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Workout Routine for Building Big Pecs - Part 6

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Building the Chest Muscle (Pecs)

So, you want to develop a thick and impressive chest? Well, who doesn't? There are 2 components to the chest muscle: pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles. The pectoralis major lies on top of your rib cage, and the pec minor lies under the pectoralis major muscle. Your pecs attach near the shoulder joint, and originate on the breastbone in the center of your chest.

Any type of pushing or hugging motion will involve the chest muscles. For example, a pushup or a dumbbell fly.

There are many different exercises you can perform to develop your chest: bench press, incline bench press, dumbbell press, cables flyes, db flyes, pec dec, and more - but the grand daddy of it all is the flat bench press. Almost by instinct, its the very first exercise any beginner will head for their first time in the gym. Strange, but true.

Another key chest exercise I rank way up there with the flat bench press, is the incline dumbbell press. It's a highly debated issue on whether different levels of incline / decline works the chest in different ways - although there isn't an upper or a lower chest muscle, but different inclines and declines will target upper and lower areas of the chest differently with different stress levels.

You can build a "good" chest with almost flat bench alone, however, if you want a fully developed, and thick chest, you need to hit it from different angles or inclines. Aside from just a thick chest, you also need to develop your upper chest.

Note: I use the terms "upper chest" and "lower chest" loosely, because there really is no upper chest muscle or lower chest muscle. There is only the pec major and minor muscles. What I'm referring to when I say upper / lower chest is just the upper area and the lower area of your entire chest muscle.

If you just do flat benching and develop a great lower section on your chest, it'll look saggy and droopy. But if you also sport a great upper chest, you're chest will look fuller and so much better. Just take a look at Arnie's side poses - you'll see the height of his chest due to the fantastic development of his entire chest.

The chest upper area, is also probably more difficult to develop for most compared to the mid and lower chest areas, simply because its not as thick, and is more difficult to develop more strength for incline pressing movements. At the sam time, incline bench pressing is probably one of the worst exercises you can do to develop the chest. Ok, in all fairness, maybe not the worst, but its not very effective. In a study to measure the relative overload intensity of common chest exercises conducted by Pete Sisco, here's what he found:

- Straight arm Barbell Pullover 12.8%
- Nautilus® Machine Pullover 33.7%
- Flat Bench Cable Crossover 43.9%
- Dumbbell Fly 45.5%
- Incline Barbell Press 53.8%
- Nautilus® 10 Degree Chest 57.5%
- Unilateral Cable Crossover 70.2%
- Bilateral Cable Crossover 91.5%
- Decline Barbell Bench Press 96.9%
- Flat Barbell Bench Press 100%

As you can see, working down from flat benching ranked at 100%, incline barbell bench press ranks 5th last at only 53.8%, which is a very good reason why I don't do incline bench pressing very often. Unfortunately, he doesn't have incline dumbbell benching in that list. I bet if he did, dumbbell incline would rank high up with flat bench and decline bench press.

Chest Weight Training Routine

I don't have a huge bench compared to most, but its decent. At 156lbs, I can flat bench 225lbs for 3 reps. I'm not sure what my 1 rep max is, but my guess is somewhere around 235 to 240lbs.

Again, I have a slightly different workout for odd and even weeks. Take a look at the charts below:

Week 1, 3, 5

Exercise Week 1 Week 5
Incline Dumbbell Press
3 X 5, 5, 4 (90's) 3 X 6, 3, 5
(90's, 100's, 90)
Flat DB press
3 X 4 (85's) 2 X 5 (90)
Weighted Dips
2 X 5 (70) 3 X 8, 6, 6 (70)


Exercise Week 2 Week 6
Bench Press
3 X 5, 5, 4 (225) 3 X 5  (225)
Incline Dumbbell Press
2 X 4 (90, 85's) 2 X 5 (90)
Hammer str. Decline
3 X 6, 6, 5 (270) 3 X 6 (290)


As you can see, on odd weeks, I did incline dumbbell press, flat dumbbell press, and then weighted dips to finished - so mostly dumbbell work. On even weeks, I start off with flat bench pressing, incline dumbbell press, and finish with hammer strength machine decline presses.

I'm a big fan of dumbbell pressing, if you haven't noticed. Dumbbell presses offer a fuller range of motion, and another dimension is added into each rep - balancing. With dumbbells, your stabilizer muscles comes allot more into play to just balance the dumbbells. Which is why most will find that they can't dumbbell press as much as they can barbell press. But give it a little time, and your dumbbell press can be just as impressive as your barbell bench press.

Chest Workout - Shoulder Warmup

I warmup slightly different for odd and even weeks. Mainly because I perform different exercises for the chest. But I always start off by warming up the shoulders and the rotator cuffs. I grab a set of 5lb dumbbells, and do 8 to 10 reps of side laterals, front raises, and presses. Then I slowly make large circles with my arm, 6 reps rotating forward, and 6 reps rotating backward - this is done with both arms. The following is done after my shoulders are warmed up.

Week 1, 3, 5 chest warmup

I start with dumbbell incline presses, so this is where I warmup. At the start of my program, i could do 90's for 4 to 5 reps without much problem. I had attempted 100's once before, but was unsuccessful. But by week 5, I had managed to crank out 2 full reps with 100's. Here's how I warmup to 100's.

  1. I do a set with 40lb dumbbells for 8 to 10 reps
  2. I do a set with 60lb dumbbells for 8 reps (sometimes 6)
  3. I do a set with 80lb dumbbells for just 2 reps
  4. Then I pick up either the 90's, 95's, or 100's, whatever weight I'm using for that day, and perform 3 sets.

Week 2, 4, 6 warmup

I start with barbell bench press, so I warmup on this. Here's how I warmup to 225lbs.

  1. I do a set of 12 reps with just the bar
  2. I load up 1 plate each side (135lbs) and do 10 reps
  3. I add a 25lb plate each side (185lbs) and do 6 reps
  4. Finally, I take off the 25lb plates, and add another 45lb plate, and do my regular 3 sets

After the warmups are done, I go on and perform the remaining chest exercises as listed in the charts above.

I think the exercises listed are pretty straight forward, so I won't describe them. But a quick word on weighted dips.

You want a fully developed chest, right? To get the fullness of the lower and outer chest, weighted dips work fantastic. It maybe hard to perform for beginners, especially if your triceps are weaker. But give it time, and it'll catch up. The more forward you lean when doing dips, the more your chest will get involved, and less so for your triceps.

Start with just your own body weight, and if you have a tough time working with your own body weight, you can either use a spot to help give you a light spot either by holding your waist or your knees. Or, if your gym has one of those dip / chinup machines which helps lighten your weight, use that.   Eventually, you can work your way up to adding additional weights. At a light weight of 156lbs, dips using my body weight doesn't do much for me, and I've worked my way up to adding another 70lbs doing weighted dips.

Your gym should have a weight belt - I'm not talking about those for back support. These belts hang loosely around your waist, and have a metal chain attached to it. Put the belt on, and wrap the chain around the weights, and you're set. If you're not sure how to use the weight belt, just ask for some assistance. ;-)

>> Continue to part 7 (back muscle)

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