Last Updated on January 7, 2021
Here are 5 supercharged chest-blasting techniques to get your pecs out of a rut.
Pecs haven’t really grown any bigger or stronger in months? Time to throw another wrench into your pec training with some new hardcore, extreme techniques, all intended to spark new muscle growth and take your chest to the next level. The following 5 chest-shocking methods have been tried many times over by expert trainers, champion bodybuilders and muscle-hungry gym rats with smashing success.
Bench With Bands
Why to do it: Including various types of resistances in your pec training is great for shocking the muscles into getting stronger and bigger. You’re accomplishing this by training with free weights, cables and cambered machines, each of which applies a slightly different form of resistance. But yet another way of working the muscles differently entails using rubber bands. Dugdale finds bands especially beneficial on Smith Machine bench press. “Using bands increases the total workload placed on the muscle,” he says, “while unloading some of the weight at the bottom of each rep [where you’re weaker] and increasing it at the top, [where you’re at a mechanical advange].”
What to do: The next time you do Smith Machine bench press, on each side secure a band from the bar (just outside of the weight plates) to the bottom of the rack. (You’ll have to load the machine with less weight than usual to account for the added resistance of the bands.) Your technique won’t change, but you’ll notice the resistance increasing as you press the bar up. Do 2-3 sets in this manner, then either move onto your next exercise or do a set or two more without the bands.
Do Partials On Presses
Why to do it: Yet another way to train your pecs past failure is via partial reps, in which you perform reps in less than a full range of motion. “If you stop a set due to your inability to complete a full rep, you’re not taking the muscle to its true limit,” says M&F senior science editor Jim Stoppani, PhD. “If instead you continue with partial reps until you can no longer budge the weight, you’ll know that you’ve taxed the muscle to its absolute limits.” For chest, partial reps are great on Smith machine presses, other chest press machines and dumbbell press. Since the triceps play a major role in the top half of the ROM when pressing, you often end up ending the set when the triceps fail, not the chest. By doing reps in the lower half or three-quarters of your bench press ROM (after reaching full ROM failure), the triceps are no longer the limiting factor and the pecs will be taken to full fatigue.
What to do: On the last set or two of any or all of the aforementioned exercises, go to full ROM failure, then continue doing reps in the lower half to three-quarters of the ROM (all the way down, but stopping well short of full elbow extension) until you can longer push the dumbbells to the half way point.
Do A Fly-Press Combo
Why to do it: This technique is great when you’re lacking time, only have a few dumbbells available or just want to blast your pecs a little differently. It’s also a great way to use a heavier than normal weight when doing flyes, which can be a welcome break from using only light dumbbells. What this chest-shocker ends up being is something of an extended set, where flyes steadily morph into presses as the pecs get more and more fatigued.
What to do: Grab a set of dumbbells that will only allow you to complete around 5-6 reps for flyes (on an incline, flat or even decline bench). Perform as many reps as you can of strict form flyes, and then, after reaching failure, immediately change your form so that you’re doing a cross between a flye and a neutral-grip press (at the bottom of each rep, your elbows will be somewhere between full extension and 90 degrees). Perform these to failure, then immediately change your hand position and perform standard presses to failure. Do a total of three sets in this manner, resting two minutes between each.
Dip To Failure
Why to do it: What better way to bust through a plateau than with a combination of intensity-boosting techniques, not to mention one of the most tried-and-true chest exercises out there, the dip. As you’ll see below, this pec-shocker not only includes training to failure multiple times over the course of one laborious set, but also negatives and drop sets (bodyweight dips). “This is one of my all-time favorite chest-shockers,” says celebrity trainer Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS. “When you do it, just make sure it’s near the end of your workout – it’s that tough!”
What to do: Select an additional amount of weight for weighted dips that will have you fail at a somewhere around 12-15 reps. After reaching failure, immediately switch gears and do as many negatives as possible with that same weight (for the positive portion of these reps, step up to the top of the rep). When you can no longer lower yourself under control for negatives, immediately strip the additional weight and rep out to failure with only your bodyweight. That’s one set. Do this 1-2 more times.
End With A Pushup Tri-Set
Why to do it: Few bodybuilders seem to take advantage of the one chest exercise we all started out doing – push-ups – mainly because once you get some decent chest strength, you can bust out 20-50 reps without breaking a sweat. But that won’t be the case at the end of a grueling chest workout. By finishing things off with the following push-up tri-set, you’ll fry all areas of your chest by pushing fatigue to the limit.
What to do: As soon as you finish the last set of your last exercise for chest, find a flat bench. Get into a push-up position with your feet up on the bench and your hands on the floor. Pump out as many reps as you can (to failure) to blast your upper pecs, then immediately drop your feet to the floor and go to failure on standard push-ups to torch the middle pecs. After that, immediately assume a push-up position with your hands on the bench and your feet on the floor. Crank out as many reps as you can to finish off your lower pecs… then call it a day.
Shocking a bodypart into growing can be as easy as adding new exercises to the mix. Here are five chest moves you probably haven’t done in a while, if ever.
One-Arm Dumbbell Flye
The same basic form as two-arm flyes, only with a non-working hand holding onto the bench to help with balance. Cable flyes and crossovers can also be done one arm at a time.
One-Arm Machine Press
Whether on a Cybex or Hammer Strength machine, doing presses one side at a time will help minimize chest imbalances.
Exercise Ball Presses and Flyes
Doing your presses and flyes on a ball engages the core to a greater extent, but it can also provide a temporary shake-up for your pecs.
Most people do pullovers with a dumbbell, which is fine. But using a barbell on occasion (with a shoulder-width grip) will hit the pecs from a slightly different angle.
Power moves are great to include in your routine (in moderation) for busting through plateaus. After reaching the bottom position, explode up as fast as you can so that your hands literally leave the floor, then clap before they come back down.