Unconventional Chest Day Workout Routine to Bust Your Pec Training Plateau

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Training plateaus are very frustrating. You hit the gym, work hard, take your supplements, and get your sleep, but still don’t make any noticeable gains. It’s like you are wasting your time.

Faced with a situation like this, a lot of lifters double-down on their workouts and increase training volume. While this can work for a while, it’s usually a short-term fix for a long-term problem.

In simple terms, you just end up doing more or what is already not working. When you think about it like that, it’s no wonder that small plateaus often turn into endless ruts.

So, what you really need to do is try something entirely new. Whatever you are currently doing, take the opposite approach. That’s how you smash through training plateaus.

Giving up your favorite workout can be somewhat unsettling. Still, the very definition of insanity is doing the same workout over and over while expecting different results.

In this article, we provide you with an unconventional chest day workout that’s guaranteed to reignite pec growth. It’s different, but that’s why it’s going to work!

What’s Wrong with Your Current Chest Workout?  

If like most bodybuilders, you train your chest once a week, the reason for your plateau is already pretty clear – workout frequency and training intensity are too low.

Low frequency + high volume = low intensity + poor results!

Bench Press Exercise

Muscles generally take 48-72 hours to recover from a workout. Once recovery has occurred, your muscles are ready to train again.

But, if you only work your chest once a week (168 hours), that means you are not stimulating your muscles often enough to produce maximal gains. In fact, you’re actually detraining between workouts instead of making progress.

Also, once-a-week chest training invariably involves a lot of exercises and sets – a low-frequency, high-volume approach.

The more volume you do, the less intense your workout becomes, but the more fatigue you accumulate. Getting tired doesn’t make your muscles grow – exposure to ever-increasing degrees of muscle tension is the trigger for hypertrophy. You can train long, or you can train hard, but you can’t do both.

While you have most definitely hit your chest from all the available angles, the intensity will have steadily declined over the course of the workout until, by the end, you are basically just going through the motions.

Your training weights will be light, you won’t manage many reps, and all you are really doing is creating fatigue. You get the greatest hypertrophy stimulus from the first couple of exercises in your workout (1). The last few exercises and sets are basically pointless junk volume.

That’s why most lifters tend to front-load their workouts, doing the most important, demanding exercises at the start and the easier ones near the end. This allows for the accumulating fatigue.

Imagine how much more productive your workout could be if you trained each exercise with maximum intensity…

Too much exercise redundancy

Look at most bodybuilding workouts, and you’ll see a lot of very similar exercises. Most of this variety is unnecessary. Subtle changes to things like hand position or switching from freeweights to machines makes no real difference to hypertrophy.

Your muscles are pretty dumb – they don’t know if you are doing bench presses or push-ups. They just know tension and work. Providing you work your muscles hard enough, they’ll respond by getting stronger and bigger.

Once they’ve been stimulated, you don’t need to hit them again using an almost identical exercise. There is no additional trigger for growth, and instead, you’re just creating a deeper level of fatigue, so you’ll need longer to recover between workouts. Doing more than a couple of exercises per muscle group is basically a waste of time and energy.

In contrast, doing fewer exercises and sets means you can raise the intensity of your workout, producing better results while saving your energy for recovery and growth.

Lower training volume also means you can train your muscles more frequently. In studies, more frequent workouts have been shown to be superior for building hypertrophy and strength (2).

Creating a Better Chest Workout

Training Chest And Biceps

So, if training your chest once a week with a high-volume workout isn’t working, you should do the opposite.

Of course, some genetic freaks (and steroid users) grow like weeds training the “wrong” way, but if you’ve tried the standard approach and failed to get the results you want, it’s time to do something else.

Considering the potential issues with high volume, low-frequency bodybuilding training, that means:

  • 2-3 exercises per chest workout
  • Choose very different exercises
  • Hit your chest 2-3 times per week
  • Train at a high level of intensity, i.e., very close to failure
  • Rest a little longer between sets to maximize workout performance

In simple terms, you’ll take your usual chest training volume and spread it out over several shorter workouts. This will allow you to a) train harder and b) hit your chest multiple times each week to produce more hypertrophic (muscle building) events.

Chest Day Workout Routines

Using the information above, you should be able to create your own unconventional chest training plan.

But, to save you the bother, we’ve got one for you to try.

Yes, it’s VERY different from what a lot of bodybuilders do, but that’s why it works. Sometimes, the best solution to a problem is doing the opposite.

Barbell Bench Press
Barbell Bench Press

For this workout plan, you’ll be training your chest three times a week, e.g., MondayWednesday, and Friday. The volume is low, so you can take each set to failure.

Don’t be fooled by the brevity of these workouts; you still need to train hard and, more importantly, have to do it again a couple of days later.

Also, bear in mind that instead of doing 15-20 sets for your chest in a single workout, you’ll be doing 18 sets per week, providing more than enough volume for muscle growth. Combined with the increased intensity, this should blast you out of your current chest training rut.

