Is it a core day or a chest day? Ask yourself that question. If it’s core, go ahead and do your dumbbell presses on an exercise ball or on a flat bench with your feet up in the air, but don’t expect to crush your pecs and build a thicker chest. For that you need sturdy benches, appreciable weights, a reliable spotter for the barbell work, and maybe some loud music, too.
Behold the following workout: It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it probably won’t satisfy those who believe in the superiority of functional training. But it should, because it’ll serve one very appealing function: building a bigger, stronger chest.
The first exercise in the routine is incline barbell press, chosen as the lead because the upper pecs are typically in greater need of thickness than the lower pecs. Doing them first will help ensure maximum intensity, because the muscles are fresh. Treat this as your heavy move for the day, keeping all of your rep counts in the single digits and employing a spotter.
The next exercise, flat-bench dumbbell press, should be treated aggressively as well. The reps are only slightly higher, so push yourself with a relatively heavy set of dumbbells, even if it means you do only nine reps on your last set.
By this point you’ll have done both an incline and a flat pressing move; dips will essentially serve as your decline press to emphasize the lower pecs. It’s tough to put a specific rep count on dips because some guys can bang out 25-plus reps consecutively while others struggle to get a half dozen.
The key here is to do as many dips as possible in the span of three sets. It’s not supposed to be easy. The cable flye is where you can drop the resistance a bit and go for a good burn to finish off the pecs in style.
Warm up sufficiently before starting this workout: 5–10 minutes of cardio, a set of push-ups, and a light set of incline barbell press before your first working set.
This routine is meant to be heavy and intense, so consider doing it on its own instead of pairing it with back, shoulders, or even triceps—your triceps will be pretty fried by the time you finish dipping.