Your chest workout should include at least two warm up sets, some light
stretching and some heavy poundage on the work sets. My routine is almost always
three sets of three different exercises--all of which are done to complete
failure except perhaps the very first set which I consider sort of the tail-end
of my warm up.
The execution of all my chest movements is very strict. It usually takes me
three seconds to lower the weight before I bring it up again in an equally
controlled fashion but slightly faster. This tecnique has worked extremely well
for me. Don't try to put up a heavier weight than you really ought to be
ignoring the negative part of the rep and arching your back.
It's my feeling that a good chest workout should have three parts to it. One
exercise needs to be a mass builder--a compound movement where you use as much
weight as you can and still do 6-10 controlled reps. I usually do flat dumbbell
presses for this. I prefer dumbbells to the bar, but I don't think you can go
wrong either way as long as you don't come up crooked on the bench.
Second, every chest routine needs an exercise for the upper chest. Incline
flies, incline dumbbell press or incline barbbell press all work well. I use
dumbbell presses again.
Finally, to carve out the valley between your pecs, you need some sort of
cross-over movement. Advanced bodybuilders who already have a good base of mass
can go into cable movements. For the rest of us who are still building a base of
muscle, dumbbell flies work best here.
On to the exercises...
Flat Bench/Dumbbell Press
For dumbbell press, start seated on a bench with the weights resting up and
down on your quads. Lay back and swing the weights back to the point where the
corners of each dumbbell is just touching your outer pecs. Push the weight up,
bringing them slightly closer together at the top of the movement. Lower the
weight back down slowly--two seconds on the way down for every second on the
way up is a good rule. Repeat.
For barbell press, first make sure you have a spotter. Lay the bench so
that the racked weight is just a tad behind your shoulders. Use a wider than
shoulder width grip, but don't go too wide or you'll reduce your range of
motion too much. Have your partner break it for you by lifting it up off the
rack. Lower the weight slowly down till it touches your chest. Bring it back
up with just as much control. I don't like to lock my elbows at the top of the
movement, because it takes some of the stress off your muscles and puts it on
your skeletal structure which is not the point of the movement.
Pectorals, secondary emphasis on triceps and front deltoids.
You may want to try alternating between the barbell and dumbbells to get
the best of both worlds. A lot of pros favor one or the other, so I'm sure
both have their merits, I simply prefer dumbbells.
I usually do this movement first in my workout, although if you are serious
about building mass in your upper pecs you may want to consider doing an
inclined movement first.
Incline Bench/Dumbbell Press
With dumbbells, the only difference between this movement and the flat
dumbbell press is way you start the exercise and the muscles it stresses. Sit
on an inclined bench with the dumbbells resting on your quads. You want to
bring them up so that your hands are just above shoulder height. With heavier
weight, this is not easy. The way I do it is by kicking one leg and then the
other up. This throws the weight up and back so that I can bring it to rest
near my front delts and upper pecs. From there I slowly push the weight up and
squeeze the dumbbells closer together along the way. Lower the weight slowly
and repeat. I sometimes pause at the top of the movement and conciously try to
flex my pecs to maximize the stress.
For barbell press, you absolutely need a spotter. Use a slightly wider than
shoulder width grip--with the flat bench press. Let your partner unrack the
weight. Steady the weight above your chest and bring it slowly down. Let it
touch your chest and then push it back up. As with the flat bench press, I
don't believe you should lock your elbows at the top of the movement--it
allows your muscles to rest which you could just as easily do by staying in
bed, you're in the gym to work.
Pectorals, secondary emphasis on triceps and front deltoids. I feel this
movement places more stress on the deltoids then the flat bench press because
of the angle it's performed at.
This is the exercise to do for upper pec mass.
Flat/Incline Dumbbell Flies
You'll need to use lighter weight for this exercise than the pressing
movements. I'm actually able to use slightly heavier poundage for incline
flies than I am for flat flies.
As with the other dumbbell movements, you'll need to kick the weights up
from your legs to get them in position--especially with the incline flies.
Press the weight up as with any other pressing movment to get started. With
your elbows bent a little farther out than 90? lower the weight down. Slow
down a lot towards the bottom of the movement so that when you switch
directions to squeeze the weight back up you don't tear anything. Keep the
elbows bent at the same angle as you move the weights up over your chest in an
arc. I'm not sure if there's an official ruling on how far in to bring the
weights at the top of the movement, but I stop just short of touching the
Pectorals particularly outer pecs, secondary emphasis on triceps and front
deltoids. Incline variety places more stress on upper pecs.
I always include at least one crossing-type movement in my chest workout.
Typically I alternate between flat flies and incline flies.
Decline Bench/Dumbbell Press
For this exercise, you need a special bench with a place to hook your legs
so that you don't slide down off the bench. If your gym doesn't have one, you
can still do decline dumbbell presses using a decline sit-up board.
If you're working with heavy dumbbells, you'll probably have to have help
getting them up for the first rep because it's a real bear to try and curl
them up off the ground onto your chest. If you're using a barbell then just
have your partner unrack the weight and stablilize it for you.
From that point, the execution is the same as any other pressing motion.
Pectorals particularly lower pecs, secondary emphasis on triceps.
I don't feel this is a particularly necessary exercise. Most bodybuilders
have a much harder time developing the upper pecs compared to the lower pecs.
Occasionally, I throw these in to a workout as a substiture for incline or
flat presses just to add some variety. Variety is good up to a point because
it prevents your muscles from getting to used to the same routine and
Really, the only thing to remember about dips is that you need to go all
the way down to see the full benefit of the exercise. If you're getting sets
of 10 and 15 without straining too hard then you probably need to add some
more resistance. Do this by either attatching a plate to your belt with a cord
of some sort or by simply cradling a dumbbell between your legs.
To increase the role the pecs play in this movement, point your elbows
outward. Keeping them tucked in and pointed back forces your triceps to bear
the brunt of the load--not necessarily bad, but you need to decide wether
you're doing it for your chest or your triceps.
Pectorals particularly outer pecs, strong emphasis on triceps.
Don't become so fixated on reps that you try and whip them out super-fast
by dropping down quickly and bouncing back up to the top. Keep the motion
slow, especially on the negative portion of the rep.
Stand in between the pulleys of an adjustable-pulley-rack (for lack of a
better name). Move the pulleys so that they are at or above shoulder
height--you may have to experiment to decide what you like best. Adjust both
sides to be the same weight and grab one of the handles. Pull yourself over to
the other side and grab the opposite handle. Move back to the center and let
the weight pull your arms out so that they are extended nearly straight out.
Bend your elbows slightly and lean forward at about a 60 degree angle. Pull
your hands across your body so that they meet in front of you. For an even
greater squeeze, cross one hand under the other and alternate which hand goes
on top each rep.
Be especially carefull not to let the weight jerk your arms back to the
starting position. Your shoulders will thank you for it.
Pectorals particularly inner pecs.
There are so many variations on this movement. It would be impossible for
me to describe all of them. If you have already built massive pectorals and
you're concentrating on developing the striations, then by all means
experiment with this movement.
I sometimes substitutes inclined cable flies for inclined dumbbell flies.
The cables help me get a really intense peak contraction that the dumbbells
don't allow so readily.
Those of us still making steps towards hugeness, but who are not quite
there are better off leaving this exercise out and concentrating on the
exercises that involve moving more weight.