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The Ultimate Chest Workout: Chest Exercises for Awesome Pecs

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The Ultimate Chest Workout: Chest Exercises for Awesome Pecs

If you want big, full, strong, “armor-plate” pecs that pop, then you want to do these chest exercises and workouts.

 

Biceps and chest.

The two workouts that guys never miss…and the two muscle groups that they have the most trouble developing.

There are good reasons for this.

Except in the cases of genetic windfall, the biceps are small, stubborn muscles that take an inordinate amount of time and work to develop.

The pecs are larger and stronger than the biceps but, in most cases, start from basically nothing.

Modern, sedentary living just doesn’t involve the chest muscles to any significant degree and thus most guys and gals new to weightlifting are embarrassingly weak on the bench press.

Don’t despair, though.

No matter how small and weak you may feel your chest is…you can build that superhero, “armor plate” chest that you really want.

And this article is going to show you how.

You Don’t Just Want to Build a “Big Chest”

best chest exercises for men bodybuilding

“Help, my chest is too small!”

That’s one of the most common lamentations I hear from guys all around the world.

All they want for Christmas, they say, is a “big chest.”

Well, this is a misguided goal.

It’s like “weight loss.” It captures the essence of what we’re trying to do but isn’t exactly accurate. Fat loss is.

The reason is merely “adding size” to your chest won’t necessarily give you the look you want.

For example, check out the following picture:

no upper chest

He has a good physique but look closer at his chest, and at the upper portion in particular.

Do you notice something?

All his mass is on the lower and outer portions of the pecs, with little-to-none in the upper and inner portions.

This is extremely common, is the direct result of training mistakes, and, fortunately, is correctable.

I’m speaking from experience here. Check out the following picture of me from a few years ago:

best chest exercises

Look at the upper portion of my left pec (the right looks bigger than it is because of how I’m holding the phone).

As you can see, I too had a very bottom-heavy chest with little development up top.

I got to work on it shortly after taking that picture, however…doing exactly what I’m going to share in this article…and here’s where I am now:

best chest exercises for mass

Again, focus on the upper portion of my pecs. Quite a difference, no?

“But wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “Isn’t the whole ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ chest thing a myth?”

I’m glad you asked…

The Simple Science of Effective Chest Training

chest workouts for mass

The two biggest mistakes most people make in their chest workouts are:

1. Focusing on the wrong chest exercises.

Many people focus too much on machines and isolation exercises, which are of secondary importance in building big, “armor plate” pecs.

2. Focusing on high-rep training.

This mistake will stunt the growth of every major muscle group in the body and is particularly detrimental in a smaller muscle group like the pecs.

If those two points go against a lot of what you’ve heard and/or assumed about chest training, I understand.

I used to do every chest machine in the gym and used to think that smaller muscle groups responded better to lower weights and higher reps.

Well, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about lifting and building muscle naturally is the more you emphasize compound movements and heavy lifting (80 to 85% of 1RM and higher), the better your results.

[Read: The Best Way to Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy (Build Muscle)]

And in terms of training the chest, that means a lot of heavy barbell and dumbbell pressing with supplementary work like dips and flyes.

“But wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “[SHREDDED FITNESS MODEL] does a billion reps in his chest workouts and has amazing pecs… What gives?”

If only you had his #dedication. All 2 grams of it that he injects every week.

I know, that might sound cynical, but it’s true.

When the right steroids enter the picture, achieving muscle growth is mind-numbingly simple: sit in the gym for a few hours every day doing rep after rep after rep, exercise after exercise, and muscles get bigger and bigger.

In fact, when steroids are involved, focusing on high-rep training is generally recommended.

Steroids cause muscles to grow rapidly but don’t help tendons and ligaments keep up, so weights that feel manageable can simply be too much for connective tissues. 

This is a common way that steroid users screw up their joints.

There’s another reason why steroids produce abnormally large shoulders, traps, and pecs (the upper portion in particular).

These areas of the body are quite dense in androgen receptors, which are special types of proteins in cells that respond to certain hormones in the blood (including anabolic hormones like testosterone).

Thus, when large amounts of anabolic hormones are introduced into the body, the shoulders, traps, and pecs are hyper-responsive and grow very quickly and can reach freaky levels of size.

Don’t be discouraged, though.

You can build a great chest without drugs. It just takes a bit of know-how, hard work, and patience. The strategy is simple enough:

1. Focus on lifting heavy weights in your chest workouts.

If you want your chest to get big and strong, you’ll want to focus on the 4 to 6 or 5 to 7 rep range.

2. Focus on the chest exercises that safely allow for progressive overload.

As a natural weightlifter, you can take this to the bank: if you don’t continue to get stronger, you won’t continue to get bigger.

The number one rule of natural muscle building is progressive overload, which means adding weight to the bar over time.

Well, certain exercises don’t lend themselves well to both heavy lifting and progressive overload. For example, heavy dumbbell flyes increase the risk of injuring your rotator cuff muscles.

Another aspect of your chest training that you have to get right is volume, or the total amount of reps you do each week.

This is especially important when you’re doing a lot of heavy weightlifting because the general rule is this:

The heavier the reps, the fewer you can do each week.

Heavier weights necessitate more recovery, which means you can’t do as many reps every week as with lighter weights without risking overtraining.

I’ve tried many different splits and frequency schemes and what I’ve found works best is in line with two extensive reviews on the subject.

When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

This not only applies to the chest but to every other major muscle group as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Before we dive into exercises and workouts, let’s talk about a contentious aspect of chest training: the “upper chest.”

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

The Truth About the “Upper Chest”

The “upper chest” debate has been going on for a long time.

Do you need to do chest exercises specifically for the upper chest? Or do all chest exercises stimulate all available muscle fibers equally? And even more to the point, is there even such a thing as the “upper chest?”

Well, I’ll keep this short and sweet.

There is a part of the “chest muscle” that forms what we call the “upper chest.” It’s known as the clavicular pectoralis and here’s what it looks like:

upper chest

While this muscle is a part of the big chest muscle, the pectoralis major, the angle of the muscle fibers is quite different. Thus, certain movements can emphasize the main head of the pectoralis and others can emphasize the clavicular head.

mikead1-900x900

Notice that I say emphasize, not isolate. That’s because all movements that emphasize one of the two do, to some degree, involve the other.

Nevertheless, proper chest development requires a lot of emphasis on the clavicular pectoralis for two simple reasons:

  1. It’s a small, stubborn muscle that takes its sweet time to grow.
  2. The movements that are best for developing it also happen to be great for growing the pectoralis major as well.

The best way to ensure your upper chest doesn’t fall behind the rest of your pec major in development is to do a lot of incline pressing.

Reverse-grip pressing is helpful too, and we’ll talk about that soon.

Alright, now that we have basic training theory under our belts, let’s look at the best chest exercises for building muscle and strength.

The Best Chest Exercises

best chest workout for mass

Like with most muscle groups, there are scores of chest exercises you can choose from but only a small handful are really necessary.

In fact, the list of the best chest exercises is quite small:

  • Barbell Bench Press
    • Flat Press
    • Incline Press
    • Close-Grip Press
    • Reverse-Grip Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
    • Flat Press
    • Incline Press
  • Dips

These exercises are all you need to build an impressive chest. Period.

If you’re new to weightlifting, forget cable work, dumbbell flys and pullovers, push-up variations, machines, and every other type of chest exercise out there.

They may be relevant to the advanced bodybuilder that is trying everything he can to squeeze the last bits of size out of his physique, but that’s probably not you (and it’s not me, either).

The bottom line is these supplementary exercises are not nearly as effective as the core, foundation-building lifts I recommend in this article.

What About the Smith Machine?

smith machine bench press

When it comes to bench pressing, the main drawback of using the Smith Machine is it produces smaller gains in muscle and strength than the free weight bench press.

One of the major reasons for this is the Smith Machine has a fixed, level bar that moves on a fixed, vertical movement path. The free weight bar, on the other hand, requires that you stabilize it to keep the bar level and prevent horizontal swaying.

I used to do all my bench pressing on the Smith Machine and never got higher than 245 pounds for a few reps. When I first switched to the free weight bench press, I struggled with 185.

That was several years ago and I’ve since built my bench up to 295 for 2 to 3 reps. (Not outstanding by any means but respectable.)

The Power Rack is your best friend.

A standard free weight bench press station is fine if you have a spotter, but if you don’t, you’re probably not going to be able to push yourself as hard as you want for fear of dropping the bar on your face.

Even if you have a lot of weightlifting experience and a good feel for your body and when you’re going to fail, there are going to be times where you either could have squeezed out another rep but didn’t go for it or where you do go for it and get stuck.

Enter the Power Rack. Here’s a fantastic one made by Rogue, which I highly recommend:

bench-press-for-sale

The safety arms are what make it so useful. Set them at the right height and they will catch the weight when you fail. Here’s how to do it:

Let’s now review how to perform each of the major exercises given earlier properly.

Barbell Bench Press

barbell bench press

There’s a reason why every well-designed weightlifting program includes the bench press as one of its core exercises. It deserves much of its mystique.

The fact is the bench press is one of the best all-around upper body exercises you can do, training the pectorals, lats, shoulders, triceps, and even the legs to a slight degree.

That said, although it looks simple enough, the bench press is a fairly technical movement. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll eventually hit a plateau…if you’re lucky enough to avoid injury.

That’s why learning proper bench press form is crucial. It makes sure you can progress safely in your bench pressing.

[Read: The Definitive Guide to Increasing Your Bench Press]

So let’s look at how to bench press properly, starting with proper body position.

How to position your body properly for the bench press.

Once you have your equipment ready, it’s time to get your body in the right position to press. The first two steps are:

1. Lie down on the bench and adjust so your eyes are under the bar.

2. Raise your chest up and tuck your shoulder blades down and squeeze them together.

You should feel tightness in your upper back, and you want to maintain this position throughout the entire lift.

3. Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Hold the bar low in your hands, closer to your wrists than your fingers, and squeeze it as hard as you can.

Your wrists should be straight up and down, not cupped (bent toward your head). This prevents wrist pain.

bench press form wrist

mikead2-900x900

A good way to check your grip width is to have a friend get behind you (looking at the top of your head) and check the position of your forearms at the bottom of the movement.

You want your forearms to be as close to perpendicular to the ground as possible. That is, straight up-and-down vertical, like this:

bench press form elbows

As you can see, the position on the far left is too wide, the middle is too narrow, and the far right is correct.

4. Slightly arch your lower back and plant your feet on the ground, directly under your knees, shoulder-width apart.

You don’t want your back flat on the bench and you don’t want it so arched that your butt is floating above it.

Instead, you want to maintain the natural arch that occurs when you push your chest out.

5. Unrack the weight by straightening your arms and then moving it horizontally until it’s directly over your shoulders.

You’re now ready to press.

Set up the same way every time you bench press, whether you’re just warming up or going for a PR.

It’s a good technique-building habit that will pay off in consistently better lifts and a lower risk of injury.

How to descend properly.

The first thing you should know about the pressing movement is how to tuck your elbows properly.

Many people make the mistake of flaring them out (away from the body), which can cause shoulder impingement. This mistake alone is the main reason why the bench press has a bad reputation as a shoulder wrecker.

A less common mistake is tucking your elbows too close to your torso, which robs you of stability and strength.

Instead, you want your elbows at a 50- to 60-degree angle relative to your torso. This protects your shoulders from injury and is a stable, strong position to press from. Here’s a helpful visual:

bench press form elbows 2

In the bottommost position, the arms are at about a 20-degree angle relative to the torso, which is too close. The middle position is the ideal one–about 60 degrees–and the topmost is the common mistake of 90 degrees.

So, now that you know the proper position of the elbows, let’s get back to the movement itself.

Keeping your elbows tucked and in place, lower the bar to the lower part of the middle of your chest, around your nipples.

Yes, the bar should touch your chest–no half-repping!

You should lower the bar in a controlled manner but shouldn’t be deliberately slow about it. (Super-slow reps aren’t better for building muscle.) About 2 seconds down is correct.

How to ascend properly.

Once the bar has touched your chest (touched, not bounced off of), you’re ready to push the bar up.

Although it’s called the bench press, it’s better to think of the ascension as pushing rather than pressing.

That is, picture that you’re pushing your torso away from the bar and into the bench instead of pressing the bar away from your torso. This will help you maintain proper form and maximize power.

The bar should move up with a slightly diagonal path, moving toward your shoulders, ending where you began: with the bar directly over your shoulders, where it’s most naturally balanced.

Lock your elbows out at the top–don’t keep them slightly bent lest you drop the bar on your face.

When ascending, nothing changes with anything else you’ve learned thus far about body position. Your shoulder blades remain down and pinched, your elbows tucked, your lower back slightly arched, your butt on the bench, and your feet on the floor.

How to rack the bar properly.

bench press form racking

Don’t try to press the bar directly into the hooks because if you miss, it’s coming down on your face.

Instead, finish your rep with the bar directly over your shoulders and your elbows locked and then shift the bar horizontally into the uprights.

Putting it all together.

Alright, that’s quite a bit to visualize so a good video is in order. Here’s what it all looks like in action:

Incline Bench Press

incline barbell bench press

The good ol’ flat barbell bench press is a staple in many weightlifting programs but is usually accompanied by several variations.

The incline bench press is one of the best of these variations because it helps build the upper portion of the chest more than flat or decline pressing.

This is why you find a lot of incline pressing in my Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger programs, and why I recommend the same here.

When doing this exercise, the angle of incline in the bench should be 30 to 45 degrees.

I prefer 30 degrees, but some people prefer an incline closer to 45. I recommend that you try various settings ranging between 30 and 45 degrees and see which you like most.

The basic setup and movement of the incline bench press is just as you learned for the regular bench press, with a small exception.

