By Ronnie Coleman, Flex
I understand your frustration. Month after month, set after se, you slam into your chest workout with everything you have. The steam of your sweat fogs the weight room, and your sucking lungs explode with every rep, sending the acrid chalk-dense air swirling like a desert storm but nothing.
The harder you train, it seems, the slower your progress. You obey all the rules using good form, hard and heavy, proper pyramiding, and a regimen so precise that the Greenwich prime meridian bends to your schedule Â but your chest remains the same. Sure, its thick, swollen and proportioned, but you want it bigger. You want to watch it grow, see it move, bulging and distorting like a Lava Lite in front of a funhouse mirror.
You are not alone. Every bodybuilder, after a couple of years of dedicated training, expects his chest to blow up like the Superdome, and when it doesnt, he is devastated and confused, so he starts changing things he shouldn't. New exercises replace old basics, rep ranges lengthen and recuperation periods protract, but all in vain. What could possibly be wrong, you ask?
From my years of experience, I can tell you that nothing is wrong. You are just not doing enough of what is right. If youÂve been faithful to the precepts of teeth-breaking mass training, the reason you have hit a plateau is that you have become satisfied with your progress and have settled in to a fixed level of intensity that will keep you big, but not make you bigger. You may be training at your limit, but you have stopped training beyond your limit.
Look at the weights I am using in these photos. I didnt get to that level by basking in the glory of having arrived there. Never have I been satisfied with where I am at the moment. I always want to go further, and I am always looking for a reconstituted jolt of intensity to take me there. Fortunately, I have been at this lifting business long enough to have discovered that the jolt of intensity that works best for me, and works 100% of the time, is my own special brand of supersets.
By now, you should know that I am fanatical about basics. Free weights and compound movements were the building blocks of my success, so I incorporate the principles they represent in everything I do, including supersets for my shock-growth programs. Just as the primary exercises of my chest workout are all with a barbell or dumbbells, so the supersets that accompany them are all compound or free-movement exercises, not fixed angles or restricted planes, as with machines.
I keep my superset movements basic to force myself to work even harder with them. Most bodybuilders use supersets merely for a final burn or pump, but I want them to multiply the difficulty of the primary exercise they follow, thereby accentuating the mass production of that primary exercise. I dont need a pump. I already achieved that from the primary exercise. My objective with supersets is to drive that pump even deeper into every nook and cranny of the muscle group. The superset exercise therefore has to be as serious and heavy as the primary exercise; in fact, since it picks up where the primary exercise leaves off, I concentrate on applying even more intensity.
I am now going to give you the chest workout I recommend for the quickest possible mass gains, but first, some important points. Every rep must be dictated by the three preeminent principles of bodybuilding: Always train 1) heavy, 2) intense and 3) with good form. Additionally, I have some personal favorites you may want to consider, in case you regard me a worthy exemplar. First, I am an adamant range-of-motion advocate. I am convinced that getting a huge stretch, or expansion, and a full contraction are big factors in the width and separation of my chest. Let your shoulders and lats move front to back as your pecs open and close.
Second, warm up judiciously. That means three warm-up sets for the first exercise of 12 reps with an empty bar for the first, 20 reps with light weight for the second. Then, for the third warm-up set, six reps with the same weight youÂll use for your first working set. For your second and third primary exercises, do one warm-up set each, to familiarize yourself with the weight and the movement.
Stay with the following sequence of primary exercises for 12 weeks, getting in two workouts every week. Annealed mass needs to be hammered into your pecs until they ring like an anvil when the barbell hits them. That takes time. At the end of each month, you may switch superset exercises, trying different primary-superset combinations. The new pairing should generate more unbearable torture. Never, however, change the order of primary exercises. It should always be bench presses, incline dumbbell presses, then incline dumbbell flyes.
Superset #1: Bench Presses with Cable Crossovers
You can't maximize chest mass without flat-bench presses. No other position and no other movement applies as much weight resistance to the total chest complex as this exercise; thus, no other exercise distributes as much muscle development over the entire bodypart. It follows, also, that you must go as heavy as possible with these and exaggerate your range of motion. Draw your lats together under your back as you lower the bar all the way to your chest, then spread your wings as you press, letting your shoulders and lats help push your pecs together while you press all the way to the top.
