Last week’s Leg Day post was fairly well-received so I figured we’d keep the train rolling and move on to the next muscle group I train during the week. I should also state here that, updated from last week, I’ve changed my program to a five-day split so the remainder of this series will follow said split.
We hit those legs in last week’s post, so let’s hit chest this week, shall we?
I don’t usually do a proper warm-up for chest day, but if you want to get the blood pumping, you can’t go wrong with a few minutes of skipping rope. If you want a functional stretch on the muscles we’re about to obliterate, you can do a few sets of push-ups. Again, I typically save all stretching for after the workout is complete.
Go Heavy: Barbell Incline Bench Press
4 sets; 8 reps; Rest 90 seconds Primary: Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps
Starting heavy again this week. If you notice in the gif, you’ll see that I’m using a Smith Machine but you can use a standard set up for incline press if you so desire. There’s arguments both for and against the Smith, but I choose to do this exercise with it because my focus is on pushing heavy weight. A Smith will allow you to do that without having to stabilize. Don’t worry, though, there are some stabilization exercises coming up.
This is like all other exercises in this series in that when it’s the heavy exercise, we’re going to warm-up to the weight first. The first thing you’re going to do is position your bench and simply press the bar 10 times.
Next, you’ll want to take 50% of your working weight for the day and load the bar with it, keeping in mind Olympic barbells weigh 45 pounds. If you’re using a Smith machine and you’re not sure how much the bar weighs, ask someone at your gym as these vary. If you’ve never done an incline press, you can skip this step and just start by adding weight to the bar little bits at a time until you get to a weight that’s challenging for the allotted sets/reps. With the 50% load, we’re looking to get in 10 more reps.
Now it’s time to work. Load the bar with your working weight for the day and start repping it out. We’re going for 4 sets of 8 reps, resting 90 seconds between sets. Bring the bar down all the way to your chest, keep your breathing even and don’t be afraid to throw another 5 pounds on it if the set seemed easy.
At the end of the exercise, you will have done 52 reps. Rest a couple of minutes and then move on to the following superset.
(1/2) Superset: Dumbbell Bench Press
3 sets; 10 reps Primary: Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps
Remember when I said we were going to be doing some stabilization exercises? That starts right now with these dumbbell bench presses. Start off with a couple of dumbbells held hammer-style, elbows bent and down by your side as you lay on a flat bench. Take a deep breath and exhale as you press the weights straight up, slightly rotating your wrists so the weights go from vertical to horizontal. Stay in full control here — no need to clank the weights together at the top if you can help it. Inhale as you slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
You’re looking to complete 3 sets of 10 reps. You may not feel this immediately, but if the reps aren’t challenging by about the halfway point of each set, you should choose a higher weight. Once you complete your 10th rep of each set, take half a breath and immediately move on to the second move in the superset.
(2/2) Superset: Dumbbell Chest Flyes
3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds Primary: Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps
You’ll probably want to get a lighter weight for this exercise as your arms are going to end up pretty far away from your body at the bottom of each rep. You’ll start this move laying flat on the bench with your dumbbells held in a neutral position, arms held straight up as if you’ve just pressed them. Take a big breath, then slowly retract your shoulder blades and unlock your elbows as you lower the weights to your sides. Do not rotate your wrists. From the “bottom” position, simply reverse the move by contracting your pecs to raise the weights back up to the starting position, elbows again locked.
You want to complete 3 sets of 10 reps. Since this is the second of two moves in this superset, you raise up, drop the weights and take a 60 second rest before going back to the top for the next set of dumbbell bench press. After you’ve completed the superset 3 times, you can move on to the next move.
Standing Cable Flyes
2 sets; 15 reps; Rest 45 seconds Primary: Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps
An important skill for any gym-goer, be you a meathead or otherwise, is to reasonably improvise when a piece of equipment either isn’t available or is occupied. This move can be done with a standard double-ended cable/machine set-up, but since my gym doesn’t have that, I use two identical resistance bands tied to the corners of our Smith machine.
If you’re using a machine with cables, you’ll likely just stand between the two ends of the machine and hold the handles of the cables in each hand with your arms out to your side, elbows bent very much like the bottom portion of the dumbbell flies only you’re vertical at this point. If you’re using bands, take enough steps away from whatever your base is to create a sufficient amount of tension on the bands with your arms out to your side just like the dumbbell flyes.
No matter your set up, start out with your left leg forward, right foot back, both heels flat on the ground. Take a deep breath and exhale as you contract your pecs to bring the handles out in front of you. Slowly breathe in as you retract your shoulders and return to the starting position.
Only 2 sets of this, but you can do a third if you’re having fun. I do 15 reps, take a 45 second break, then get back into position, this time with my RIGHT foot forward. 15 reps later, I’m ready for the final exercise.
Finisher: Push-Up Variations
3 sets; 15 reps (5x5x5); Rest 60 seconds Primary: Pecs — Secondary: Abs; Shoulders; Triceps
Find a bench — or a chair — or anything that’s a couple of feet off the ground. You’re going to do 15 push-ups for each set but you’re going to break it down into 3 styles, starting with an incline. Start with your hands at shoulder width (or wider) on a bench, your feet back far enough to allow you to hold a plank in the incline position. From here, complete 5 push-ups with good form (back straight, hips up).
Now we’re going to work our way “down.” Once you finish your 5th rep, immediately put both hands on the ground and bust out 5 more push-ups with proper form. After the 5th (10th total) rep, we’re going to finish at the “bottom” by putting our feet up on the bench and completing 5 decline push-ups with perfect form.
If you can’t finish all 5 push-ups with perfect form in any given set, stop, take a short break and finish the set. Your strength will grow considerably in a short amount of time with this circuit, I promise. You’re also getting a bit of a core workout here by holding your plank position for a total of 45 reps!
Have you finished your 45th rep? Then guess what? YOU’RE DONE!
Mix up a protein shake and feel free to do as much stretching as you need. I typically do the same stretching routine after every workout, but if you want to focus on your chest and shoulders, that would be smart. Don’t neglect the rest of your body, though. Your triceps, back, hips and legs did a lot of work today, too, even if they weren’t the focus of these exercises.
Just like last week, I’ve put together a printable version of this workout that you can use any time. I’ve included blank spaces for you to input your working weight and take a few notes so please take advantage of it.
Enjoy and let me know how it treats you. Do you already have a chest day routine? Share it with me! And stick around because with any luck, next Sunday I’ll be publishing Shoulder Day!