There’s much more to chest day than the bench press. Don’t get us wrong: its status as your number one pec-builder is secure. But to bulk up your upper body faster and more effectively, variety is key. Here are half a dozen moves you need to supercharge muscle growth up top. Chop and change with your regular workout, or combine all six moves into a single savage routine.
Barbell Bench Press
The classics are there for a reason, but a common mistake is to struggle through your sets with too much weight. It’s important not to get into the ‘how much do you bench?’ trap. Always opt for good technique and a weight that allows you control as well as a full range of motion.
Lie back on a flat bench holding a barbell in the rack above you with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Lift the bar off the rack and position it above your chest with arms fully extended. From the starting position, breathe in and lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest. Push the bar back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out. That’s one rep. Sets: 3 Reps: 5 Rest: 90secs.
Incline Bench Cable Fly
Everyone does cable flys, but few perform them on an incline bench, which isolates your chest further. Cables are great because they allow your muscles to be under tension throughout the movement. Never allow the weights to touch down and keep your reps slow. You’ll be cursing us tomorrow, but thanking us next week.
Attach stirrup handles to the high pulleys of a cable crossover machine. Take one in each hand, your arms should be outstretched with a slight bend at the elbow. Place one foot slightly forward, brace you core, and pull the handles slightly downward and across your body until your hands meet, then return to the start position. Perform same motion on an incline bench. Sets: 3 Reps: 8 Rest: 60 secs.
Incline DB Bench Press
While the barbell is best for overall strength, shifting a single piece of iron can mask muscular imbalances. And pressing dumbbells also helps improve your form for all benching moves. The varying angles your body covers with this move allows you to stimulate the muscle in a more thorough way. If you find your form faltering under less weight than you’d normally shift with a barbell, the dumbbells are doing their job.
Lie back on a bench set to a 30-degree angle and lift the weights up to shoulder height, palms facing away from you. Breathe out as you press up with both arms. Lock out your arms and squeeze your chest before returning slowly to the start position. Sets: 3 Reps: 8 Rest: 90secs.
Decline Bench Press
Probably the least used bench variation, the decline barbell bench press allows you to hit your lower chest and draw your back and triceps heavily into the movement. This is useful for those interested in powerlifting-style bench strength. If you’re concentrating on pure strength, stack the weight a bit higher and aim for fewer reps.
Holding a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing your feet, lie back on a bench fixed to a decline setting. Start with your arms fully extended and hands over your chest, then lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest. Push the barbell back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out. Sets: 3 Reps: 5 Rest: 90secs.
Dips For Chest
You can take your leave of the bench now. Lean into this classic body weight exercise to shift the focus from your triceps to your chest as you lower. Perform with your own body weight or add a weighted belt. A dip into body weight territory will pay dividends in the mirror.
Grab the bars of a dip station with your palms facing inward and your arms straight. Slowly lower until your elbows are at right angles, ensuring they stay tucked against your body and don’t flare out. Drive yourself back up to the top and repeat. Sets: 3 Reps: 10 Rest: 90secs.
There’s almost infinite variations of this favourite, but whether you try close-grip, wide-grip, military or spiderman, try setting a timer and trying to hit a certain number like 50 (or 100) as fast as you can. Take as much or as little rest as you need to reach your target. Just don’t give up until you get there.
Set up with your weight supported on your toes and hands beneath your shoulders, body straight. Take care to keep you core locked so a straight line forms between your head, glutes and heels. Lower your body until your chest is an inch from the ground then explosively drive up by fully extending your arms.
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