shock your chest into growing
Let’s wake those pecs up. They’ve fallen asleep as of late, haven’t really grown any bigger or stronger in months. And can you blame them? Week in, week out, your chest routine, we’re guessing, is glaringly stagnant – inclines, followed by flat bench, then maybe some declines, flyes, pec deck, etc., always in the same rep range. Sound familiar?
It’s time to throw a wrench into your pec training with some hardcore, intense, extreme techniques, all intended to spark new muscle growth and take your chest beyond where it’s ever been. The following 10 chest-shocking methods have been tried many times over by expert trainers, champion bodybuilders and muscle-hungry gym rats with smashing success. So give them all a try (just not in the same workout – that’s cruel) and when your pecs refuse to go back into hibernation, feel free to blame us.
1) Train Chest Two Days in a Row
Why to do it: Forcing a stubborn bodypart to grow takes serious action, and no practice is more serious than training a muscle two days in a row. It may sound extreme, but it works. We like to refer to this method as “priming the pump,” where the first day of training employs high-rep sets to open up the muscles to take in more nutrients for the next day’s session, which will be a heavier workout. Our only caution is to not use this technique too often (do it for a month, then step away from it for at least a couple months), so as to avoid overtraining.
What to do: Pick two consecutive days on which to train chest. The first day, do only single-joint, isolation exercises from at least four different angles – pullovers, cable crossovers standing upright and bent-over, incline, flat and/or decline flyes, etc. – and keep the reps high, at around 25-30. Do around 16 total sets this day, without going to failure of any of them. The next day, after consuming an abundance of protein and carbs following the first workout, go heavier (6-12 reps) and train to failure on all compound exercises (flat, incline, decline dumbbell and/or barbell presses). Do a total of 16-20 sets on these moves, and then take a full week off from training pecs.
2) Increase Your Reps
Why to do it: It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of working in the same rep range week after week, month after, and (dare we say) year after year. Most common are individuals who are married to sets of 6-10 reps. If that’s your situation, take a brief hiatus by dropping the weight and using higher reps, which will help bust through any plateau you find yourself in. “While I’m a proponent of low volume training,” says IFBB pro bodybuilder Mark Dugdale, “I do think it’s important to take a couple weeks every few months and do high reps – high being around 20 reps per set. Often we fail [in a given set] due to lack of muscle endurance rather than actual muscle failure. Building up this endurance with a couple weeks of high reps helps overcome this problem.”
What to do: For the next two weeks, don’t worry about changing the exercises you do, or even the total number of sets per chest workout. Do 3-4 sets of each exercise with no fewer than 20 reps. If you underestimate the amount of weight you should use, no problem – do 25 or 30 reps (or more) that set and add some resistance for the next.
3) Rest Pause to 40
Why to do it: The whole point of doing rest-pauses is to do more reps than you’d normally be able to do with a given weight in a given set. For example, say your 6RM on bench press is 250 pounds. You can do more than six reps in a set by doing 2-3 reps, then resting for a short period of time, doing 2-3 more, and repeating this until you’ve reached a desired number of reps (10, 20 or even more). That’s one rest-pause set. The benefit of this technique is obvious: To perform more work (albeit over a slightly longer period of time) and thus overload the muscles in an attempt to stimulate more growth than can be achieved by straight sets alone.
What to do: On either flat-bench or incline dumbbell presses, choose a weight that’s approximately your 5-6RM. Do two reps at a time, resting 15-20 seconds between each pair, and go as high as 40 total reps. Due to the immense intensity and volume of work this entails, don’t do more than one rest-pause set in this manner.
4) Go Down the Rack
Why to do it: While on rest-pauses you extend a set by giving yourself more rest to complete, sometimes doing some good hardcore drop sets, where you essentially don’t rest at all, is just what your pecs need to start growing. In this case, we’re dealing with dumbbell presses (either flat-bench or incline), which means you’ll be going down the rack. “This overload of continuous sets will really shock those stubborn pecs,” says Jim Ryno, owner of LIFT, a private personal training facility in Ramsey, New Jersey (InsideLift.com). “This technique works best with virtually no rest between sets, so be sure to move quickly when changing weights.”
What to do: Select a pair of dumbbells on flat or incline presses that you would normally do for a set of eight reps. Complete the set as usual, but instead of stopping, immediately go back to the rack, grab a pair of dumbbells that are 20 pounds lighter, and rep those out to failure. Proceed to go down the rack in 20-pound increments, going to failure with each weight, until you’re literally using 15-20-pound dumbbells. Do this 2-3 times total as your last sets for compound exercises that day.
5) Pre-Exhaust the Pecs
Why to do it: The pre-exhaustion technique, where you do single-joint exercises before compound movements in given workout (the opposite of what most people would typically do), is especially useful for training chest. Reason being, the triceps often tire out before the pecs on pressing exercises. By doing your isolation work first, you all but guarantee that the pecs will fatigue first, which, after all, is the whole point of training chest. Besides, anything different is a good bet for sparking new gains. “With this reverse order of exercises,” says Ryno, “you’ll be hitting the pecs in a unique way, giving your chest muscles a stimulus they’re not use to.
What to do: The next time you train chest, do all isolation exercises (cable crossovers, flyes, pullovers) first in your workout, making sure to exhaust the pecs by any means necessary – training to failure on every set, doing drop sets, rest-pauses, etc. Follow that with your pressing exercises (flat, incline, decline dumbbell and/or barbell presses). Exercise selection should go something like this: 2-3 isolation exercises followed by 2-3 compound moves.