“Yes, someone who does what you tell them to do.”
“Tell me again.”
“I will listen this time.”
“If listening is all you do, you won’t accomplish anything.”
“I didn’t understand before.”
“If my instructions were not clear, then you should have said something, but you did not, and chose to do nothing.”
“That’s not true.”
“Your inaction speaks volumes. Nevertheless, I will make one last attempt. After this, don’t ask me again.”
The above conversation that you have been privy to occurred with an individual who is obsessed with growing his chest. We met at a local gym so he could see one of my push workouts. I was training chest, shoulders and triceps.
The first chest exercise I told him was either dumbbell or machine chest press. I explained that I always choose an exercise that was easy on my connective tissue. I am a strong proponent of warming up my joints to facilitate heavy weights. So, it was paramount that my elbows and shoulders were sufficiently warmed up.
This particular day I chose a machine press movement. The goal was to work up to a weight that I could do for a hard set of 8. I did four feeder sets, and my first working set was 120 pounds for 10 reps. I gauge how hard a set is if by the 8th rep it starts to get difficult, but I can still squeeze out two more. Since, 120 felt easy, I increased the weight by 15. 135 was easy as well, so I raised the weight 25 more pounds. 160 pounds was the right weight because I managed eight, and felt I could have only done one more rep with good form.
The next set, which I refer to as the (money set) was the one I needed to take to failure, if I wanted my chest to grow. I pushed myself and managed 12 reps, ensuring that I left nothing in the tank. I could not do another rep with good form.
The next exercise was a compound movement, and I chose incline barbell chest press. Most individuals are stronger pressing on a flat bench, but when on an incline, the weight and reps they can lift drops significantly.
“To build an impressive chest,” I told him, “You must work on the upper rack, which is accomplished by doing incline presses.”
No need for a warm up set. I started with a 135 pounds. I did 10 reps fairly easy. The goal was to get to a weight that I could do for six hard reps. I raised the weight by another 10 pounds. I was able to do 8 fairly easy, but felt I had left one or two more in the tank. I raised it another 10 pounds, and rested for 3 minutes. At a 155 pounds, I was able to do six, and knew I could only do one more rep with good form.
It was time for the (money set), which as I mentioned before was the set to failure. I managed to squeeze out 10 reps. I could not do another rep with good form without running the risk of injuring myself. In order to hit the chest from multiple angles, my next exercise was a decline dumbbell chest press.
The rep range was somewhere between 8-10. This is where I gauge my progressive overload. I want to be able to pick a weight that is difficult at 8 reps, and will not go up in weight, until I am able to do 3 sets of 10. I started with 65 pounds dumbbells, and did 10 reps easily. I increased the weight by 10, and managed 8 reps with 75 pounds dumbbells. I felt I could have done one more with good form. I increased the weight by 5 more pounds. I was able to 6 reps. I could not have done another rep with good form.
I felt good. So, I did another 2 sets of 6 reps with the 80 pounds dumbbells, resting 90 seconds between each set. I like to do a high intensity technique on the third exercise. Right after I finished the last set of 6 reps, I immediately dropped the weight by 50% and doubled the reps. I now had an awesome pump.
My chest was full of blood. I needed an exercise that has an extreme range of motion, and that would stretch my chest muscles. I chose a machine fly. The goal here is to pick a weight that I could overload the muscle and safely get to failure.
I did a set of 15 reps at 120 pounds. It was fairly easy, so I increased the weight by 30 pounds. I managed 11 reps at 150 pounds. Now it was time to go out in style. Here I chose to use multiple high intensity techniques, which consisted of going to failure, force reps, partials, and an iso hold to complete annihilate every muscle fiber.
My chest was completed fried. I had loaded, fatigued and exhausted every muscle fiber. The crazed look on the individual’s face, told me all I needed to know. It wasn’t that he did not understand, but understood all too well.
After watching me go through how hard he should train, he was unwilling and chose not to do it. So, it left with me no other recourse, but to tell him, if you want to know how to build your chest again, don’t ask.