Chest workouts

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There are no shortcuts to building a truly pecs-tacular chest. Just as with anything worth achieving, it takes dedication and regular training. It also, more uniquely, takes a library of chest exercises that extends beyond the standard bench press and press-ups. The dedication will need to come from inside you, but the good news is that we can help with a training plan containing a variety of chest exercises that’s sure to result in a bigger, stronger chest if you follow it to the letter.

The four-week plan involves training four times a week. Two of the weekly sessions focus on the chest, while the other two are full-body workouts. The first of the chest workouts is designed to build strength through higher sets of lower reps. The second is a bodybuilding-style session where you do lower sets but higher reps with the aim of increasing size as well as strength. These two workouts are numbers 1 and 3 on the plan, with 2 and 4 being total-body routines that will help keep your other major muscle groups growing. There’s little point in sculpting an Atlas-like chest if the rest of your body goes to pot during the four-week plan, after all.

All the workouts are made up of five moves. The first two moves are big, compound lifts done as straight sets, so you can go heavy to push yourself as hard as possible. The final three moves make up a tri-set, which means you’ll do them in order with minimal rest until you’ve completed all the reps of the third move. Do the workouts in order, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo and rest periods detailed, and you’ll add serious size and strength to your chest, while also building bigger arms and shoulders.

Tempo training

To get the full effect from these workouts, you need to stick to the four-digit tempo code for each exercise. The first digit indicates how long in seconds you take to lower the weight, the second how long you pause at the bottom of the move, the third how long you take to lift the weight, and the final digit how long you pause at the top. X means that part of the move should be done explosively. The accumulated time under tension increases your heart rate to burn fat and break down muscle tissue so it’s rebuilt bigger and stronger. Keep each rep smooth and controlled so your muscles – not momentum – do the work.

Workout 1: Chest 1

1 Bench Press

Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 5 Tempo 10X0 Rest 60sec

Lie on a flat bench holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

2 Incline bench press

Sets 5 Reps 5 Tempo 10X0 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

3A Incline dumbbell press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Sets 4 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand by your shoulders. Brace your core, then press the weights up until your arms are straight. Lower them back to the start.

3B Incline dumbbell flye

Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 20sec

Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand above your face, with your palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them to the sides, then bring them back to the top.

3C Press-up

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Get into position with your feet together and hands underneath your shoulders. Brace your core so your body is straight from head to heels. Bend your elbows to lower your chest, then press back up powerfully.

Workout 2: Total body 1

1 Squat

Barbell back squat

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with a bar across the backs of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and core braced, squat down as deep as you can. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.

2 Chin-up

Chin-up

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Hold a bar with an underhand grip. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is higher than the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

2A Overhead press

Overhead press

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Hold a bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press the bar overhead until your arms are straight. Lower it back to the start.

2B Bent-over row

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Hold a barbell with an overhand grip, hands just outside your legs. Bend your knees slightly, brace your core, then pull the bar up, leading with your elbows. Lower it back to the start.

2C Good morning

Barbell good morning

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Stand tall holding a light barbell across the backs of your shoulders, feet shoulder-width apart. With your core braced, bend forwards slowly from the hips, as far as your hamstrings allow but not past horizontal. Return to the start.

Workout 3: Chest 2

This uses the same moves as Workout 1 but with different protocols – low sets and high reps to focus on increasing muscle mass

1 Incline bench press

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 4010 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

2 Bench press

Bench press

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 4010 Rest 60sec

Lie on a flat bench holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start

3A Incline dumbbell press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 3010 Rest 20sec

Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand by your shoulders. Brace your core, then press the weights up until your arms are straight. Lower them back to the start.

3B Incline dumbbell flye

Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand above your face, with your palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them to the sides, then bring them back to the top.

3C Press-up

Sets 3 Reps 20 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Get into position with your feet together and hands underneath your shoulders. Brace your core so your body is straight from head to heels. Bend your elbows to lower your chest, then press back up powerfully.

Workout 4: Total body 2

1 Front squat

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with a bar across the front of your shoulders with elbows up. Keeping your core braced, squat down as deep as you can. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.

2 Rack pull

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a barbell resting on safety bars at knee height. Using a double overhand grip, bend down and deadlift the bar up, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top.

3A Standing dumbbell biceps curl

Dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Stand with dumbbells by your sides, palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows tucked in, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps at the top. Lower them back to the start.

3B Triceps extension

Dumbbell triceps extension

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2111 Rest 20sec

Stand tall holding a dumbbell over your head with both hands, arms straight. Keeping your chest up, lower the weight behind your head, then raise it back to the start.

3C Lateral raise

Dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand with palms facing. Keeping your chest up and a bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height, then lower back to the start.