Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted an impressive chest. I would see professional wrestlers or the occasional Tarzan movie and think to myself, "Man... I wish I looked like that". I started weight training at 16 years old, but it wasn't until I was in my early 20s that my chest started to have a more muscular appearance. It took about 5 years of consistent training for my chest to go from being "unimpressive" to being "enviable". Now, at 43 years old, muscle maturity has taken over and things have really become interesting. The trick to improving the muscularity in the chest is variety.
So in this article, I have compiled a series of routines that I've followed over the years to improve the quality and appearance of my chest.
Each routine is designed for a 1-2 month run. Start with "Workout #1" and gradually progress through each workout as the months pass, so... for example, you'll do:
Workout #1 - January & February
Workout #2 - March & April
Workout #3 - May & June
Workout #4 - July & August
... and if you like, you can repeat any of the previous workouts again in subsequent months after completing "Workout #4".
You want to use a pyramiding technique, where you gradually increase the weight for each set. So, for example:
Set #1 = 135 lbs.
Set #2 = 155 lbs.
Set #3 = 185 lbs.
Set #4 = 210 lbs.
weight you use, and increments between weight increases will vary,
depending on your muscle maturity and workout experience. You want to
increase the weight by at least 10 lbs. between sets.
When selecting the weight for your exercise, you want to choose a weight where the repetition (reps.) ranges (listed below) will allow you reach to the maximum target number while maintaining good form. You should be reaching momentary muscular failure near the final rep. You should also feel an intense burn in the muscle within 3 reps of your final repetition. If you can do 12 reps, for example, and you still have energy to do a few more reps, then increase the weight by 5-10 lbs. for your next set.
As always, consult a physician prior to beginning any exercise program, and with this chest routine, it is very helpful to have a spotter (especially when lifting heavier weight).
Ok, let's get started!
Workout #1:Density & Thickness
focus of this workout is improve the thickness and density of your
pectoralis major. We start with incline bench, which targets the
clavicular head of the pectoralis major. This is usually the weakest
part of the chest, so we target it first get the most work out of it.
Incline Bench: 4 sets, 8-12 reps.
Decline Bench: 4 sets, 8-12 reps.
Flat Bench: 4 sets, 6-12 reps.
Cable Crossovers: 4 sets, 8-12 reps.
Workout #2: Endurance, Stamina & Striations
phase of the workout routine will help build your endurance, and
overtime (and with low enough bodyfat levels) will produce striations
(lines) in your chest muscles when you flex them hard.
Perfect Pushups (or use pushup bars): 3 sets, http://www.podarco.com/fitness/content/view/63/88/#failure (NOTE: Do this exercise EVERY MORNING when you wake up)
"Repping to failure" basically means to keep lifting the weight until it's impossible to continue (i.e. the muscle no longer wants to contract).
My friend Steve doing flat bench in my home gym
During a strip set, your spotter removes some of the weight immediately after you've completed the last repetition, allowing you to continue with lighter weight. This fatigues the muscle enormously. The important thing to remember is to move the weight slowly. Since it's lighter, it's easier to move. So to get the maximum benefit out of it, your form must be perfect, and the movement of the weight should be slow and controlled.
For a strip set, an example would be to do:
12 reps for the first set, 10 reps for the second set, 6 reps for the third set, 6 reps for the fourth set, 8 reps for the fifth set, and 10 reps for the final set.
Everyone wants to have a strong bench, so this workout focuses and improving the number of reps you can achieve near your one rep max. In this routine, you do one rep of about 80% of the weight you can lift on your max rep, wait a few seconds, then do another rep. You repeat this 10 times, shortening the time between sets each workout. The tatils of this program are listed below:
Perfect Pushups: 2 sets, 20 reps (warm up)
Flat Bench: 80% of 1 rep max weight, 1 rep (rest 60 seconds between sets, repeat 10 times)
This is a progressive exercise where you will do 80% of the weight for your max lift. For example, if your 1 rep max is 245 lbs., you'll do 225 lbs. for one rep, rest for 60 seconds, and repeat for 10 total sets. Each workout you'll decrease the amount of rest time between sets until you're down to 15 seconds reset between sets. At the end of your first month (presuming you do this workout once per week), you should notice an improvement in the amount you're able to lift, and the number of reps you can perform during a normal 8-12 repetion set.
1st workout = 60 second rest between sets 2nd workout = 45 second rest between sets 3rd workout = 30 second rest between sets 4th workout = 15 second rest between sets
After your 4th workout, start again with the rest intervals from the "1st workout" (ie. 60 seconds) and progress through the 4 week routine again, but this time you should be able to increase the weight you use by 10-15% with no problem, as your new 1 rep max weight will be higher.
Cable Crossovers: 4 sets, 6-10 reps.
Workout #4: Detail & Shape
And finally, this phase of the workout focuses on the shape of the pectorals. Using dumbbells helps to engage the stabilizing and assisting muscles of the shoulders and arms. This gives the entire region a much more balanced and asthetically appealing look. I chose this workout routine because all the guys at the gym who had good looking chests all did some form of dumbbell exercise. So, for a year, I did exclusively dumbbell work for my chest. By the time the year was over, not only did my chest look MUCH better, but my pectoral-deltoid tie-in (the region between the chest and shoulders) was much fuller and better developed. Another added benefit was strength. I found I was able to control the barbell much better on my heavier lifts.
Incline Dumbbell Bench: 3 sets, 12-15 reps.
Decline Dumbbell Bench: 3 sets, 12-15 reps.
Flat Dumbbell Bench: 3 sets, 12-15 reps.
Incline Cable Crossovers: 2 sets, 15-20 reps.
Flat Cable Crossovers: 2 sets, 15-20 reps.