The bar should pass by the chin and touch just below the collarbones to allow for a vertical bar path.

Here’s a video that shows proper form with the barbell:

Dumbbell Bench Press (Flat and Incline)

dumbbell bench press

While it’s not a direct replacement for the barbell bench press, the dumbbell bench press is a worthwhile exercise.

One of the things I like about it is it allows you to increase the range of motion beyond the barbell press. Here’s how I like to do it (this is incline, of course, but you get the idea):

Technically my butt shouldn’t be moving–I was trying to move up in weight here and got a little overzealous–but what I wanted to show you was how I rotate my hands at the bottom of the rep and bring the dumbbells low.

This increases the range of motion without increasing the risk of injury, and I’ve found this very helpful in progressing with the weight and developing my chest.

Close-Grip Bench Press

close grip bench press

The narrower your grip on the bar, the more work your triceps have to do.

This is undesirable when you’re focusing on training your chest, but it’s one of my favorite ways to train the triceps. And, incidentally, stronger triceps means a stronger (regular) bench press.

When doing a close-grip bench press, your grip should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width and no closer.

You’ll see many guys place their hands just a few inches apart, and this is a bad idea—it puts the shoulders and wrists in a weakened, compromised position.

The rest of the setup and movement are the same as the regular bench press: the shoulder blades are “screwed” into the bench, there’s a slight arch in the lower back, the feet are flat on the floor, and the bar moves down on a slightly diagonal path, touches the bottom of the chest, and then back up.

If your shoulders or wrists feel uncomfortable at the bottom of the lift, simply widen your grip by about the width of a finger and try again.

If it’s still uncomfortable, widen your grip by another finger width and repeat until it’s comfortable.

Here’s a good instructional video:

Decline Bench Press

decline-bench-press

The decline bench press is popular among some people but I’m not a fan. Thanks to its reduced range of motion, it’s just less effective than incline and flat pressing.

A common argument made for doing decline presses is working the lowest portion of the pectoralis major, but I prefer dips for this.

The bottom line is you can never do a single set of decline bench press and still build an outstanding chest.

Reverse-Grip Bench Press

Reverse-Grip-Bench-Press

The reverse-grip bench press is an often-overlooked variation of the bench press that has merit.

It involves flipping your grip around on the bar (so your palms face you) and not only is it easier on your shoulders but it also is particularly effective for targeting the upper chest.

Here’s how to do it:

Remember–Progression is the Key to Muscle Growth

That’s it for the best chest exercises.

The key, however, isn’t just doing the exercises–it’s progressing on them. That is, increasing the amount of weight you can move over time.

If you don’t get stronger, you won’t get bigger.

[Read: How to Create the Ultimate Muscle Building Workout]

But if you do work on building your strength on these exercises, and you eat enough food to grow, your chest will respond.

The Ultimate Chest Workout

best chest workout for definition

A good chest workout focuses on heavy lifting and includes work that targets the upper portion of the pecs. Higher-rep training can be included but it should come later in the workout, after the heavy sets.

You can learn more about programming workouts in my books  Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger, but I want to give you a simple workout that you can do for the next 8 weeks to see how my advice works for you.

What I want you to do over the next 8 weeks is perform the following chest workout once every 5 – 7 days:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Flat Barbell Bench Press

3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Optional

Dips (Chest Version)

3 sets to failure

That’s it–just 9 heavy sets for your entire workout with 3 optional bodyweight sets.

  • Rest 3 minutes in between each heavy set and 1 minute in between the bodyweight sets.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

  • Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if you get on the incline bench and push out 6 reps on your first set, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can press it for 6 reps, and so forth.

I guarantee that if you do this workout and eat right for the next 8 weeks, you’ll be very happy with how your chest responds.

What About Supplements?

strong woman is drinking sports nutrition

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

[Read: The Ultimate Guide to the Best (and Worst) Workout Supplements]

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

mikead3-900x900

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your chest (and other) workouts.

Creatine

Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- and long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.

creatine-supplement


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)

whey-protein-supplement

WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors.
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.

pre-workout-supplement

Want More Workouts?

The Ultimate Arms Workout

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The Ultimate Back Workout

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The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

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The Ultimate Abs Workout

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The Ultimate Legs Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger squatting deep.

The Ultimate Calves Workout

ultimate-calves-workout

The Ultimate Butt Workout

best-butt-workouts

The Ultimate Forearm Workout

deadlift-form-tips

The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Man doing push-ups on kettlebells.

 

What’s your take on chest workouts? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

How to get lean and build serious muscle and strength, faster than you ever thought possible…

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my books.

You see, depending on how you eat, train, rest, and supplement, building muscle and losing fat can be incredibly simple or seemingly impossible. I've learned this the hard way, making every mistake you can imagine.

I've also learned a lot about what DOES work, and I wrote Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger to teach you EVERYTHING you need to know to build the body you've always wanted.

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  • Sam L

    Great article definitely works I’ve been on BLS for a few months and love the chest days and the difference I see already! Equally my tris and shoulders have improved vastly too.
    More MM workout videos please… U r a very inspirational person and I’d rather c more of u working out vs a lot of the crazies out there with bad form doing their bazillionth (half) rep with way to much weight. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Sam! Really glad to hear it.

      Videos are coming! This week!

  • Nate

    Great article. Where did you get the blue shorts that you were wearing in one of the pictures? I agree with Sam L about seeing more videos of you lifting.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Nate! Those are from Zara, as are the red ones.

      Videos coming! I’m going to take Instagram vids of my daily workouts to show a couple reps of each exercise.

  • Joe

    Mike,

    Just great advice on the 20-30 degree arm angle to take stress off of the shoulders.

    “Tucking” the elbows will result in the bar contacting lower on the chest.

    Since you can’t rotate the weights on an Incline Barbell Press (like you did with the incline dumbbell press in the video), I assume you tuck your elbows on the Incline Barbell Press also?
    I ask because I have often heard people say that on IBP the bar needs to contact high on the chest to work the “upper chest”. It seems like that old advice kills the shoulders though!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Joe! It’s a major point for protecting the shoulders.

      Yes, I tuck the elbows on incline pressing. It’s especially important on this press because it can be really easy to flare the elbows out and bring the bar to your neck.

      The bar touches about the middle of my chest. I had shot a video and was going to embed it but Instagram crashed, yay. Next week. 🙂

  • Theo

    What’s the optimal angle for incline presses mike? I find 45 degrees to be harder on the shoulders.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I like 30 degrees personally. I never go above 45 tho.

  • António Alves

    Hey Mike,

    Where should you grasp the olympic bar? Should both of your hands be on the opposite side of the “rings” on the bar?

    Great to hear that dips are not necessary, it was impossible to do the chest variation at my gym. By the way, is it ok to alternate between dumbbell and barbell DURING a workout? Let’s say I just finished my second set of dumbbell incline and another guy has just moved out of the only incline barbell bench of the gym, can I just drop the dumbbells and do the other 4 sets in the barbell bench (time issues)?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Michael Matthews

      I like a medium grip, a little wider than shoulder width.

      You could do that, but I prefer to finish one exercise at a time.

  • mahad

    Your body is the DREAM. what a great article. Thanks helped a lot!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man!

  • Matt

    Great stuff. When you say one set of 6 reps, one out of the 3 right not all 3 and not the first, could be the last one for instance?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes, exactly. It’s most likely going to be your first though, when you’re strongest. If you only get 5 reps sets 1 and 2, you’re probably not going to get 6 on set 3.

  • Francois

    Hi Mike! great article. I am also a big fan of heavy presses in the 5-8 rep range on the inclined and shallow declined bench (instead of flat) either with barbells or dumbells. However, I feel that I my inner portion is still lagging… Any advice on improving that? Are cable crossovers and close grip bench efficient for this issue? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Francois!

      Yes, if you need to emphasize the inner, this is where flyes and crossovers can be worthwhile. Close-grip bench is good for this too as you said (and it’s great for your tris as well).

  • Aras

    Great article once again, Mike! Couple questions: initially you mention dips as 1 of the 3 best exercises but then later you say (in the 8 week plan) to only include them if you’re advanced or have more left in the tank. So if I’m not advanced, do I not do dips or should I do them after this 8 week plan? Also, I don’t really see a big difference between the dips-chest version and the triceps version besides facing the other way on the dip machine. Sorry for being confused. Secondly, you recommend doing the bench press with elbows between 20-30˚, so do you mean like in a close-grip BP? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Aras!

      IMO dips should always come after your heavy pressing, so what I recommend is most workouts, get you 9 heavy pressing sets in and then you can finish with dips if you have more in you.

      In the chest variation, you’re angling your body a bit forward as opposed to being completely upright.

      No, not quite that close. Check the picture I posted and you’ll see what I mean. It’s in between a close-grip position and the normal incorrect elbows flared position we see most people using…

  • stalvind

    I never had a chest before. I followed the BLS and did the 3 exercises listed above and can now pinch a pencil between my pecs 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome man, keep up the good work!

      • Trollslayer

        Michael I need your input. As I said my chest is a weakspot on my body compared to other areas. When I do these exercises, I do not feel my chest engaging. The next day, there is no soreness. It seems that my triceps and my delts are doing most of the work, my chest is not responding. I’m using a 20-30% angle like you said and a weight thats 4-6 reps. Had a couple of guys watch me in the gym and they say my form is pretty good. Any advice there? Id appreciate it. Thanks

        • Michael Matthews

          Slow chest growth is probably the issue I’m most often emailed about, haha. This is definitely the most common genetic weak point, and really just takes time and hard work to get through. In my opinion, it takes 1-2 years to build what we would consider a solid chest, and 3-4 to build an awesome chest.

          Don’t be discouraged by that though. As long as your diet is right and you’re getting stronger each month, your chest WILL grow. It just grows slower than most people prefer.

          Here’s one little trick you can do:

          On the 3rd day after chest day, start your workout with a chest warm-up and 3 heavy sets of incline barbell press. Then move on to your normal workout. This won’t be enough to interfere with your next chest day, and can give you a little boost.

          Soreness isn’t necessarily an indicator of a good workout. Genetics, nutrition, and conditioning all play a role.

          Check out my article on this:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com /reduce-muscle-soreness/

          As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle. That said, if you’ve been training for quite some time, I recommend bumping the workouts up by 3 more sets. Just add one more exercise, and do 3 sets.

          • gillian

            Oh, with me it’s kind of opposite. My chest is progressing as expected, but my arms aren’t. I’m following the BLS program (3 months arleady).

            What can I do? Add 3 more biceps/triceps sets?

          • Michael Matthews

            Oh okay. That’s not a bad problem to have then as the arms are easy to bring up.

            Yeah add 3 sets of bis, 8 to 10 reps, to back day and 3 sets of tris, same reps, to chest day.

          • craig

            hi dude,
            a good thing i found when i had this problem was to do 3-4 sets of high rep tricep exersizes before doing a chest workout, seemed to work well for my chest development

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks for sharing Craig.

  • Paka Soon

    Hey Mike,

    GreIat article. ‘ve been doing y chest routine twice a week. On day 1 I do barbell routine and day 5 I do dumbbell routine. Is this too much?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Paka! Hmm well if you’re doing Day 1 again 2 days after Day 5, then this is a bit too much. I would recommend 9-12 heavy sets day 1 and 6 heavy sets day 5. This will prevent overtraining.

  • Mike

    I usually stick with dumbbells..easier overall to limit form mistakes and love the range of motion. Put an emphasis on the incline work as you detail.. the last few months and have seen more results than ever. Really appreciate the help!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome, that’s great! Keep up the good work!

    • Michael Matthews

      DBs are great and yup, incline pressing is the key. Keep it up!

  • António Alves

    Looking at the bodybuilding.com videos for the dip and dip-chest variation I can’t see the difference. Whenever I did dips I did feel my chest stretch but I always felt triceps were being worked more, and it is impossible for me to do dips in a chest workout if it is a chest/triceps day.

    I think this article was really good, and I like the way you use pictures to really show how underdeveloped muscles look like. I think it would be a good idea to do similar articles for the other muscles groups like legs, explaining why those 3 exercises are enough and why things like the thigh abductor are useless.

    Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      No worries just leave the dips out then and replace them.

      Yup, more articles like this are on the way!

  • Stronger

    awesome article! You say to do the above chest exercises for 8 weeks. Can you continue to use that chest routine for chest days for an entire year or does it have to be changed up at all? You say that progressive overload is necessary, and that theres no such thing as needing to change exercises up if eating right. So basically I will see results with the above routine if done for an entire year yes?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! While changing up exercises isn’t as important as some people claim, I do recommend changing your routine every 8 weeks or so. There are benefits to varying your emphasis on incline vs. flat presses, barbell vs. dumbbell, and the inclusion of dips.

      I go over this in my book Bigger Leaner Stronger and give a full year’s worth of workouts in the bonus report that comes with the book.

      • stronger

        thankyou, I bought the book last night and loved it. Thanks for attaching the bonus report that gives a year plan for workouts, im excited to try it out.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks so much! Definitely let me know how it goes!

  • Mario

    I’m glad I found this article but I have a question about the progression. You mentioned that as long as we can do one set of 6 out of the three then we should add another 5 pounds. I thought in the book you mentioned that we should only move up in weight if we can do 3 consecutive sets of 6 rep?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mario!

      Sorry for the confusion. I didn’t make this clear enough in the book. You want to move up in weight after hitting your FIRST set of 6 reps. Then you add 10 pounds (5 pounds to each size of the bar; each dumbbell).

      The reality is training to 3 sets of 6 reps isn’t BAD–it will still work–but you’ll make faster strength gains doing the above.

      I’m going to make this clearer in the second edition of BLS, which I will be starting on soon.

