dumbbell bench press at gym

Joe B. from Little Rock, Ark., sent us his chest workout to review. After one look at it, we knew he needed professional help, so we called in Mike Wunsch, program design specialist for Results Fitness in Newhall, Calif. Wunsch analyzed and revised Joe’s program to get him back on track for big gains.

Joe’s Old Workout

Joe’s old workout had him doing way too much work. At 156 total reps, this routine would be increasingly hard to recover from, and it was probably setting him up for a shoulder injury to boot. Wunsch cut back on the volume and upped the intensity.

“He doesn’t need to hit his chest muscles from all the angles,” Wunsch says. “He needs to hit them with all the body’s movement patterns.” That means pressing horizontally, vertically, and with a rotational component for maximal muscle recruitment and balance. Every area of the chest will still get worked.

Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 5 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 5 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Decline Bench Press 5 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Cable Crossover 5 8-10

Barbell bench press

The Evaluation

Joe can keep the bench press as his main lift, followed by a neutral-grip overhead press as an assistance lift—this variation works the muscles that support the bench press in a more joint-friendly position. Then he’ll attack the chest with a rotational component in the T-pushup. This not only trains the pecs and shoulders in a way Joe won’t be used to, but he’ll also get some pulling in to counteract all the pressing (although he’ll still need to do plenty of pulling movements on his back day).

He can finish with dips, which are more effi cient than the decline press and crossover combined. These lifts work more overall muscle, creating a greater hormonal response for muscle gain and safer, more balanced training.

The M&F-Approved Workout

Exercises Sets Reps
Bench Press 4 6 (3 Minutes Rest)
Dumbbell Neutral-Grip Overhead Press* 3 12 (90 Seconds Rest)
Feet Elevated T-Pushup (Each Side)** 3 6 (60 Seconds Rest)
Cable Dip 2 AMAP (90 Seconds)

*Hold the weights with your palms facing each other.

**Wear a weight vest or hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your feet on a bench or step. Perform a pushup and then rotate your body 90 degrees to one side, raising one hand overhead so your body forms a T shape.