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While there may be no such thing as the “perfect” chest workout, the presence of certain elements can make one routine vastly more effective than other ones. Exercise choice and order are part of the equation, obviously, and are usually where people spend the most time when writing a new plan. But what about exercise speed? What about maximizing nervous system recruitment? What about muscle fiber type considerations?
This workout provides a thorough chest thrashing by simply going a bit deeper than most press-‘til-you-drop prescriptions.
Postactivation potentiation refers to the ability of one exercise to immediately and positively impact the performance of the exercise that follows. By convincing your nervous system that it’s in for the fight of its life, more muscle fibers are recruited to complete the task. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that sprint performance in rugby players was improved after performing a heavy set (three reps at 90% 1RM) of barbell squats. Similarly, by performing explosive moves before pushing heavy weight on the bench, you can bring more muscle into play.
By performing five sets of plyometric pushups—pushing your body weight up as quickly as possible—you excite the fast-twitch fibers in your chest. These fibers, which have the most potential for growth—provided they haven’t been taken to failure—will then be primed for moving heavy weight in your next movement (in this case, the bench press).
You’ll capitalize on this nervous system awakening with your heaviest set right out of the gate on the bench. Then, by decreasing the load on each set as your fast-twitch fibers fatigue, you’ll perform additional reps to capitalize on the contribution of other muscle fiber types. This also induces greater cumulative muscle breakdown while the extra volume of work increases blood flow to your pecs.
The first two movements might seem like enough to some lifters, but the addition of a third (or fourth) exercise can help you maximize overload on the pecs. The inclusion of the dip hits your entire chest, with an emphasis on the lower third. To stay in the best muscle-building rep range, add weight if you can get more than 10 reps with your body weight alone. If you can’t do 10 reps on your own, perform your sets rest-pause style, executing a few reps a time with short rest periods (15–25 seconds) until you reach 10.
No body-part routine is complete without a muscle-swelling finisher. Here, we’ll go with 100s. You’ll choose a weight that takes you to failure between 60 and 70 reps. Rest only as many seconds as you have reps remaining to reach 100. Repeat as necessary to reach that milestone 100th rep.