      • Kevin

        So essentially until we hit 6 reps in the first set, we will mostly likely be lowering the weight for the 2nd and third sets or remaining at the same weight until 6 reps in the first set. Correct?

        • Michael Matthews

          No, you shouldn’t have to drop weight if you’re taking the proper 2-3 minute rest. For me, progress usually goes like this:

          4-4-4
          5-4-4
          5-5-4
          5-5-5
          6-move up-4-4

          Etc.

          Of course it’s not always nice and linear but it is more often than it isn’t.

          • Kevin

            This is what just happened to me.

            I went 4 reps for the first set, absolute failure. I barely got the fourth rep up. it took everything. I was only able to get 3 on the 2nd set so i dropped the weight on my third set. My question is if im suppose to go to absolute failure on my first set or save a bit for the second and third? what should i do in the situation i just stated above?

            thnx

          • Michael Matthews

            No worries. Give every set your all–push as hard as you can while maintaining form.

            If you barely get 4 set 1, drop weight and work with that weight until you can get 5-5-4 or 5-5-5 and then you should be able to move up and get at least 4-4-4.

          • Wade L

            Thank you so much for that clarification! Makes so much more sense!

          • Michael Matthews

            My pleasure! Let me know how it goes!

      • moss

        hey mike! when’s the second edition of BLS due for release, and any chance of colour photos?

        • Michael Matthews

          It will be Q2 book and I don’t plan on putting in color photos, no. Not sure what to add in color haha.

  • moss

    nice article and nice results!
    what about reverse-grip floor press in lieu of any form of bench press,
    ditto for weighted-vest, feet-elevated push up.
    I’m asking because I don’t have a bench and don’t want one!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! If you don’t have a bench I suppose you could do floor presses. And yes, using a weighted vest with push-ups is a good way to increase the load. I talk about this here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

  • Matt

    Hey Mike, I’ve been following your program for over six months now, so far so good!
    I’m having some issues with the dumbbell press exercises though. I’m quite easily lifting the weight but getting the dumbbells in position is becoming more difficult. I’m using the same technique as you are: pushing them up with the knees. But especially with the flat dumbbell press this is becoming too hard and I need to ask other people for assistance every time.
    Is there some support exercise I could do to make the initial move easier? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome Matt, I’m really glad to hear it!

      Hmm good question. I never did any support exercises, I just take it slower on my flat presses. I’ll get a video of it next week so you can see.

      I don’t really KICK them so much as just rock them back into place, you know?

      • Matt

        Cool, thanks for the quick reply; I’m looking forward to seeing the video next week!

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool, look for it! 🙂

  • owenjerome

    Thanks Mike! Am going to start this week!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome, let me know how it goes!

  • Jesse

    Forget the picture of Greg Plitt, you are an inspiration all by yourself, Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks Jesse!

  • ry

    You dont like flyes or cables?

    • ry

      and can you do on of these articles for back?

      • Michael Matthews

        Yup, it’s next on the list. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      No, not for building mass and strength.

      • ry

        so could I do bb bench, incline bb, then incline db and finish it off w db flat? making sure i dont do more than 12 sets?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yup, exactly. You could finish with flys if you’d like–3 sets, but save them for last.

          • ry

            but stay within your recommended reps 4-6?

          • Michael Matthews

            Actually no on this exercise as this puts a lot of stress on the shoulder joints. 8-10 reps for flys.

          • ry

            is tht the same for shoulder flyes? side raises? 8-10

          • Michael Matthews

            Depends on if you can keep your form in at 4-6. If you can, then stick to 4-6 as shoulders are a bitch to grow. Gotta hit them heavy.

  • mike

    Thanks for all the good advice. BLS has become my go-to resource. I am sixty years old, but still am seeing
    good progress. I have reread the section
    on three workouts a week and still am confused.
    You say do the following:

    Set 1 for muscle A and then rest 60 seconds

    Set 1 for muscle B and then rest 60 seconds

    Set 2 for muscle A and then rest 60 seconds

    Set 2 for muscle B and then rest 60 seconds

    And so forth…

    So for chest and triceps workout day what does that really
    mean?

    Thanks.

    Mike

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mike! I really appreciate it. That’s awesome you’re rolling on the program.

      Sorry for the confusion. It works like this:

      Chest set 1
      Rest 60
      Tris set 1
      Rest 60
      Chest set 2
      Rest 60
      Tris set 2
      Rest 60

      Etc.

      You can extend the rest to 90 seconds if necessary.

      Make sense?

      • Mike

        Thanks! No problem, I was probably the only person that didn’t understand it. Makes sense now.

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha no worries let me know how it goes.

  • Tim

    Michael I love your ideas and advice!! ^^

    Though I’m currently following wendler 5/3/1 with bench as my main exercise…
    Would this cause me to emphasize the lower chest area to much?

    I started lifting 1,5 years ago…
    Am 23 years old, 1.82m and weight 210 pounds with abs, yay ^^

    I spend most of my time on cutting since I weighed 230 pounds 2 years ago…
    Since I started lifting weights I lost 40 pounds of fat and gained 20pounds of muscle…

    My 1 RM’s are:

    385 squat (a few hours ago)
    243 bench
    463 deadlift

    My main goal is emphasizing on strength gains rather than the visual gians ^^
    Though my chest is lacking when you “see” my physique…

    Currently my bench day goas like this (once a week)

    Bench 5/3/1 + jokersets and 1 down (1st work set) allout set

    Close-grip paused bench: 2 heavy sets (6 – 10 reps)

    Incline paused bench: 2 heavy sets (6 – 10 reps)

    Dumbbell incline bench: 3 high rep low weight burn sets (15 reps)
    Dumbbel flat bench: 3 high rep low weight burn sets (15 reps)
    Dumbbel flat flyes: 3 high rep low weight burn sets (20 reps)

    Thanks in advance for your opinion and advise ^^

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Tim!

      Great on your stats and what you’re doing. Awesome gains so far and nice 1RMS!

      Wow you’re hitting your chest HARD. Personally I would reduce the volume and focus a bit more on the incline. I would do the Big But Boring approach…

      • Tim

        Thanks Michael for you quick respons!

        Hope you had a great NYE!

        So what you’re saying is doing the flat bench 5/3/1 and then Incline bench as assistance with a BBB approach to it?

        And thanks for the compliments!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! I did, thanks. You?

          Yup, exactly. That’s what I would do. Incline barbell, incline dumbbell. and dips, BBB style.

    • Bud

      What is the purpose of incline bench then incline dumbbell? Thanks

      • Michael Matthews

        It takes a lot of incline pressing to build a full, proportionate chest.

  • Sandra Marr

    What do women look like after a couple of years I wonder. I am following your programme and very happy with it, but it would be great to follow in the footsteps of a women who has the equivalent ideal body. What do you think of the following article, they are saying do upright seated chest flyes instead, is it nonsense that chest presses can make a woman’s chest wider? I hope so as I am enjoying the chest press. Thank you.

    http://liveanddiet.com/2013/08/weight-training-for-women-chest-press-technique.html

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that article is nonsense. Women’s pectoral muscles are so small that they simply can’t build a “wide chest” without steroids.

      For instance, look at this professional bikini competitor’s chest:

      http://bretcontreras.com/wp-content/uploads/Ashley-IV.jpg

      Sure, a bit much, but realize this is a girl that has spent 10+ years lifting heavy weights, and whose livelihood depends on looking like that.

      All women on my program will notice is a bit of a boost in the chest, which they are usually happy about. 🙂

      • Sandra Marr

        Thank you, your comments are reassuring. I’ll carry on as I am!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW, sounds good! Let me know how it goes!

  • Tronk

    The best Christmas gift I received this year was your book the Shredded Chef, fantastic, all easy to follow and sectioned out, will definitely be investing in more of your books now.

    Thank you

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!

  • Jonathan

    Hi Michael – another great article. Quick question – I’ve been gradually more and more of your recommendations – low reps at 80% etc, diet….the one thing that I’m still doing differently to you is how I break down my exercises in the schedule. I’m trying to plan a new routine based on what you advise in your BLS book – in the past I’ve done four days with two varying workouts. Mon & Thur is chest & tris, rest Wed, Tues & Fri are back / shoulders and biceps. Abs were on each session.
    Your advice on reps in the 4-6 range has been great – but I’m still struggling to get the results I want – particularly in the chest. So I’m planning to give your five day schedule a go. You only recommend doing chest once per week – did I understand that right? If it’s a problem muscle group for me, should I be doing it more than once? Same with abs – I’ve always done them on every session at the beginning and end – just twice then?
    Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jon!

      If you’re giving your major muscle groups 4-5 days of rest before training them again, you can do that. But you would have to switch to a push-pull-legs routine so you don’t skip shoulders or legs.

      That said, you can also stick to my BLS routine and just add in some weak point training on Thurs or Fri, where you start with a warm up and 6 heavy sets of chest, and then move on to your regular workout.

  • Octavio Bravo

    Great article Michael! I used to do a lot of flat bench press but have started incorporating decline & incline and flyes into my workouts. I am the same as when you started, a bottom heavy chest. I’ll will start implementing the tips you’ve shared. One thing I did notice is as you’ve stated where I’ve flared out my arms at 90 degrees so will start working on correcting my form. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great Octavio, let me know how it goes!

      And definitely keep those elbows in–it protects your shoulders!

  • Carmine Pari

    Thanks Mike. Over the past 5 months my chest has improved more than it has over the past 30 years. I am in great shape for my age, but I never had a great chest. Now I think my chest is looking “pretty’ good. I added two things to my Mike Matthews workout that has really improved my chest: I decreased the angle of my incline benching from about 45 degrees to about 20 or 25 degree, and I added the decline dumbbell presses. I found the higher angle on the incline benching was working more shoulder. Decreasing the angle seems to work more of my upper chest. I did not have a nice cup and sides, but the decline dumbbell presses have improved them. I also do the dips as you recommend, of course.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome Carmine, I’m really glad to hear it.

      I also prefer a 30-degree angle on the incline because too high places too much emphasis on the shoulders.

      Interesting on the decline presses. I’ve never been a fan because they have a reduce range of motion and the pec major is better stimulated by the flat and incline presses.

      Yeah I prefer dips over decline because it helps build the sides and bottom, but also works the rest of the pecs.

      Keep up the good work!

  • David Tripp

    Excellent article, Mike – thanks! Especially like the reminder about angle of the elbows, as I think this is something I’ll need to correct after years of poor form and resulting discomfort in my left shoulder and numbness and tingling running through my pinky and ring finger… 20-30 degrees, 20-30 degrees…!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks David!

      Yeah elbow angle is very important. You will notice an immediate difference…

  • Colin

    Work all over the world. So never have the opportunity to use weights. But must say press ups and dips work for me. I am 50 but still have a body that my son wants, all by following your advise. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great. Bodyweight training works really well. I talk about it here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

  • Ed

    My gym does not have an Incline Barbell Bench but it does have a Smith Machine. Should I go ahead and use the Smith Machine for the Incline Barbell Bench Press. I know the Smith Machine is not optimal but is it better than nothing or do you have a recommendation? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, I would simply because incline barbell is a really important press. Smith isn’t ideal as you know, but it’s better than not doing any incline barbell pressing.

  • Ed

    Do you have an opinion on what is sometimes referred to as a Bench Press Machine (NOT the Smith) where each arm moves independently with a handle for each hand to grasp and each side is plate loaded–at the end of the press, the hands end up fairly close together? The reason I ask is that if I don’t have a spotter (I go early in the morning) I’m reluctant to go heavy on the barbell bench press. Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, not a fan as barbell press is just better…

  • Faizan

    I do these all and add on other exercises too but one thing is , I really find declined bench press effective for me ,I feel my chest burning out when i do close grip declined bench press, my chest gets very very thick.. Why is it so…?? O.o Should i stop doing decilnes??

    • Michael Matthews

      Remember that burn doesn’t really mean much beyond the fact that lactic acid is building up in the muscle. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get bigger and stronger from the workout.

      Decline isn’t horrible, it’s just not necessary. I haven’t done a single decline press in 3+ years and my chest has dramatically improved…

  • Huge

    Great article ! But i have one question is that the gym room which i usually have my training got no barbell , i know that’s ridiculous , therefore i would like to ask if incline barbell press can be switched to other exercises ?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Yeah you can do dumbbell presses instead. Or go to a different gym. 🙂

  • Trollslayer

    Michael, I am so glad I ran across this. I have found it very difficult to build my chest. Most chest exercises I do, I feel no activation of my pectoral muscles, and when I do, its usually the lower. I am going to give this a serious go over the next few months and let you know how it goes. Thanks for the amazing and well-delivered information.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I totally understand. Let me know how you like this routine!

  • Joe

    Mike,
    From past posts, you have helped me understand that as I have been getting older, 4-6 reps has been getting too much on my joints and that great gains can still be made if I use a rep range of 6-8. Since I switched to a 6-8 range, my joints feel, much, much better, so thank you for that advice.
    On this workout: If I do a rep range of 6-8, for 3 sets, on 3 different exercises, I will be getting as much as 72 reps. Since the ideal number of reps per week for a body part is 60, what do you suggest I do? Should I drop a set from one (or two) of the exercises, and if so, which one(s)?
    Also, in BLS you recommend chest dips, but for this Ultimate Workout, Chest Dips are not included. Is there a reason for this, or is it just that your thinking has evolved since BLS to where Chest Dips are just not as important as the three exercises you have listed for building the “Ultimate Chest”?
    Thank you so much for all of the advise you continue to offer.
    Joe

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Joe! I’m glad to hear you’re doing well with the 6-8 rep range. 72 should be fine. Let’s see how your body responds. It becomes a problem when you start going over 90+ reps per workout.

