A thick, powerful chest that stretches the very fabric covering it – demands respect! That’s why when it comes to pec development – no one is ever satisfied! We want more!
So, regardless of your present degree of size, if you want to truly experience the kind of top-to-bottom chest growth that you’ve only dreamed about – I’ve got five must-know tips to swole up your pecs with layers upon layers of dense, awe-inducing muscle!
Indeed, there are five crucial areas that absolutely must be considered before embarking on any chest-building regimen: Prioritization, knowledge of anatomy, complete stimulation, training volume, and intensity.
A failure to properly address any one of these key muscle-building variables – each to be detailed below along with a full routine for explosive chest growth – will keep you from ever truly realizing the great pec-building potential you have. Okay, no more preamble – let’s get to work.
1. Prioritize the Pecs
Prioritization is an important way to fix a lagging chest or to further enhance an already impressive one. That’s why it’s essential to train chest when you are fresh and fully recovered.
Your pec training needs to be your focus at this time – meaning you’re going to have reduce the amount of work you perform on all other muscle groups. Remember, you can’t just add more work. If you do, you’re going to overwhelm yourself and quite possibly overtrain.
That’s why you need to balance out your overall training volume, but still put more attention on your pecs. To do this, hit them twice a week while reducing the amount of work done with other muscle groups.
By hitting pecs heavy early in the week, when energy levels are highest, and again with a higher-rep workout later in the week, more size can be achieved (provided overall training volume is kept in check). We’ll get a little more into the benefits of increased training frequency in a bit, but suffice to say for now, you need to hit them hard and often.
Finally, separate the pecs from other muscles to keep the session focused on growing them alone. This will enable you to get out of the gym sooner and initiate the recovery process faster with key nutrients essential for maximizing growth. Remember, you grow outside of the gym, not in it.
2. Know Your Chest
While you don’t need your doctorate in sports physiology, it’s important to have a reasonable understanding of a muscle’s basic anatomy and how it works.
For a fully developed chest, we must target both heads of the pec major (the thick triangular muscle situated on both sides of the chest): the clavicular head (or upper chest) and the sternal head (lower chest).
While most chest-building movements hit both heads to a certain degree, it’s important to realize that certain sections can, and should be, emphasized with specific movements.7 Thus, for full pec engagement and development, it’s important to hit both heads equally with a wide range of different exercises.
Due to having several sites of attachment, the pec major should preferentially be targeted with several different types of pressing movement. While research has shown that regular flat bench presses sufficiently engage both heads of the pec major, research also points to the fact that tension can, and should, be isolated to specific parts of the chest. 2, 3, 4
As such, to maximally target the sternal head, a movement which best replicates its primary function of shoulder extension can be used. Any action which requires the pushing down of the arms from an overhead position will more forcefully activate this lower region – in other words, chest dips and decline press.7
The same research shows that greater activation of the clavicular head is best achieved with any movement that best replicates its main motion of shoulder flexion (reaching overhead) – various forms of incline press (particularly with a close grip) are perfect in this instance.7, 17
Given that both heads of the pec major are responsible for horizontal adduction and internal rotation (pulling the arm across the body and rotating the shoulder toward the midline of the body, respectively), it’s also important to include movements, which bring the arms together at the top of the lift. This makes various types of dumbbell presses and flyes especially worthy additions to any good pec-building program.
3. Use A Variety of Angles and Rep Ranges
The research is clear: Whether training with high loads (and lower reps) or low loads (and higher reps), the major determining factor in whether a muscle is likely to grow is the extent to which it has been fully stimulated.
Whether the reps are high or low, factors such as training to failure, proper movement execution and isolation of, and blood flow to, the target muscle must be factored in when aiming to achieve complete pec development.16 (But don’t worry – I’ve got the “PERFECT” Chest Specialization Plan to follow that takes all of this into consideration.)
For some, however, lifting enough weight to sustain an aneurysm on a few basic compound lifts appears to be the only strategy to packing on size. This approach may work to a degree, but there are much better ways to build phenomenal pecs.
To “cover all the bases” and ensure the pecs are properly stimulated, it’s best to train them with a variety of different approaches.
Heavy weights and low-to-moderate reps must always be included when seeking supreme chest size and strength, as such an approach preferentially increases the rate of myofibrillar hypertrophy (the rod-like structures within muscles which produce force), whereas lighter lifting is said to produce more in the way of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (the fluid part of a muscle in which the myofibrils are embedded).
Training heavier thus may lead to denser, stronger, and more functional muscles while lighter loads and higher reps may result in pronounced cellular swelling (Read: You get “swole”!).16 However, building stellar pecs is not that simple.
