Pounding The Pecs!

What can give you the chest of your dreams? Dumbbells! Here are the reasons why along with a great 12 week chest workout that will have you growing quicker than you ever thought possible.

About this time last year I was taking a good look over my body and was analyzing what I needed to work on. My back was coming around nicely, my arms looked great, my legs were lagging behind, but what struck me the most was my chest, not that it wasn't big, it was, but at the lack of shape in my chest.

It seemed somewhat 2-Dimensional instead of the 3-D bulbous chest that everyone dreams of. Up until that point my workout had centered around the bench press, incline press, and several fly movements. These had built me a good base however I realized I needed more, I needed something to take my pecs to the next level, and then it hit me...DUMBBELLS!


A lot of people concentrate on barbells and neglect dumbbells for several reasons.

  • They need to satisfy their ego and the bench press is the biggest ego lift in the gym.
  • They cannot lift as much weight with dumbbells as they can with barbells.
  • They don't feel comfortable with Dumbbells at first because they are harder to stabilize than a barbell.
  • They think dumbbells are for girls in pink spandex suits.

Torrie Wilson
Dumbbells Helped Torrie Wilson Shape Her Chest!

Well I'm here to tell you that dumbbells work and work well. They have several advantages over barbells which include.

  • Dumbbells require the muscles to stabilize them that are not brought into play as much with a barbell.

  • Dumbbells can go through a greater range of motion than a barbell. A barbell can only be brought to chest level, whereas dumbbells can go below this. They also allow a greater contraction at the top of the movement.

    The chest is stretched to it's maximum when the elbows are close together on the backside of the body and the chest is most contracted when the arms are fully outstretched and the hands are together (or even crossed). Since a greater stretch and better contraction cause more fiber stimulation it is obvious that dumbbell presses stimulate more muscle fibers than barbell presses.

  • Dumbbells do not place as much pressure on the shoulder joint, since the hands are free to move and not locked in place. I can personally attest to this as my shoulder pain that I usually experience when I bench press stopped within 4 weeks of using dumbbells.

  • Dumbbells are safer. If worst comes to worst you can just drop them to your sides, the same cannot be said for a barbell. People have actually died bench pressing because of improper form or a sudden muscle tear causing the bar to drop on them.

Do You Use Dumbbells Or Barbells For Lagging Body Parts?


Workout Plan

After I had this revelation I still had to make a workout plan. I decided that my workout should include an exercise to hit the upper, lower, and middle region of the chest and I should also include some sort of fly movement. Using this information I designed the following 12 week plan of attack.

  • 1-2 warm-up sets of 12-15 reps are done for EACH exercise.
  • rest periods should be 2-3 minutes for presses and 1-2 minutes for flyes
  • all movements should use a FULL range of motion and should be conducted at a steady cadence.

Weeks 1-4:

Weeks 5-8:

Weeks 9-12:

I decided to start off my routine concentrating on decline dumbbell presses since they put less pressure on the shoulder and allow for a greater stretch and contraction than regular decline press. Notice all my fly movements are constant tension movements using cables or machines.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Decline Dumbbell Press.
Video Guide: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

I personally think that cables or machines are far superior to dumbbell flyes since they keep constant tension on the chest. With dumbbell flyes there is very little pressure on the pecs at the top of the movement, and the pressure increases at a geometric rate the further you lower the dumbbells.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Dumbbell Flyes.
Video Guide: Windows Media - Real Player

Since the pressure on the chest is only from gravity in that particular plane of movement (at the top), it would be more desirable to have something that exerts equal pressure throughout the entire movement and since cables operate by a pulley and are independent of gravity (besides the gravity on the weight stacks), they apply equal pressure to the chest during all planes of the movement.

Re-Evaluating Progress

After 12 weeks I re-evaluated my progress...wow! Not only was my chest bigger by an inch and a half, it was also fuller and had better shape. My lower pecs had achieved the undercut look and my upper chest was much larger. My vascularity also increased a bit and my striations stood out a bit more. I kept basically the same diet so I assume this change was from a change in training and not from diet. My lifts improved by the following poundages...

  • Decline Dumbbell Press - 95 lbs in each hand for 11 reps to 130 lbs in each hand for 7 reps.
  • Incline Dumbbell Press - 85 lbs in each hand for 10 reps to 110 lbs in each hand for 8 reps.
  • Flat Bench Dumbbell Press - 100 lbs in each hand for 10 reps to 130 lbs in each hand for 6 reps.

Now I'm not saying that barbells are useless, far from it. They are ESSENTIAL to building a good foundation of strength and power. In fact I would probably say that the best routines incorporate dumbbells and barbells. This is an advanced shock routine for those whose growth from barbells has stagnated and they need a jump start.

After the conclusion of this routine I re-incorporated barbells back into my workouts and once again starting having success with them. Just remember, variety is the spice of life my friends! I hope this routine works as well for you as it has for me!