      Dips are great but for this workout I just wanted people to focus on heavy pressing that’s all. 🙂

  • Guest

    Your selection of exercises is exactly what I came to over the years of frustration with weak upper pecs. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice!

  • Leonty Deriglazov

    I came up with the same set of exercises over the years of frustration with flat upper chest. Combining inclined barbell bench press with inclined dumbbell press in one workout came as a surprise though. Will try that!
    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice, let me know how it goes!

  • ms

    hey Michael, i just wanted to let u know that i started to take N-O xplode pre workout and it gives me the energy to do more than 7 exercises in a moderate to high weights in the chest work out and now ur telling me to do 3 to 4 sets, so is that enought or it will be considered as a low training? or should i stop taking the pre workout since it gives me the energy to stay 2 hours at the gym and more!

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m not a fan of that product but if you like it, that’s good.

      You want to do 9-12 heavy sets per chest workout if you’re going to follow my advice. Stick to the 4-6 rep range.

      • ms

        thank u for ur reply but i did 12 heavy sets yesterday on the chest workout and i felt that i have energy to do more sets but i didn’t because i decided to follow ur chest workout routine, so is that okay or should i do another 3 sets since i have the energy?
        I have another question plz, i do abs training 3 times a week, 12 to 15 sets and 15 to 20 reps per workout, is that considered as over training? if yes how many times and sets should i work my abs! thank u 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah that’s okay. You should finish your workout feeling energized, not completely drained. Trust me–stick with 12 heavy sets per major muscle group trained.

          Abs 3x per week should be fine. They recover very quickly.

          • ms

            thank u so much, but i have another question plz, what do u think of Amino fuel liquid, i just bought it today and stacked it with my NO Xplode and whey protein. any suggestions?

          • Michael Matthews

            My pleasure! I don’t know much about that product but if it’s just a BCAA product it’s unnecessary.

  • Michael C

    These exercises are likely the MOST common chest exercises to do. If the issue is with upper chest development (like picture 1) shouldn’t we include something else? I imagine the dude in picture 1 does the above presses, and is at least pushing himself enough to get decent development. what am I missing?

    • Michael Matthews

      Most people focus on flat and decline presses and flyes, and most people perform exercises with terrible form and lighter weights, which dramatically reduce their effectiveness.

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  • Chase Millard

    Michael, I’ve spent a some time reading through your articles. Lots of great stuff. One thing I would like clarification on is that of the timing of each rep, particularly on the negative part of the rep. I can assume you won’t recommend dropping the weight and bouncing off the chest like a douche bag, but I would like to know what you recommend. I ask because I have done a lot of reading on the benefits of really controlling the negative part of the rep, some even say to control it down for 6+ seconds, maximizing time under tension (TUT). What are your thoughts?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Chase!

      I like a standard 2-1-2 timing. No douchebag bouncing and no superslow garbage either.

      The extreme TUT training has been debunked. One of a few studies I’ve seen on the matter:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21993022

      • Chase Millard

        Thanks for the prompt response and link!!! I’m going to implement your workout philosophy for the next few months, will report back with results to confirm for any skeptics out there that your philosophy is legit. Thanks again dude, keep up the good work.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Awesome man let me know how it goes!

  • Gabriel Garcia

    Michael, I bought your book “B,L,S” and was reading chapter 19 where it talks about proper form for bench press. The book says “Your elbows should be pointing out from the body at about a 45-60-degree angle (between parallel and perpendicular to your torso). . . .” but the article says to keep them 20-30. Would you be able to clarify this?

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  • fransmart@sky.com

    Hi Michael. I bought your BLS book and I am tempted to give your BLS routine a run but it seems that It calls for training a bodypart only once every seven days i.e.

    Day 1-Chest&Abs + Cardio
    Day 2-Back&Calves
    Day 3- Cardio
    Day 4-Shoulders + Cardio
    Day 5-Legs + Cardio
    Day 6-Rest
    Day 7-Arms&Abs

    Based on the above recommed training split muslces are only being worked once a week every 7 days. This seems to go against a lot of the other optimal training frequency protocols I have read from other source which recommend training a muslce twice a week or at least every 5th day.
    Have i read something wrong here, are some body parts supposed to be trained ogther like legs and shoulders on the same day for example?
    Thanks

  • FS

    Hi Michael. I bought your BLS
    book and I am tempted to give your BLS routine a run but it seems that It calls
    for training a bodypart only once every seven days i.e.

    Day 1-Chest&Abs + Cardio
    Day 2-Back&Calves
    Day 3- Cardio
    Day 4-Shoulders + Cardio
    Day 5-Legs + Cardio
    Day 6-Rest
    Day 7-Arms&Abs

    Based on the above recommed
    training split muslces are only being worked once a week every 7 days. This
    seems to go against a lot of the other optimal training frequency protocols I
    have read from other source which recommend training a muslce twice a week or
    at least every 5th day.

    Have i read something wrong here,
    are some body parts supposed to be trained ogther like legs and shoulders on
    the same day for example?

    Thanks
    PS Thanks for removing earlier post with the blunder =)

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Like “ideal” rep ranges, optimal training frequency is a hotly debated subject. The bottom line is it boils down to workout intensity and volume. The lighter the weights and fewer the sets, the more often you can train the muscle group.

      In the case of BLS, you hit your muscles hard, with about 50-60 reps per workout, with all reps recruiting maximum muscle fibers (due to the load). The reality is unless you have superhuman recovery, you just won’t be able to do these workouts more than once per 5 days. Once per 7 days is probably a LITTLE more rest than some people need, but I think it’s better to err on that side than the side of overtraining.

      The bottom line is EVERYONE that follows the program makes rapid strength and size gains. Even long-time lifters.

      That said, the one thing that we sometimes do is add 6 additional chest sets 3-4 days after the chest workout. You would do that first and then move on to your normal workout.

      • FS

        Thanks a lot Michael. A bit of an eye opener for me.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. I understand. 🙂

      • FS

        One more question sorry. I am just about to start a fat loss phase. Should i still use the same seven day template above for fat loss or is this too much when restricting calories. If this is covered in BLS just let me know and I’ll get the answer from there.

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool and nope your schedule looks perfect for fat loss. Stick to the BLS program and macros and you’ll do great.

      • Nikhil Singh J

        Micheal mattheews sorry my english is not very good plz help me the second photo of your article is look same my chest problem plz help me .plz can you tell me more how i build muscle ni centre

        • Michael Matthews

          Slow chest growth is probably the issue I’m most often emailed about, haha. This is definitely the most common genetic weak point, and really just takes time and hard work to get through. In my opinion, it takes 1-2 years to build what we would consider a solid chest, and 3-4 to build an awesome chest.

          Don’t be discouraged by that though. As long as your diet is right and you’re getting stronger each month, your chest WILL grow. It just grows slower than most people prefer.

          Here’s one little trick you can do:

          On the 3rd day after chest day, start your workout with a chest warm-up and 3 heavy sets of incline barbell press. Then move on to your normal workout. This won’t be enough to interfere with your next chest day, and can give you a little boost.

  • FS

    Hi Michael

    In order to incorporate your
    linked routines (Chest,Back,Shoulders,Legs,Arms) for all muscle groups in
    conjunction with your recommended frequency a muscle will only be getting
    worked only once per week/ every 7th day as rest will need to be factored into the
    week also.

    This seems to go against all
    other material I’ve read which calls for a frequency of at least twice a week/
    minimum every 5th day for optimal protein synthesis and training frequency.
    Most of these other material sources say that hitting say chest for example
    only once a week only works for those using steroids. Normally the recommended
    routines to achieve such frequency would be and upper/lower or push/pull split
    as opposed to one muscle group per day.

    Can you share your thoughts and opinions
    on this please?

    Thanks

  • Pingback: 11 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Bench Press | Muscle For Life()

  • Jeff Blakey

    Would it be acceptable to replace the flat bench with dips ?

    • Michael Matthews

      I wouldn’t say it’s a good replacement, but dips are a good exercise.

  • Donald Booth

    I like this chest workout because its all three of my favorite chest workouts and don’t have to do any flyes! Hey Mike would it hurt to cross overs once in a while because there another one of my favs for chest?

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha nice! That’s fine, you can finish with 2 sets 8 to 10 reps.

  • Tom

    Michael, do you have any tips for fixing ‘droopy’ pecs apart from simply focusing on incline bar/dumbell? I’ve been trying to correct for a while now, and my pec major just seems to grow so easily, I haven’t been able to even it out. Cheers.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah focus on the incline and stay lean.

  • DevilDevine

    http://youtu.be/rT7DgCr-3pg

    Is this correct? As i am a small guy myself and sometimes find it hard to touch my chest without discomfort in my shoulder. I also find it hard to control my elbows not to flare :/ im sure im doing something wrong

    • DevilDevine

      Having said that, i am pinching my shoulderblades and keeping my chest up. Had to drop the weight in order to do this but the way I see it, i am in a constant quest for perfect form. Still got complimented on my chest since starting BLS though:)

      • Michael Matthews

        That’s good. Keep your elbows at about 40 degrees as well and don’t roll your shoulders at the top and you’ll be good to go.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s completely false. If your form is correct, you will NOT cause an injury by touching the bar to your chest. Read more about proper form here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-increase-bench-press/

      • DevilDevine

        Thanks for clearing it up. This discipline makes you a better man as you have to constantly criticise your form. Ego has no place at the gym:) tc

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. I agree.

  • Steve Pittelli

    I finished 8 weeks of this and I was going to switch to doing flat bench first, so flat barbell press, incline barbell press, incline dumbbell press and weighted dips – does that sound good?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup! That’s a good variation of the workout. How did you do?

      • Steve Pittelli

        I did really well. I went up a good amount of weight for both incline barbell press and incline dumbbell press. About two weeks ago I decreased weight by about 10 pounds on both flat and incline barbell press because I wasn’t touching my chest each rep so I wanted to fix that

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome, that’s good. Form>weight.

  • Henry

    Hey man this looks great! I’ve been doing this regimen for over two months now. Although I do look more cut, I haven’t noticed much difference in terms of my chest size and I tried maxing out the other day, and I don’t think I’ve gotten any stronger (although it might have just been a shitty day since I barely ate breakfast before I lifted).

    Anyway, here’s my chest day and I repeat these weekly but different reps. 1st and 2nd week is 3 sets of 15, then 3rd and 4th week 3 sets of 12, 5th week is 3 sets of 10 negatives and then 6th week is 4 sets of 8 and then 7th week is 4 sets of 6.

    it’s flat dumbbell bench superset with dumbbell chest flies, then we go to incline dumbbell bench, then hammerstrength chest press superset with dips( as many as I can. Usually I can’t get all of the reps). then cable chest flies superset with pushups to finish up. What’s your opinion on that? Maybe I should just keep doing reps of 8 and 6s. For 8, I’m doing like 70lb dumbbells for flat bench and for 6s I’m doing 75 lb dumbbells but I have to drop down to 70 after the 2nd set.

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t like that type of periodization. I would recommend sticking to exactly what I say here and make sure you’re eating enough food as well:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      • Henry

        I have few more questions for you, man. 1. do you have a substitute for the incline barbell bench? I know you already have the incline dumbbell one in there but I was wondering if I can do anything else besides that. I don’t have a spotter for the barbell one so I’m a bit fearful of it falling on me on my last rep since I can’t just drop the weights like I can for the dumbbells. 2. How long do you think it’ll take before I can see some results? I’m going to the beach in less than 2 months and I would like to see some results before that.I already have a bit of chest but I need to work on the upper part for it to stand out. 3. What angle would you say is appropriate for the incline dumbbell bench? the video above seems to be a bit of a lower angle than I’ve been doing.

        • Michael Matthews

          Regarding the spotting issue, what you want to do is end your bench, squat, and military press sets (the only exercises where you need a spot) with one rep still in the tank–that is, end your sets when you struggle for a rep and aren’t sure you can get another. You shouldn’t need a spot for any other exercises.

          Or you can always ask for someone else in the gym to give you a spot. I do it all the time. The last resort is the Smith Machine. 🙂

          Otherwise you can do 3 more sets of incline DB presses.

          You should see a difference in 2 months. You’re not going to build a massive chest in that time but it will be noticeable.

          I like ~30 degrees. I find 45 too high.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Jason Brown

    any recommended angles for the incline press? 45 degrees? 60?

    • Michael Matthews

      I like 30 – 35.

  • Andy

    I used to be fearful of heavy reps on barbell exercise, and I can see in the comments that others have this fear as well. The first time I failed to get a rep up without a spotter was actually a pretty liberating moment. I found it extremely easy to simply roll the bar off me, set it on the floor, and then do a little deadlift/shrug motion to set the bar back on the pins. Obviously better to leave one in the tank as you suggest, but I don’t think there is any reason to be paralyzed by the fear of a barbell being stuck on your chest.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha nice. Yeah, it’s not a big deal. Just annoying.

  • Hoda

    I love this article! I started this three weeks ago, I was a bit skeptical but it really does work. Best of all it isn’t too labor intensive. And I love that you went into decline presses and discussed its ineffectiveness because I was torn in the past if I should do them and I was informly told it was the best exercise for the chest. So glad I can skip them, lol. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m really glad to hear it. Keep up the good work!

  • Renier

    First of all,Thank you very much for posting these articles, they have been really helpful for me and I have made really good progress on the gym since I was working in a really high rep range 8-12 and this was really uncomfortable because I wanted to go more heavy.

    I have been reading your articles and I think they are great, but I would like to know some things:

    1-¿What do you Think about doing squats 2 times per week?

    2-¿What do you think about doing shoulder press and military press in the same shoulder day?

    2-¿What do you think about doing a chest workout with flat and incline press with dumbbells and barbells( 4 exercises of 3 sets = 12 sets)?

