< TRAINING INTRODUCTION > From my many years as a bodybuilding fan and then a natural bodybuilder, I am always impressed to see the development fellow athletes make on certain bodyparts over the years. One of the best examples would be a pro bodybuilder by the name of Melvin Anthony. I went on to find out how he went about building a chest fit for the stage. This is what he had to say...
I pity bodybuilders born with perfect physiques. Think of what they're missing. First, they're not impelled to improve, so they don't learn problem solving or the wealth of new information that goes with it. Second, knowing that they need only to remain superior to everyone else, they never feel the fulfillment of becoming their best.
Bodybuilding is not merely a brainless impulse to get big. It's the psychological and physical reward that comes from overcoming. My chest used to be one of my weak bodyparts, along with my calves, which relegated me down the list in my earlier competitions. I was candid enough to admit my deficiencies, but I also had enough self-respect to want to be the best. That meant facing those deficiencies head on. It wouldn't be easy. I was in lineups against multiple pro champions, all of whom had great chests, so I was playing catch-up. That meant I needed to find a training secret that was superior to any they may be using in order to help my pecs grow faster than theirs.
It occurred to me that, because of the complexity, vastness and resistance to full contractions of the pectoralis muscles, very few, if any, bodybuilders train them optimally. Sure, they pummel their pecs with all types of presses and flyes, but they also need to stretch and squeeze and twist and compress their chests every which way in order for the entire muscle group to grow.
Not wanting to sacrifice mass for technique or vice versa, I began two years ago to integrate those techniques into my basic free-weight movements. The result? My chest has improved considerably, and I've done much better in shows. Now, I can't wait for the judges to call "side chest!" in the comparison round. What I give them is a rounded peak in the center of each pec, plus cantilevered slabs of muscle that tuck under my outer pecs from top to bottom. Even the most remote regions of my chest are now being worked, and I've accomplished it all by applying what I call my "Stretch and Twist" principle.
< THE STRETCH >
The purpose of every rep is to get a good stretch, but that takes intense concentration. The chest is a complex muscle group spread over a large area, and in order to feed the stresses of an exercise into remote muscles, each repetition must be controlled slowly, so you can feel a taut stretch in every fiber of your chest complex.
Free weights are the only way to achieve this. They allow your body to move through its natural range of motion, which involves more composite muscles of that bodypart, which in turn means more muscles are being stretched with greater safety.
Since I want a complete stretch, I've slowed the pace for my incline and decline barbell work. Explosion is good for strength, and its special domain is the flat bench, but if you want to really stretch the upper, medial, lateral and lower pecs, inclines and declines are the answer.
With incline barbell presses, I keep the same explosion but resist more during the descent, making it a negative, so that constant stress is applied across my upper and lateral pecs. It takes me 35 seconds to finish a rep: To resist on the way down, get the stretch at the bottom and explode.
Control, from the moment I take the bar off the rack to the moment I rerack it, is paramount. At no time does the movement jerk, contrary to what your muscles prefer. They want only to fire and explode that bar up and down--boom, boom, boom, boom--which itself will build a big chest, but not a complete chest. To dig down deep into each fiber, you have to resist the movement and get a good stretch. By taking so long with my set, using resistance and getting a good stretch, my muscles are so fatigued by the time I get to eight reps that I have to finish the set with forced reps.
< THE TWIST >
Dumbbells are where I twist. I still include conventional dumbbell presses and flyes, but for the past two years, I've been experimenting with various supinations and pronations to get a greater range of motion and peak contraction in my lower and peripheral pecs.
For dumbbell presses, the twist is effected by supinating my thumbs outward at the top, thus getting a harder contraction in my outer and lower pecs. For flyes, I either hold the dumbbells with my palms forward or pronate during the extension and supinate during the contraction. The former increases the stress on my inner and lateral pecs, and the latter produces a maximum peak contraction in the medial and lateral pecs, areas that are otherwise left untouched in conventional chest workouts.
Melvin Anthony on stage at the 2008 Arnold Classic
< THE WORKOUT >
I train my chest twice a week, with no consecutive workouts the same. Usually, I start with flat or inclined barbell presses, follow with flat or inclined dumbbell presses and flyes, and finish with decline bench presses. They're always as heavy as possible, but correctly performed and often with high volume: It's not uncommon for me to do 20 sets for chest.
With the "Stretch and Twist" principle, I can't overemphasize the importance of controlling the reps. No other technique places as much stress, and especially strain, on muscles, tendons and ligaments. That's the reason my reps are so slow: I make sure I'm as tight as possible as I lower the weight and transition into the press.
Before I start counting sets for any exercise, I go through at least three warm-up sets with ascending weight, not counting reps, then do at least four working sets to failure. Repetitions are sometimes 12, sometimes 10; I go until I can't push it. I try not to go lower than eight, but even those eight take me 25 or 30 seconds to complete; I want a full range of motion and a good stretch. I want to make it as tough as possible.
| EXERCISE || SETS || REPS |
| Flat Barbell Presses|| 5|| 8-12|
| Inclined Dumbbell Presses || 5|| 8-12|
| Flat Dumbbell Flys|| 5|| 8-12|
| Declined Bench Press|| 5|| 8-12 |
NOTES: Start each exercise with 2 warmup
sets with ascending weight
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