Baby blue skies, perfect 80°F, bright sunshine, a slight breeze from the nearby ocean caressing your skin and a weight pit with heavy iron.
Yes, I am talking about Muscle Beach in Venice, California. Bodybuilding legends like Franco Columbu, Robby Robinson, Dave Draper and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger built and sculpted their bodies right here.
It goes without saying that when Animal offered to fly me out to California I immediately jumped at the chance.
Ever since I had seen that one photo of Arnold wearing sunglasses while doing incline barbell presses under the California sun, I knew that one day that was going to be me on that bench being marveled at by a crowd of passersby.
My dream was going to come true: I’d get a chance to train chest on Muscle Beach.
The Muscle Beach Chest Routine
Here is a more in-depth outline of the chest day workout I did while at Muscle Beach:
Incline Barbell Presses
I started the session with incline barbell presses. The incline angle focuses the movement on the upper pectoral region right beneath the clavicles. I consider this a weak point in my muscular development and that’s why I like to address this area when I am at my physically and mentally strongest.
As always, total control, constant tension throughout the whole movement, and slow deliberate negatives are first priority in my particular style of training.
The amount of weight being moved is secondary. I know that’s hard for many lifters, but for me, what’s really important is how I am moving the weight – not what the weight is. The key is to focus on pure muscular contraction rather than relying on momentum and jerking the weight up.
Incline Dumbbell Presses
Since I really focus on bringing my upper chest up, exercise number two is incline presses again. This time, I used dumbbells.
Doing two incline press movements at the beginning of chest is something I have picked up training with one of the veterans at my gym where I started my competitive career.
This guy had an awesome chest, from top to bottom – thick as a telephone book. This guy could literally rest his chin on his chest when he was sitting down. He was the 2006 German Nationals superheavyweight and overall champion Alexander Arnold. Yes, Arnold. No kidding. I guess that’s what’s called coming full circle…
From there I moved on to dips. Dips are another great old school exercise and awesome mass builder for chest, triceps and front delts.
In order to shift maximum focus to the pectoralis muscle, I like to lean forward into the motion. In other words, I turn the exercise into something reminiscent of a pushup, without my feet touching the ground.
I shoot for at least 12 reps per set. But as the workout wears on, my strength might diminish a bit. So if I cannot complete the dozen, I give myself a little push off the steps on the dipping station until I reach the target rep number.
For me, every chest training session includes dumbbell pullovers – no ifs, ands, or buts. I like to lie crosswise on the bench, with my head hanging from one side and my hips positioned down below bench level on the other. With my arms extended, I lower the dumbbell towards the ground behind my head, while taking in a very deep breath to ensure maximum expansion of the ribcage.
On this movement the negative part of the rep is crucial. So I make sure I really emphasize it. From the bottom position, where I feel a deep stretching sensation down my whole frontal torso, I bring the weight back up just above eye level to make sure the tension stays constant on the chest instead of shifting onto my triceps too much.
To up the intensity, I once again set a target number of reps per set. If I can’t get there by continuous repetitions, I rest the dumbbell above my chest for a couple of seconds until I recover a bit and then keep going.
Machine Press & Pushup Supersets
Finishing up a great pump is what I am trying to achieve. For that purpose, isolation movements like flyes and a slightly higher rep range are best in my experience.
On this given day, the cable fly pulley had been occupied by a number of other people, so I decided to get my pump fix by supersetting machine presses and pushups.
Again, I can’t stress this enough – controlled, precise and continuously tensed movements are key to muscle growth.
So in case you missed it, here was the great workout I was fortunate enough to train at Muscle Beach:
|Incline Barbell Press
|Incline Dumbbell Press
|Dips (assisted, if needed)
|Dumbbell Pullovers (rest/pause)
|A. Machine Press