As MusclePharm-sponsored athlete and 2018 Bodybuilding.com Spokesmodel Search finalist Tyler Holt will tell you, little tweaks can make a big difference. In this quartet of chest exercises, Holt uses cables, dumbbells, and his own body weight to create a deceptively simple chest workout that has everything you need to make your chest grow.
Holt has employed dropsets and unique combinations for years. Many of his part workouts were borne of the need to work past injuries while still maintaining his hard-earned size and strength. He knows exactly how to use tempo and time under tension to make your muscles work even when lifting lighter weight.
"We're going to tax your chest from every angle," explains Holt. "I'm going to take you through pause reps and use some different angles with the cables. It's a quick workout—only four exercises—that should only take you about 40 minutes."
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While a cross-over might sound easy enough, the progressive weight increase on every set is not. The first set of 20 reps is all about priming your muscles for what's to come.
"Get your muscles, tendons, ligaments warmed up with that first set," says Holt.
Pause and squeeze at the top of every contraction. This will make sure your chest is working as hard as it can. Holt says to keep a slight bend in your elbow, and make sure to stretch all the way back.
Incline Dumbbell Press
Your chest should have a good pump already as you hit the incline dumbbell press.
"The reason I follow the cable fly with the incline press is to focus on upper chest," explains Holt. "In my opinion, that's what builds a nice, full chest, and it's very underworked for a lot of people."
As with the cable cross-over, increase the weight on every set as the reps drop. On every rep, pause at the bottom for 1-2 seconds, getting a good stretch in the chest. This pause increases the time under tension for your muscles, helping increase strength gains and growth. Keep your shoulders down and back throughout, and don't lock your elbows at full extension.
Cable Press With Push-Up
Many top athletes create their own workout variations, and Holt is no exception.
"This is a totally different exercise," he explains as he sets up for the cable press with push-up."Instead of just doing a cable press, or just doing push-ups, you create a more dynamic exercise for the muscle. It is just going to destroy your chest."
While it may sound complicated, the cable press with push-up is straightforward. Bring the cables with you as you drop down into a push-up position, laying your palms on top of the strap portion of the handle to hold them down.
Perform one push-up, then hold your body in a straight-arm plank as you bend your right elbow and lift your hand up with the cable, then press back down in a single-arm press. Place your right hand back on the ground, still holding the cable, and repeat the same motion on your left side. That's one rep. Complete 3 sets of 8-10 reps, trying to increase the weight on each set. Keep your feet wide for a better base and more stability during the cable press.
Start with a light weight. Once you grow comfortable with the exercise, increase the load accordingly. Make sure you maintain a strict plank—avoid twisting or swaying as you press. If the weight wants to pull your body out of alignment, you're going too heavy.
3-Angle Cable Fly (Cable Cross-over variation)
This is a twist on the standard cable cross-over, this time hitting the chest at three different angles instead of one. Holt revisits this variation of his first exercise to make sure he hits every muscle fiber in the chest before the end of the workout. He recommends working to failure on all 3 sets. Effort-wise, go for it here. Don't leave anything in the tank.
Set the pulleys at shoulder height to start, then pull the cables low for the first angle. Stretch back and pull the cables to mid-chest height for the second angle. Stretch back one more time and pull the cables in one more time just above your chest at about eye level. That's one rep. Repeat this sequence until you can no longer bring your hands together with good form.
Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.
If you like this workout, check out Holt's Minimalist Muscle-Building Leg Workout.