Given how many exercisers want a big, muscular chest, you’d think they’d be more imaginative with their pec training. Instead, a lot of lifters train pecs on Monday (World Chest Day!) with the same old sets and reps of bench presses and cable crossovers.
Given this lackluster approach to chest training, it’s no wonder that so many lifters are frustrated with their lack of progress.
As we say in the fitness biz, if you always do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you always got. In other words, if you want your body to change, you need to change your workouts. Doing the same old thing won’t produce the results you want. You need to shock your muscles into growing.
So, if you are stuck in a pec training rut, we’re here to help.
Follow this program for the next 6-8 weeks to get your chest training back on track!
The Pectoral Split – Workout Overview
Instead of training your chest once a week, for this workout, you’re going to double up and hit your pecs twice every seven days. But, you’re not going to do the same workout both times, which would be terribly dull! Instead, you’re going to do two very different workouts.
The first workout is a hard’ n’ heavy powerbuilding-style workout that we’ve designed to produce plenty of mechanical tension and increase your muscle strength.
Try these powerbuilding workouts for size and strength.
In contrast, the second workout is all about producing maximal metabolic stress and a wicked pump. The weights are lighter, the reps are higher, and we’re going to flood your muscles with lactic acid.
Combining these two very different training approaches will produce rapid pec growth. After all, faced with such a demanding regimen, your muscles will have no choice but to respond by getting stronger and bigger. It’s time to grow or die!
As for the rest of your weeks’ workouts, you’re free to plan training as you see fit. But, for example, this is how your training week could look with our two chest workouts included:
|Chest 1||Back||Legs||Chest 2||Rest||Delts & Arms||Rest|
Needless to say, this is not a workout for beginners or anyone coming back to training after a lengthy layoff. Instead, it’s aimed at intermediate and advanced lifters looking to kick their current chest training up a level.
Pectoral Split Workout #1
Do this workout at the start of your training week, when your energy and enthusiasm should be at their highest. This is the Joe Weider Priority Training Principle.
Remember to warm up before starting. Do 5-10 minutes of light cardio, followed by dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Finish your warm-up with 50-100 reps of light band pull-aparts to increase shoulder stability.
Hard and Heavy
|1||Barbell paused bench press||5||5||2-3 minutes|
|2||Incline bench press||4||6||2 minutes|
|3||Decline dumbbell bench press||3||8||90 seconds|
|4||Smith machine push-up ladder||1||AMRAP||N/A|
As an intermediate/advanced exerciser, you should already be pretty familiar with these exercises. But, in case you’re not, take a look at the following descriptions:
1. Barbell paused bench press
Paused bench presses keep you honest and stop you from bouncing the bar off your chest. They also increase mechanical tension and pec power. If you’ve never done paused bench presses before, don’t be surprised that you can’t lift as much weight as usual. That brief pause makes this exercise much harder than regular bench presses.
How to do it:
- Lie on the bench with your eyes directly under the barbell. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, arch your lower back, and pull your shoulders down and back. Brace your abs.
- Reach up and hold the bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
- Unrack the bar and hold it over your chest.
- Bend your arms and lower the bar smoothly to lightly touch your sternum.
- Without relaxing, hold the bar on your chest for 2-3 seconds.
- Drive the bar back up and repeat.
2. Incline bench press
Incline bench presses target the clavicular or upper part of your chest. While this exercise is often done using dumbbells, a barbell means you’ll be able to lift heavier weights. However, if you find this exercise uncomfortable, that it causes shoulder pain, or your gym doesn’t have an incline bench press station, you can use dumbbells instead.
Check out this guide to make sure you’re doing incline bench presses correctly.
3. Decline dumbbell bench press
Where incline bench presses emphasize your upper chest, decline bench presses hit your lower pecs more. Most lifters are pretty strong on declines, and that’s why a) you’re doing them last, and b) you’re using dumbbells so you can work your pecs through a larger range of motion. As an added benefit, decline dumbbell bench presses also tend to be more shoulder-friendly than the barbell version.
Learn how to do decline dumbbell bench presses here.
4. Smith machine push-up ladder
The heavy weights and low to moderate reps of the last three exercises should have nicely fatigued your fast-twitch type 2b muscle fibers. Still, your pecs may not be completely exhausted. This final exercise is designed to wring out any remaining energy from your chest.
How to do it:
- Place the bar on a Smith machine at its lowest setting. Hold the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Walk your feet back and into the push-up position. Brace your core. Rep out to failure.
- Taking no more than 5-10 seconds, raise the bar by one increment, get back into the push-up position, and rep out to failure again.
- Continue raising the bar and repping out to failure until you are stood almost upright or unable to continue.
- Yes, that pump and burning sensation you can feel is entirely normal!
That’s it – you are done for today; well done!
Pectoral Split Workout #2
Your second chest program is designed to produce a lot of metabolic stress and a powerful pump. The weights aren’t as heavy as they were in the previous workout. However, the combination of higher reps and short rests means this session will still be challenging and effective. You’ll also be using some training systems to further increase workout intensity and muscle engagement.
