Updated: Jun 30, 2019
In an interview discussing Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan, the producers said that if they didn’t have Arnold to play the character, they would have to ‘build’ an actor to do so. Arnold had, in my opinion, the best physique of all time and i have read, listened and watched all things MR Schwarzenegger.
That being said, Arnold was very clever in his approach to training and took the time to learn his muscular anatomy, physiology and incorporate several techniques to his regimen. How did he build his chest? Follow these 5 steps and watch your pecs explode!
STEP 1: Eccentric movement
Eccentric movement (or negative training) is an absolutely essential part of any muscular training, and if utilised correctly, can blow up not only your size but have an immense impact on your overall strength. If you increase your strength then you can lift heavier weights, put the muscle under more tension, create more damage and thus grow.
So imagine the bench press, you are facing the ceiling on your back. When the bar comes down to your chest from an extended arm position, that is the eccentric portion of the lift. The aim here is to leave your ego at the door and use a weight that’s not too light, but not too heavy either.
Take around 3 seconds to bring the bar down to roughly 2-4 inches from your chest then hold for 1 second.Return to the starting position (the concentric portion of the lift) and repeat.
Eccentric training can, and should, be implemented into all muscular training but is all too often overlooked. Training in this way over a set cycle period will undoubtedly improve strength, stability and give you that feeling of control over whichever exercise you are performing.
STEP 2: Angles
I cannot stress enough the importance of angles when training for muscular development. The chest has different striations of muscle fibre (directions of muscle strands) so angles are where it’s at for all round chest development, so make sure you train the 3 main areas which are…
UPPER CHEST (INCLINE BENCH)
An angle of around 45 degrees will activate the clavicular portion (upper) chest. I would always advise to train upper chest first in any chest session as this is usually where people are weakest. Remember to tuck your elbows and not spread them out to right angles.
MIDDLE CHEST (FLAT BENCH)
The main ‘body’ of your chest is the middle portion. Its the biggest section and the area where you will grow the most. Imagine the muscle fibre running horizontally across your chest, and then imagine when you are benching that you have to stretch that fibre out to cause the muscle fibre to break. Damage, in turn, means growth.
LOWER CHEST (DECLINE BENCH)
This is where you are led on a bench with your head lower than your feet, at roughly a 30-45 degree angle. The aim of this angle is to make the lower (sternal) portion of the chest work, which technically is the middle section of your chest, just the lower part. This will help with rounding off the pecs above the top of the stomach and give you that full, plump look.
STEP 3: SHOULDER HEALTH
Now you’re probably wondering where i’m going with this but hear me out. In order to train chest you inevitably have to incorporate your arms into the exercise in order to stretch and work the muscle. Your arms connect to your trunk via the shoulders, the most complex piece of skeletal engineering in your body. If you have poor shoulder health, believe me when i say this will hinder your ability to progress.
So what do i mean by shoulder health? How many times have you walked in a gym and seen guys picking up dumbbells and going for lateral raises and grimacing like they’re in pain inside of 4-5 reps? i personally see it all the time and it’s a worrying trend. Shoulder health begins from within. Rotator cuff injuries are all too commonplace but they’re avoidable with consistent exercise that’s aimed at these tiny muscles. Click HERE for rotator cuff health and exercise.
In conclusion, if your shoulders are healthy and you have good mobility, then the load which is placed upon them whilst performing these exercises is safer, more controlled, and did i say safer??
STEP 4: TRICEPS
Now, this should go without saying, but the triceps are a big part of a bench press, as well as push ups, dips etc.. if you think about this logically then you come to the conclusion that your triceps are a much smaller muscle group and, no matter how big they get, they will always give out before your chest ever will. I always tell clients that you have to mix it up with triceps…lift heavy and often and also lift light and often, do you see the pattern? I’ll help you out…LIFT OFTEN.
Gaining size and strength in the triceps is one thing, but you must also increase your endurance to help with your chest routine because as I’ve said, your chest will out work your arms every time so you have to be smart, which brings me to step 5.
STEP 5: PRE AND POST FATIGUE
This is a really good method to make sure you leave the gym with your chest twitching and full of blood. Pre fatigue for the chest is a way of training that doesn’t involve the triceps, so cable flys, machine fly, dumbbell fly etc..
By taking the triceps out of the equation at the beginning of your session for, let’s say 5 sets of cable fly, you have already warmed up and worked the chest before you go on to do bench press with nice fresh arms (remember that the triceps always give out first) Once you’re done with bench press if you feel your chest could do a little more but your arms are beat, you can go back to a fly variation and continue to stress the pec muscles without using your triceps.
What i have told clients in the past and will continue to tell them in the future is that hard work, consistency and a good knowledge of WHY you’re doing what you’re doing will always win out. Manipulate the angles and push yourself to become better. A basic understanding of your own anatomy and physiology will do wonders for your training and there is so much information out there at the push of a button.