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Rx for Lagging Pecs

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. When it comes to improving a lagging body-part, I think that statement is supremely relevant.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. When it comes to improving a lagging body-part, I think that statement is supremely relevant.

Most of us at one time or another will have a body-part that’s not responding as well as we’d like it to. So we ask ourselves what we need to do to make it grow. While there is no simple, one-size-fits-all prescription for the dilemma, you can be sure of one thing: If what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to do something different.

I’m often asked how often one should change exercises, routines, splits and so on. Rather than fire off some random span of time like six or eight weeks, I always say, “Change when whatever you’re doing fails to produce results.” In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ronnie Coleman went from amateur to eight-time Mr. Olympia and hardly altered his workout regimen in more than 15 years. Why would he? He kept growing and improving, so it would have made no sense for him to switch things up much.

Many of us, though, reach a point either with our physique as a whole or with specific areas that we finally realize are at a standstill. Regardless of how well a certain type of training or group of exercises has worked for us in the past, it’s not working anymore. Recently, as I watched my friend Jose Raymond climb the ladder of the pro ranks in the 202-and-under division with two wins last summer, I’ve spotted an area that he needs to bring up if he wants to be the best 202-pound bodybuilder in the world: his chest.

I’ve trained chest with Jose, and he’s tremendously strong. He’s done flat-bench barbell presses with 405 for eight to 10 reps, and the same with 365 on the incline barbell press. I’ve seen him do good sets with 150s on incline dumbbell presses just a couple of weeks away from a contest—on very low carbs. I suspect, however, that his shoulders and triceps have been robbing stimulation from his pecs. His shoulders and triceps are enormous, while his chest isn’t as big. No way it’s weak by normal standards, but to be the best 202 pro in the world, he needs to get past David Henry—whom he did beat at the Battle of Champions in Hartford, Connecticut, though Henry was not 100 percent ripped—Kevin English and Eduardo Correa. All of those men have extremely thick pecs.

Occasionally I train with Jose, and he’s done the basic heavy, heavy stuff for years, but clearly his pecs need something different. Here’s what we did at a recent chest workout:

Flye machine (to preexhaust the chest): two sets of 21s—seven reps in the last third of the range, seven reps midrange, seven reps from the stretch position; two sets full range

Incline dumbbell presses: four sets, starting with hands facing in and rotating so palms face away at the top—kind of like an Arnold press.

Hammer Strength decline presses: three regular sets plus one drop set to total 25 to 30 reps, with the final portion of the drop done as speed reps, firing as quickly as possible

Superset cable crossovers and pushups to failure: three supersets, changing the cable height on the crossovers from high for the first set to middle for the second and low for the third

Incline flyes with DC–style stretch: holding the bottom position for 60 seconds

Our pecs were smoked at the end. I’m not claiming to be a training guru like Charles Glass or Hany Rambod. All I did was give Jose a few new ideas to incorporate. I’ve seen some things he does for back, shoulders and legs, and I tried them. Some I liked; some I didn’t. The point is, no one knows it all, and we can all benefit by keeping an open mind. At the gym I’m always on the lookout for new exercises, new twists on exercises or anything I may want to try. The day you think you know it all is the day you cease to improve. Most of us need to keep experimenting to make the most of our physiques, and you should never give up until you’ve tried absolutely everything. Do I really need to add that there will always be something else to try?

Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth From 25 Years in the Trenches, available at

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