As before, make sure you warm up before starting this workout, including those all-important resistance band pull-aparts.
Pump and Burn
|1a||Incline dumbbell fly|
|1b||Incline dumbbell squeeze press|
|2a||High to low cable crossover|
Exercises 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b, and 3a and 3b are to be performed as supersets. Do the first exercise, designated a), and then immediately do the second exercise, designated b). Rest for the prescribed time and then repeat the pairing, doing four supersets in total.
As we’ve already mentioned, you should be pretty familiar with all the exercises in this workout. But, in case you’re not, take a look at the following exercise descriptions:
1a. Incline dumbbell fly
Dumbbell flys are an isolation exercise for your pecs. This means only your shoulders move, and your elbows should stay slightly bent but rigid. Doing dumbbell flys immediately before dumbbell squeeze presses will pre-exhaust your pecs, making the second exercise much more challenging. When it comes to building bigger pecs, challenging is GOOD!
Read our guide to learn how to do inclined dumbbell flys.
1b. Incline dumbbell squeeze press
The dumbbell squeeze press, also known as the close grip dumbbell bench press, is a uniquely challenging pec exercise. To do it, you push your dumbbells together as hard as you can to maximize chest engagement. Don’t go too heavy with this exercise. Instead, focus on pressing those weights inward.
Learn how to do dumbbell squeeze presses here.
2a. High to low cable crossover
High to low cable crossovers emphasize your inner, lower pecs. Like dumbbell flys, this is an isolation exercise. Focus on squeezing your pecs at the midpoint of each rep and getting a good stretch between reps to make this exercise as effective as possible. Don’t go too heavy. Instead, focus on the movement and feeling the target muscles working.
Find out more about cable crossovers here.
Dips are almost as effective as the bench press for working your chest. They’re also a very good triceps exercise. Make dips more chest-centric by leaning forward. If you can do more than 10-12 reps, put on a weighted vest or use a chin/dip belt to make them harder.
Alternatively, if you can’t do the prescribed number of reps, use a dip machine or resistance band for assistance.
Learn how to do dips for a bigger chest here.
3a. Pec deck
Your final chest isolation exercise is the pec deck. With your back supported and your arm movement guided, you are free to focus on pushing your chest to absolute failure. If you still feel like you have more to give, do a few drop sets to finish off your pecs.
Find out more about the pec deck machine here.
3b. Guillotine press
The guillotine press, also known as the neck press, is an old-school bodybuilding exercise that lengthens your range of motion to increase pec activation. Invented by legendary Hollywood bodybuilding trainer Vince “The Iron Guru” Gironda, this is a strenuous exercise, so don’t go too heavy. This one is best done with a spotter on hand, as a failed rep could result in severe injury.
Discover how to do the guillotine press here.
The Pectoral Split – Tips for Better Results
Get even more from this workout plan by following these tips!
Dial back on your deltoid workouts
Training your chest invariably means working your shoulders at the same time. All chest exercises also work your anterior or front delts. Take this into account when writing your bodybuilding workouts for the rest of the week. Avoid doing too much overhead pressing and focus more on your medial and posterior deltoids.
Make your workouts progressive
Initially, at least, just starting a new workout will stimulate renewed muscle growth. However, as the novelty of a new workout starts to wear off, you’ll need to find ways to make your training more challenging. Do your utmost to lift a little more weight or do an extra rep or two whenever you repeat a workout.
These ongoing increases will ensure that your muscles continue to get bigger and stronger.
Feed your muscles
Breaking down and rebuilding your pecs twice a week will require a lot of energy and nutrients. Support your workouts with a healthy diet high in protein. Consider using a protein powder supplement to ensure you get the recommended amount of protein every day. Use our free protein calculator to determine your daily protein needs.
While you don’t have to use supplements to build muscle, there is no denying that they can be helpful. Products like creatine, BCAAs, pre-workouts, and ZMA can all enhance your progress by boosting your energy or speeding up recovery. Check out this guide to bulking supplements for more information.
Get enough sleep
Your muscles do most of their growing when you are asleep. During the night, your body produces more growth hormone and testosterone, and rates of protein synthesis are highest. In short, if you don’t get the requisite 7-9 hours of sleep per night, you could end up undermining your progress.
You can read more about the importance of sleep here.
The Pectoral Split – Wrapping Up
A lot of exercisers think that they’re pec “hard gainers” and that their lack of chest size and shape is purely genetic. While your genes do play a part in muscle building, lack of effort and poor programming are more likely to be the cause of your unsatisfactory chest development!
So, instead of doing the same old three sets of ten bench presses every Monday, try a more targeted approach to chest training. Hit your pecs twice a week with two very different workouts. This will shock your pecs into new growth, building bar-bending strength in the process.
This will be an unusual approach for many lifters, and doing something new is often scary. But if what you are currently doing is not producing the results you want, it would be madness to keep on doing it, right?
Or, you could carry on doing the same old workouts and stay where you are. The choice is yours!