Do you remember your first chest workout? It probably involved the barbell bench press, a version of a dumbbell press, a fly, and push-ups. At the time, you felt that you did some serious work, but now that you've advanced in your training, you would never go back to such a basic routine, right?
Wrong. As it turns out, you should consider dusting off your old training habits, especially the exercises that built your foundation. Most beginner movements are simple out of necessity, but there are plenty of ways to make them more challenging with methods like dropsets, supersets, and rest-pauses.
The following workout is advanced enough to challenge you, but it will deliver that same sense of excitement you felt when you were first starting out at the gym. All you need are free weights, a bench, and a resistance band—all of which you can easily acquire no matter where you decide to work out. Hit the gym for more atmosphere, or train at home if you prefer focus and solitude. Either way, this routine will not disappoint.
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Incline Barbell Bench Press
The 5-sets-of-5-reps model is a staple for getting stronger while building muscle, and using the incline will place more emphasis right where you can benefit the most—on the upper pecs. If you're able to do these on low incline in a rack, that is the best situation, but a standard incline bench works as well.
Although the first two sets are a warm-up, stop at 5 reps. Approach them as you would your work sets. You're preparing to do serious effort with serious weight, and these sets should reflect that. Execution, mind-muscle connection, foot placement, and positioning on the bench must all be dialed in before you start moving the heavier weight.
Once you've finished your warm-up, load up the bar and hit those 5 sets of 5 reps, resting a minute or two between sets.
Superset: Dumbbell Fly to Dumbbell Bench Press
Doing these flat-bench movements back to back provides you with the best of both worlds. The flyes isolate the pecs and stretch the fibers, and the presses help pump more blood into the muscles.
Take your time with the flyes so you can feel that stretch at the bottom and really contract the pecs at the top. You do both exercises on the same flat bench, so the only transition between movements may be swapping out dumbbells. For the presses, keep your shoulders down and back as you lower the weight at a normal pace, but try to press them up explosively.
There are a few different ways to add intensity and challenge to your push-ups, but one of the easiest and safest methods is to add resistance with a band. Wrapping a band around your back with the ends held in place under your hands adds tension throughout the rep and makes the push more challenging as you get to the top. It also enables you to maintain true push-up form and target the center of your pecs while still working your triceps and shoulders.
Here's an extra twist for the last set. Work with the band to failure, then ditch the band and wait 15 seconds before doing a final set of unweighted push-ups until you reach failure again. This will completely exhaust your chest, and you can leave the gym knowing you gave it all you had.
If you don't have a band, you can slow the tempo of your push-ups to increase the time under tension, add a weight vest for additional resistance, or perform the exercise with your feet elevated. Just remember that the feet-elevated variation targets more of the upper chest and shoulders, but if that's an area you want to work on, it may be an additional benefit.