“But Tank, my chest is flat as a pancake.”
It’s ok. I’m here to help.
So what’s first?
If you want to build a rack like this, then your training should focus around 2 exercises.
#1: Bench Press
The bench is the undisputed numero uno mass builder for your chest.
If I’m going for pure strength, I’ll stick with flat bench and really load up some plates. But for hypertrophy, you are far better off setting the bench to a slight incline (around 30 degrees) and working with loads 70-85% of your 1RM. Flat bench will build chest width, but targeting your upper chest with the incline will help build “peaks”, and really add mass to your frame.
Bench is one of those exercises that you can “brute force” your way through it, but I encourage you to really fine tune your form. You will get much more out of benching this way; I’d bet that your 1RM would go up at least 10lbs in some cases by just making a few adjustments.
Feet firmly anchored into the floor, legs and glutes tightened, lower back off the bench with your chest high and shoulder blades firmly retracted into the bench. Do not simply sink into the bench. These are all things you should be thinking of each and every rep, including your warm ups.
After a few warm up sets, you are ready to work. Hit about 3-5 working sets. Normal strength training law applies; 3-5 reps for strength, and 6-12 for mass gain. You should be aiming to get stronger since the more weight you can press, the bigger you will get, but to gain mass you will need to amp up the volume.
Vary your grips from time to time. Forget about the decline. Throw some fat gripz on the bar to build Popeye forearms and protect your shoulders. Dumbells are good too for this same reason. In fact, after benching for a few months with a barbell I encourage you to switch to dumbbells for a while to save you from some wear and tear.
This classic can be easily overlooked, but truth be told, aside from bench this should be your go to chest destroyer. The beauty of these is that you can do them anywhere, anytime, with countless numbers of variations. Your goal should be to perform at least 20 normal perfect pushups before even thinking about doing any of the other variations.
Quickest way to get better? Do them every single day. Even if they are not a core part of your training that day, at a minimum they should be worked into your warmup. I will also do these as a finisher, typically in ladder fashion. 1 pushup, 1 second rest. 2 pushups, 2 seconds rest. 3, 3, 4, 4. You get the idea. All the way up to 10. That will get you 55 reps in less than two minutes. Keep working at these and you will be a pushup master in no time.
Just make sure you are doing them properly. You’d be surprised how many people think they are doing them right, but they aren’t.
Your body should be aligned as if you were doing a plank. Legs, glutes, and core tight. No saggy ass or arched back. Your elbows should be tucked towards your sides and pointing backwards; do not let them flare out to the sides. Hands about shoulder width apart and your thumb should line up just under your armpits. Lower yourself down until your chest almost touches, and then press yourself back up.[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIVTUUSBYQM[/tube]
“But Tank, only 2 exercises? What about dumbbell and cable flyes, dumbbell pullovers, and the pec deck machine?”
Listen, I know it is easy to get wrapped up in doing all of this other chest sh*t that you read in magazines, but unless you know how to program them into your training properly, they can be a waste of time.
First of all, machines suck. Don’t use them. And dumbbell chest work (aside from presses) is usually isolation. If you don’t know how I feel about isolating your muscles, read here and here. Compound exercises are king.
Now if you are trying to add more volume to your chest work and need to save wear and tear on you joints and shoulders, dumbell flyes and other isolations may be okay for a few sets a week, but they should never be your focus. Beginners (those who have been training for less than 2 years) need to stick the basics. If you are more advanced, you may be more qualified to work these into your training.
Besides, if you are benching properly with the right program, and mastering the pushup variations, you really don’t need to worry about anything else.
“Alright Tank, what else should I know?”
Glad you ask!
Strengthen Your Triceps
Your tris are a critical part to any pressing movement, and other than your chest, the main muscle used in the two most important chest exercises. So it is natural to train up your triceps to help you bench more weight and for more reps. And I’m not sure about you, but whenever I do pushups, my triceps are the first thing to go.
Dips are my go to here. I keep my rep ranges moderate to high, usually in the 12-20 range. As you progress, strap on a weight belt and add some plates to the mix. Perform these on a dip stand. Propping your feet up on a bench is a recipe for a pec tear or shoulder problems…
You can also do exercises like skull-crushers or behind the neck dumbbell presses, but some of you may experience elbow pain as you crank up the weight. If this applies to you, back off the weight and/or reps and just focus on dips.
Rope pull downs on cable machines? Nope! Remember, machines suck.
I’ll admit I wasn’t as privy to chest stretching until I did a cycle of DoggCrapp. I know that sounds funny, but if you aren’t familiar with “DC”, you should check it out, especially since you are reading this article and trying to gain mass. It is a great program.
Anyhow, following DC protocol, you have to stretch your muscles in between each exercise for 60 seconds. The chest stretch was my favorite. You simply take two dumbbells that are light weight (I did 40’s), lay on a flat bench, let them fall out to your sides and hold them there for a minute. The position should look like the very bottom of a chest fly. Brutal, but worth it.
If you missed my post on how to build bigger legs, you didn’t hear me talk about how long muscles are strong muscles. The longer the muscle, the more room you have for adding mass.
Bottom line? Stretch!
That’s it people. You’ve got the recipe for building a mountain of a chest. Now go and make it happen.
When your man-cleavage starts busting out of your t-shirts, don’t hate me…