    3-Im about to start cutting and I would like to drop to 6-7% bodyfat, any advice to go bellow 8-10% bodyfat?

    I weigh 180 pounds with 15-16% bodyfat,175 cm, 18 years old, I have 1 year of lifting weights.

    Sorry about my grammar, And best wishes to you sir from Panama. Thank you very much.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I’m glad to hear it.

      1. You can do this but you have to reduce volume. You couldn’t do 2 BLS legs workouts every day 7 days. Maybe once every 5 days at best.

      2. That’s fine but your front delts don’t need much more. They get slammed on both chest and shoulder days.

      3. Yeah check out my articles on weight loss. Belly fat in particular.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Renier

        you have no idea how much this means to me, for real, thank you for your great answers, I will check your article and share the web with my friends, one more thing, I don’t want to be annoying asking to many things, but:

        1-¿What do you think about doing a chest workout with flat and incline press with dumbbells and barbells( 4 exercises of 3 sets = 12 sets)?

        Again I appreciate so much your great answers, have a good day.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure!

          Yes that workout is fine.

  • Ryan

    Great informative info here. With my workout schedule being MON,TUE,THUR,FRI with rest on WED and WEEKENDS how would you split up the workout for each day? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      I would do…

      Chest & tris
      Back & bis
      Shoulders
      Legs

      • eng60

        Hey Michael, wouldn;t u do chesh/bi and back/bi since chest already works tri?

        • england60

          i mean chest/bi and back/tri, doing tri with chest overworks the tri?

          • Michael Matthews

            I’ve never found it overworks the tris. I like it better this way personally.

          • Lindsay Rice

            That’d be interesting, never tried that. One thing I did try recently that I don’t recommend is doing Shoulders/Tris. I tried putting Chest on it’s own day because it was lagging for me, but it ended up being too hard on my shoulders which are more prone to injury. Back/Bi & Chest/Tri has worked great for me because there are some exercises that hit both like underhand/parallel grip chin-ups, barbell rows, close grip bench press. I can’t think of anything that hits Chest & Biceps quite as equally so you’d end up doing more exercises and spending more time in the gym.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah I wouldn’t do shoulders + tris either. Chest + tris just go together nicely because of exercises like close-grip bench and dips.

          • Michael

            Absolutley, Triceps and Shoulders together (even for the seasoned) just don’t go well fo
            r me either. Alot of books/web pages do put these two (shoulder & triceps) together. Esspecially beginer routines. For me, if I do my shoulders first, my tricep exercises lack reps and weight. If I do my triceps first, my shoulder work out stinks. Back & Bi’s/Chest & Tri’s, Shoulders & Legs, work better for me.
            If your just starting Heavy Weight training, or are still weak, dont worry about your arms. The basic Back/Chest/Shoulder and Leg workouts posted here, are enough. Get form and Strenghth. Through acheivment of the basics, your arms will come in, then work Bi’s & Tri’s in. Remember keep it simple…
            Chow

          • Michael Matthews

            Great reply! Thanks!

      • Simone

        Hi,

        If you combine Chest and Triceps on the same day, what exercises would you suggest for triceps after chest?

        If you would suggest dips for chest and dips for triceps, should I transition from 3 sets of chest dips to 3 sets of tricep dips or just do tricep dips at the end of tricep workout?

        • Michael Matthews

          Close-grip bench and overhead DB triceps press are my two faves. Dips are really good too, both variations.

          I wouldn’t do 6 sets in that workout thought–I would probably do for last 3 sets of chest.

          • Simone

            How do you do your splits?

            – Chest
            – Back
            – Arms
            – Shoulders
            – Legs

            Like this? I would just like to know if it would be more beneficial to have a separate day for arms or it may be over training and it would be better to include the triceps on chest day and biceps on back day. I would like your take in this. Thanks!

          • Michael Matthews

            I do this:

            Chest
            Back
            Shoulders
            Arms
            Legs
            Weak Point Training (usually more shoulders & lats ATM)

            I like giving arms their own day. It has really helped me get them up to snuff.

          • Dibi

            I’m eighteend and I have a serious problem. First of all this is my chest routine :

            Dip ( 3 sets as many reps as I can )

            Barbell Bench press ( 3 sets, the First ‘DROP SET’ )

            Dumbell Decline press ( 3 sets, the First ‘DROP SET’ )

            Incline Bench press ( 3 sets, the last ‘DROP SET’ )

            My problem is thai my chest doesn’t grow. Can you tel me what i can do?

          • Yeah how about the routine in this article?

          • Rinku Ramolia

            Thanks for nice information. But during my triceps workout if I do overhead press or scull crunches, might be nerve popping in and out on my funny bone and I m not able to do my triceps workout.

          • Definitely avoid any exercises that are causing pain/discomfort…

  • Jason

    I don’t have access to an incline barbell set up (though I do have an incline bench for the dumbbell set). What would you recommend as an alternative?

    • Michael Matthews

      I would do this:

      3 sets incline DB press
      3 sets flat DB press
      3 sets flat BB press
      3 sets dips

      • Jason

        Thank you!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW

  • Nikhil Singh J

    Could u suggest that abs related exercises should be done along with regular exercises or seperately (in d morning)? And what diet is best to build abs muscle and to reduce extra fat? And usually how long does it take to make abs?

  • Scott Costie

    Hi Mike, I’m just starting your program and saw your response to not having a spotter. Would you think a bowflex type machine would be ok? There aren’t the same restrictions as a smith type machine.

    • Michael Matthews

      Honestly I’m not a fan of them. They’re not nearly as effective as free weight… Smith Machine will even be better.

  • Josie

    Hi Mike,
    I tried out the chest workout outlined here and in your book, and I can’t for the life of me do the chest dips. I can just about get one full range of motion in going down, but coming back up is almost impossible, and then after that I’m only managing to do the chest dips with about 10% the range of motion I should have. Unfortunately, my gym doesn’t have an assistance machine, so I can’t work my way up to it. Is it worth me carrying on with attempting the dips each week, or would a substitute exercise be better?
    Thanks for your time.

    • Michael Matthews

      No worries. You can just do more incline presses and you’ll get stronger. 🙂

  • Alex Zin

    I already had shoulder fatigue with heavy weights training chest, stopping exercise because there was a lack força.This due to the change of position of the arms in the bench press exercise ¿

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry I don’t understand

  • Alex Zin

    I’ve had fatigue in the shoulder while training chest. and when he was doing the bench press repetitions with dumbbells after a few repetitions or 2 sets was looking to latch on my shoulder rising dumbbells. will that is too heavy or am I doing something wrong or is this normal ¿

    • Renier Pérez

      español? Puedo traducir para que mike lo entienda.
      Spanish? I can translate it to mike.

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry but I don’t understand

  • Evan Chris

    Hi Michael, if I work out 4x/wk using the “Ultimate Workout” series, would I want to split it

    chest/tri
    back/ bi
    shoulders
    legs

    or

    chest/back
    arms
    shoulders
    legs

    I know the first is more common but I’ve been thinking that on say, chest/tri day, your triceps are hit quite a few times. ie, 4 different bench exercises besides dips etc. the same going for back/bi…so many back exercises use the biceps a lot. What’s your opinion?

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t like combining large groups like chest & back because good luck benching and deadlifting heavy on the same day.

      I would go with the first layout.

  • geoff brent

    Hi Michael, i do chest and tri on the same day as i’m sure many do. Do you recommend this work out whilst on a chest + tri day? If so, i like to do dips on this day which mainly work the Tri’s but also engage the lower portion of the pecs, i’m told. Do you you think i should take the dips out of the equation and find alternative tri exercises which don’t engage the pecs?

    Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, that works. You can combine some tri work with this. If you include close-grip bench that’s all you’ll really need with the dips, really.

      Dips do involve the chest but if you keep your body upright, they’re a great tris exercise.

      • Geoffrey Lorenzo Brent

        Thanks Michael. Great article!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Thanks!

  • dylan

    thanks for all these articles. its really great to have an unbiased and more importantly unsponsored view on this type of stuff. been reading a lot of your articles on nutrition and I couldn’t agree more with them. top notch stuff. very much appreciated!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I appreciate it!

  • james

    u said to follow the routine for 8 weeks. Than what after 8 weeks? Which exercises to be perform? Please give the full detail or chart for chest exercises.

    • Michael Matthews

      You should check out Bigger Leaner Stronger. You’ll like the program.

  • Renier

    Mike I got a question what do you think of working on with 3 sets of 3 reps on deadlift, low bar squat, and flat bench and then work with 4-6 reps in the next exercises, by applying this”Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.” in every exercise ? I feel that I can make more progress by doing 3 heavy reps on these exercises, what do you think about it?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. I address periodization like this in my next book, which will be out very soon!

  • Ryan

    I have been doing your workouts for some time now but I’m stuck..what do you do when you can’t move from 5 reps to 6? (specifically on bench,and I’m still bulking) been like this for a few weeks now

  • Gavin Akins

    Should we rotate each week the order in which we do each workout, not just for chest, for the other groups as well?
    For example, Flat Barbell>Incline Barbell>Incline dumbell. Then the next week, Incline Barbell>Incline Dumbell>Flat barbell. And so on?

    • Michael Matthews

      You can do this but I prefer to keep it the same so we can truly judge our progress on each exercise (order affects things, of course).

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to Mobility Exercises: Improve Flexibility, Function, and Strength | Muscle For Life()

  • adam

    Hi mike
    We have to change shedule every 8 weeks ? Or every part? Habe been following same since 8 weeks and very happy.

    • Michael Matthews

      Don’t HAVE to no.

  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    Do you think i have a good case to sue my gym?
    The personal trainer that gave me my induction after compiling a fitness plan for me failed to show me the correct technique for the bench press. He just said put your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart on the barbell and push up-that’s it.

    I carried on doing this ridiculously dangerous form for a few months until I picked up severe tendinosis in my left shoulder and my physio has suggested I will never be able to lift weights again. Had I been shown the proper technique this would not have happened!

    Do you think there would be too many loopholes for them to pick on as proving the direct cause of the injury was the bench press movement is near impossible when I was also doing other exercises that involved the shoulder. So what do you think? Attempting to sue gyms for an injury like this is a recipe for disaster? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow that sucks and I have no idea to be honest. I’m not so sure that you’ll never be able to lift again though. Guys recover from full muscle tears.

      IMO get with a sports doctor. Even this type of stuff will help:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-improve-shoulder-flexibility-and-mobility/

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/mobility-exercises/

      • Julien

        Thanks for the links! Also, in general, from your experience with gyms and weight lifting, at a guess would you say it’s quite common for personal trainers to not explain the correct form of the bench press to new clients. Do you reckon most of them simply don’t know what the actual perfect form is?

        • Michael Matthews

          YW and yes most trainers don’t know much of anything unfortunately.

  • Pingback: The best chest workout for building big, strong pecs | Best BodyBuilding Workout Tips()

  • Kelvin Guzmán

    Hey mike, your site is amazing. One of the few, no bs fitness sites. I had a question. I have well developed lower pecs but my upper pecs are lacking badly just like you said.(That its a common occurence) I only did flat bench and weighted dips. I was wondering if i do your routine if my upper pecs will catch up when im still training my lower pecs. I figure the lower pecks will plateau and the upper can catch up. I dont want to stop doing flat bench and dips but i want my upper pecs to at least catch. I look awesome in a tanktop except for my upper chest thats non-existant, haha. What do you think? And againt hanks for all the info Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! No your pec major won’t fall behind by emphasizing incline pressing. Start each chest/push training with 6 sets of heavy incline and your upper chest will catch up!

      • Kelvin Guzmán

        Thanks again Mike!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW

  • Ben

    I would disagree, incline movements should definitely be part of a routine but not as the main focus as it tends to put too much emphasis on the delts, plus decline movements have consistently shown to provide the highest amount of pectoral activation

  • ClubWolf

    Hi Mike,

    I think the idea of going to the gym and getting ripped is a fairly new concept for the West (relatively speaking over the course of decades). Here in England, it wasn’t until the last decade that it was no longer considered ‘common’ to bulk up, a thing that the lower classes only did. That said, when you compare this to weight training in eastern europe and martial arts of asia, there must be so much that the ordinary gym goer in the West needs to learn. Have you ever come across different training styles or different approaches to fitness in those parts of the world? And would you say the West has caught up yet?

    • Michael Matthews

      You know that’s a good question and I’m actually not sure as I don’t know of any popoular Eastern weight training methodologies. At least not east of Russia.

  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    Would you say that it is common for people to not do the bench press correctly?

    • Michael Matthews

      VERY common…

  • Mario Russo

    At the moment, I only have dumbbells and a VigorFit machine (basically a Total Gym). Can I replace the barbell exercises with more dumbbell and VigorFit exercises and get the same or similar results? Don’t really have the money to get a regular bench and weights. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah you can do well with just DBs even. I trained chest with only DBs for about 6 months at one point and was impressed with how well they filled in.

      • Mario Russo

        Great. Thanks Mike.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW

  • stdez

    Mike, do you suggest the 20 to 30 degree angle the for closegrips also?

    • Michael Matthews

      When I close-grip my elbows are a bit closer to my sides.

  • stdez

    When started benching using the 20 to 30 degree angle method I had to drop down alot in weight (from 205 to 170) does this sound right ?. I must have not been using proper form all these years

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup that’s normal if form is off. Form>weight.

  • Michael

    Hey Mike, thanks for a great read… the info has definitely helped me so far with chest size. My biggest problem with the chest is the left pec is better developed than the right pec. The right pec has good size, but the difference is considerable enough for me to notice. I understand this is most likely a mix of genetics and lifting form, but is there a way to correct this? Will lifting big eventually even it out, or should i throw in an extra set for my right pec? Thanks for you time!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m glad to hear it.

