Close your eyes and picture the chest development of legends like Arnold Schwarzennegger, Franco Columbo, and Lou Ferrigno in their prime -- or modern day freaks like ALLMAX’s own Steve Kuclo, Josh Wade and Ryan Watson.
What do each of these incredible athletes have in common?
All of them display pecs that are not simply massive, but also completely developed from top to bottom, sternum to armpit!
And I can assure you that this is not something that occurred purely by accident!
On the contrary, their incredible chests are the direct result of paying close attention to several vital factors (each of which you also should adhere to if looking to build your own pair of prodigious pecs).
1. Correct Positioning of the Torso
Before initializing any set of presses or flyes you must make sure to raise the ribcage, slightly arch the lower back and shrug the shoulders down and back into the bench.
This position must be held from the beginning to end of each set for maximum recruitment of pec-muscle fibers.
2. Proper Rep Range
When it comes to chest training it seems that most trainees are more worried about the amount of weight they are lifting than how (or why) they are lifting it.
Related: Boyce's Choices - Top 3 Exercises for Chest
Occasionally performing sets of “singles” or “doubles” may be fun, but doing so too often will only slow down gains in pure size. For the most part, I recommend a goal of about 7-12 reps per set, looking to keep the pecs under tension for a solid 30-50 seconds.
3. Eccentric Emphasis
Usually in an effort to press greater poundage, many lifters largely ignore the negative portion of their reps, mistakenly allowing the weights to rapidly drop to their chests. Not only can this cause injury, but will also rob you of potential gains in mass!
When it comes to stimulating hypertrophy, the eccentric stroke of each rep is the most important, and thus should be emphasized on every movement. I urge you to take between 3-5 seconds to lower the weight on every rep.
4. Using the Angles
For those of you familiar with my articles, you are likely well aware of my stance on utlizing a wide variety of angles when training so as to recruit the largest number of motor unit pools (within the target muscle).
When it comes to attacking the chest, you can press/fly from a steep decline all the way to a very high incline, as well as dozens of angles in between.
5. Full Range of Motion
Lowering a BB/DB only halfway down to the chest does not constitute a full range of motion. Sure, you can handle more weight when performing half reps, but you will also build a chest only half the size in the process!
If you want the kind of pecs that appear in 3-D (without those glasses), then cut back a bit on the poundage and begin lifting through a full ROM – from deep stretch to tight contraction.
6. Overuse of the Bench Press
There is little doubt that the BB bench press is an awesome chest-building exercise. However, I feel that the majority of trainees rely too heavily on this movement, which may not only hold back one’s overall pec development, but can also cause “overuse injuries.”
Make sure to utilize a wide variety of exercises in your chest program, taking advantage of DB’s, machines and cables to effectively hit every inch of your pecs.
7. Mind in the Muscle
This is a practice every lifter should adhere to, no matter what muscle is being targeted. However, because the chest is often underdeveloped due to the desire to show off just how much weight one can press, forging the mind/muscle connection may be most vital here.
Related: 10 Training Tips to Maximize Your Chest Workouts
It is not enough to simply press a bar or a pair of DB’s from point A to B, especially if the pecs are a lagging body part. No – you must concentrate on what the muscle is doing from the beginning to end of every repetition. As you lower the weights, feel the pecs stretch under the tension.
When you hit the midpoint, hold that position for a second before focusing all of your energy into your chest (and away from the triceps and anterior deltoids), so that you recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibers. Finish the rep by feeling only the pecs press the weight, until they are fully contracted and “squeezed” together at the top of the rep.
Putting It All Together
Now that I have covered those seven vital points above, let me leave you with a few unique, but highly effective pec workouts that will have you growing out of all your t-shirts in just a few months time.
The Pre-Exhaust Pec Attack
|1. Cable Crossover||2/1/2/1||3||10-12|
|2. 30 Degree Incline DB Fly||3/2/1||3||10-12|
|3. 60 Degree Smith Machine Incline Press||5/0/X||3||7-9|
|4. Flat DB Press||3/1/X||3||7-9|
The High/Low Chest Thumper
|1. Seated Chest Press Machine||2/0/1||3||16-20|
|2. Barbell Incline Press||4/1/X||3||6-8|
|3. Low Cable Crossover||2/0/1/1||3||16-20|
|4. Weighted Dips||4/0/X||3||6-8|
The Pec Shocker
|1a. Bench Press||3/0/X||2||7-9|
|1b. Flat DB Fly||2/2/1||2||7-9|
|2. Hammer Machine Incline Press||3/1/1||2||7-9 w/ drop set|
|3a. 60 Degree Incline DB Fly||3/1/1||2||7-9|
|3b. Decline DB Press||2/1/X||2||7-9|
|4. Dip Machine||3/1/2||2||7-9 w/ drop set|
Note: Tempo refers to the speed at which one completes the various contractions within each repetition. It is expressed in seconds, with an “X” meaning “as explosively as possible.”
The first number is seconds for the eccentric (negative) contraction; the second number is seconds at the midpoint; the third number is seconds for the concentric (positive) contraction. If there is a fourth number, this refers to seconds holding the “peak” contraction or “squeeze at the top.”