THE GYM IS RIDDLED WITH THOSE WHO LONG FOR GAINS IN CHEST DEVELOPMENT, BUT FAIL TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS A REALITY. The belief is that more means better. Unfortunately, however, pressing more weight or performing more sets doesn’t always result in gaining more muscle.
So if your chest gains have slowed down dramatically… or perhaps even stopped completely, then listen closely… because in today, I am going to share 5 simple tips guaranteed to force new chest growth.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in.
TIP NUMBER ONE: FIX YOUR FORM
While probably the most obvious of them all, fixing your form will result not only in the biggest increase in weight, but also the most dramatic chest gains.
You’ve seen it countless times in the gym, lifters slapping plates onto the bar, contorting their bodies into unspeakable positions while their spotters end up doing most of the work.
The truth is, if you’ve been bench pressing the same 185lbs for the last six months, it has almost nothing to do with your training program or nutrition plan and EVERYTHING to do with your form.
Whether it’s something as simple as flaring your elbows too much, placing majority of the load on your shoulders… or something a bit more advanced such as pushing with ONLY your upper body, not taking advantage of the power of leg drive… you’re leaving massive gains on the table.
We won’t turn this video into a bench press instructional, so if you’re interested in learning the most optimal bench press form for chest development, check out our video “the perfect bench press technique for massive pecs”
TIP NUMBER TWO: INCREASE FREQUENCY
For many, the first day of the work week signifies the beginning of their workout programs and what better way to start off than to crush chest.
Many lifters still adhere tightly to the one body part per day maxim. That means that each muscle group, no matter how big or small, gets a full week of rest between sessions.
But who do you think is making greater chest gains? The bro who decimates his chest on Monday and then completely ignores it for an entire week… or the guy who strategically stimulates his chest twice per week, ensuring he’s fresh for both workouts?
You see, although both groups performed the same amount of volume, the higher frequency group elicited more frequent protein synthesis, thus creating more weekly opportunity for growth .
So, how often should you train your chest for optimal growth?
If you’re currently performing 12 sets for your chest in one session, split that volume up into 2 separate sessions where you’re performing 6 sets of chest per workout.
The more frequent protein synthesis alone will force your chest into new growth.
TIP NUMBER THREE: PROGRESSION
One day you may feel great and load the bar up with 185 lbs for a set of 10. While on other days you struggle to move 135s for more than a few reps. You find yourself teetering between these two extremes every week hoping to one day make real progress. Unfortunately, because you have no real plan, that day never comes.
The key is to use the principle of progressive overload where you gradually increase the weight and/or number of repetitions over a set period of time.
One study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested a progressive overload plan. The researchers observed 83 subjects over a 12 week period as they performed arm strengthening exercises.
They found that systematically applying progressive overload was effective for increasing biceps strength and muscle growth in both men and women .
For chest growth you’ll want to start slow and deliberate. Try to avoid progressing too quickly.
The NSCA has a 2 for 2 rule which states, “If a client can do two or more reps than the goal in an exercise in two consecutive training sessions, they should then increase the load.”
Once you’ve determined you can safely and confidently add weight, do so in very small increments. For example, if you normally bench press 225 pound for sets of 8 reps and then increase those reps to 10, shoot for a new weight of 235 pounds. These smaller increments will ensure you’re progressing with solid gains in strength instead of simply relying on a “good day.”
TIP NUMBER FOUR: UNDULATING REP RANGES
Traditionally speaking, the hypertrophy zone tends to sit in the 8 to 12 rep range. This is the sweet spot for optimizing size gains (as opposed to strength focused training which sit around 3 to 6 reps).
Now, in the past decade, much research has been done on rep ranges, time under tension, progressive overload, and how it all ties into muscle growth.
But let’s look at things from a practical perspective. If the majority of your training is done in the 8-12 rep range, then maybe some changes are in order.
Borrowed from the principles of periodization (a system widely used in sports strength and conditioning circles) undulating your reps on a daily basis (or daily undulating periodization) has some significant merit.
One 2011 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared two groups. One group following a linear progression model, and an undulating periodization group who varied their reps from workout to workout. While there were no significant differences in strength between the groups, the undulating periodization group experienced superior effect size gains in muscular maximal and submaximal strength .
What’s the takeaway? If you find yourself lifting the same weights in the same rep ranges from workout to workout, try varying your rep ranges from one chest training session to the next.
For your first chest training session of the week aim for strength by using heavier loads and performing sets of 5… then for your second chest training session shake things up by adding a bit more volume and training in the 10-12 rep range.
TIP NUMBER FIVE: EAT IN A SURPLUS
We all know that we need to eat to build muscle. And we also know that we need to prioritize protein in order to build quality mass.
If you’re doing everything right, yet your chest is still not growing, it’s time to take a look at your diet. Nutrition is one of the most important factors in muscle and strength gains. It can literally make or break your progress.
Do you know roughly how much protein, carbs, and fats you should be consuming daily?
Do you have any idea how many calories you take in per day?
Write down what you’re eating for an average week. The key is to take in between 300 to 500 calories above maintenance level.
Next, be sure your protein is at around one gram per pound of bodyweight of quality sources such as fish, chicken, lean beef, low-fat dairy, eggs, and whey.
Carbs can start around two grams per pound of bodyweight and be adjusted until you’ve achieved that surplus level.
Choose from complex sources such as rice, potatoes, oatmeal, fruits, and plenty of vegetables.
Training will only get you so far, so make sure your diet is in check on a consistent basis.
Building a bigger chest shouldn’t be left to chance. A haphazardly constructed plan of action will get you nowhere fast. Put your ego aside and start over by
- Perfecting your form
- Training your chest more than once per week
- Focus on progression
- Vary your rep ranges
- And eat enough to elicit a surplus for growth.
- McLESTER, JOHN R. JR.1; BISHOP, E1; GUILLIAMS, M. E.2 Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 2000 - Volume 14 - Issue 3 - p 273-281
- Peterson, M. D., Pistilli, E., Haff, G. G., Hoffman, E. P., & Gordon, P. M. (2011). Progression of volume load and muscular adaptation during resistance exercise. European journal of applied physiology, 111(6), 1063–1071. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-010-1735-9
- Miranda F, Simão R, Rhea M, Bunker D, Prestes J, Leite RD, Miranda H, de Salles BF, Novaes J. Effects of linear vs. daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1824-30. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e7ff75. PMID: 21499134.