Let's get right to the guts of the matter. I could run through my list of favorite workouts, principles, techniques and combinations of exercises, but it all comes down to one basic old-fashioned “best” exercise for each bodypart, without which you cannot reach your maximum mass potential. That exercise is not the only one in the workout, but it’s the foundation movement. It works more of the muscle harder, heavier and more thoroughly than any other. Not every workout has to start with one of these favorites, but your training program should be designed around them.
My favorites will come as no great surprise. You’ve probably been doing them all along. I just want to emphasize their importance and persuade you to give them even more prominence in your workouts by reiterating why they are the best and how to get the best out of them.
CHEST: BENCH PRESS
WHY: No other exercise synergizes the entire complex of chest muscles as efficiently as barbell bench presses. This movement is so compound (requiring the coordination of pectoral muscles with all ancillaries and tie-ins to shoulders, traps, arms and midsection) that every chest muscle is developed proportionately. Bench presses facilitate the only position from which maximum compound power can be applied, which produces maximum overall mass. The horizontal position also allows the chest muscles to move through their greatest range of power.
HOW: Your mind plays a big part in getting the most for your chest from bench presses. “Think” the contractions into your pecs. As the bar is lowered, resist with your pectoral muscles. Press by contracting your pecs. I use a fairly wide grip, beyond shoulder width, to accentuate the spread of my pec muscles.
Unfortunately, today’s popular style of benching is the opposite of the correct style for chest development, in that the bar is lowered not across the chest, but to the bottom of the rib cage. The body is crunching inward, rather than expanding upward to meet the bar. This is done for leverage, but it removes the chest from the exercise.
Precisely the opposite motion should occur. The chest should rise to meet the bar, as your scapulae contract together under your back, forcing your chest muscles through their greatest range of motion.
Always pyramidyour sets gradually. I get in a couple of warm-up sets, then pyramid up through five sets, starting with 12 reps and finishing with eight.
SUGGESTED CHEST WORKOUT
- WARM-UP SETS | SETS: 2-3 | REPS: 20-25
- BENCH PRESSES | SETS: 5* | REPS: 12-8
- INCLINE BARBELL PRESSES | SETS: 3 | REPS: 12
- FLAT DUMBBELL PRESSES | SETS: 3 | REPS: 12
- FLAT DUMBBELL FLYES | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10
*Note: Pyramid up through weights while decreasing reps.
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