Complete chest development is important for two main reasons (1) The chest muscles comprise a major portion of the front upper torso so from a bodybuilding point of view are one of the most important muscle groups to develop fully.
(2) The skeletal foundation to the chest ie: the ribcage houses one of the body’s most vital organs, the lungs. Correct chest training can and will improve the power and efficiency of the lungs which will have enormous benefits on your general health and sporting ability.
Major Muscles of The Chest
Many trainees have increased their ribcage size by up to 6″ and nearly doubled their lung capacity with correct chest training.
Specific exercises, such as pullovers with a barbell can be used to great effect to develop the ribcage and this described at the end of the advanced chest program detailed below.
Before describing exactly the exercises and method of performance of this advanced program lets discover a little more about the major muscles of the chest so that the reason for doing certain exercises will become apparent.
The Pectoralis Major is of the course the most important muscle of the chest and extends over the whole front of the upper torso.
It arises from the front of the clavicle and along the sternum ( the large flat bone in the middle of the chest) and down as far as the upper border of the sixth rib.
It sweeps across the chest of each side and is attached to the respective upper arm bones just below the shoulder. As can be seen from the direction of the muscle fibres, the main function of this muscle is to pull the upper arm from a position and somewhat above the level of the breast bone to a position across the front and a little below.
This direction of “groove” of muscle action is exactly that achieved during a 15 – 20-degree DECLINE BENCH PRESS movement. This gives us a clue to the best single overall exercise for chest development – the barbell decline bench press which we will now incorporate into our overall program.
Advanced Chest Workout
- ( 2 DAY PER WEEK)
- (ideally incorporated as part of a split routine)
Warm-up – (5mins) Light bench press, etc.
- Decline bench dumbbell flyes 10 – 15 reps
- Decline bench press 3 sets 8 – 12 reps (performed multi-poundage style)
- Isometric tension (5×3 second holds)
- 45 degree incline barbell press – 1 warm-up set – 10 reps, 1 maximum set – 8-12 reps
- Parallel Bar Dips – 1 warm-up set bodyweight only – 10 reps, 1 maximum set – 8 – 12 reps with added weight hanging from the waist
- Barbell or dumbbell pullovers laying flat on a bench – 1 set – 20 – 25 reps
The first point to note about the above program is that although it is a simple sequence of exercises it can, by being performed in high-intensity fashion produce really sensational results.
You do not require a laborious list of different exercises with multiple sets and countless repetitions as these extensive routines are hopelessly inefficient in terms of actual results achieved for the time and energy consumed.
All that is needed to achieve spectacular results is a routine, such as the one above, that will work all portions of the chest ie: mid, lower and ribcage intensively enough to produce the best results.
Remember its how hard you work on a set and not the number of sets that really determines whether muscle growth will be simulated. The other point to remember about any good training system is to make sure you allow enough time for muscle growth to actually occur.
Hence the reason why this advanced chest program must only be performed a maximum of twice a week with a minimum of two full days rest between each workout to make sure thee is sufficient recuperation time between workouts.
Really advanced trainees may actually require more rest time than this and three chest workouts over a two-week period will actually produce the best results.
Remember, if you are not improving in strength from one workout to the next – you are not building any more muscle. So choose your training frequency so that you always feel stronger than during your previous workout.
Although it would be nice to think that you could add more weight to your exercises each and every workout, this is virtually impossible – but it is easily possible to add one more repetition to most workouts.
In this course, it is suggested you use a repetition range of between 8 – 12 repetitions (10-15 repetitions in some instances). In this way you can build up the number of reps by trying to add one more each workout until the top number is achieved; this is then your signal to add a little more weight and repeat the whole process starting at the lower figure once again.
This is a far more productive training method than sticking to a fixed number of repetitions each set. Use a training notebook to log your performance in every set of every exercise.
Exercises – In Detail
After a five-minute general warm-up which can conveniently consist of 20-30 light repetitions of dumbbell flyes etc. we are ready to start the main program, set up a decline bench ready to perform the first exercise.
If you cannot conveniently set up a decline bench then perform this exercise on a flat bench instead.
Hold two dumbbells above your chest and then breathing in, lower them out slowly to your sides getting a good stretch across the chest and then return to the starting position above the chest breathing in and out.
Start with 10 reps and build up to 15 over the next few workouts. Now immediately move over to the next exercise in the sequence.
Barbell Bench Press
Have the barbell loaded in such a way that several light plates can be removed quickly to reduce the weight of the barbell by approximately 40%. Starting with the heaviest weight you feel you could strictly perform 8 or more repetitions with, lift the bar of the stands and hold at arm’s length above your chest.
You should use a medium, 32″ width grip on the bar. Slowly lower the weight into a position high on your throat, and powerfully push the bar back to arm’s length again. Try to squeeze out as many repetitions as possible (in strict style)
Don’t bounce the bar off your chest, and don’t unevenly extend your arms and on absolutely no account lift your seat off the bench in an attempt to cheat the bar back up.
Now quickly remove approximately 20% and commence on the second set, again trying to complete 8 or more repetitions. Ideally, you should not take longer than 15 seconds between consecutive sets.
Once again remove 20% of the weight and complete your third set working to absolute muscle failure. This sequence gives a fantastic muscular pump and to really finish the sequence off there is nothing better than our next exercise.
Isometric Pec Squeezes
This can be performed with a special bendy spring exerciser or alternatively simply using a towel for resistance.
The idea is to pull against the towel with arms crossed in front of the chest and try to squeeze and tense the pectoral muscles hard for a count of 3 seconds for each repetition.
That completes the major part of the chest program and will have thoroughly worked all the muscle fibres of the sternal head or mid-portion of the pectorals.
To ensure complete overall development some extra attention is required to muscle fibres compromising the upper and lower borders of the muscle. The upper fibres (clavicular head particularly), are involved strongly in the next exercise on the list.
Inclined Bench Press
Using a 45-degree incline bench, perform 10 light presses as a warm-up set. Use the same style and breathing pattern as previously described for the flat or decline press.
Make sure you finish each movement directly above your head. Your second set should be a maximum effort set, using as much weight as possible for 8 or more repetitions. This weight is usually about 75% of the weight used on a flat bench press.
The exercise we use to work the lower part of the pectorals is our next exercise.
Parallel Dip Bars
Initially perform 10 reps using just your own bodyweight. Adopt a slightly wider than shoulders grip ( if possible) with elbows pointed outwards. Try to dip completely down between the bars, looking downwards with your chin on your chest and with legs drawn up behind.
After the warm-up set add about 20lb using a proper dipping belt if possible and perform a second set to the point of muscular failure.
Having completed the full chest sequence you should be breathing quite hard and this is the ideal time to perform the final exercise.
Barbell or Dumbbell Pullovers
Barbell or dumbbell pullovers will help develop the rib cage. Lay on a flat bench holding a barbell with a close grip (18″ width) or a single dumbbell (held one hand over the other), above your chest.
Taking a really deep breath in, lower the weight slowly behind your head, keeping your arms straight trying to stretch fully before returning the weight above your chest. Remember this is primarily a breathing exercise so use only light weights for high repetitions and concentrate on breathing deeply.
Several improvements to the above basic course can be introduced at a later stage to make the program more intense and therefore productive.
This is particularly useful when the inevitable sticking points are encountered, ie: when the weight just doesn’t seem to improve from one week to the next.
You could try, (1) forced reps (2) Partner accentuated reps and finally (3) negative accentuated reps
References & Acknowledgments
Excerpts taken from the excellent article ‘Advanced Chest Training’ BodyPower magazine