Bill Wilmore's Chest Workout: Presses, Presses, & More Presses

How Bill Wilmore built a huge, strong chest

My senior year, 1990, we were getting ready for the biggest wrestling tournament of the year, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I was sitting there, reading FLEX and I remember one friend saying, “Bill, aren’t you taking this bodybuilding thing a little too serious?” I’d been wrestling since I was five, so my biggest objective was to get a scholarship and go wrestle in college, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d lost interest in wrestling. 

That was my senior year in high school, and I was the only kid on my team that the coach didn’t want lifting weights anymore, because he said I was starting to lose mobility in my shoulders, chest and back. In wrestling, you have to be really flexible, especially in your shoulders, so you can get out of moves easier. I did notice certain things, such as when I got on my back, it was harder for me to get off it. Not that I got on my back that often, but with moves such as the half nelson, you need to put your arms straight back, and if your range of motion is limited, you can’t flip out of it, so your opponent will be able to turn you. And there I was, trying to get big, huge arms and chest, offering more of me for him to grab. So my coach said, “No, seriously, Bill, I want you to stop  lifting!”

Did I? Nah. I kept training, and that same year, I won the Teenage Mr. Pennsylvania. 

After graduation, I moved to Hollywood, Florida, and, with wrestling behind me, I thought, Ya know, maybe I’ll try this bodybuilding thing again.  By the mid-’90s, my chest was pretty well along. I’m sure wrestling and sports helped — doing 500 million pushups a day and lifting people up — but also doing those bench presses all day, every day, had more to do with it than anything.

My chest workout in those days wasn’t much different from what it is today. If I have a weakness, I keep experimenting to see what works for me, but that was never the case with chest. The same old stuff has continued to work, so why change it? Always, it has been eight to 12 reps for four sets of five exercises in a sequence of incline-flat- incline-flat-dips. Strength gains over the years, however, forced me to make a fundamental change. 

When you’re young, your body can really take a beating. The maximum weight you can handle is less, so you can throw it around with less risk. However, you do a 315-pound bench press, and you want to keep pushing up that max.

Dumbbell flyes and presses are part of Wilmore’s chest regimen; he strives for at least eight reps a set, rather than going so heavy as to not really feel the muscles work through a full contraction.

I pulled my chest a couple of times doing that, so I decided the risk wasn’t worth it. Now, the only flat bench press I do is on a Smith machine. 

An ideal chest workout for me starts with incline Smith machine presses. That exercise allows me to use a barbell, yet continue to get things warmed up while stabilized. Second, I do flat-bench dumbbell presses. Third up are incline barbell presses, fourth are flat-bench dumbbell flyes and fifth is a brutal finisher — dips superset with cable crossovers.

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