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Brazilian Beef: Chest Day with Eduardo Corrêa

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Impossible you say? Skip this article at your own risk, but if you want to build a bigger and stronger chest, here are two moves you’d be crazy to overlook.

By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS; Photography by Gregory James

Florianópolis, in the south of Brazil. Eduardo Corrêa da Silva drives from his home in the capital of this sub-tropical island of Santa Catarina to the nearby World Gym. To the east, heavy dark clouds indicate an approaching storm. That’s nothing new, though; quick and hearty squalls are common in this clime. A futbol game continues full swing, undeterred, in a park just off the road — if the players get wet, they get wet.

As Eduardo drives by the field he smiles wistfully. Once, he was one of them — lanky, lithe and lean, playing center for club teams during most of his youth. But at 16 he decided to forego his futbol physique in favor of size and strength when he turned to powerlifting in high school. Then as many do, to bodybuilding afterward. As soon as he got a taste of the limelight onstage at 19, Eduardo was completely hooked. In 2007, at age 26, he turned pro and immediately honed in on the 202 division as his personal ground zero.

“Although I was well known in Brazil, I was still unknown in the professional community, and I thought the 202s would give me better exposure,” says Eduardo, who now speaks very good English after a few years learning the language. He got his wish: In 2009 Eduardo won his debut 202 at the Pittsburgh Pro, earned fourth at the New York Pro and finished third at the Olympia. In 2010 he repeated this pattern, winning the Europa Show of Champions in the spring before bagging another third in the 202 division at the O.

Wish granted, and then some.

Eduardo now thinks it’s time for a change. “I find my shape is better when I weigh more than 202, and for me it’s very difficult to lose those last 10 pounds to make weight. I think I’m at my best when I weigh around 220, so in 2011 I’m looking to do the open class as a pro.”

He pulls into the lot in front of World Gym and parks, hauling up and out of the car, maneuvering his 5’6″, 235-pound offseason frame with surprising ease. Eduardo usually trains with his fiancée Carol, who teaches group classes at the gym. This winter, however, Eduardo is focused on gaining size — many of the open competitors out-bulk him by 40, 50 or even 60 pounds offseason, so he’s got some work to do. He heads into the gym, perhaps channeling his inner Shawn Ray or his mental Lee Priest as he prepares to do battle.

Takeoff

Today is chest day, one of Eduardo’s favorites. He broke a few powerlifting records at his school back in the day, including a 210-kilogram (462-pound) bench press, and is fairly confident in his chest development.

He starts his routine with incline dumbbell presses. The upper chest is a weak part for many bodybuilders, and Eduardo wants to stay ahead of his competition by keeping his upper pecs full and thick. He sets the bench to a low angle, lower than most guys, and says: “I feel like the lower angle — about 30 degrees instead of 45 — allows me to recruit more muscle fibers in the chest and fewer in the shoulders.” He does a few warm-up sets of 15 reps with the 27.5 kilograms. (Editor’s note: This is approximately 60 pounds. All weights are listed in pounds equivalent.) Then he trades up for the 90s.

Eduardo lies back on the bench and flips the weights into place over his chest, arms perpendicular to the floor, wrists and elbows stacked, and the inner heads of the dumbbells touching above his sternum. Taking a big breath in, he slowly lowers the weights downward by bending his elbows, keeping his upper arms perpendicular to the floor and his palms facing forward. When his elbows come to a 90-degree angle, he reverses the move and presses the weights back up to the start explosively as he exhales. He comes to full arm extension, but doesn’t lock out his elbows at the top. He does 11 more identical reps, stands up and trades the 90s for the 100s.

“Sometimes I use barbells for my presses, both incline and flat-bench, but mostly I use dumbbells,” he explains. “I feel dumbbells give me better mobility and therefore more opportunity to grow because of the longer range of motion.” With that he lies back and completes 12 reps with the 100s before trading up a final time to the 110s. Eduardo does a third set of 11 and fourth set of 10 with the 110s, and then racks the weights. He re-adjusts the bench, making it flat, and takes a sip of water.

Flye High

Eduardo stands and flexes in the mirror, pursing his lips at his newly acquired pump, scrutinizing and analyzing his physique with the trained eye of someone who’s learned to be completely objective about his attributes as well as his flaws. He knows, for instance, that he must work on his shoulders and quads this offseason, bringing them up and heightening their detail to be recognized in the open class. To help tie in his chest to his shoulders — for Eduardo, a better bodypart to a weaker one — he moves now to flat-bench dumbbell flyes.

Eduardo takes a pair of 55s from the rack, lifts them to his shoulders, sits on the bench and lies back. He places his feet flat on the floor and extends his arms so they’re straight up over his mid-chest, palms facing inward. He bends his elbows slightly and locks his arms in place in this rounded shape. Slowly, he inhales as he opens his arms out to the sides, lowering the weights toward the ground until they’re almost parallel with his body. Then he squeezes his inner chest and pulls the weights back up in a smooth arc to the start, nearly touching over his chest. Like a machine, he moves through 12 exacting reps, never faltering or deviating from his strict form. Once through, Eduardo racks the 55s and says, “When using a heavier weight, fold your arms in a bit more so there’s less strain on your joints when they’re in the open position.” He points to his elbow and forearm, which look like indestructible gondola cables, then picks up the 60s and returns to the flat bench, adjusting his arm position so his elbows are slightly more bent to protect his joints. Then he does three more sets of flyes using the 60s, getting 12 for the first, 11 for the second, and 10 for the last, his face torquing and flushing as he finishes his last rep. Eduardo exhales with a rush, sitting up and dropping the weights to the floor.

