Want to reach every goal you have in life? Great. Do it. But hit the gym first. The fact that you're tired, your gym sucks, you have laundry to do, or it's your best friend's birthday does not absolve you from paying your dues in the gym.
I get it: It's easy to say no. Really easy. After all, hard work hurts. Taking a set all the way to the end—the very end—hurts plenty. As you keep going, your body screams "No!" Your brain does, too. They're begging you. But you have to look at them and say "Yes."
My friend and fellow Animal athlete Frank McGrath was recently supposed to work out with me at Montanari Brothers Powerhouse Gym in New Haven, Connecticut—for my money, the best gym in the world—and we had every reason to say no. For Frank it was a stomach bug, complete with vomiting, and various injuries, aches, and pains. For me, it was a nagging rotator cuff.
Did we call off our early morning chest workout? Fuck no. It was on.
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The Perfectly Balanced Chest Routine
We ignored every reason to skip the gym. That was the first victory. But there was still the matter of what we were going to do once we got there.
This is where things got complicated. We could do flat and incline bench, flat and incline dumbbell presses, plus dips, flyes, cables, and push-ups, and all types of machines. Where should we begin?
We began by trying to find the line between what is beneficial, and what feels good. These two often go head-to-head. Heavy incline presses don't feel good. But they're definitely beneficial. Machines feel great, but when you rely on them too much, their benefit shrinks quickly.
Frank and I talked about this. We've both had phases where we steered toward things that feel good—like machines—and skip the stuff that's harder. But over time, we've come back and sought out the sweet spot. Look at our routine, and you'll see that machines have a place. They're just not the bread and butter.
Because of my rotator cuff, was I excited about the prospect of incline barbell presses? No, not really. Was Frank eagerly looking forward to a heavier emphasis on free weights over machines, especially considering he had recently been sick as a dog? Not exactly.
In the end, we got the job done because we knew we needed to. We got in a basic but effective workout: two fly movements, two pressing movements, and some push-ups—because no matter what level you're at, push-ups still kick ass.
Just Say Yes
Whether you're training chest or anything else, the key to growth is to say "no" to fewer things and "yes" to more things, each and every day.
"Yes" to consistent training. "Yes" to rock-solid, beneficial movements. "Yes" to training that brings you outside of your comfort zone. And then, when you've earned them, say "yes" to plenty of food and rest.
Dig deep and make it happen—even though something is, and always will be, in the way.