When it comes to creating the ultimate male physique for most guys developing a dense but defined chest seems to be top of the priority list. Every Monday thousands of guys commit to international chest day yet it seems the struggle is real to get those baby pigeon chests puffing. So where are we going wrong?
I struggled to build depth and thickness to my chest for years; looking back I know where I went wrong and through scientific education and applied application I have seen some fantastic progress this past year or so. Here’s what I have learnt and what’s worked incredibly well for me…
1. Shoot from all angles
I’m a big believer in targeting muscles from all angles. Where chest is concerned, we’re looking at working on inclines and declines as well as a flat plane. This is simple stuff that most people are familiar with. What I see far less of is variation when it comes to angles of grip positions. Manipulating different grips will help ensure you target as many of the muscle fibres in the chest as possible. Think hammer grips, angled grips, wide grips, close grips, reverse grips.
2. Build a solid back
I made this mistake big time when I started out. I wanted a big chest so I trained chest. A LOT. Makes sense though right? It might have been logical to me but the over emphasis on my chest and lack of back training set me up to have poor kyphotic posture (rounding of the upper back and shoulders) due to weak back muscle and a very tight chest and shoulders. There was no balance. This made my chest appear narrow and caved in. As soon as I realised I needed to address this I started training back twice as frequently compared to chest. I found my posture improved and this allowed my chest to open up and appear far broarder with better shape.
3. Master pull overs
A video posted by Brisbournefit (@brisbournefit) on Aug 2, 2015 at 6:49am PDT
I absolutely love this movement and believe it’s a real key to maximising chest development. The majority of back movements will stretch the chest horizontally from the sternum outwards. A correctly performed pull over will actually stretch the chest vertically in a way that doesn’t really get replicated with any other movement. Since conquering this movement and progressively overloading it I feel my chest has come on leaps and bounds, especially through the upper portion. Again you can change angles and apparatus up here; choose different degrees of incline on the bench, try the traditional dumbbell variation but I’m also a big fan of using a cable attachment which is awesome for maintaining constant tension. Call me a broscientist, but it has worked for me and it may just work for you too.
4. Get the most from DUP training
A ‘Daily Undulating Periodization’ (DUP) training structure is a firm favourite of mine. This basically means using a variety of rep ranges; for me going as low as 4-6, and as high as 40 have worked really well. It’s crucial the load is suitable according to the rep range. In whatever the rep range, if the last couple of reps aren’t ‘grinders’, you could be doing more.
5. Maximal contractions & stretches
Completing repetitions from point A to B is obviously important (otherwise simply the reps aren’t going to get done!), but what is going to maximise the movement is consciously stretching the muscle at the bottom of reps and squeezing the life out of your pecs at the top/end of the movement. Getting over that barrier of thinking “WEIGHT WEIGHT WEIGHT!” and replacing it with “CONTRACT CONTRACT CONTRACT” will take your chest to another level.
6. Complete full ranges of motion
In the same breath as contractions and stretches, a good ROM is crucial if you want to stimulate as much of the chest as possible. Again, don’t be that guy that doubles his weight for half the ROM unless you want half the results and overtime to develop internally rotated shoulders and shortened pecs. Not a good look.
7. Implement negatives
I love using negatives on the smith machine, especially in an incline bench position. The negative phase of a movement is where you’re going to do most of your damage and consequent growing. It’s important to use a weight heavy enough to cause sufficient damage but not so heavy you struggle to control it. A reliable training partner is essential using this kind of technique. Someone that knows just how much to let you suffer, so pick your training partner wisely! I like to use a weight I can handle for 6-10 reps before failing and then being assisted for 5 further 5-second negative reps.
8. Volume volume volume
Every 4-6 weeks I throw in a series of high volume work; typically a German Volume Training approach hitting 10 sets of 10 reps on a big compound chest movement with a few other high volume (but not as high as the initial) exercises thrown in too. This surge of volume will provide a new overload stimulus to the pecs and the result will be new growth.
9. Get comfortable with all equipment
Certain people swear by barbells, other dumbbells. For me variety of movements has been key. If you don’t like doing it, odds are you’re either weak at the movement, therefore you have a lot of potential to fulfil so get excited about improving! Or you are off on your technique, if you suspect this is the case, get someone knowledgeable to take a look at your form and see if they can identify where you’re going wrong.
10. Get lean first
I know you want to ‘bulk’ to get a thick, solid wardrobe of a chest, it makes sense in our heads, but in reality what could be a great chest just ends up getting lost under layers of fat that’s gathered after consistently obliterating your caloric requirements. You don’t have to be in a massive surplus to grow. Also, the leaner you are (to a point) the better you’re primed to put on muscle due to optimised hormonal function, including higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone. So get lean, strong, and then grow!
So there you have it, my top 10 tips to building the chest you’ve always wanted. Happy chest training and mind how you grow!