Muscles can be finicky little guys. You could put up a 225-pound bench and still lack that barrel-chested definition you long for, because building an impressively muscled chest requires more than just lifting a maximal load. As these amazing BodySpace members can attest to, you need to target the chest from multiple angles to refine and coax out maximum definition.
Wondering how to hit your chest for maximum muscle growth in the gym? Fear not; these elite BodySpace athletes will show you how to grow! Try one of their killer chest combos to reinvigorate your chest training. You'll be sporting barrels before you know it.
1. Nick Twum
Variation is the key to personal trainer Nick Twum's chest routine. "The key to a good chest workout is to hit the chest from all angles," he says, "which provides the best opportunity for growth."
Nick prefers to start out with a heavy compound movement to help add more mass to the upper chest. "Most people lack upper-chest development, which is usually the hardest area to bring up," he explains.
After finishing the first compound hit, Nick moves on to a mass-building exercise for his middle chest. He then performs a superset—a special set which includes two exercises back-to-back—that focuses on higher reps to reach fatigue.
"When focusing on high reps, I really think of squeezing when I push across my chest, which helps to bring out maximum muscle definition," he explains.
Even though his chest is nearly fried by this time, Nick finishes it off with a superset of cable crossovers and banded push-ups to failure. "During this brutal superset, it's all about the mind-muscle connection," he explains.
2. Jimmy Everett
MuscleTech athlete Jimmy Everett insists that the "secret" to massive chest gains is to prioritize form. "Pick a weight that is attainable, yet challenging, and then focus on the squeeze as you feel the muscles being worked," he says. Many people neglect the importance of the mind-muscle connection and just try to power through a workout without really working the muscles as intended.
Jimmy focuses on a 10x10 protocol for all exercises, making his German-volume-inspired chest workout a very high-volume session. "Make sure that you start out with a proper warm-up before proceeding to the workout," recommends Jimmy. "Start by loosening up the shoulders to avoid injury."
His workout begins with key compound lifts and then, as his chest begins to fatigue, Jimmy transitions to more isolation exercises.
3. James Pulido
Cover model James Pulido echoes Jimmy's sentiment about shoulder health. "The shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion in the body and is more prone to injury, so a proper warm-up is key," he says.
James's workouts always begin with a thorough warm-up, including multiple sets of front raises (thumbs-up and thumbs-down variations), scaptions, and lateral raises with thumbs up, each for 12-15 reps. "For scaptions, start with your arms at your sides. Then raise the arms straight up at a 45-degree angle with your thumbs pointing up, finishing above your head." It's a warm-up exercise that everyone should be doing, but many neglect.
Interestingly, James does not utilize any flat barbell or dumbbell training. "Although a flat barbell press allows for a greater overload potential, if the goal is for maximum hypertrophy, incline and decline benches at a 15-degree to 30-degree angle [are] the route to go." He explains that both of these will hit more total muscle fibers, invoking greater growth potential.
4. Eiren Gauley
If you haven't drilled it into your head yet, let athlete Eiren Gauley remind you once again: The mind-muscle connection is an important catalyst for growth! "I always make sure to focus on the mind-muscle connection and not let my front delts and triceps become dominant in chest movements," he says.
As Eiren astutely points out, it's easy to let other muscle groups take over the leading reins of certain movements, but in the end you're only compromising your own results. If you want to build your best chest, you've got to visualize it.
He also incorporates a one-second pause at the bottom of any press movement and goes just shy of lockout at the top. Maintaining a full range of motion like this will be critical to optimal strength gains. Eiren adds, "By staying just shy of lockout, I make sure to keep constant tension on the chest muscles throughout each set."
When doing the incline dumbbell press, Eiren's main focus is going as wide as possible on the outside of his chest, using less triceps and focusing more on just the pectoral muscles.
His workouts also include a classic finisher: push-ups. A set of 100 reps—with breaks as needed—will light your chest on fire. "I love finishing with this because it fills my chest with blood and I get a pump that's out of this world," he says.
5. Dave Dreas
The upper pecs are a large focus of cover model Dave Dreas's workout. "A number of people don't focus much on the upper pecs," he says, "so I like to ensure I'm devoting enough attention to this area."
Dave also focuses on developing ample time under tension during his press movements. "Very rarely do I lock out at the top, where my arms are fully extended, to avoid taking the tension off my chest."
He also recommends putting your incline bench at just 45 degrees, as many people adjust them too high, which in turn can put too much load on the shoulders and increase your risk of injury.
Finally, Dave utilizes a number of rep ranges to work his chest muscles across a variety of intensity levels.