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3-Dimensional Chest Training

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Building thick, striated pecs requires a dedication to variety and a keen eye for imbalances.

By Mark Dugdale, IFBB Pro; Photography by Jason Breeze; Model: Mark Dugdale

[Q] Hey Mark, I see more and more guys starting chest day with incline moves. Do you agree with this?

[A] Well, there’s a reason the rest of the world is starting to pay more attention to incline moves. For most guys, the upper chest is a weaker area, so attacking it first when you’re fresh makes sense. I typically begin my chest workout with some form of an incline move. In fact, I once injured my chest doing heavy, flat-bench barbell presses. Now I do flat barbell for only lighter weight guillotine presses, a variation of the bench, with the barbell brought down to the neck as opposed to the chest. I feel these more in my upper pecs.

[Q] Ronnie Coleman is known for having one of the best chests ever but his workouts consist of almost all presses from different angles. Can the rest of us get good results from an all-press workout?

[A] There’s much more to muscle growth than an all-press routine. Not to disparage Ronnie’s training because his accomplishments on the Olympia stage are staggering, but I’m not a fan of his training style. Sure, he moves heavy-ass weight, but that iron he’s lifting is flying all over the place and in my opinion is a surefire path to injury. Most people won’t achieve anywhere near Ronnie’s results by training the way he does. An all-press chest routine is certainly worth a try for variety’s sake, but just like everything else it cannot be the only way you train. The body adapts to training routines and protocols so easily that you have to constantly mix things up to achieve new stimulation of the chest, which means the inclusion of cables, machines, various flyes and more.

[Q] When it comes to flyes, what do you think is best for reaching those inner fibers ⎯ dumbbells, cables or the pec-deck machine?

[A] Hitting those inner fibers hinges a lot on your ability to fully contract the chest without bringing the front delts significantly into play. I’m best able to achieve this on either the pec deck or with cables. As you approach failure with dumbbell flyes, it takes a concerted effort and mental awareness of how your muscles are contracting to keep the delts out of the equation. For all your chest fibers, not just the inner ones, you’re best served by focusing on getting a strong peak contraction on every rep of every exercise.

[Q] Unlike most guys, I don’t have a very meaty lower chest. Which moves are best for developing this part of my pecs? How heavy should I be going?

[A] I recommend starting your chest workout with decline dumbbell presses and dips for maximum development of this area. Heavy is kind of a relative term, but I’d use a weight in which you fail by about 6-10 controlled reps. By controlled, I mean using a 3–4 second negative, with no resting at the top of the concentric portion of the movement. Immediately turn the weight around without pausing to ensure constant tension on the pecs. Once you start experiencing good growth of your lower pecs, add a bit more balance to your workout by changing your exercise order around.

MARK’S TOP-TO-BOTTOM CHEST ROUTINE

Use this intermediate program to increase your chest dimensions

Incline Barbell Press – 3 Sets x 6-10 Reps

Weighted Dip – 2 Sets x 6-10 Reps

Flat-Bench Guillotine Press – 2 Sets x 6-10 Reps

Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press-Flye – 2 Sets x 6 Reps

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