MuscleTech athlete and elite bodybuilding coach Dylan Thomas doesn't always train chest on Monday, but when he does, he brings a workout that maximizes every mechanism of muscle growth, and hits every fiber from the top of the chest to the bottom.
"For my chest training, I like to focus on working top to bottom," he says. "That means we start on an incline, then move to flat, then move to things like decline or dips."
But that's not all he packs into this hour-long routine. Pre-exhaust? Check. Heavy weights for mechanical tension? Check. Supersets and burnouts for maximum muscle damage? Check and double-check.
Don't be fooled by the familiar movements and rep-ranges. This is advanced bodybuilding at its finest, and works best if you have big-time goals.
"I like to use this workout to cut down for a photo shoot or for contest prep," Thomas says.
Dylan's Technique Keys
Superset: Machine Fly and Dumbbell Incline Press
This is a classic pre-exhaust pairing, designed to warm up your chest and push blood into the upper part of the muscle prior to the big lifts to come.
"Focus on really contracting and squeezing every last muscle fiber of your chest, on every rep," Thomas says.
Then, take that same pace and transfer it to the presses. "We want to do this in a rhythmic fashion, aiming to pump the muscle up with blood before we move on to a heavier incline press with the barbell," he says.
Stop just short of lockout on the presses here, and really focus on staying in motion and not losing the rhythm.
Barbell Incline Press
Even when cutting down, Thomas knows that heavy weights play a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass and muscle density. Sure, you may not be able to push the same weight you could if you had started out the workout with the incline press, but he promises you'll feel it far more.
"We started things off with the superset, which pumps the muscle up with blood. So when we move on to the next exercise, with a heavier weight, it will actually allow us to feel this movement better, even though we're using a heavier weight," Thomas says.
This is the time in the workout to push yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for a spot, but use a weight that allows you to manage all 6 reps.
Superset: Bent-Over Cable Fly and Bench Press
The upper-chest portion of your workout is done. Now it's time to give the same treatment to the middle third.
"We're aiming to pre-fatigue the muscle with higher volume on the fly, then move into a moderately heavy weight on the flat bench press," Thomas says.
But even at relatively high volume, the form is crucial. "Lock this down and focus on getting a large stretch and opening up the chest, before bringing the hands back together to contract in the middle," he says.
For the bench press, the focus shifts slightly from moving heavy weight upward, to controlling it downward.
"We want to really focus in on the eccentric portion of the motion," Thomas says. "This is going to help us put more trauma on the chest. Make sure to stop about an inch short of the chest to increase tension on the muscle, then push through smoothly."
Triset: Dips, Push-ups, Cable Fly
After two pre-exhaust supersets and some heavy lifting, your chest should be awake—or maybe even screaming. Now's the time to focus on movements that emphasize the stretch, and inflict maximum muscle damage.
Don't have access to a V-bar for dips? Parallel bars will do just fine, as long as you obey the classic chest-dip cues: chin down, knees back, and focus on the stretch at the bottom and contraction at the top.
Performing the push-ups on handles gives another opportunity for turning up the stretch. "Come up 3/4 of the way, and keep the muscle under tension for the entire time," Thomas says.
The cable fly is—you guessed it—all about the stretch and contraction. Take 1-2 steps forward from the weight stack, and bend your torso slightly to get into the right position. When you bring your arms up, go only to the bottom of your chest. Contract, and then bring them back for the stretch.
If you're doing this workout in a busy gym, you can perform straight sets for some or all of the movements, or alternate between the dip station and cable cross with your training partner, keeping a pair of dumbbells on the ground to knock out the push-ups between.
Nothing fancy here! Just use a weight you control, find that stretch on the bottom, and hit your reps. Thomas' singular cue is to bring the elbows together rather than the hands or weights, since this enables a better contraction of the chest.
Three sets and you're done. Now heal up, because chest day is coming again—sooner than you think!