3 x 5 Reps: Here’s where you move up to some heavier weight that you’ll do for 5 reps, increasing the load by another 20% or more.
  • Set 4 x 5 Reps: Now you’ll increase the weight again by 5-10%. It should be challenging to get those 5 reps here.
  • Set 5 x 3 Reps: Finally, you’ll increase the weight even more and the goal will be 3 reps.

Make sure you have someone you trust spotting you for those final 3 sets. You need to be able to push yourself hard on these sets without worrying about anything (like the barbell crushing you!).

So don’t cut yourself short here. Find a good spotter.

The key to this bench press routine is to work your way up to heavier weights. You don’t want to start your workout with those heavy loads.

The benefit is getting your chest used to handling that heavy weight. And you’re pushing yourself so that when you come back to chest day on the following week, those weights should feel lighter and you can go up accordingly. It’s all about strength gains on the bench press!

Incline Bench Press to Add Mass and Shape to Your Chest

incline barbell press chest day chest exercises
  • 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Rest time: 1 minute between sets

Next, you’re going to work on building your upper chest with incline bench press. You’ll use moderately heavy weight for all 4 sets.

In this case, you may find it’s best to stick with the same weight throughout this exercise. And that same weight is going to gradually feel heavier each set, partly because you’re not resting as long between sets (1 minute).

Your goal here is to shift from the explosive power used on the bench press to focusing more on making your chest muscles work harder. And the incline bench is a great way to focus more on those muscles.

Cable Flyes for a Ripped Chest

Cable Flyes chest squeeze
  • 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Rest time: 35-45 seconds between sets

Now it’s time to move into the isolation exercises for your chest. For this workout, I have you doing cable flyes. However, you can choose any type of flyes such as the pec dec machine or dumbbell flyes.

There are some key things to remember with this exercise. And these are going to help you add more muscle definition and shape to your chest:

  • Make sure you’re getting a good stretch at the top of the movement by slightly leaning forward and stepping forward so that your arms are stretched out.
  • Contract your chest muscles at the peak of each rep and hold it for a second or two.
  • On the final set, you’re going to do a drop set (reduce the weight by 20-30% and pump out another set).

You should feel a tremendous pump in your pecs after this exercise. And it all works in conjunction with the heavy lifting you did earlier.

Machine Bench Press to Exhaust Your Chest Muscles for Massive Growth

Hammer Strength Incline Press unilateral
  • 5 sets x 15 reps
  • Rest time: 30 seconds between sets

Your final chest exercise is going to be on a machine.
If your gym has a Hammer Strength chest press, I suggest using that. It can be flat, incline, or decline. However, any chest machine will work.

The purpose of ending with this exercise is to exhaust your chest muscles. You’ve already done the heavy work and you’ve also started with the isolation part of the workout. Now it’s time to end it with a bang.

The reason why we’re choosing a machine is that this is going to allow you to focus 100% on your chest muscles. You’re not going to be distracted with balancing and you don’t need a spotter as you do with lifting free weights.

Here’s how this will work:

  • Because you’re only resting for 30 seconds between sets, you can stay seated in the machine the entire time.
  • As you’re going for 15 reps, you’ll have a tendency to pump out faster reps. Don’t allow yourself to do that. Rather, focus on each individual rep.
  • Due to the above, choose a lighter weight for this exercise.
  • On the final rep, keep the weight pushed out while flexing your pecs for 3-5 seconds.

**If you’re using a Hammer Strength uni-lateral machine, on the final set use the uni-lateral method. This is where you’ll keep one arm extended while bringing the other arm back towards your chest, then repeat with the opposing arm.

Chest Workout Recovery

Chest stretch arm extended

Once you finish your final set be sure to spend 3-5 minutes stretching your chest muscles. This doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated.

Just grab the edge of a machine like you see in the image above and stretch each muscle. Hold that position for 10 seconds and do this 2-3 times for each arm.

You can also place one arm behind your head and press that inner part of your arm against a machine or corner of a wall to stretch.

Also, now is a good time to drink your post-workout recovery shake and supplements. Here’s what I do as soon as I get home from the gym:

  • 10 oz of almond milk
  • 2 scoops of whey protein
  • 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 serving of peanut butter
  • 7 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 10 grams of glutamine

This is a great way to kick-start the recovery process and replenish those nutrients from your workouts. You can also read more about what supplements I take and recommend here.

How Often Should You Train Chest?

Your chest workout frequency should be based on your ability to recover from your workouts. It’s common for bodybuilders to follow the once-a-week training rule. And that obviously works.

If you feel like you want to train chest again sooner make sure you wait at least 3-4 days before training chest again. And if that’s the strategy you want to use, it’s best to not do the same chest workout on your 2nd chest day.

You may also want to split it up to where you have a heavy chest day for strength and a lighter chest day that focuses more on building and shaping those muscles.

You can read more about chest training and different workout options in this post: Training Chest Twice a Week

Here’s an example of training chest twice a week:

Chest Day 1

  • Bench press: 5 x 5
  • Incline bench press: 3 x 8
  • Dumbbell press: 3 x 8

Chest Day 2

  • Incline dumbbell press: 4 x 10
  • Cable flyes: 4 x 12
  • Pec dec flyes: 4 x 15

Of course, this schedule deviates from the ultimate chest workout in this post. But it’s just another option if you’re wanting to train chest more than once a week.

I hope this post helps and that you will try my ultimate chest workout for strength and building a defined chest.

Lastly, be sure to check out my helpful resources for building muscle below:

Train with Passion,

Jason

About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!