Designing a chest routine to fit your needs

Last time I mentioned a few alternative exercises to the bench press. How do you build a workout routine among all these exercises? Which ones to choose and how many reps to do? Combining exercises the right way into a workout is part of the fun too. The right combination of exercises will all depend on what you seek to achieve.

There are usually two main goals that people lifting weights seek to achieve: getting bigger by building muscles or getting better muscular definition. In-between these two, you will find a whole spectrum of other goals, such as to build better stamina or to correct a muscular imbalance.

Mass-building routine

To build muscles the quickest and most efficient way, you will need to favour compound movements such as the bench press and dumbbell presses. Make them the first exercises of your workout as you will be fresh and have a lot more strength. Go for low reps and heavy weights. While you may modify the exercises, such as incline and decline and even change exercises, your range of reps should not change – low reps and heavy weights are a key aspect of building muscles.

The wide-grip, parallel bars dips are an excellent bodyweight exercise targeting the pectoral muscles and the deltoids and triceps as secondary muscles. If you find the exercise too easy, either perform it at the end of your workout when you are exhausted or use a belt and chain to attach some weight to your body.

If you still feel some strength left, you can finish off your mass-building routine with an isolation exercise like the flyes to ‘kill’ your pecs until the next session.

Going for definition

With a workout designed for better definition, higher reps are called for. Still perform compound movements but give priority to the isolation exercises.

The machine bench press is a compound movement but your motion is dictated and you don’t have to worry about balancing the weight.

If you are very strong, you might find wide-grip dips easy. Try it as a high rep isolation exercise that also doubles as a compound movement.

Cable flyes are also a great alternative to the conventional dumbbell exercise.

No sculpting routine would be complete without the necessary diet to cut back on the layer of fat that hides your muscles. This routine won’t really build a lot of muscles but instead will try to maximise the muscles belly and emphasise the separations. Imagine a biceps with a peak and distinct heads. This will only be visible will a low body fat.

Advanced training techniques

The most interesting aspect of designing a workout routine is to incorporate some more advanced training structure into it, whether you train for bulk or for definition. Use the principle of pre-exhaustion to really work those pecs in depth, try descending sets, supersets, partial reps, negative reps, 21s and so on.

This post will become too long if I elaborate on these more advanced training techniques. The only core aspects you need to remember are low reps to build volume and moderate or higher reps for better definition and vascularity. Pick exercises and their variants that will allow you to go heavy or to better isolate a muscle. After that, adapt your training as your goals and body require. Future blog posts will elaborate on these more advanced techniques. See this post on the best and worst triceps exercises to design a triceps workout for instance.

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