If you stick with resistance training long enough, you eventually graduate from beginner to intermediate. No, you don't get a cap-and-gown ceremony to mark this magnificent occasion, but you do get to start tackling more challenging workouts that stress your body—and ultimately lead to continued growth—in new ways.
When you hit intermediate status after lifting for six months or more, you get to add more exercises to your body-part program, enabling you to work each body part more thoroughly. This stacks more volume on your workouts, but the extra stress demands more recovery time, so you may not train each body part as frequently as when you began your iron journey.
As an intermediate, you also need more training variety than a beginner to continue building muscle. Most training plans become less effective after 6-8 weeks, at which point you should consider making some adjustments in your training—especially in exercise selection—to keep the gains coming. That's where training smarter, instead of simply longer or harder, can make the difference in how far you progress.
While these intermediate guidelines should be applied to all of your evolving workouts, this article is specifically about building a thicker, stronger, more muscular chest.
Mass Workouts For Chest
Mass workouts for chest are characterized by a few important concepts: reliance on multijoint exercises in a mass-producing rep range, multiple bench angles for the greatest possible overall growth, and sufficient volume and intensity to boost the hormonal response.
After warming up, the workouts below start off with a weight that's just a bit more geared toward strength (failure at about 6 reps) than a normal hypertrophy-based workout (failure at 8-12). That's because you're typically strongest at the start of your workout, making it the best time to tackle those heavier weights.
Because I'm not a big fan of doing multiple exercises for a target area from highly similar angles—such as doing barbell bench presses and then dumbbell presses, both on a flat bench—in the first three routines, the second movement is instead done from a slightly different angle than the first. The use of an adjustable bench allows you to work in between bench angles, since incline and decline barbell bench racks have fixed bench angles and are normally fairly steep.
While many programs follow a pyramid scheme in which you use an increasingly heavier weight, the workouts below are based on reverse pyramids, which allow you to take more total sets to failure. After warming up, you go right to your heaviest 1-2 sets and go full tilt, reducing the weight just a bit on follow-up sets that account for accumulating fatigue but still require that you take them to failure. Reduce the weight by about 5-10 percent, which is shown by the higher rep target.
You finish with a higher-rep single-joint movement, which effectively helps you complete your workout with a muscle pump.
For all chest workouts, keep these guidelines in mind:
- These workouts don't include warm-up sets. Perform as many as you need, but never take your warm-ups anywhere near muscle failure.
- After your warm-up, choose a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed. It's important to take each set to muscle failure.
- When using adjustable benches on the first three workouts, use mid-position bench angles rather than simply repeating the same bench angle you used on the barbell movement.
1. Mass-Building Middle Chest Workout
Most guys are focused on building a big chest, so they naturally drift toward the bench press as their first movement. This session, along with the rotating mass workouts, work great for guys who want those routines. In this workout, all the exercises are focused on the beefy middle chest targeted by slightly different bench angles.
After the barbell bench press, do the dumbbell press on an adjustable bench so you can slightly raise the angle to a very modest incline. In addition, use a Hammer Strength chest press, but sit crosswise on the machine rather than straight on, allowing you to push across your body, which works your middle-chest fibers in a fashion they're not accustomed to. You'll do these one arm at a time before finishing off with a single-joint exercise for the middle pecs to chase that muscle pump.
2. Mass-Building Upper-Chest Workout
Whether you're targeting your upper pecs because they're lagging or you cycle through various regions of your chest periodically for growth, this workout hits the incline multiple times. It's worth noting that the incline bench presses don't simply repeat an angle you've already done; they include modest and steeper bench angles.
The incline barbell bench provides a fixed bench angle, so decrease the degree of incline significantly when you hit your dumbbell bench press. In addition, do the Hammer Strength incline chest press by sitting crosswise on the machine so you can push across your body and up, torching your upper chest a in an unique way. Do the movement one arm at a time, then finish off with a single-joint exercise for the upper pecs to get that muscle pump.
3. Mass-Building Lower-Chest Workout
The recipe here is similar to the upper-chest-focused routine, but it's flipped: You'll perform movements that target the lower chest region from different decline angles. Remember to adjust the angle between your first and second presses, perform your Hammer Strength exercise unilaterally across your body, and finish the session with a pump-chaser.
4. Rotating Mass Workouts
Each of the three workouts above focuses on an individual area, which is great for variety and bringing up a lagging region. But some trainees want to follow a chest program that hits all three major angles in a single workout. This bunch of workouts is for you.
The downside to a program like this is that whatever's done first will be done when your energy levels are the highest. As you progress through your routine, you'll become increasingly fatigued, meaning the third exercise will never be approached with the same level of energy as the first.
To address that, rotate the first exercise in your workout between an incline, flat bench, and decline press over the course of three chest workouts. One week, you go heavier on inclines, the next week on flat bench, and the next on declines. You're likely to discover that you're able to push heavier weights than you normally can with a movement that's always been locked in the third position in your routine as you elevate it to the number-one spot.
You can also easily rotate which exercise comes in the second and third spots as well.
These workouts involve only free-weight exercises, which are the most challenging. Again, they follow a reverse-pyramid structure, so you're taking more total sets to failure.
Finish off each one with a single-joint exercise for 12 reps (the upper end of the hypertrophy range) to build a muscle pump. The bench angle of your last exercise should match the angle of your first exercise.