Further studies show that higher reps can also produce a degree of myofibrillar hypertrophy while leading to greater levels of metabolic stress.5, 6, 10 Metabolic stress (the accumulation of metabolic byproducts such as lactate in muscle) can, by itself, increase muscle protein synthesis (building).
Higher reps may also allow the lifter to control the movement better, recruit more muscle fibers and keep tension on the working muscles for longer – all of which are important for muscular growth.
Bottom line: Both heavy and light training activate the “muscle machinery” necessary to build thick slabs of muscle.6, 10, 20
Whether we choose to train heavy or light, complete pec growth can only be achieved with a wide selection of movements, with a focus on hitting a maximum number of fibers from multiple angles.
So, be sure to not only work the pecs horizontally and with incline/decline movements, but also adjust the degree of incline/decline and attack them from the sides with a good selection of flye/crossover variations. (Once again – I’ve got you covered with the “PERFECT” Chest Specialization Plan to follow.)
4. Increase Pec Training Volume
You’ve had it drilled into your head that rest and recovery are essential prerequisites for lean mass gains… and they are. However, perhaps you’ve taken this notion too far to where you’re not doing enough to stimulate pec growth to the fullest possible extent. Or perhaps, you’re doing too much at once and not enough over time.
The key point to remember when aiming for maximum size is that training volume is only important to the extent that it progressively stimulates ongoing gains in lean muscle. Therefore, when specializing, overall pec training volume must be taken into account and acted upon.
With this in mind, twice weekly training gives the pecs a greater opportunity to grow via more frequent bouts of muscle protein synthesis, without making excessive inroads into recovery.
While weekly training sessions, which exceeded one hour in duration for individual muscle groups were once the norm, experts now believe that more frequent bouts are best.9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 19
Done correctly, a training session can promote post-workout protein synthesis for up to 48 hours for beginners (around 16 hours for more experienced lifters).12, 18 Since, muscle growth is dependent upon protein synthesis, the logical conclusion would be to, within reason, repeat this cycle as often as possible. Remember: We only grow to the degree to which muscle protein synthesis occurs. Once it stops, we stop growing.
By training a body part once a week (A.K.A. “Bro Splits”), we spend 5-6 days essentially failing to grow. On the other hand, training a muscle group – in this case, the pecs – twice a week we effectively double the amount of growth which may occur.12
5. Up the Intensity
Some lifters think they are training hard enough, but, in reality, they are merely coasting. If you’re not struggling to hit those final reps, you’ve probably not done enough to adequately challenge the muscles.
Intensity is a crucial training factor that forces a muscle to grow. As we transition from beginner to intermediate to advanced lifter (and beyond) we must look for newer and more effective ways to stimulate further muscle gains.
Muscle is the most remarkably adaptive of tissues and for bodybuilding purposes it must be treated as such. Give muscle enough of a stimulus and it will be forced to adapt (become larger and stronger). The right amount of training intensity remains the best way to promote ongoing muscular adaptations.
Thus, for a massive chest, always seek to periodically add more weight in order to place more growth stimulating tension on the pecs. However, upping the resistance and/or reps is not the only way to increase intensity and induce impressive size gains.
By employing a range of intensity methods, you can challenge the pecs to work harder, pump up faster and grow to withstand further such challenges.
Fortunately, the pressing motion and range of movements required for complete pec stimulation lend themselves perfectly to four of the best intensity methods ever devised: drop sets, rest/pause, heavy negatives and supersets.
Drop sets increase intensity by allowing the lifter to continue when fatigue sets in. For the workout to follow we will incorporate triple-drops. After the first set, strip 30 percent of the weight off the bar (or select lighter dumbbells accordingly) and complete another set with minimal rest in between. Repeat, and do a third set.
For rest/pause, upon achieving failure (not an oxymoron when it comes to training), do not rack the weight but, instead, pause for a three-count, then crank out another rep. Repeat for three further reps.
For negatives, select a weight that will only allow 2-3 full reps and, upon reaching failure, have a partner assist you on the positive while you work to control the weight on the negative; do 6-8 further negative reps.
For compound sets, upon completion of one set, go directly to another movement and, without resting, bang out a second set.
6. Bonus Tip: Enhance Growth with Key Supplements
By following the above steps, your pecs will have received the exact amount of stimulation needed to increase the protein synthesis that leads to spectacular gains in lean mass.1 However, even a productive workout will only take you so far. The pec specialization program to follow will not give you the results you want without the raw ingredients needed to translate reps into results.