When your pecs are dead and you can no longer move the bar, go immediately to cable crossovers (which you have already preset with the right weight) and power out as many full reps as you can, letting the cables draw your arms backward, past 180 degrees, so they are slightly behind you. Then, tense your pec muscles to pull your arms all the way forward, touching the handles together in front of you. Keep your arms straight throughout, and do not let them angle downward at any time. Arm movement must be through a horizontal plane.
This nonstop sequence (primary exercise plus superset exercise) constitutes one superset. Rest until sensation is restored in your pecs and you can once again breathe, then repeat the sequence three more times, for a total of four supersets. Rep sequence for the bench press should be 12, 10, eight and seven. For cable crossovers, stay with 15 repetitions for all four sets.
Superset #2: Incline Dumbbell Presses with Pushups
With the total chest muscle group now pre-exhausted, other localized areas from the top of the pecs, to the strap of muscle at the bottom of them, to the extreme lateral pecs are more susceptible to direct stresses from this second combination, and that means more efficient deposition of muscle mass in these otherwise hard-to-reach regions.
You need to get to the heavy sets of these incline dumbbell presses quickly, so do only one warm-up set. Its purpose is to acquaint you with the new angle of movement and the stability of the dumbbells, so choose a poundage that provides substantial resistance within 15 reps. Any heavier, and it will be a working set instead of a warm-up; any lighter, and it wouldn't indicate to you how much strength will be needed to stabilize your heaviest sets.
Your first working set of incline dumbbell presses should be to failure at 12 reps. As soon as you end the set, place the dumbbells on the floor (do not drop them), then get down and immediately do a set of pushups to failure.
That's one superset. Now, repeat the sequence three times, for a total of four supersets. Your incline dumbbell press repetitions for the remaining three sets should be 10, 10 and eight. Again, make sure those are to failure. Your pushup repetitions will probably drop considerably each time, but count them, nonetheless, to give yourself a goal to surpass in your next workout.
Superset #3: Incline Dumbbell Flys with Dips
If you think its been tough so far, hang on. In the previous supersets, you were pushing bone-snapping weight and frying muscle fibers with reps, but here you are screaming for every last erg of strength in your soul, just to prevent these movements from tearing your chest asunder from every direction. Incline dumbbell flys with dips is my favorite and most fearsome superset, because it leaves no doubt which muscle insertions are about to become detached. You go home hurting, but you go home proud.
A warm-up for incline dumbbell flys is crucial. Because of the extreme stretch of the movement, your pecs need to be optimally flexible and filled with blood, so choose a warm-up weight that will give your chest a slight pump from one set of 20 reps.
Your first working set for flys should be for 12 reps, struggling, but not straining, to get the last one. Remember: Your pecs are in a vulnerable position here. Concentrate on control. Keep your pec muscles flexed and taut throughout the set. Lock your arms in a nearly straight position, with only a slight crook in your elbows, and hold the dumbbells level at all times. Resist as you allow your pecs, not your shoulders, to lower your arms out to your sides and down to horizontal or slightly lower. Likewise, use your pecs, not your shoulders or arms, to raise the dumbbells, beginning by contracting your pec muscles at their centerline tie-ins, then gradually enlist the rest of the muscles by working the contraction toward the outside of the pecs.
Without rest, go immediately to the dip bar and pump out as many repetitions as you can. Since your pecs are also in a vulnerable position with this exercise, do not struggle, bounce or cheat as you approach failure. At the same time, get the most out of the reps by keeping your movements tight, all the way up and all the way down. Feel the stretch and burn in your outer and lower pecs.
That's one superset. Repeat the sequence three more times, for a total of four supersets, except that repetitions for incline dumbbell flys should remain at 10 for the remaining sets.
At the end of the 12 weeks, take a one-week break from the gym and then return to a more orthodox pec program. If you want to try this 12-week shocker again, leave at least eight weeks between cycles. Follow this program twice a week for 12 weeks, use a full range of motion, and apply yourself honestly and consistently and gains will come.