      Imbalances are common and it usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      • Michael

        Absolutely, will do. Keep up the good work

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks brother. 🙂 You too.

  • Yk Le

    What about training my chest twice a week?

    my routine is:

    Mon – Chest/Tri (all the presses are barbells)
    Tues- Back/Bi
    Wed- Shoulders
    Fri- Chest/Tri (again, but on this day i focus on dumbbell presses)
    Sun- Legs

    • Michael Matthews

      This works but workouts 1 & 2 shouldn’t be identical. #1 should be 12 sets heavy and #2 should be 3-6 sets in the 8-10 rep range.

      • Yk Le

        Thank you Michael!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW

  • Mohammed Hussein

    Hi,

    I just finished 30 days of fasting during month of Ramadan and lost allot of strength:( my bench press was 90 to 100kg flat around 5 to 6 full range reps.. first day back in last week I barely did 4 reps on 80kg bench press!! which was a huge letdown for me 🙁

    I felt so weak, I hope this chest exercise plan will help me regain my strength, Last year I did 8weeks of incline only and it helped me regain my strength but I think this looks like a proper insane workout. I will follow this workout and leave a before after pic wish me luck guys!:D

    • Michael Matthews

      No worries. You’ll get it back quickly. Let me know how it goes…

  • Renier

    Mike, when do you recommend to do a deload or do a rest week? also what would you do if you plateau working in the 4-7 rep range( just in case it happen) ?

    • Michael Matthews

      It depends on your body and what you’re doing. In BLS I recommend a deload week every 8-10 weeks.

      • Renier

        I’m doing you recommended workouts, working in the 4-6 rep range , I’m just starting to bulk, Tried another routine but I realize that I would rather work with your recommended style of training because: It’s simple, and I feel comfortable more than with any other routine out there. So in your deload week you basically work with less weight maybe 60-70% of your normal weight? Again thanks for the reply.

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome let me know how it goes. About 50% actually. It’s boring. 😉

  • Scott

    Hey Mike

    I have a question regarding chest routine. For reasons I will not get into here, I use the smith machine for flat bench and incline bench. I know your dislike of the smith machine. Right now, my routine in order, is: smith flat bench, smith incline bench, incline dumbells. Would I be better off swapping out smith bench with flat dumbell press? I know how important benching is, but I do not know if that outweighs the benefits of free weights.

    Thanks!
    Scott

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s okay. Here’s what I would do:

      Incline DB
      Flat DB
      Flat Smith
      Dips

      That’s a solid routine.

      • Scott

        ok great, thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I finished BLS and loved it, probably gonna read it again to digest it all. I also recommended it to two friends of mine who bought copies. Thanks again.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks man! I really appreciate it.

  • Pat

    Hey michael , i need to know how to get rid of the excess fat on the chest. I mean i do have muscle there but there is also some little excess of fat that i wouldnt mind losing. Same goes for my back. Help please!

  • Nathan Rowe

    From the published literature I’ve seen it seems to say that incline bench does not affect the activation of clavicular pectoralis, see here:

    http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/abstract/1995/11000/effects_of_variations_of_the_bench_press_exercise.3.aspx

    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/232218111_Electromyographical_Activity_of_the_Pectoralis_Muscle_During_Incline_and_Decline_Bench_Presses

    However, the first paper does state that moving to a narrower grip activates the clavicular head more.

    This paper says that the clavicular head is activated more with a supinated grip (hands turned so the palms face upwards):

    http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2005/08000/The_Influence_of_Grip_Width_and_Forearm.17.aspx

    The first paper also states that the sternocostal (middle) portion of the chest is activated more on horizontal bench than decline.

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  • Paul

    Mike, if I am barbell only (no dumbell or dip bars) what 3 excerises for chest to get my nine heavy sets do you reccomend. I was thinking flat, incline and decline, but this blog you say no decline? What could another alternative be? I am really trying to not have to purchase more dumbells weights as I have already progressed past the weights (dumbells) i own. I really want to get a good workout on my chest.

    • Michael Matthews

      Honestly I would just do 6 sets of incline or flat followed by 3 sets of the other. I did that with just DBs for about 6 months and was really pleased with the results. You don’t have to get fancy.

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  • Ozzy

    Hi Mike,I have been seriously training for just over 8 months now ,stalled on strength and that meant no gains.

    ButI have finally got the right tuning for my body ,food wise and training wise and am glad to say I can see major improvements.
    I have listened and read a lot about BB but nothing has made much sense to me than what you write or say especially about the chest training.YOU ARE BANG ON!
    Having said that , I am going to start your chest routine tomorrow at 4.a.m 🙂 for 8 weeks and will update you on the progress.
    One question ,can the same routine or theory to say be used for a back work out ,if so then I can start that today as it is my back day .

    best regards,Ozzy from England

  • Mike P.

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been following the Incline Bench, Incline DB, Flat DB & Dips for some time now. It’s definitely working. Bu what do you suggest I do to mix that routine up?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great! I would switch up the exercises. For instance:

      Flat Bench, Incline Bench, Flat DB, and then dips.

      • Mike P.

        Didn’t you say in the book that switching up exercises was all bogus???

        • Michael Matthews

          Switching up FREQUENTLY is bogus. Check this out:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-confusion/

          • Mike P.

            Thanks Mike! I just started reading your articles on Muscle For Life, and it sure is a plethora of information but for the past 6 months I have been religiously following BLS (workouts). Some of the earlier articles confuse me on which is the right method. But thanks for the Link!!! I also really like following a natural bodybuilder opposed to the Rob Riches and Steve Cooks out there. You are an inspiration.

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! Thanks a lot man I really appreciate it and totally understand where you’re coming from. 🙂

  • Cardinal

    Hey Michael, Long time fan of yours and follower. I just came across your site and this article. Can you clarify why you state to do “Incline Barbell Bench- Incline Dumbell Bench – and Flat Barbell Bench” opposed to what I read in your book saying “Flat Barbell – Incline Barbell – Weighted Dips”? Please clarify which one I should follow.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks brother!

      This is just one of the many BLS-style workouts that you can find in the bonus report that comes with the book. 🙂

  • Bhavesh

    I am an genetically skinny ectomorph will this 3 or other exercise in arms,back,legs,shoulder will work for me……?

  • Gab

    Hello, Michael! If my first set of the barbell bench press exercise will have a 2.5 pound plate on each side of the barbell, does that mean that my second set should have a 7.5 pound plate on each side of the barbell, and that my third set will have a 12.5 pound plate on each side of the barbell? How do I add weight for the incline dumbbell bench press exercise? I am a new fan, by the way. Thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

      • Gab

        Thank you!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW

  • Manjeet

    Hi Sir, I am doing bench press (40 kg) & Pec-Dec. but not able to develop good chest (specially lower pecs} pls advise

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey brother try the workout in this article

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  • Nandish

    hi Michael, i really feel blessed with your workout.
    i had a query regarding your ultimate chest workout.
    What about the lower fibers of the chest?
    And why have you not included chest fly?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! You don’t have to target the “bottom” of the chest–the pec major will fill in nicely if you just do the above.

      Flys are okay but they’re not mass builders. They’re more suited to advanced lifters.

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  • Nandish

    And how many sets of warm up? And how many reps in that? and do i have to put weights while doing warm up>

    • Michael Matthews

      I talk about this in Bigger Leaner Stronger.

  • Nandish

    and hitting only 4-6 reps will definitely increase muscle size, but will that tone the muscles?

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  • Reinmakr

    Alright, have a partner. We have the book, following the program, the diet and hoping for results. I’m 48 years old and I’ve not been a gym rat. Praying for the results…

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! Let me know how it goes!

  • Rashad

    hello sir i was wondering about the flat dumbbell bench press exercise should i add it in an advanced level? thankyou

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah it’s a good exercise!

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  • Bud

    In this article you have incline bench incline dumbbell then flat. But in BLS you have flat then incline then dips. Why is that?

    • Michael Matthews

      No real reason. Remember BLS comes with a year’s worth of workouts.

  • Any ideas as to why one week I will bench say 200 x6 but then next week I can only get 200x2or3? I’m hitting my macros, eating at maintenance or a bit under, sleep is ok, working out every other day. Should I increase calories or what?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm how is your workout program laid out?

  • juan scheun

    This is an old post i see so not too sure if you will see this but lets try. Whats your opinion on doing compound sets in the form of:

    Incline DB press & Flat Barbell Bench Press
    -> 3 – 4 sets X 10 -12 reps X ?lbs.
    Rest 60 secs

    DB Chest Press (twist) & Medial Cable Flies
    -> 3 – 4 sets X 10 – 12 reps X ?lbs.
    Rest 60 secs

    Seated Chest Press & Decline DB Alternating Press
    -> 3 – 4 sets X 10 -12 reps X? lbs.
    Rest 60 secs

    Decline Pushups & DB Pullovers
    ->3 – 4 sets X 10 -12 reps X ?lbs.

    Does it have a purpose in the gym or should it always be heavy weight with few reps?

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  • doug

    Hey Michael, I just had a quick question. I’ve noticed that you don’t mention anything about which grip you use for barbell bench. How far apart would you recommend hand placement on the barbell to maximize chest growth?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question! Slightly wider than shoulder width.

  • Robuk

    Hi Mike, I’ve bought your book recently and the lows reps and exercises are really helping me gain strength very quickly. But what happens when you can’t complete your reps or are stuck on a certain weight? Do I need to take the weight down in order to finish my sets?
    And great book by the way. Its amazing how strong you can get by simply counting your calories and sticking to the low weights. I’m a hardgainer and your book has been a huge help!

  • Brad cole

    I would like to know when you are saying 4-6 reps does this mean u do a weight where you can obtain a minimum of 4 reps and a max if 6 reps and can i have a spotter to get those last reps in or no spotter and do as many reps as i can with proper form on my own

    • Michael Matthews

      If you can get 6, without help, it’s time to move up. If you can’t get 4, it’s too much weight.

  • Garret Guillory

    Am I supposed to do Hi Incline Barbell, Hi Incline Dumbbell, Flat Barbell then break and repeat twice, or am I supposed to do 9 sets with 9 breaks (1 break in between each)?

    • Michael Matthews

      Do one exercise at a time, and a total of 9-12 heavy sets for the whole workout.

      • Garret Guillory

        Gotcha!

        • Michael Matthews

          🙂

  • dinesk

    sir. i do 9 exercises for the chest..
    pull over 3 sets
    barbell bench press 3 sets
    dumbell bench press 3 sets
    barbell incline press 3 sets
    dumbell incline press 3 sets
    flat fly 3 sets
    incline fly 3 set
    decline chest press 3 sets
    cross over 3 sets

    please tell me am i doing too much…?//

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that’s way too much. Try the workout in this article instead…

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  • Kiks

    Hi Michael, thanks for sharing your workout program, i have a few questions for you:)

    First I really don’t like working chest with triceps so I do chest with back, and shoulders with full arms another day. I was said that doing two big muscles together isn’t very good, I personally love it due to the high intensity it requires, I feel like I boost up my body every time, what do you think of it?

    Second, about my chest & back workout, what I do is that I combine two exercises (chest&back), this means that after my first series of chest, I do one series of back, this 3 times and then change exercises for both my chest and back.
    I also like it because it makes me sweat and I feel like I am doing sport! Not like doing one series and chill for 3min if you know what I mean. I know it’s quite different and people are quite surprise when they look at me working out since I never stop and I am the only one sweating.. do you think it’s bad for chest growth?

    Thanks for taking the time to read and keep up the good work!

    • Michael Matthews

      YW!

      Honestly you wouldn’t enjoy chest + back if you were doing heavy pressing AND deadlifting in the same workout. It’s fucking beyond exhausting.

      I don’t like supersetting as it just reduces the amount of weight you can move.

      That said, I lift weights to build muscle and get stronger, not to just get a pump and burn some calories.

      What are you looking to achieve?

      • Kiks

        Well I reckon now I’m more looking for muscle growth so I’d better change my habits..

        • Kiks

          I downloaded your book, when through it and I find it great, good job! I’ll get back to you in a month or so for feedback, thanks for answering my questions anyway

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks man! Let me know how it goes!

  • R. Gold

    Hey Michael. LOVE the workouts! They are great. QUick question for you. After 8 weeks do you just shut it down for a week or so and continue with the same exercises or do you switch the exercises for 8 weeks and then revert back to these original ones? Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad to hear it!

      Good question. I deload for a week, which involves the same exercises but using about 50% of my heavy weight for sets of 8-10 (easy, boring, meh).

      Then I get back to the heavy lifting and change up a couple exercises, but always keep in my big compounds (squat, deadlift, bench and military press).

      If you like the workouts you’ll love my book Bigger Leaner Stronger, BTW.

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  • Kevin Dye

    Nice articles. I like your simple, basics approach. It’s served me, and all I have trained, for over 3 1/2 decades. One “trick” I used to bring my upper chest up is Rack Incline Presses. Copied from my mentor, Mike Mentzer. It’s an incredible upper-pec builder. 10-12 reps (due to the short 1/4 ROM), 5-secs. between reps… rest the bar on pins. It allows numerous “barely reps”, and consistent progress.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing Kevin! Keep up the good work brother.

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  • Ori Parizat

    Loved the article, thanks!!! 🙂
    Chest is a pretty strong area in my body, and I usually like to end my workouts with some high-reps sets, to ‘finish the job’.
    What do you think of adding at the end of this workout 2 exercises:
    1) cross cable flies to mid-lower chest: 3 x 10
    2) ‘wide-grip’ pushups or dips, 3 x maximum.

    Thanks, and you’re awesome!

    • Guest

      (also, have only 1 chest day a week, I feel that I have to ‘justify’ a week long rest…)

      • Michael Matthews

        I hear you. Check out my reply above.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I really appreciate it.

