The One-Stop Shopping Chest Workout

Some of my friends have, on occasion, asked me what I do at the gym.

This is not because they are in awe of my shredded physique. Far be it from me to suggest that either my body or my lifting creds are impressive.

Exactly.

Exactly.

They ask because they know that I go. And friends – that’s half the battle of fitness: getting out of bed, or out of the office, or away from the kids, and just getting to the gym. Going regularly is hard, and sometimes people who don’t consider themselves regular gymgoers feel awkward when they get there. They don’t know what to do, and they feel like they need to just pick up a weight and move it around in some vague way. Don’t do it! You could hurt yourself.

I thought I’d give an example of a great chest workout. I work chest once a week, maybe twice, and I work for strength. As with many of you, I assume, I am not going for massive, rippling pecs. I couldn’t get them even if I wanted to. What I’m going for is a strong, developed chest, so that if I’m ever trapped under a horse-drawn carriage, I can push it off myself and save my own life.

Please keep in mind that I am not a personal trainer, athletic coach, or fitness expert. (HA.) I am merely someone who goes to the gym forever, and I am just detailing what I personally like to do while I am there.

This workout is swell because it allows you to totally bogart one single bench in the gym for an hour. You don’t need to go anywhere else; you’re going to be working your pectoralis major (the upper chest) your pectoralis minor (the lower chest) and your triceps, which are good to work in on chest day because they, like the chest, are the muscles responsible for pushing.

So, let’s build some strength!

Exercise 1: Bench Press.

bench

If you’re doing a serious chest workout, a bench press is an essential exercise to work into your routine. When you bench, be sure to come all the way down and touch the bar to your chest, right around nipple height. Don’t lift your butt off the seat; you could really hurt your back that way. Plant both feet securely on the floor so you’re not dancing, and make sure you’re grasping the bar evenly.

Set 1: Pick a weight with which you can do 12-15 reps. By the 12th or 13th rep, you should be really struggling.

Set 2: Increase the weight slightly, do 10-12 reps.

Set 3: Increase again, 8-10 reps.

Set 4: Increase again, 6-8 reps.

Exercise 2: Dumbbell Bench Press.

dumbbell

Switch our your barbell for some dumbbells. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to do as much weight as you did with the barbell, because it is more difficult to stabilize the dumbbells. You also won’t be able to touch your chest, but go down until your upper arms are about parallel with the floor.

Set 1: 10-12 reps.

Set 2: Increase the weight, 8-10 reps.

Set 3: Increase the weight, 6-8 reps.

Exercise 3: Incline Bench Press.

incline

All you have to do here is adjust your seat so that you are sitting up a little, but are still slightly reclined. Again, you may not be able to do as much weight here as you did with flat bench press. Bring the barbell down so that it dips below your chin, then bring it back up. You may notice that balancing takes some getting used to – that’s good! You’re building strength in lots of tiny muscles you never knew you had. This exercise works your upper chest.

Set 1: 10-12 reps.

Set 2: Increase the weight, 8-10 reps.

Set 3: Increase the weight, 6-8 reps.

Exercise 4: Decline Bench Press.

decline-bench-press

Now you’re going to have to adjust your seat so that you are reclining a LOT. (You may have to use a different bench; girl, I don’t know your life.) You’re actually going to be slightly upside down, with your legs locked in so you don’t tumble backwards. When you pick up the bar, you’re going to position it farther forward than in the previous exercises, because you need to fight gravity. When you bring the bar down, it’s going to touch your lower chest, around mid-rib. This is working your lower chest.

Set 1: 10-12 reps.

Set 2: Increase the weight, 8-10 reps.

Set 3: Increase the weight, 6-8 reps.

Exercise 5: Underhand Bench.

underhand

Weird, right? This exercise is going to burn out your triceps, which have already been working hard to help out your chest muscles. To do a regular bench press, you’d grab the bar like you were holding bicycle handles. This time, you’re going to grab it with your palms facing upward. Bring the bar down to your lower ribs, then back up again. (DON’T lock your elbows.)

Set 1: 12-15 reps.

Set 2: Increase the weight, 10-12 reps.

Set 3: Increase the weight, 8-10 reps.

Set 4: Increase the weight, 6-8 reps.

This workout contains a total of 17 challenging sets. Your chest and tris are going to be pretty tired at the end, and you will be one step closer to a powerful, sexy chest. NICE.

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