The best chest-building program takes advantage of that versatility by working your pecs and all their buddies, using every angle and rep range. You can end up with more beef in your back, shoulders, and arms, and in the process develop bigger chest muscles than you’d ever see with a steady diet of benches, benches, and more benches.
(Find more exercises that can help any man to go from scrawny to brawny. Men’s Health Personal Trainer features workouts and videos demos that you can download and take with you to the gym. Find out more)
Do this workout twice a week, resting for at least 2 or 3 days in between. (Work your lower body on a separate day.) Alternate between exercises of the same number until you complete all the sets in that pairing. So you’ll do 1 set of exercise 1A, rest for 45 seconds, do 1 set of exercise 1B, and rest 45 seconds again. Repeat until you complete all sets, and then rest 2 minutes before moving to the next pair.
1A. Barbell bench press
Grab a barbell with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder width, and hold it above your sternum with arms straight. Lower the bar, pause, and then press it back to the starting position. Do 1 set each of 15 reps, 10 reps, and 8 reps, increasing the weight each time. Immediately after the 8-rep set, reduce the weight by 20 percent and complete as many reps as you can.
Grab a pullup bar with a shoulderwidth overhand grip and hang at arm’s length. Pull your chest up to the bar. Lower back to the starting position and repeat. Perform 3 sets and complete as many reps as you can in each set.
2A. Incline dumbbell bench press
Lie faceup on an incline bench and hold a pair of dumbbells with your arms straight. Lower the dumbbells to your chest, and then press them back to the starting position. Do 1 set each of 15 reps, 10 reps, and 8 reps, increasing the weight each time. Immediately after the 8-rep set, reduce the weight by 20 percent and do as many reps as you can.
2B. Single-arm dumbbell row
Grab a dumbbell in your right hand, bend at your hips and knees, and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Let the dumbbell hang from your shoulder. Pull the dumbbell to the side of your torso, keeping your elbow tucked close to your side. Perform 1 set of 15 reps with each arm, followed by 2 sets of 10 reps with each arm, increasing the weight each time. Immediately after the last 10-rep set, reduce the weight by 20 percent and complete as many reps you can.
Grab the bars of a dip station and lift yourself until your arms are completely straight. Slowly lower yourself by bending your elbows until your upper arms dip just below your elbows. Pause, and then push back up to the starting position. Do 2 sets of as many reps as you can.
3B. Pushup and row
Place a pair of hex dumbbells on the floor and grip them while you do a pushup. Once you’re back in the starting position, row the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of your chest. Lower the weight and repeat on your left side. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.
4A. Overhead triceps extension and pushdown
Attach a rope to the high pulley of a cable station and face away from it. Grab an end of the rope in each hand and bend over. Without moving your upper arms, push your forearms forward, pause, and return. Do 15 reps, turn around, put your upper arms at your sides and your forearms at 90 degrees, and pull the rope down. Do 10 reps. That’s 1 set. Perform 2 or 3 sets.
4B. Dumbbell biceps curl
Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang next to your sides. Turn your arms so that your palms face forward. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps.