Not happy with your chest, are you? If you were, you wouldn't have paid any attention to this article. Hey, I get it: It's frustrating to pour your heart and soul into training your chest, then see nothing in return. What happened to all those gains you were expecting?
Let's assume you have a decent mind-muscle connection and know how to make your pecs do the work—instead of relying on your front delts and triceps. Let's also assume your form is good and you apply serious effort to your workout. If you checked all those boxes, then, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault, dear brute, is not in yourself but in your workout.
One common problem is that people do the same exercises in the same order, with the same rep ranges, and the same rep tempos. That's no way to add muscle. You need to shock your muscles with exercises and techniques you've never used before. If that's your problem, have I got a solution for you!
The following three workouts are guaranteed to shock the living hell out of your pecs, so get ready for a new world of pain—but, in this case, it'll be the pain of new growth.
Workout 1: For Once, Focus On Your Upper Chest
This workout targets the upper chest, which is overlooked by most lifters who are too focused on bench pressing. This routine will have your upper pecs screaming—and well on their way to becoming a thick, dense shelf of beef.
Kneel at the end of the bar and grasp it in both hands. Keep your elbows tucked in tightly to your body and, with your hands touching your upper chest, drive the bar up. Squeeze your pecs together as you perform this extremely close-grip movement. The push should come from the heels of your hands.
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
Choose a weight you would normally use to get 10-12 reps—with a few reps left in the tank. Unrack the bar from the safety catches, and lower it slowly until it touches your chest. Bring the bar to a full stop—none of the usual "touch and go"—then power it up to full lockout.
You'll feel a deep stretch in your pecs every time you come to a complete stop at the bottom. Stopping at the bottom removes momentum from the equation and substantially increases the difficulty. Don't be surprised if you can only complete 6-8 reps with this weight.
Superset: Incline Cable Fly and Push-up
Position an adjustable incline bench between two cable pulleys set to their lowest setting. Challenge yourself to use some good weight here, and hit it hard. As soon as you complete the cable set, drop down and rep out to failure on standard push-ups. If you're concerned that this workout won't hit your mid and lower chest hard enough, don't be. This superset closer will fully exhaust your upper chest.
Workout 2: Pre-exhaust For Greater Gains
The upper-chest focused workout gives you a sense of how the pre-exhaust method works. This method works for the pecs because so many lifters find that their front delts and triceps give out before their chests have truly been taxed. Pre-exhausting the pectorals with isolation movements solves this problem.
Odds are you've never done a fly movement first on chest day. Either you wanted to get right to presses, didn't want to take strength away from your presses, or just didn't think to try it. Once you do put them first, you'll be surprised how much stronger you'll feel.
Perform three progressively heavier sets, then two more in "21s" style: Do 7 full reps, then 7 partial reps from the stretch position to halfway in, then 7 more partial reps from the midway point of the rep to full contraction.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Nothing fancy here—just hard work with good form. Your pecs will feel torched by now, so recruit your triceps and front delts to drive your chest deep into exhaustion. Forcefully squeeze and contract with ever rep.
Superset: Cable Cross-over and Bench Dip
Just as with the pec fly, treat the cable cross-over as a mass-builder by loading up some real weight. You want to feel a burn in your pecs before you switch to the dips. Find an open bench for your dips. Lean forward a bit to engage more chest and less triceps.
Workout 3: Insane Intensity
Another way to build your chest is to make your workout so fast-paced and hard that you can't help but blow up your pecs. In this final workout, you'll use rest-pauses and varying tempos. For the final exercise, don't let that cold iron out of your hands for 8 sets and upward of 80-120 reps.
Hammer Grip Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, Rest-Pause
Rest-pause is a fantastic technique that allows you to get more reps with a heavy weight. After warming up, load the machine with a weight you can lift for 6 reps. Get those 6 reps, then rest for 12 seconds. Now push out another 3-4 reps. Rest again for 12 seconds, then grind out 1-2 final reps. You just did as many as 12 reps with a weight you'd normally be able to lift for half as many reps!
Seated Bench Press, Varying Tempo
Sit down at a vertical bench press machine, preferably one with a selector stack. Pin a weight you can typically lift for around 12 reps. Perform 8 very slow reps to the tempo of 2 seconds up, a pause at the top to flex the pecs, and 4 seconds down. Follow that immediately by doing 8 fast reps, piston style, with no pause at any point in the range of motion. If you can't get 8 reps or close to it in the faster segment of the set, use the pin to quickly lighten the load.
Superset: Decline Dumbbell Fly and Dumbbell Press
The most efficient supersets use the same piece of equipment for both exercises. In this one, you'll perform 10-12 reps of dumbbell flyes, then press those same dumbbells to failure. Your pecs may be thrashed by now, so you may not be able to do more than 10-12 press reps.
As with all the fly movements, don't skimp on the weight. Use good form, but don't hold back. If you take it too easy on the weight for flyes, you won't challenge yourself on the presses. Maintain high intensity throughout this workout!
How To Use These Work
For best results, rotate all three workouts on your chest days, which should occupy every fifth day of your training. This will allow you to focus more on your chest than the standard once-a-week model would allow.
- Day 1: Chest and Triceps (only extension movements)
- Day 2: Back and Shoulders
- Day 3: Arms and Legs
- Day 4: Rest
- Day 5: Repeat
Follow this program for eight weeks. In that time, you'll have wrecked your chest 11 times with these hardcore workouts. All of those gains you were hoping for from your previous chest workouts will be there this time. Your pecs will be thicker, fuller, and denser than ever before.
After the eight weeks, return to your normal chest workouts and training split for another eight weeks. If you crave even more pectoral beef, start this workout plan all over again!