By Josh Bryant ProSource
Add These Unconventional Movements to Your Regimen and Trigger New Growth
A 2014 Phil Heath looks a helluva lot different than a 1980 Frank Zane. The muscular development of today’s IFBB Pro bodybuilders was unfathomable prior to Dorian Yates. Twenty-plus-inch arms are the norm. Leg development, once an afterthought, is judged with an eagle eye. And big and shredded is no longer the exception, it’s a necessity.
With all of the evolution in bodybuilding, however, chest development has gone backward. In spite of being much heavier, many of today’s top pros couldn’t carry the jock strap when it comes to the chest development of the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Reg Park.
Arnold pressed heavy, did full range of motion dumbbell flyes and thrived on high volume. Park was one of the first men in the world to bench press 500 pounds, a feat that very few pros today could come close to duplicating, even with modern pharmacology that did not exist in Park’s day.
In the tradition of Arnold and Reg, let’s take a look at four chest exercises you aren’t doing that will spark chest growth.
Reverse Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
For decades, the incline bench press has been the go-to exercise for building the upper chest. The lab-tested justification for this preference lies in an almost statistically irrelevant five percent increase in muscle activation of those upper chest fibers as compared to the flat bench press, while activity in the front delts increases by about 80 percent.
A recent Canadian study showed that the reverse grip bench press produced 30 percent more fiber activation on the upper pecs than traditional bench press.
Everything is bigger in Texas! Not surprisingly, the two most well-developed upper chests hailed from the Lone Star State: 1990s powerlifting bench press champions and record holders, Anthony Clark and Jim Voronin. Both set records with a reverse grip style bench press.
- Set up for the exercise by grasping a set of dumbbells and sitting on the end of a flat bench with the dumbbells against your abdomen and thighs.
- Lie back on the bench and place the dumbbells above your chest. Twist the dumbbells so your palms are facing your shoulders. This is your starting position.
- Lower the dumbbells until your palms are in line with your chest, pause for half a second and press the dumbbells forcefully back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.
Important Notes: Don’t let the dumbbells touch at the top of each rep. Use a full range of motion at the bottom and the top of the repetition. To further shift emphasis to the upper pecs, try this movement at a 15 to 20 degree incline. Any routine in this book that specifies an incline press for chest development can be switched to the reverse grip bench press.
The dumbbell pullover was a favorite of some of the greatest chest-workers of all-time like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Reg Park and virtually any old-timer. This exercise works not only the chest but also the lats and the intercostal serratus anterior (the muscles of the ribcage).
Maximally developed intercostal muscles will give the illusion of a bigger rib cage when taking a deep breath and holding a pose because the ribs are pulled up by the intercostal muscles. I believe one of the reasons chest development hasn’t caught up with other body part development is because of the elimination of any pullover variations.
- Lie perpendicular to the bench press, with only your shoulders supported. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
- Your head and neck should hang over the bench with your hips at a slightly lower angle than your shoulders.
- Place the dumbbell between your hands, which should be in a diamond shape using your thumbs and pointer fingers (palms should be facing the ceiling). The movement starts with the dumbbell over your chest, elbows bent 10â€“15 degrees (do not let this angle change throughout the entire movement).
- Slowly lower the weight backward over your head until the upper arms are in line with the torso.
- The weight travels in an arc-like motion toward the floor. Pull the dumbbell back over your chest, purposely squeezing the chest.
- Hold for a second, and then repeat the exercise.
Important notes: Do this a movement intention style focusing on the stretch and feel the movement, keeping reps in the 12+ range.
If you have a history of shoulder problems, be careful when introducing this exercise. You may need to avoid it.
IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Cory Mathews Performing Dumbbell Pullovers
Ten years ago, only hardcore powerlifting gyms had chains for strength training. Because of the fantastic results, and scores of studies confirming their efficacy, most serious gyms now have chains in their arsenal.
Chain flyes are performed by attaching the handles you use to perform cable crossovers to a set of clanking chains and getting into standard dumbbell fly position on a flat (or angled) bench. You are still able to get some of the stretch (lacking in cables) that you feel with dumbbells. However, as your arms abduct to the fully stretched position, the chains (the resistance) unload on the floor. This removes much of the strain from the shoulders. As you adduct, or squeeze your arms back together, the chains start to lift off the floor again, giving you the peak contraction advantage of the cables.
Even with 100 percent healthy shoulders, chain flyes require you to produce more force where you are strongest, providing a hellacious overload — a sure-fire prescription for growth and grainy detail.
Chains can be bought from dozens of online retailers, the local hardware store or you can even land some freebies if you strike up a friendship with your neighborhood longshoreman at the local ship yard.
- Lie flat on a bench.
- Lift the handles above your chest with arms in a slightly bent position (your arms never straighten out throughout the entire movement.
- Lower handles to the side until you feel a stretch (same ROM as a dumbbell fly).
- Bring the handles together in a giant bear hugging-like motion.
- Hold the handles together at the top for a brief moment.
- Return to starting position.
Important note: Remember, this movement is not a press or an extension. Think of it like a giant hug. Once your elbows are bent 10â€“15 degrees, keep them in this fixed position. Concentrate on the squeeze.
Check out Chain Flys in Action
Smith Machine Negative Overload Bench Press
If you want to maximize muscularity, you gotta train eccentrics!
Smith Machine negative overloads provide a way to eccentrically overload your pecs. This movement is performed with a Smith Machine and will require two partners.
- Lie flat on a bench placed under a Smith Machine (the bar should be directly above your chest).
- Load the bar with 10â€“25% extra weight on the outside of the bar sleeves.
- Lower the weight to your chest.
- At chest level, have a partner on each side pull the extra weight off the bar.
- Forcefully press the weight back to starting position.
- Then have the partners add the weight back to the bar.
- Repeat for necessary reps.
Important note: This exercise works best drawing out eccentrics, so take 5â€“6 seconds to lower the bar, then forcefully press it back up. A good routine is to do that tempo for as many reps as possible. Once you can no longer complete a rep, pull the additional weight off and do as many reps as possible at normal speed.
Smith Machine Negative Overload Bench Press in Action
If you want to win bodybuilding shows, bust through a plateau, or just terrorize tailors with growth reminiscent of a myostatin-deficient bull, give these moves a shot.
Good luck and good growth!