      I think this is totally fine. You can also add 3 additional sets for chest per week, a few days after your “chest day.”

      For example, many guys like to hit chest on Monday with 9-12 sets and then do another 3 sets of incline pressing on Thursday to give it a little boost.

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  • frametheory

    Hey Mike, how would you rate the barbell vs dumbbells in terms of effectiveness? All Ive been doing is dumbbells due to an injured wrist, but Im going to start barbell again. Joined a new gym that has the safety poles haha.

    • Michael Matthews

      DBs are definitely effective but BB does train muscles a bit differently in the case of presses and is MUCH more effective in the case of squats and pulls…

  • meman

    i have a question. Is 4-6 reps means doing 6 – 5 – 4 per set? or 1 lift for set?
    sory the dumb question.

    tnks

    • Michael Matthews

      You want to use enough weight to get 4 but not more than 6. This should be about 80-85% of your 1RM.

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  • AJ

    Are we supposed to do Incline Barbell, Incline Dumbbell, Flat Barbell and Flat Dumbbell within the same workout day?

  • AJ

    So do I do Incline barbell, Incline dumbell, Flat barbell, and flat dumbell all in the same day?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup.

  • phoenix

    Ok so if this thread is still up I have a question I do about 100-110lbs for the barbell bench press that is about my 6 rep range, but I can only do that on the smith machine. As the flat benches at my gym do not have a weight rack behind the head like they should and I can’t lift that much weight over my head from the ground also don’t have a spotter. So would it be better to do the barbell bench press on the smith machine using the weight I should be doing for the sets? Or should I use a non machine barbell on a flat bench just using the maximum weight I can lift over my head and get into position with?

    • Michael Matthews

      Ah that’s fine then. Stick to the Smith.

      Thanks man! I really appreciate it. LMK what you think.

      • phoenix

        All three arrived and they have some pretty good stuff in them, I got to the nutrition part of bigger, leaner, stronger which I’m reading first. So I’m just trying to get together a good nutrition plan for bulking up it’s kind of hard though getting it all planned out and the meals altogether, since my work schedule is all over the place so are my meals lol.

        • Michael Matthews

          Glad to hear it on the supps. 🙂

          This will help you on the meal planning:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          • phoenix

            The link helped, just decided to load up on protein and carbs in the morning since I don’t have to rush around straight when I get up. I probably do two servings of French Muscle Toast and one serving of Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal and that will allow me to get almost half of my carbs and most of my protein, then just have a sandwich using lean meat, cheese ect and the ancient wheat bread which is really healthy. Its got stuff like Amaranth, Qiunao, Sorghum and Teff and gives an entire day worth of whole grains in two slices, a blow of soup and that would be good, then I’ll just get the rest of my nutrition from my dinner which I’ll get from your shredded chief book and my post workout shake.

          • Michael Matthews

            Cool, that works! I like it!

  • Logan

    Mike – 2 q’s: 1) Are you tapping the dumbbells together on the incline? Had thought we shouldn’t bring them together as it puts strain on the shoulders and 2) With these barbell exercises, do you find you’re needing a spotter frequently? I’ve been sticking to dumbbells as it’s often hard to get a reliable spotter. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      1. They touch or come close at the top. This doesn’t cause any issues.

      2. No I don’t. I’m good at knowing when I will fail on the next rep and I rack there.

  • Victor

    Hi Michael, great article. Help a lot!! It has helped me to improve my strength and also upper chest. But i am facing some problem with lower and inner part of my pecs. There is a huge gap in my inner chest, as shown in the picture below (This is not my picture, but my pecs looks just like this). What exercise would u recommend me to do to improve it? Thank you.

    My chest routine are:
    Incline BB press
    Incline DB press
    Flat BB press
    DB pullover
    Dips

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      This is partially genetic but it may fill out as you add more size. Just gotta keep working on it brother…

      • Victor

        Thx for the advice. Appreciate 🙂
        So do i need to add any lower chest workout? If any, can u give me some workout suggestion? Thx!!!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! No, you don’t need to do anything for your lower chest. You want to continue focusing on the upper chest.

  • alistair

    hi there i am going to do a 3 day split what do you think? just for guidance

    monday::::
    chest and triceps:
    incline barbell press 3 x 4-6
    db incline press 3 x 4-6
    flat bench press 3 x 4-6
    close grip bench press 3 x 4-6
    dips weighted 3 x 4-6
    overhead db extension 3 x 4-6

    wednesday::::::
    legs and back:
    barbell back squat 3 x 4-6
    barbell lunge 3 x 6-8
    close grip row 3 x 4-6
    bent row 3 x 4-6
    wide pull up weighted 3 x 4-6
    one arm row 3 x 4-6 each side

    friday:::::
    shoulders and biceps:
    seated military press 3 x 4-6
    seated db press palms facing in 3 x 4-6
    db side lateral raise 3 x 4-6
    db front raise 3 x 4-6
    barbell curl 3 x4-6
    hammer curl standing 3 x 4-6
    incline curls 3 x 4-6

    what do you think to this plan??? its same as features just been mixed to make a 3 day split. would you recommend it?????? thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm I would go with chest & tris, back & bis, legs & shoulders. Or push pull legs. Legs & back is going to be brutal and you aren’t deadlifting…

  • Nick Armijo

    my gym only has the smith machine and dumbbells can I just add another dumbbell workout

    • Michael Matthews

      You can work on the Smith. It’s not ideal but it isn’t worthless.

  • Carl

    Hi Michael,

    Slightly off topic but was hoping for some advise regardless as you know your stuff. 🙂

    Would you say that weight training 4 days a week, with 2 days of cardio (rugby training) is enough to progress both strength and size?

    I am thinking of splitting my 4 days into the following:
    chest and tris
    back and bis
    shoulders
    legs

    Now my main question is, will training a muscle group only once every 7 days, be enough to progress?

    I have previously always trained weights 6 days a week. Which would be the following:
    Chest and tris
    shoulders and back
    legs
    Then repeat

    So every muscle group would be trained twice in the same week. any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • Shashi Suryawanshi
  • nasser

    hi i am 47. Is it possible for me to increase my muscles at that age,bearing in mind that i was in shape during my 30th.Thanks for your great site

  • Fernando

    Hey Mike, I was wondering if I should try giving the cable crossover a chance, im still a newbie but I really feel my chest being activated with the cable crossover or should I just wait until my chest is really well developed, Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      You can but add it to the end of your workout. Don’t replace heavy pressing with crossovers.

      • Fernando

        alright thnx! I do it at the end of my chest workouts, good thing I followed my instinct.

        • Michael Matthews

          Nice! Keep it up.

  • ep

    if your lats are a weakpoint then why do you do only 3 sets and dont hit them first? just wondering… thats what i do because i follow theese routines… ( lats are a weak point of mine 😀 )

    • Michael Matthews

      I was training lats 2 – 3 x per week when I was bringing them up. Hard and heavy on back day, lighter on arms day (chin ups usually) and lighter on my “weak point day.”

  • Joe314

    Hey I just stumbled across this chest workout yesterday and decided to give it a shot. I followed the workout closely and was lifting as heavy as I could for six reps and resting two minutes between each set; however, I wasn’t feeling nearly as much of a burn in my chest like I am used to when doing other workouts. It was pretty intense and I was dripping in sweat when done, but I just didn’t feel the typical burning I get during a good chest workout. And today I am not really sore, which is the complete opposite of how I usually feel after chest day. Should I rest less between sets or change the workout at all? I’m not sure why this was the case and any advice on the workout would be helpful.

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  • Zeke

    HI mike
    The gym that I go to doesn’t have a bench press or squat racks it only has isolation machines and Dumbbells I switched over to this gym about a month ago and its all i can afford for now. Im use to lifting heavy on bench and squats what are some good exercises that I can lift heavy with that are still compound movements?

    • Michael Matthews

      You could do DB variants like DB pressing, goblet squats, pistol squats, DB rows, etc.

  • IntermediateLifter

    Hi Mike,
    I would just like to say I love your articles and I am very impressed with the knowledge you continually bring to the table.
    This question is more out of curiosity. But being around 5ft 11 I can bench press around 245-250 pounds (weighing 176/177 pounds). I’m relatively happy with this but would obviously like to get a bit stronger and have noticed that this has stalled somewhat. Hopefully, by following your excellent advice I will continue to progress. Anyway, back to the question…I saw in the gym the other day and young fellow who was very comfortably bench pressing 308 pounds. Now this wouldn’t surprise me but he was significantly shorter (approx. 5ft 8) and didn’t even look particularly big (in may ways smaller than me). I’m just wondering if this is ‘really’ achievable being natural? I would have assumed (possibly wrongly) that he is on drugs but he didn’t look big (although admittedly it was difficult to tell 100% as he was wearing a sort of loose shirt). So, in your opinion, can someone be natural, lift this much but only be around 5ft 8ish, weighing around…maybe 70 kilos? I know I shouldn’t use other people to gauge my own progression but this sort of got me reassessing how well I’m actually doing. My head says no but I’m curious that if he is on steroids, then why is it not visually obvious…
    Thanks in advance.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much!

      That’s a solid lift. I like it.

      I’ve come across little natty guys that are FREAK strong. 150 to 160 lbs and benching 315 for reps, pulling 450+, squatting 350+, etc. It’s rare but out there.

  • Kevin Ross

    Mike, I’m about to hit phase 3 of BLS which calls for incline dumbell and incline barbell on chest day. My dumbbells only run up to 65lbs, so I’ve already been subbing barbell for any chest related dumbell workouts. Phase 2 barbell incline set 1 I’m at 170-175lbs, set 2 flat barbell bench I’m at 165lbs.

    Given that I need more weight than I have on hand in dumbbells, I was considering what I’ll do for phase 3 with 6 sets of incline. I have an adjustable bench and I normally do incline at 30 degrees (it adjusts in 10 degree increments). I was considering barbell set 1 at 40 degrees, and barbell set 2 at 30 degrees, or something of that nature.

    What is your suggested substitution?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup 6 sets of incline works. Personally I would just keep the bench at 30 degrees.

  • Jonas

    Mike, what is the ideal angle of the incline bench? 30 or 45 degrees? I’m not sure which one i should be doing.

    • Jonas

      What I’ve been doing thus far is 45° bb incline press, flat db press, and 30° db press.

      • Jonas

        My gym has a non adjustable incline for the barbell sat at around 45°. Should I stick with it or just focus on dumbbells? And as far as the db incline, i think i may have been doing it at 15° instead of 30° (the lowest incline setting). Does the low incline have any benefit?

        • Michael Matthews

          45 is okay. Roll with it for your BB and try 30 for DB? No, going too low turns it into more of a flat press.

          • Jonas

            Ok great. Thanks, Mike!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW

    • Michael Matthews

      I like 30 the most for all.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm I replied to this but it isn’t showing now. I prefer 30 degrees.

  • Hamad

    Hey Michael! just wanted to ask if should i follow this workout routine if i was on a cutting nutrition plan. Thanks !

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah! It works great for cutting.

  • Lewis

    Hey Mike, just wondered if you ever vary your inclines for your presses, or have you always stuck with the same incline angle? Also, do you do your incline barbell and incline DB sets consecutively, or would you do flat barbell between the two to give your upper chest a rest? Thanks in advance! Lewis

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ve tried 30 to 45 degrees and like 30 the most. Sometimes I do them consecutively and sometimes I alternate between flat and incline.

  • Dave

    Really enjoyed the article. One question: should any of the sets be done to failure?

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  • Eli

    When I incline dumbell press I usually can’t get that first rep up but don’t always have spotter, and in that case I use both arms to get one dumbell up and do one arm presses. Is the one arm press as effective as the two arm version?

    • Michael Matthews

      One-arm is going to get really awkward as you get stronger. I wouldn’t do it.

      • Eli

        I know. It already feels pretty awkward with 70 pound dumbells and makes my obliques really sore. Why can I do 5 full reps with 70s if I have someone push my elbows for the first rep but can’t get them up on my own? Surprisingly I can’t get anything passed 60 up but can do passed twelve reps with them.

        • Michael Matthews

          Are your reps full ROM? Like I show in this article? Sometimes people that cheat ROM find it REALLY hard to get the DBs up on their own because they don’t have the “in the hole” strength. Similar to squats.

          • Eli

            Not sure… I’ll have someone watch me next time to see if I’m not going low enough

          • Michael Matthews

            LMK

          • Eli

            I filmed myself today while inclining and realized I stop at 90 degrees. I tried going all the way down with 70s and couldn’t bring it back up! I decreased my weight to 60 and was able to get 5 all the way down reps. I’ll progress from here and will probably be able to get up the heavier dumbells. Thanks so much for fast responses! Great no bs articles on this sight!

          • Michael Matthews

            Great! Let me know how it goes!

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Ben

    Mike, can you go into some more detail as to why you recommend both incline barbell and incline dumbbell presses in the sample workout? Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup. Simply because incline pressing is what needs the most emphasis to build a full chest.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Austin

    Hey Mike I cannot progress on flat bench to save my life. I currently do incline and flat bench can I just replace flat bench with weighted dips

    • Michael Matthews

      I wouldn’t completely drop flat bench.

      That said, when in your workout are you doing it? If it’s coming after 3-6 heavy sets of incline pressing that alone could be why you’re not progressing. Especially if you’re progressing on your inclines.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Baz

    I totally agree bro, 10-12 rep range allows a great temporary pump flooding the muscle with blood and nitrogen etc but for repeated fibre growth you have to be down under 8 to failure.
    Keep up the good work! Love the site!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah you CAN grow with higher rep training but it’s much more effective for newbies than experienced lifters.

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  • Bobby

    I’m in the second week of the workouts you described above. Is there any info for what to do after the eight weeks is up?

