Is heavy weight with low reps the best way to train chest? Or lighter weights with moderate to high reps? The simple yet somewhat convoluted answer: All of the above.
The chest workout below is designed to help you build pec size and strength simultaneously.
The heavy weight and weekly progression in the amount of weight used in the 5×5 portion of the training will add pounds to your bench, while the relatively high volume, rest-pause technique on dips, and stretching of the pecs on flyes will all work synergistically to add slabs of muscle to your chest.
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 5*, ** 5
Barbell Incline Press 4** 10
Incline Dumbbell Flye 4 15ƒ
* Not including warm-up sets.
** Start with heaviest set first, then decrease weight by 10 pounds on each subsequent set.
† Do 100 reps in as little time and as few sets as possible.
ƒ Use a tempo of three seconds on the negative phase and one second on the positive.
The key to gaining size and strength for any muscle group (not just chest) is to lift heavier weights as you go. But there’s no need to increase poundage substantially overnight; a gradual progression is your best bet to avoid overtraining and plateaus. In this routine, start your first working set of bench and incline presses with five pounds more than you did the previous week. This will keep your strength levels and muscles growing steadily.
Tuck your elbows in toward your sides as you lower the bar. This will decrease shoulder rotation and take stress off the shoulder joints, decreasing the chance of a pec tear and also allowing you to lift more weight by improving your leverage.
Barbell Incline Press
Use an adjustable bench with a 15-30-degree incline (unless a 45-degree bench is all you have access to) – this will hit the upper chest best. Steeper angles focus too much on the anterior delts.
Put your head down and lean forward to emphasize the chest. Keeping your head up and staying upright will focus more on your triceps. Be sure to get a good stretch at the bottom and lockout out fully at the top.
Incline Dumbbell Flye
Strive for a deep stretch at the bottom of the movement to make room for new growth by keeping your elbows out and descending slowly. This is the one exercise in this routine where it isn’t necessary (or desirable) to go heavy.