This rapid-fire finisher will pump up your pecs like nothing else.
By Team Iron Man
Chest development doesn’t have to mean shoulder-impinging one-rep maximums. In fact, most experts agree that submaximal training for higher volumes is far superior for hypertrophy than pressing a mountain for doubles or triples. Add a fast pace and a circuit-style rep scheme and you get a perfect storm of muscle stimulation that is a beautiful match for the muscles of the chest.
High-intensity, high-output training is often thought to be the jurisdiction of athletes, but several factors make it highly valuable for the aesthetic trainer. For one, the high number of reps causes an inevitable lactic acid build-up, which brings its own host of anabolic metabolites. In fact, a study published in the British Association Of Sport And Medicine showed that elevated blood lactate levels are responsible for exercise-induced growth hormone response. Another benefit of exposing your muscles to lactic acid production is the fact that they become better at shuttling it out of muscle tissue, increasing its ability to perform high volumes of work.
A relatively high volume and fast pace also sends a massive tide of blood to the region, providing a pump that will make it hard for the lifter to touch his hands together. These same factors also force the body to recruit a wide array of muscle fibers to perform the task.
“I like explosive movements for hypertrophy,” says strength coach and kinesiologist Brian Richardson, MS, CPL2, NASM-PES, the co-owner of Dynamic Fitness in Temecula, California. “When we move quickly, we are exploiting those fast-twitch fibers. A bodybuilder will see this as a nice finisher because they will get a lot of blood movement to that area, but these are also functional athletic exercises.”
Richardson created this metabolic tri-set for rapid chest development. It relies on three types of push-ups, because they are one of the few pec-hammering moves that can be performed for very high reps with little risk of injury. It can be performed any time in your training program, but he recommends it as a finisher on chest day, after completing four or five loaded movements. No matter when you do it, don’t be tempted to add extra weight, which will kneecap the goal of high reps.
“Ten good explosive bodyweight push-ups is good, but if you put on a 10-pound vest, you’ll see a 50 percent decrease in reps immediately,” he says.
This training protocol is similar to one he uses for UFC fighters as they get closer to their fight (decreasing load, increasing the speed), but he recommends putting a bodybuilding spin on it. Even though you are moving quickly, speed is not the goal. So don’t short-change the standard of movement.
“When you are working on speed, it’s common to use a shorter range of motion and quicker transitional time,” he says. “But when you are trying to be aesthetic, you need more full range of motion to get that hypertrophy.” IM
Push-Up: Assume a conventional plank position where your bodyweight is supported by your toes and your arms are extended. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart, or slightly closer, with your feet together. Keeping your body in a straight line from your heels to your head, bend at the elbows to lower your chest to a position just above the floor, with your elbows bent just past 90 degrees. Extend your arms to return to the start position.
Incline Push-Up: Stand facing a bench or sturdy elevated fixture, such as the locked bar on a Smith machine. Place your hands on the bar about shoulder-width apart. Step back from the bar, with your arms straight. Keeping your body straight, and using the balls of your feet as the fulcrum point, lower your chest to the bar. Push back up until your arms are fully extended. This should feel easier than a standard push-up.
Explosive Push-Up: Get into the same position as a standard push-up. Keeping your body in a straight line from your heels to your head, bend at the elbows to lower your chest to a position just above the floor, with your elbows bent just past 90 degrees. At the bottom, explosively reverse the motion by powerfully pushing yourself against the floor and upwards as quickly as possible. You want to get enough height with your upper body so that your hands leave the floor. If possible, clap your hands in front of you before quickly placing them back on the floor and continuing the next rep.
Perform this chest-day finisher as a circuit-style tri-set. Move from one exercise to the next with zero rest until one full tri-set is complete. Rest 60 seconds and then complete two more circuits. The reps should be quick, but with a nearly full range of motion.
Push-Up 3 15-20
Incline Push-Up 3 15-20
Explosive Push-Up 3 15*
*Your reps for this exercise will drop off from fatigue more rapidly than the other push-up variations