By taking BCAA Hyper Clear during a workout, you’ll be setting yourself up for optimal gains. By supplementing with this product you’ll be feeding the muscles directly to reduce the catabolic effects of training and to, most importantly, increase mTOR signaling to engage maximum protein synthesis when a complete, fast absorbing protein is introduced post-workout to facilitate recovery and drive up muscle building by increasing the FSR (fractional synthesis rate: a key parameter characterizing protein uptake and turnover).8 Both mTOR and FSR are part of the “muscle machinery” to drive muscle growth.
Once FSR has been increased via BCAA Hyper Clear and the muscles are additionally primed for nutrient uptake via increased insulin sensitivity, it’s time to promote maximum growth with the rapidly assimilated DIESEL, CREED or PERFECT (high-grade protein formulas). Whichever is taken will depend on your specific training objectives.
The “PERFECT” Chest Specialization Plan
The following program is designed specifically to maximize pec development. It’ll require twice-weekly training for the pecs and weekly training for all other body parts.
-Drink a total of at least 2 liters of clean, fresh water before during and after training
-Take 1-2 servings of BCAA Hyper Clear during training
-Aim for failure on the final rep of each set
-Adjust weight according to rep count; lower reps will require more weight, higher reps will require less weight
-Complete resistance training in the evenings
-Complete cardio in the mornings (30 minutes after taking one serving on BCAA Supreme to safeguard against muscle losses).
-Train abs twice a week following cardio
Day 1 – Chest (Heavy Weight, Low to Moderate Reps)
Flat Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 followed by 3 heavy partner-assisted negatives on each set
Weighted Chest Dips: 3 sets of 8 followed by 4 rest-pause reps on each set
Incline Dumbbell Press compounded with Incline Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 10 per movement
Svend Press: 3 sets to failure
Day 2 – Legs
Conventional Stance-Squats: 3 sets of 10 reps
Walking Dumbbell Lunges: 3 sets of 10-12 reps (per side)
Romanian Deadlifts with Dumbbells: 3 sets of 10 reps
Lying Leg Curls: 4 sets of 8 reps
Standing Calf Raise compounded with Seated Calf Raise: 3 sets of 15 reps (per movement)
Day 3 – Rest
Day 4 – Back and Arms
¾ Deadlifts (set pins in power rack just below knee, place bar on top, go to work): 4 sets of 8 reps
Reverse-Grip Barbell Rows: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Overhand, Medium-Grip Pulldowns (to chest) compounded with Standing One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 12 reps (per movement)
Concentration Curls supersetted with One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: 3 sets of 12 reps (per movement)
Hammer Curls with Rope supersetted with Triceps Pushdowns with Rope: 3 sets of 15 reps (per movement)
Day 5 – Chest (Lighter Weight, Higher Rep)
Decline Bench Press: 3 sets of 12 reps followed by 2 triple drops
Hex Press compounded with Flat Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 10 reps
Low to High Cable Crossovers: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Smith Machine Flat Bench Press: 2 sets to failure
Day 6 – Shoulders/Traps
Seated Dumbbell Press: 4 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Side Laterals compounded with Dumbbell Front Raises: 3 sets of 10 reps (per movement)
Behind-the-Back Barbell Shrugs: 3 sets of 10 reps
Dumbbell Shrugs (to the side): 3 sets of 15 reps
Day 7 – Rest Day
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- Barnett, C. V., et al. (1995). Effects of variation on the bench press exercise on the EMG activity of five shoulder muscles. Strength Cond. Res., 9, 222-227.
- Clemons, J. et al. (1997). Effect of grip width on the myoelectric activity of the prime movers in the bench press. Strength Cond. Res., 11, 82-87.
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- Fink, J. et al. (2016).Impact of high versus low fixed loads and non-linear training loads on muscle hypertrophy, strength and force development. May 20;5(1):698.
- Jagessar, M. et al. Optimizing Development of the Pectoralis Major. The Sport Journal. [Online] https://thesportjournal.org/article/optimizing-development-of-the-pectoralis-major/ – retrieved on 7.12.18
- Jackman, S. R. (2017). Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans. Front Physiol. 2017; 8: 390 (Published online 2017 Jun 7).
- Mangine, G. T., et al. (2015).The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiol Rep. 2015 Aug; 3(8 (Published online 2015 Aug 13).
- Mitchell, C. J., et al. (2012).Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol. Jul;113(1):71-7.
- Ochi, E. et al. (2018). Higher Training Frequency Is Important for Gaining Muscular Strength Under Volume-Matched Training. Front Physiol. 2018; 9: 744 (Published online 2018 Jul 2).
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- Schoenfeld, B. J., et al. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. Nov;46(11):1689-1697.
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