In this article I will outline a chest workout that starts with isolating the pectorals to pre-exhaust the chest. By starting out with an isolation exercise it will be easier to focus on the chest, and not letting secondary body parts get involved in the power movements.
The rest of the workout focuses on alternating exercises that involve pushing movements (flat bench, incline bench, machine bench, etc.), with exercises that involve stretching movements (fly movements, cable crossovers, etc.).
The Warm-Up Exercise
The first exercise of this chest routine is the "single arm low cable cross over." Now let me explain, because people don't seem to know the exercises that I am talking about in my articles. This is simply what it states, it is like doing a low cable crossover, but you are only using one arm at a time.
This exercise is very effective at warming up the rotator cuff and upper pectoral muscles. If you want a better description of this exercise watch Rodney St. Cloud's chest training segment in the new Battle For the Olympia 2003 and he gives a very thorough explanation of it.
For this exercise it is only performed as a warm up, so 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps are performed. During this exercise the main priority should be to really feel and isolate the chest. This exercise also serves as a good stretching movement before the heavy compound lifts are incorporated into the routine.
Press Movement #1:
The Bench Press.
The first basic exercise is the flat bench press. This could also be performed on an incline bench if you want to specifically target your upper pectorals. I personally prefer to alternate between the two compound exercises weekly, using the flat bench press one week, and then using the incline bench press the following week.
Lets just say we're using the flat bench press for this workout as an example. The first three exercises are going to serve as warm-up sets to acclimate your body to the heavier sets you will be performing later on.
The first set will be performed real light for around 15 reps, the next set will continue with 12 reps, and the third will be performed for around 10 reps. The fourth set will be your first heavy set where you will be using close to your maximum poundage for 6-8 reps with partner assistance. The fifth set will be your maximum set for this exercise where you will be performing a triple drop-set with partner assisted reps.
For example lets say your sets went like this...
- Set 1 - 135 lbs X 15 reps.
- Set 2 - 225 lbs X 10 reps.
- Set 3 - 275 lbs X 6 reps.
- Set 4 - 315 lbs X 6-8 reps (with partner assists).
- Set 5 - 335 lbs X 4-6 reps (with partner assists) to 225 lbs X 6-8 reps to 135 lbs X 10-12 reps
After this set your chest should be pumped beyond belief, and you will be ready to move onto the next exercise, which incorporates a stretching movement.
Stretch Movement #1:
Incline Dumbbell Flies.
Now that the first pressing movement is finished and the chest is fully pumped, it is now time to go onto a stretching movement. If I were performing flat barbell press for my press movement, incline dumbbell flies would follow it as my stretching movement.
This also goes for incline presses followed by flat dumbbell flies. This is different from the normal routines that start with 2-3 pressing movements, followed by fly movements, and I think this variation works well for a change.
With this exercise you are looking to concentrate on the negative portion of the rep and then squeezing the chest together at the top of the movement. By doing this exercise after presses you are able to take out the other muscle groups that come into play during press movements and focus solely on stretching and contracting the pecs.
You will notice a big difference in the feeling of the chest when a fly movement is performed right after press movements if you are used to going into another press movement after your compound lift.
For this exercise 3-4 sets are to be performed in a pyramid fashion going from 12-15 reps down to 6-8 reps, each rep the negative portion should take about 3 seconds for the decent with a powerful squeeze to the top.
Press Movement #2:
Plate Loaded Machine Press.
After stretching out the pectorals with flies it is now time to go back to a press movement, and a perfect exercise for this is a plate loaded machine press. If your gym has the new Cybex press machines these are a perfect exercise for this purpose.
The goal with this exercise is to pump the blood back into the pecs after they have been stretched with the fly movement. The machine will help to focus mainly on the chest muscles, because by this point in the workout the rest of your upper body will be feeling pretty taxed on this exercise.
For this movement 3-4 sets should be performed, the first should act to get your body acclimated to the machine, with the following two being maximum poundage sets. The two working sets should be performed for 6-10 reps, followed by partner assisted reps, then ended with partial reps pushing as hard as you can from the bottom portion of the movement.
This should fill the blood back into your pecs that was stretched out during the fly movement.
Stretch Movement #2:
Machine Pec-Deck Flies.
The last movement in this workout is a stretching movement where a machine like the pec-deck or cable crossovers can be used. I prefer the pec-deck machine fly because it allows you to fully stretch the muscles of the chest, and then get a strong squeeze at the peak contraction.
The normal dumbbell fly movement doesn't allow you to keep the tension on the chest all the way through the movement since some of it gets taken away at the top portion. This is why it is good to use that with the heavier weights when your body can handle it, with the pec-deck you can use lighter weights and just focus on the stretch and squeeze of the pectorals to really finish them off.
For this finishing exercise only one light set should be performed for 12-15 reps, followed by a heavier set of 10-12 reps holding the contracted position for a 2 count followed by a slow negative. The final third set can be similar to the second set, or you can perform a triple drop set, which I would advise if your chest weren't completely trashed.
For the triple drop set you could perform the same protocol as the set in the beginning of the work out utilizing partner assisted reps and also holding the contraction, and slowing down the negative. After the triple drop set you shouldn't be able to do more than a few push-ups, and the pump in your chest will be out of this world.
A New Variation
This workout is nothing revolutionary; it is simply a variation on typical chest workouts. Most chest workouts start with two or three exercises that incorporate press movements, and then finish up with the fly movements. This workout differs from the norm in that it alternates press movements and fly movements.
The reason for this is that you are pushing and pumping the chest with a press movement, then stretching the chest with the fly movements to allow more blood to be pumped into it when you go back to the press movements. I suggest that you give this workout protocol a chance for a few weeks, using various press movements and fly movements to switch it up from week to week.
I feel that if you are not getting good results in your chest that this variation will provide you with the results you are looking for. Give it a chance for a few weeks and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.