No one enters the gym on chest day to lollygag. You have goals, and each workout should bring you one step closer to reaching them.
To build a bigger chest, you need to sweat the small stuff. Each of these four exercises has been selected based on a certain body-part-training principle that it embodies. Although we're focused on building pecs here, each strategy can be applied to other body parts as well.
After outlining the workout, we'll explain why each move was chosen.
Before you even touch a weight—whether it's on the way to the gym, in the locker room, or on whatever cardio machine you warm up with—focus your mind on the muscle group you plan to train.
A big part of that mind-muscle connection is letting go of distractions like job, family, and other stress so you can devote 100 percent of your attention to the workout. The weights don't care what else you have going on in your life; they are there to help you grow and nothing else.
Start With Isolation: Cable Cross-over
Instead of going right into a big compound movement, start with something to help you isolate your pecs. Using a machine helps you maintain tension throughout the entire range of motion, gives your pecs a warm-up without needing lots of weight, and prepares your joints for heavier lifting later in the workout.
My favorite chest-day starter is the cable cross-over. Go light and stretch your arms wide between each contraction. When you pull the weights in, really try to isolate your chest and feel those pecs working. Rest 30 seconds between sets. Repeat until you feel you're ready to go.
Contract on the Compound: Incline Barbell Press
That first movement also acts as a pre-exhaust technique, so you might not be as strong for this next exercise as you normally would be. This is actually a good thing: Unless you're a powerlifter, your objective is muscle growth, not merely strength.
While lowering the bar, think about feeling the stretch and maintaining tension on the working muscles. Don't try to generate momentum for your next rep. Controlling the weight as you lower the bar will help improve your strength as well as your size. Since this is your big movement of the day, rest about 90 seconds between sets. This will provide ample time to recover, so you can give it all you've got on the next one.
Improve Every Time: Flat Bench Dumbbell Fly
Is it really that productive if you do the same thing today as you did last time? Not really. The whole point of training is to improve, so challenge yourself with each new workout, even if it's something small. Check your log and see what you did last time. Make it a goal to do at least one more rep or five more pounds if you want to move up in weight.
Let's say last time you did flyes you handled 50-pound dumbbells for 10 reps. Since the plan here is for a rep range of 8-10, go up in weight to the 55s and see if you can get 8. If you can, aim for 9 next time. If not, you have a new goal. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
Finish With Failure: Push-Up
As you're coming down the home stretch of the workout, you should be hellbent on leaving it all in the gym. If you leave thinking you could've done a little more, then you didn't make the most of your workout. This last exercise is your chance to go all-out and leave no doubt that you gave it everything you've got.
While keeping the focus on the pecs, assume a push-up position. Start cranking out as many reps as you can. Don't even set a number in mind; go until you can't do another rep while still maintaining your form. If you really want to make sure you've hit failure, drop to your knees and try to do a few more reps. Rest 30 seconds, then repeat.
If you think you hit failure on the second set, try one more so you can prove it. The last rep you attempt should end in muscular failure. This final annihilation ensures you've worked that muscle to its full potential, allowing you to leave the gym with a clear conscience.