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The Foundation Training Series: Chest Day



Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Training Articles
By Terry Goodlad | Feb 21, 2007



By Terry Goodlad

It's the only thing left for the fire department to save once flames take hold and turn a lifetime of memories into a dump-truck full of ashes. It's what kept child star Ronnie Howard from turning out like child star Danny Bonaduce, and it's the singular fundamental element that will make you into a bodybuilder rather than just a guy who lifts weights. It's your foundation, both physical and mental. The foundation is the base on which all things are built, the template that all decisions are measured against, and in that foundation the cause of every failure or weakness can be found. Nothing in life, and certainly nothing in bodybuilding, is more important that building a strong and complete foundation. This Foundation Training Series is about building a strong foundation both physically and mentally that will stand the test of time with determination, patience, and an unshakable and fearless work ethic.

Under Construction - Chest Day

Few body parts are as satisfying to train as your chest. You can see it swell up before your eyes, filling up your shirt, and it gives your whole upper body a look of thickness and strength. If you are honest, you have to admit you can't finish a set without checking the mirror at least once and giving those slabs of engorged muscle a good squeeze, just because you can. A pumped chest feels good, it looks good, and people notice it. Few people dislike training chest so that can make chest day very easy. But don't make the mistake of taking it lightly. Training your chest can be a complex issue because it's very easy for other muscle groups to take over the work and in some cases, for injuries to occur. First of all, there is the temptation to use too much weight simply because we are men and men have competitive egos. Since man first discovered the barbell they have been measured by how much they bench. Sure the scholarly bodybuilder will tell you it doesn't matter how much weight you use to train chest. That is until it's his chest day and damn straight he's going to try and impress whoever is watching by lifting as heavy as he can. If he wisely opts to go lighter, it will be with an explanation of why it's better that he doesn't go heavy...almost as if he needed to explain a physical inadequacy. The most important thing to draw from this article is that your chest is like any other muscle group. It needs to be stressed to grow and to stress it properly you must concentrate on the stretch and contraction of each and every rep, isolating the work as much as possible on the pec muscles. If you are more concerned about impressing some meathead watching you bench press and could care less if you blow a rotator cuff, then you need to re-evaluate your decision to be a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding is about building your body. You impress people with how your body looks on stage and not what it can do in the weight room. In the weight room, you gain respect from other top bodybuilders when you train to build your body rather than train to try and impress people with how strong you are. Long before you walk into the gym for a workout, take time to get your head straight and embrace the concept of leaving your ego at the door and just training your muscles. It will be easier to do that if you can associate training your ego rather than your body as a negative or the opposite of what you want to be. For instance, a pro would never give the opposition an opportunity to beat him by wasting even just one precious workout training stupidly. Flexibility in the shoulder, triceps and biceps is vitally important to all chest training. The shoulder joint is very complex and also very vulnerable to injury. Stretching all the muscles that originate from the shoulder joint in a wide variety of angles is absolutely imperative. If your muscles are inflexible then as you lower the weight to your chest and your chest muscles reach their flexibility limit before the bar has completed its downward decent, more strain will be placed on other muscles like your shoulders (or worse yet, connective tissue). Using your shoulders in a chest exercise will just make them grow faster than your chest, but over-stressing a joint can cause all sorts of injuries including muscle, ligament and/or tendon tears. A good idea is to start with partial movements, slowly increasing the range of motion through the set while you are warming up. That will help prevent you from stretching your chest past the limit while under a load and either hurting yourself or putting the stress on your front deltoids and making them do the work. Stretch between sets and by the time you get 3 good warm-up and stretching sets done, you should be far more flexible as well as warmed up to train hard. Your rotator cuff is very vulnerable during chest training and needs to be strengthened. Start each workout laying face down on a flat bench with your right arm perpendicular to your body and with your hand facing the floor and forearm parallel to the floor. Bend the elbow 90 degrees. Using a light weight in your hand (5 to 15 lbs) and without moving your elbow, slowly lower the hand as far as it will comfortably go making the upper arm rotate in the shoulder socket. then raise the weight up as far as it will go without the elbow changing positions. After completing a set of 10 rotations on each shoulder you can roll onto your back and perform the same exercise but with your palm facing the ceiling. Weeks 1 through 3
  • Start each workout with a 5 minute ride on the stationary bike to warm your body.
  • You will pre-fatigue muscle groups with a concentration exercise before using heavier compound exercises so you can get a pump and physically feel the muscle group you are working, thereby easily identifying it in your mind so you can concentrate on it. If it's pumped you can feel it working easier.
  • At the peak of each movement, hold the contraction for about one second, contracting as hard as you possibly can. Use a weight about 50% to 70% of your maximum normal training poundages.
  • Stretch between sets and rest long enough so that you can contract hard and feel a pump through the workout.
  • Do 3 warm-up sets of cable cross-overs at the start of your workout. Do each rep slowly and only do partial movements, limiting the stretch thereby keeping the tension on your chest and not transferring it to your front delts. Hold the contraction for a count of 5 for 5 reps then perform 5 reps faster without the peak contraction, then do 5 more slowly and hold each rep for a count of 5 again. Your chest should be pumped by the time you start your working sets.
  • Keep tension on your pecs through the entire movement. There should never be a time where you feel your chest relax.
Exercise Sets Reps
Cable crossover - warmup (lower cables to shoulder ht) 3 15
Flat Smith Machine Bench Press 3 12
Decline Smith Machine Press 3 12
Incline Smith Machine Press 3 12
Week 4
  • Warm-up the same as always.
  • Do 3 warm-up sets of cable cross-overs at the start of your workout. Do each rep slowly and only do partial movements, limiting the stretch thereby keeping the tension on your chest and not transferring it to your front delts. Hold the contraction for a count of 5 for 5 reps then perform 5 reps faster without the peak contraction, then do 5 more slowly and hold each rep for a count of 5 again. Your chest should be pumped by the time you start your working sets.
  • This week add weight to your working sets so you are at about 70% to 80% of your normal working weight.
  • Stretch in between sets
  • Maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep and constant tension on your pecs.
Exercise Sets Reps
Cable Crossover (use 20% of your usual resistance) 3 15
Decline Dumbbell Press 3 8
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 8
Dumbbell Pullovers, arms bent 3 8
Pushups, full and quick elbows out 3 30
Week 5
  • Same warm-up as always.
  • Increase your working poundages to 80% to 90% of your normal working weight.
  • Stretch in between sets.
  • Maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Cable Crossovers 3 15
Flat Dumbbell Press 3 8
Decline Smith machine press 3 8
Incline low cable flys 3 8
Pushups, full and quick elbows normal 3 8
Week 6
  • Same warm-up as always.
  • Increase your working poundages to 90% to 100% of your normal working weight.
  • Stretch in between sets.
  • Maintain the same speed up and same speed down throughout each rep.
Exercise Sets Reps
Cable crossovers 3 15
Flat Smith Machine Press 3 8
Incline Smith Machine Press 3 8
Dumbbell Pullovers, arms bent slightly 3 8
Pushups, full and quick, elbows tight to body 3 8
Read Foundation Training Series: Back Day Read Foundation Training Series: Legs Day



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