Force your chest to grow by changing up body position and bar speed.
By Team Iron Man
It’s a Monday night and everyone at the gym is celebrating “International Chest Day.” It seems like every member is flat on their back, pushing out slow, controlled reps with barbells, dumbbells, or on a plate-loaded machine. It begins to look redundant.
The key to maximizing hypertrophy is constantly changing the variables: the weight, the number of reps, the amount of rest, the order of exercises. The list is long. When it comes to training chest, though, two variables are often ignored: body position and the speed the weight is moved.
“You are always trying to maximize fiber and motor unit recruitment with position. How boring would a workout of flat bench, incline presses, and lying dumbbell flyes be?” says strength coach and kinesiologist, Brian Richardson, MS, CPL2, NASM-PES, co-owner of Dynamic Fitness in Temecula, California. “Neurologically it is good for the nervous system and the stabilization structure to switch up the body position. This workout makes the muscles tug on the bone from different angles, which is good for shoulder health and it’s also good for hypertrophy to hit the pecs from different angles.”
Another variable that aids hypertrophy is utilizing fast and explosive concentric motions. If you have spent the last training block focusing on time under tension, then shifting your focus to moving loads powerfully and quickly can re-awaken sleeping muscle fibers.
“Push the load quickly to maximize the growth potential of the fast-twitch type-II muscle fibers. The more you address those fibers the more hypertrophy you will get,” Richardson says.
Since there is an inverse relationship between the weight of the bar and how fast you can push it, you will likely have to use slightly lighter weights than you have used before. Don’t let this play games with your head. Focus on creating powerful contractions. As you get into the later sets, your rep speed will likely slow down. That’s okay. There’s no need to drop the weight. The slightly slower motion will force your body to recruit more muscle fibers, namely type-IIa.
The pec is a very involved and complex structure. It moves from the sternum, to the clavicle, and out to the upper extremities. It is a powerful abductor of the arm, and developing its assets completely will give you a lot of carryover into real life. The program here, designed by Richardson, includes some traditional and proven push patterns like a bench press along with some exercises that encourage functionality, such as the standing jammer press. (In life you tend to do most of your pushing from a standing position.) The workout ends with the medicine ball transfer push-up, which will increase heart rate and localized blood flow to the area, leaving you with monster pump after challenging your total body awareness and coordination. IM
This chest workout features exercises that place the lifter in standing, supine, and prone positions. Before starting, complete a general warm-up consisting of 10 minutes of easy cardio and some dynamic bodyweight movements. Perform a light warm-up set for the first two exercises before beginning the four work sets. During the work sets, move the weight quickly through the concentric portion of each rep. Rest for up to two minutes between each set.
Exercises Set Reps
Flat Bench Press 4 (+warm-up) (15)12,10, 8, 6
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 (+warm-up) (15) 12,10, 8, 6
Three-Point Pulley Flye 4 10
Standing Jammer Press 4 10
Medicine Ball Transfer Push-Up 4 12 (6 each side)
Flat Bench Press: Lie faceup squarely on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Grasp the barbell with a wide, overhand grip, outside of your shoulders. Unrack the bar and slowly lower it until there is a fist-sized space between the bar and your chest. Forcefully reverse direction and press the bar upward, driving it back over your face to full arm extension but without locking out your elbows. Make sure to keep your wrists over your elbows, your feet on the floor, and your butt, shoulder blades, and head in contact with the pad.
Incline Dumbbell Press: Adjust a bench so that the incline is roughly 30 to 45 degrees. Err on the side of using a lower incline rather than a higher one. Lie faceup on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand just outside your shoulders. Powerfully press the dumbbells upward, stopping when they’re an inch or so away from each other—don’t let them clang together, which dissipates tension on the target muscles—then slowly reverse to the start and repeat. Keep your butt in the seat and maintain a neutral pelvis through the movement.
Three-Point Pulley Flye
In a cable crossover station, set both pulleys to their highest point. Grasp one handle in each hand and hold them together in front of your body, with about a 10-degree bend in both elbows. Place your feet in a staggered stance with the back heel off the ground (switch the forward foot every set). Contract your core and tilt your torso forward just slightly. Keeping your eyes on the horizon, allow the weight to bring your arms out to the sides in an arc until your upper arms align with your shoulder. Forcefully bring your hands back within one inch of each other, keeping the palms facing in and maintaining the same degree of bend in your elbows throughout. Keep your head and torso still during the movement. After 10 reps, slide the pulleys down to about sternum height and repeat for 10 more reps. Lastly, drop the pulleys to their lowest point and perform 10 more reps with the palms facing up. Rest only for as long as it takes you to change the height of the pulley.
Standing Jammer Press
Load weight onto a standing jammer machine, and stand in front of it in an athletic position with your knees bent and your hips shifted back. Perform the movement by grasping each handle and extending both elbows at the same time, pressing the weight up. Move the load explosively. You can “cheat” the weight slightly by driving through the hips and knees to help produce maximal force. If your gym does not have a jammer machine, simply place the unloaded end of a dumbbell in a corner of the room and perform one-arm jammers by grasping the opposite loaded side of the dumbbell by the sleeve and pressing until your working arm is extended.
Medicine Ball Transfer Push-Up: Take a firm medicine ball and place it under one hand in a push-up position with your feet spaced about hip-width apart. Keep your core tight and your head in a neutral position. Perform a push-up, but as you come up, drive off the ball in an explosive manner. In the air, switch hands so the opposite hand goes to the ball and the other hand lands on the floor. Come back down into a push-up and repeat for reps. Keep your hips squared to the floor and utilize your stabilizer muscles to maintain stability through your midline.