“Sometimes I do incline dumbbell flyes instead of flat-bench flyes,” he explains as takes a quick water break before collecting the weights and replacing them on the rack. “But I did incline flyes last week and the week before, so it was time to use the flat bench.” A pause, then a smile: “And now it’s time for more flat bench.”

Press Onward

Getting into position for flat-bench dumbbell presses, one at a time he hoists the 100-pound dumbbells off the rack, placing them neatly at the foot of his bench. After a few more sips of water he picks the weights up, resting their ends on his thighs above his knees. As he leans back, he kicks the weights up with his thighs. With his back resting flat against the bench, his arms are straight up over his mid-chest, palms facing forward, arms perpendicular to the floor. Eduardo inhales and slowly lowers the weights by bending his elbows so his elbows form 90-degree angles. When his elbows come just below parallel to his body he explodes to reverse the motion, pressing the weights forcibly back to the start. He completes 15 reps using the 100s, sits back up and rests the dumbbells momentarily on his thighs before returning them to the ground. He shakes out his arms and twists back and forth; then he increases the weight by another 10 pounds. He does two sets of 12 with the 110s, and one final set of 10 — no make that 11. As Eduardo pushes himself to do that one extra rep, you can see the drive in his eyes; perhaps he’s envisioning standing alongside Jay Cutler at the 2011 Olympia, wanting to match pec for pec against the current standard of excellence in the sport. A guttural groan indicates the end of the set and he drops the weights to the floor, spent. The building part of his workout is through.

Change Gears

As Eduardo moves to the machine area, he nods to his occasional training partner Fabiano Bombana, who owns the supplement shop in the gym. They exchange pleasantries in Portuguese, laughing at a shared joke. Fabiano slaps Eduardo on the back, then shoos him away, back to his workout; Fabiano knows, better than most, the work Eduardo has set out to do and how determined he is to accomplish it. Eduardo returns to the gym floor with a determined grimace and sets up for seated machine presses, sliding three plates on either side.

He adjusts the seat so his shoulders are level with the handles and settles in. Eduardo pushes out a slow, controlled set of 12, his movements piston-like, precise and perfect, inhaling on the eccentric and exhaling on the concentric. After his set he reveals: “Sometimes I do this the single way, with one arm working and the other arm simply holding the weight forward isometrically.” He demonstrates this variation on his next set, extending both his arms, then bending one elbow at a time to lower, then pressing the weight, continuing in an alternating pattern. This time he gets 10 reps with each arm. This version is more strenuous, as the muscles are constantly under tension. “Also, make sure your elbows are in line with your shoulders at all times,” he advises. “Otherwise your shoulders aren’t protected.” With that instruction he does one final set of 11, then moves to the cable machine.

Prepare for Landing

He attaches a D-ring handles to each of the upper pulleys on the cable machine and sets the stacks at 80 pounds each for cable crossovers. “Sometimes I like to do dips instead of this move, and sometimes even pec-deck,” he says. “There’s no strict protocol to the moves I use. I go by what I feel and what I think I need to work on.” Eduardo grasps the handles and takes a split stance in the center of the apparatus, his arms spread like an enormous eagle coming in for a landing, palms tilted partially toward the ground, elbows slightly bent, chest inclined forward. Then, he swoops his wings, pulling the handles in toward each other in a smooth arc, maintaining the slight bend in his elbows and squeezing his arms inward to meet at sternum level in front of his body. He pauses for a full count then slowly opens his arms back out to the sides as he inhales, resisting the pull of the weights as he comes back to the start. He completes 15 reps, releases the handles and grabs his water. “A lot of guys use their shoulders when doing this move,” he says. “Try to stay focused on your target muscle when doing it to keep the work on the chest.” He adds another plate to each stack, making the total 85, and does another set of 15 reps, each one epitomizing perfect form with no extraneous movements and never any cheating. He adds another plate for a total of 90 pounds each side and does one more set, this time getting 13 reps. With crossovers completed, Eduardo reaches his destination for today.

He fills a shaker cup with water, mixes in his Probiotica powder and sips the shake as he heads to the car. Outside the ground is glistening; those angry clouds from before have come and gone, leaving behind steaming puddles and clean, blue skies ahead. Eduardo gets into his car, satisfied — and hungry. He’s hungry for food, of course, but more so for victory. Later, he’ll return to the gym to get one step closer to that victory with a biceps session. But for now, his chest muscles needs nourishment, and he heads home to eat a meal and to let his body begin the microscopic work of rebuilding his ruined pectorals.

EDUARDO’S WEEKLY TRAINING SPLIT

Day/Body Parts Trained

1 – Quads
2 – Chest, biceps
3 – Hamstrings, triceps
4 – Back
5 – Off
6 – Shoulders
7 – Repeat day 1

Eduardo trains calves and abs every other day. Precontest he does 60 minutes of cardio 6–7 days a week.

EDUARDO’S CHEST ROUTINE

Exercise/Sets/Reps
Incline Dumbbell Press – 5 Sets x 12 Reps
Flat-Bench Dumbbell Flye – 4 Sets x 10-12 Reps

OR

Incline Dumbbell Flye – 4 Sets x 10-12 Reps
Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press – 4 Sets x 12-15 Reps
Seated Machine Press – 3 Sets x 10-12
Cable Crossover – 3-4 Sets x 15 Reps

For more on Eduardo Corrêa da Silva, check out www.correabodybuilder.com.

Lara McGlashan, MFA, CPT, is a health and fitness freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles. Her first book, Your Body, Your Life, co-written with “The Biggest Loser” trainer Kim Lyons, is in bookstores. To order your copy today, go to www.laramcglashan.com.

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