I’m looking for a unique chest workout that will give me a great pump. I’ve done pre-exhaustion, but after work this kind of training is a bit impractical at my gym because I need to use several machines at once. Any suggestions?
To state the obvious, if it’s difficult to reserve the equipment when you want to perform a specific exercise protocol such as pre-exhaustion, then train at a different time. For example, in commercial gyms those who train in the morning are often more interested in the cardio equipment than in the resistance equipment. Training in the morning might also help you adhere to your exercise regimen—generally there are fewer legitimate excuses for missing a workout at 6 a.m. than at 6 p.m.
One method of training that might work for you is to vary your body positions during a set to extend the set, a system popularized by Colorado personal trainer Jerry Telle.
For example, a conventional pre-exhaustion set for the chest would be to perform a dumbbell flye, and then immediately perform a bench press. Even if the gym owner will allow you to move the dumbbells from the dumbbell rack to the bench-press station, this method is inconvenient—plus you lose some of the effect of training by changing exercises, and you’d need a spot.
Instead, with this system you simply combine the two exercises into one set of three chest exercises. The first exercise is the dumbbell flye with arms slightly bent to isolate the pectorals. Perform 10 reps. Without stopping, bend your elbows even more and continue the set—the changes in leverage should enable you to grind out a few more reps. But you’re not done yet. Without stopping, perform as many dumbbell presses as you can. Switching to a dumbbell press enables you to recruit more muscle groups and continue lifting. The result is that you’ll prolong the time the muscles are under tension and get a tremendous pump— without having to create a larger carbon footprint in the gym by monopolizing two pieces of equipment or bothering some- one to give you a spot.
Another variation that Telle popularized is to change the leverages during the concentric portion of an exercise to increase the load of the eccentric phase. Eccentric contractions place more tension on the muscle, resulting in greater increases in strength. However, the problem with using eccentric training with an exercise such as chest flyes is that you would need the assistance of a training partner. Although this makes for a good photo op to advertise gym memberships (as opposed to a trainer spotting a client doing a squat), it’s not very practical. Here’s how to change leverages:
Instead of performing flyes in the conventional manner, lower the weight with relatively straight arms and then, at the bottom, pull your arms in and press the weight to extended arms. When you’ve exhausted the pecs in this manner (such that you are lowering the dumbbells too quickly), finish the set with as many dumbbell presses as you can.
There are many other exercises you can perform with these methods, but this gives you several practical ways to get more bang for your buck out of conventional exercises and provide the much-needed variety in your training to ensure continued increases in strength and size.