Even though I've been lifting weights for nearly two decades, I can still surprise my muscles with a stimulus they've never experienced before. Being a student of weight training always allows me to discover something different, even if I only have familiar tools at my disposal.
Case in point: Machines are easy to use in the way they were designed, but they also lend themselves perfectly well to using them for body parts they weren't designed for. With a bit of imagination, a chest machine can become a back rowing machine. A leg curl or extension can be just what you need to burn out your upper body.
Today I'm sharing three unconventional exercises that are guaranteed to shock your chest muscles and introduce totally unique angles and sources of stimulus to keep your workouts from becoming stale. If you find that your gym is really limited for equipment, then techniques like this make even more sense.
Remember, no matter how restricted your gym is, you're only limited by your imagination. My first gym only had a dumbbell rack and Smith Machine, so don't use that as an excuse!
1. Smith Machine Weighted Push-Ups
After applying the appropriate amount of weight on the Smith Machine I like to set it as low as it'll go, then position my body underneath, face down, so that the bar presses against the middle of my upper back. From here, I will do push-ups with the added resistance of the bar making each rep harder.
Push-ups are undoubtedly an under-used chest exercise in bodybuilding circles and I think adding resistance with the Smith Machine is the perfect way to annihilate the pecs. My preferred approach is to use controlled rep tempo to allow the tension to really scorch my pecs whilst avoiding excessive amounts of stress on my shoulders and triceps.
During my week 3 chest workout in the 8-Week Hardcore Trainer, I go the next step with this unique dropset: 10 reps with the bar on my shoulders and then, when I hit failure, I crawl out and immediately go to failure again with bodyweight.
I perform it in that workout in a superset with another unique movement, the roll-out barbell fly, for 3 sets of 10 reps.
2. Leg Curl Machine Decline Press
This might look like a triceps extension at first glance, but try it and it'll quickly become obvious that this is the perfect finisher for pecs. And, it's nearly fool-proof to perform. While kneeling down in front of a seated leg curl machine, I simply push the pad away from me.
The angle is absolutely perfect to replicate a decline pressing angle, which means that this exercise absolutely crushes the lower portion of my pecs. It's a relatively isolated exercise with limited range of motion, so I like to keep this one to finish with higher rep sets and short rest intervals.
Alternatively, you can use it as part of a superset with another chest move late in your workout.
3. Cable Fly Push-Up
As with a standard cable cross-over, I place the cables at the highest point on the stack. From here, I go down into a push-up position with the cables in my hand. Then, I do a push-up and stop at the top before doing a single-arm cable fly. From here I repeat this, but do a cable fly with the other arm on the next rep.
The stretch and contraction on the chest muscles in this movement is truly intense, and the damage it does to the chest muscle fibers is surprising. Equally surprising is how much it makes your core work, even with very little weight.
How (and Why) to Use These Three Moves
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My recommended rep ranges for these exercises would be 12-20 repetitions. They are about isolating the pecs rather than moving huge weight. If you're going to do any heavy lifting, do it first, then use these movements to wring the life out of your upper body.