Workout 1

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Barbell bench press 3 6-8 3 minutes
2 Incline dumbbell bench press 2 8-12 2 minutes
3 Cable crossovers 1 12-15* N/A

*This is your last chest exercise. Make it count by doing a drop set. Rep out to failure, reduce the weight by 10-15% and rep out again. Lower the weight 2-3 more times to fully exhaust your chest and get a great pump.

Workout 2

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Incline barbell bench press 3 6-8 3 minutes
2 Dips 2 AMRAP 2 minutes
3 Pec deck 1 12-15* N/A

*This is your last chest exercise. Make it count by doing a drop set. Rep out to failure, reduce the weight by 10-15% and rep out again. Lower the weight 2-3 more times to fully exhaust your chest and get a great pump.

Workout 3

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Dumbbell bench press 3 6-8 3 minutes
2 Decline push-ups 2 AMRAP 2 minutes
3 Incline dumbbell flys 1 12-15* N/A

*This is your last chest exercise. Make it count by doing a drop set. Rep out to failure, reduce the weight by 10-15% and rep out again. Lower the weight 2-3 more times to fully exhaust your chest and get a great pump.

Chest Day Workout Routine FAQs

1. A lot of champion bodybuilders train their chests once per week, so why can’t I?

Most elite bodybuilders use steroids. Steroids increase protein synthesis, which means drug-using bodybuilders are in an almost constant state of anabolism, and even the “wrong” workout will produce the right results.

Training like a steroid-using pro won’t work for natural lifters because your body is not in the same 24/7 anabolic state. Natural lifters usually do better on shorter, more frequent workouts.

2. Are 1-3 sets really enough for muscle growth?

Studies have shown that one set is enough to trigger hypertrophy providing that you train to failure or close to it. However, doing 2-3 sets will produce better results. More than three sets won’t lead to much more muscle growth but will create more fatigue, which means you won’t be able to train as often.

Providing you accumulate between 10-20 sets per muscle group per week, you should get good hypertrophic results from a more frequent approach to training (3).

3. Is this a bulking or cutting workout?

The main difference between cutting and bulking is your diet rather than the workout you are following. For example, if you eat 300-500 calories above your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), you should bulk up and build muscle.

In contrast, if you reduce your calorie expenditure to 300-500 calories BELOW your TDEE, you should burn fat and get leaner.

So, adjust your diet according to your body composition goal. Eat more to build muscle and less to lose fat. Train hard to stimulate muscle growth or preserve your existing muscle mass during your cutting diet.

4. Can I change the exercises?

Providing you use similar exercises, you are free to make changes to the programs. However, don’t increase training volume or use different rep ranges.

The idea is to train with heavy weights for maximal muscle tension (exercise 1), moderate weights to create plenty of metabolic stress (exercise 2), and then moderate progressing to light weights to fatigue as many muscle fibers as possible (exercise 3).

Providing you stick with that format, changing exercises should have no real effect on your progress.

5. What does training to failure mean?

Training to failure means doing as many reps as possible with good form. This is also known as technical failure.

You’ll know you are approaching failure when your repetition speed starts to decrease and you feel you need to take longer pauses between reps. Your facial expression will also change, and you’ll start to grimace. In short, you should feel that you cannot do any more reps without getting assistance from a spotter.

6. How long should I do this workout for?

Stick with this workout for 6-8 weeks, or until you feel it is no longer productive. During that time, do your best to use more weight, do more reps, or just do each set with a higher degree of technical proficiency. These “micro progressions” are what keep your muscles growing.

Then, when you are ready for a new workout, use a similar approach but using mostly new exercises. Alternatively, revert to a lower-frequency, higher-volume chest program for a few weeks before returning to this workout.

7. I’m super sore after doing the first workout – is it okay to train again so soon?

Muscle soreness is simply a sign that you’ve done something new and isn’t necessarily an indicator that anything is wrong or that you aren’t recovered from your last workout. In this case, soreness is probably the result of doing six high-intensity sets when you are used to higher volume but lower intensity training.

If you are sore, spend a little extra time warming up and do 2-3 ramped sets of the first exercise to ease yourself into your workout.

For example:

  1. 20 reps (empty barbell)
  2. 12 reps 40kg/90lbs
  3. 8 reps 60kg/135lbs
  4. 3 reps 80kg/175lbs
  5. 6 reps 100kg/220lbs (1stwork set)

Soreness should become less of an issue as you become accustomed to this new style of training.

Chest Day Wrapping Up

If you are making gains with a more traditional chest workout, then you should continue doing it. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But, if you are training hard and not seeing the results you want, it’s time to try a different approach. Doing more of the same is not the answer.

Use this workout to see how your chest responds to low-volume, high-frequency training. If it works for your chest, you can use a similar method for all your muscle groups.

References:

1. PubMed: Single Vs. Multiple Sets of Resistance Exercise for Muscle Hypertrophy https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20300012/

2. PubMed: Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27102172/

3. PubMed: Dose-Response Relationship Between Weekly Resistance Training Volume and Increases in Muscle Mass https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27433992/

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