Menacing Chest

Dennis James' intensive battle plans for stronger and thicker pecs


I firmly believe that there’s nothing complicated about building a massive chest. All it takes is an age-old time-proven basic workout, with a foundation of free weights. Mine is a total of 12 sets, either four exercises (which are described here) of three sets each or three exercises of four sets each.

Exercise 1 Incline barbell presses

Begin developing your chest with flat bench barbell presses, but once your center pecs are full, use incline barbell presses to bring out your upper-pec mass. That’s what I do now. I warm up with one plate on each side for 15 reps, then two on each side for another 15. I then start counting working sets, adding a plate to each side [90 pounds] for each one. If I’m doing four working sets, I go back to four plates per side for the last set; precontest, if I’m in four-set mode, I use three plates per side and do a last set of 15.

Sometimes, I load up a Smith machine and do partial reps — but getting a good squeeze at the top — for three drop sets of four to 12 reps.

Exercise 2 Dumbbell flyes

These are a great mass builder if you go down to eight reps max for the last couple of sets, as I do. It places your pec/delt tie-ins in a vulnerable stretch, so it’s imperative that you keep it tight and slow. To make sure I hit the full top-to-bottom sweep of my pecs, I alternate between flat and incline from workout to workout.

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Exercise 3 Dumbbell Pullovers or Cable Crossovers

I do one of these as the last exercise of my four-exercise/three-set scheme. Pullovers can be superheavy, with a weight that may allow you to get as few as four reps. I bend my elbows only slightly, and I keep them close, so my pecs are squeezed together at all times. Again, reps are slow, tight and powerful. No explosions.

Cable crossovers are performed either freestanding or stabilized against an angled or preacher bench. Using a bench to stabilize myself allows me to apply more squeezing power through the full range of motion. I believe in a big stretch, so it’s all the way back. I also cross my hands as far as they’ll go, and I alternate my hand position each rep — left over right, right over left. My techniques help me to fully contract my pecs.

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