    • If you like it you should pick up my book Bigger Leaner Stronger and get on the program!

  • Nathan Hanak

    So I tore my posterior labrum (shoulder socket cartilage) doing incline DB presses. I had done my BB bench press as my first exercise, then moved on to this one. I wasn’t straining, and it had been with a weight that I had slowly increased over time (probably more conservatively slower than the rate Mike suggests). Now I’m kind of deathly afraid of doing them again after going through PT. I don’t doubt their usefulness, but are there substitutes? Would BB be safer? What about pushups where the feet are raised on stairs or a bench (so they are above the head level). It’s the same kind of angle.

    • Arg I’m sorry to hear that.

      I’m not sure if BB is safer but you can definitely make good gains just working with the BB. You don’t NEED DBs.

      The pushups won’t replace heavy pressing, no.

      • Nathan Hanak

        Gotcha, thanks. My PT seemed to stress being extra careful with dumbbells and to work them in very slowly and cautiously with lower weight at first. My guess would be because DB’s are “looser”, your arm can wobble more easily than with a BB.

        • Depends on the exercises. DB press can be sketchy as the weights go up.

  • AJ

    Hi Mike

    Been on BLS trying to bulk for about 4 weeks now. Moved up in both squat and deadlift by 10kg but literally stayed the same with bench press. Really not sure why and been staying the same with flat bench press and incline pressing also. Is there anything you could possibly recommend to overcome this? Thanks in advance buddy

  • Carlos

    Hello, Michael

    My gym doesn’t provide the possibility of weighted dips,is there some other exercise that i can replace this one?

    Thanks

  • S.Ober

    Will these help me turn my fat to muscle? Since the bringing of January I’ve already dropped 20+ lbs. I just started lifting a week ago. Looking to lose more fat.

  • Brandon Smith

    Awesome article Michael! I have a quick question. Unfortunately my chest looks similar to the first picture you posted where the person have big lower chest and small upper chest. I would like to know what I should do. Thanks!

  • Dennis K

    Hi Mike. I would like to ask you the order that you have put above is best to be done like that or can i start with flat bench press and then the rest?? Nice work and thank you in advance!!!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Ryan stant

    Hi mike,

    It’s my second week doing BLS 6 day routine, I’ve been a good committed gym goer for about a 1 year,

    I’m making good steady gains everywhere even stubborn areas apart from my chest,

    I’m 22 about 6ft tall decent build and weigh about 94-95kg
    My 1 rep max is 100 kg I’m doing sets of 6 with 80kgs form is good, just frustrated with strength and muscle gains don’t feel strong please help?

    Thanks

    Ryan

    • Awesome! I’m glad to hear it!

      What’s the problem exactly?

  • Cameron armas

    Michael from what your saying it sounds like I over work my chest. I do 4 sets of flat bench incline and decline and glad and incline dumbbell bench and 3 sets of cables and 3 sets of dips. I’m getting stronger and I do this same routine ever three days. Is this still too much or am I overworking?

    • Cameron armas

      Meant to say flat not glad

    • This isn’t too bad. A little high on the volume but I assume you’re young?

      Every 3 days is a bit much. I would recommend every 5 days.

      • danny

        Hey Micheal I just came across your article and I love. Staring tomorrow
        I will switch my routine to this and see how it goes but just had a
        concern. if you say every 5 days means during any given week you only
        workout your chest once? working out your chest only once a week is
        enough to get your body type? In my routine I workout my chest twice a week. on Tuesday and Friday. So am I over training my chest?

        • Thanks! Let me know how it goes.

          Yeah once every 5 to 7 days. Some people like the little bit of additional rest. I don’t recommend this workout more frequently than once every 5 days though.

          Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/training-frequency/

          • danny

            hey Micheal today was my second day trying your routine, I did chest yesterday and today I did arms. I think I finally understand why You do chest once a week I see that there are other compound exercises that workout the chest also during the other days so this leads to an overall workout on the chest more than once a week as a result of those other compound exercises. However, I notices no abs workout? Do you not workout your abs? I will have to assume you did or do in order to get your abs to where they are now? if you do workout your abs, how many times a week and what routine do you follow?

            or are the abs also worked out somehow while performing the compound exercises included in the workouts you have for chest, back, legs, arms and shoulders?

          • Yes you’re right on the compounds hitting all groups a couple times per week.

            Here’s how I train abs:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-get-six-pack-abs/

            And I work them in between my major muscle group sets.

  • Pierre

    Hy michael , im 17 years old lifter and i like your training strategies but what do you think of doing negatives bench presses in order to get bigger chest? Are they useful for this goal ? If yes what about rep ranges and sets? Thanks

    • Hey man! Negatives actually can help but I’d say they’re most relevant to advanced lifters.

  • Jay

    Hey man any issues with doing dumbbell bench press over barbell bench press?

    • I wouldn’t say one is better than the other but I doing both regularly seems to be best.

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  • Adrian

    Hey mike I just finished your workout man dude my chest is stiffed up!

  • Tommy

    Hey Michael, i have pretty bad wrist problems. When i do barbell benching it tends to hurt my wrists while dumbbells do not. Is there a difference between barbell incline and dumbbell incline as well as flat?

    • I wouldn’t say one is better than the other so you can just work with what doesn’t hurt and as you get stronger I bet your wrists will be able to handle the BB.

  • Quitting is easy

    Hi Mike
    Guy from Europe here. I have spend the last two months exercising from home and following your ideas on cutting weight. I lost what equels 12 pounds following your BLS guide and using my body as the resistence weight. I am currently at 194 pounds (186cm ) and will from tomoroow 2nd March 2015 i will be hitting the gym following the complete BLS heavy weights 5 day a week schedule.
    Thanks for everything Mike. I will be sharing my progress.

    • Wow great job! That rocks!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      Oh and I’d love to feature you in a before and after success story if you’re interested! What do you think?

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Hi Mike. I don’t have the ability to do Incline Bench Press in the Gym I work out, as there is no equipment for this. Do you have any recommendations what I can change this exercise with?

    Also, when I do incline Incline Dumbbell Bench, what degree should I Incline. Is the gif/video of you doing the dumbbell workout a good reference?

    • Sure more flat pressing or dips would be fine.

      30 degrees. Yeah did you check the video in the article?

      • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

        Yes, I checked the video. I’ll just use that as a model then, thx!

  • Rinku

    Hi Mike,
    I ve injured my ac joints of both the shoulders by doing heavy workout. Kindly help me out to heal.

  • Onur

    Hi Mike,

    Only 2 questions:)

    1- You advice us not to work out with the smith machines. But I don’t feel safe with free weight & sometimes there’s no body in the gym to help me with the free weight lifting. Despite all these, i feel my chest working wtih the smith machines. Is it a waste of time 🙁

    2- Do muscles adapt any type of exercises & give up to develop, although ı obey all the other rules? Should we try different exercises?

    Thanks, thanks, thanks 🙂

    • Hey hey,

      1. That’s okay. Use the Smith if you have to. It’s not a waste of time. Just don’t ONLY train on the Smith for months at a time.

      2. Yes I do like to change exercises every 8 weeks or so BUT I always keep my big lifts in: squat, deadlift, bench and military press.

      • Onur

        I see, thanks a lot.

      • Hotspur1

        Hey, Mr, Matthews:

        I picked up your book online from Amazon and I gotta admit: at first I was ticked that you gave Smith machines a bad rap. But realizing that was my pride talking rather than sound research, I did some digging and yeah, you’re right. However, I’m kind of in a spot where changing to a place that has free weights might not be the wisest decision financially. It won’t break the bank, but I have other expenses that need to be addressed first. Any advice until then, so I can at least be better prepared for free weights in the near future?

        • Thanks for reading my book!

          Yeah I understand that. You can keep working with the Smith and switch over when you can. Not a huge problem.

  • Pete

    Great Info Thanks. What would you recommend if I only have access to dumbbells and not a barbell?

  • Marcelabest

    Mike, do you recommend this same workout for women with under-the-muscle breast implants? I order your book and I’m waiting for it to arrive but im curious if this is addressed there.
    Thanks so much.

    • You know I’m not totally sure. All women with implants that I’ve spoken to said chest training shifted them eventually…

  • Miguel

    Hi michael. Great article!! I just bought your book Bigger leaner stronger on Audible.com. I had a question and I’m kind of confused. I’m 27 I weigh 185lbs and I’m 5’10. I’m a truck driver I work 5 12hr shifts then im off for 2 days. I find it really hard to figure out my macros. I don’t really burn much colories by just driving a truck all day or getting in and out of it, but I want to bulk and put on lean muscle mass without gaining fat from just sitting all day. I need your advice. Thanks michael.

    • Thanks so much! Hmm are you going to be training on your truck driving days or?

    • Guest

      Yes I train before I go to work 4-5 days a week. On my 2 days off of work, I take off of training.

  • AJ THEODAS

    What happened to the videos to show proper form for each exercise you had up? I see you still have them in your other ultimate workout pages. I thought they were very helpfull.

  • ChaseC

    My problem was not enough volume in the lower region. I focused on incline for years. So i guess I should work on decline to.

  • Jake

    Hey mike, I’ve been doing your BLS routine and for chest I do flat barbell bench press then incline dumbell bench to flat dumbell and I have nearly injured myself a few times during the flat barbell bench press. I feel my chest being more activated during my dumbell pressing rather then barbell. Should I swap barbell bench for dips?

  • Gab

    Hey, Michael! For the past few workout sessions, I get really tired that I can’t do my last two exercises. I end up doing only 4 exercises. What should I do?

    • Many things could be wrong. You could be eating too little. You could be overtraining. You could be not sleeping enough…

      • Gab

        Alright, I’m going to check myself more from now on. Thanks again, Mike!

  • CommonSense

    Mike,

    Question regarding the 3 exercise workout you listed above. I typically work out alone so going heavy on any barbell chest exercise is a no go, unless I want to clean the bar or roll the weights off myself like a noob after rep failure.

    Would doing incl and flat dumbbell plus dips be a good substitute for barbell work? If not my only recourse is to use the smith for the really heavy barbell work. Thank you!

    • Haha I hear you. I like to quit my sets 1 rep before failure, which I’ve come to learn through experience.

      But yes that’s fine. I worked with just DBs for 6+ months and did well.

  • Damo

    How about training chest twice a week as you mentioned on your recent podcast with Rippetoe? What kind of volume then for intermediates?

    • My BLS program has you hit chest twice each week. The first workout is 9-12 sets in the 4-6 rep range and the second is 3 sets in the 8-10 rep range.

  • ross

    Can you build without any protein powder or creatine?

  • Vineeth

    Im 16 Years old and been working out frm 7 Months !! I have a perfect body 😀 13.7 Inches biceps :v problem is with my back 😀

  • aaa

    This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you! I never know at what angle to incline the bench?! At what angle would you suggest we incline the 2 incline excercises we have here?! Thanks a lot again!

  • Enzo

    Hi! I’m 20 years old, weigh 157lbs and bench 195lbs (1RM). I got to increase it from 160 in 3 weeks and I’m pretty happy about the progress but I haven’t seen much development aesthetically 🙁 I do inclined and flat barbell presses, and inclined dumbbell presses but still don’t see my chest looking good yet :/ any advice?

  • Teej

    Hi there Mike. What if I already have a bulky and protruding chest? Should I be still aiming for this kind of workout? Not the manboobs type tho.

  • kees

    hi mike, just a moment of your time please. i have been doing the BLS workout since october and am loving it, especially since going daily on BLS2. the problem is i have been working out for years and have hardly paid attention to the upper chest.
    now, the problem is my gym doesnt have heavy enough dumbbells to do dumbbell incline presses. would you recommend doing 6 sets of incline barbell presses, followed by 3 sets of flat bench or dips, or maybe something else i could try?

    • Awesome man! Glad to hear you’re doing well!

      Ah damn. How many reps would you get with your heaviest dumbbells when incline pressing?

      Yeah pain is no good. Let’s not do that and do something else instead. Flat DB?

      • kees

        Hi mike, thanks for your time. hard to say but about a month ago i would do incline db bench with 40 kg/88 lbs dumbbells. That is when i switched gyms and went for bb bench. the heaviest dumbbells they have in my current gym is 70 lbs so i dont think that would be of much use inside the BLS program? Same problem with flat db bench im afraid. have to say, i did 6 sets of incl bb bench, followed by 3 sets of weighted dips and that seemed ok. Just couldnt do flat bb bench after the inclines cause of my recent elbow issue. reading up on the elbow, i fear it might be a golfers elbow :/ (i have the same kind of pain doing barbell curls BLS style, 4-6 reps so i switched to weighted chin ups and hammer curls)

        • YW.

          Oh okay. Nothing wrong with reducing the weight for a few weeks to let everything get un-aggravated. I do it now and then myself…

          • kees

            Alright mike, thanks a lot! Looking forward to keep pushing the program and go Beyond after

          • YW! Definitely!

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike, I’ve been working my chest and arms early in the week so I can do some extra training on day six.
    following the two Myo sets with two sacop. What’s the best way to put some extra work on the Bi’s and Tri’s without overloading them?

    Right now just doing two sets on each in 4-6 range. Should I add two sets each of the sarcop, as well?

    Thanks.

  • John Iannuzzi

    Hey Mike!
    First off, love your stuff. I’ve been following your advice for only about two months now but have seen significant results, thanks! Now for my question. I’ve noticed dramatic improvement in my chest over the past months, except for my upper-inner chest. Everywhere else (lower-outer, upper-outer, lower-inner) has all been growing week by week. However I’ve seen little to no progress in the upper inner portion. I was wondering if I’m doing something wrong or it just takes time. I’d really appreciate your feedback, thanks!

    My chest program is as follows:
    1.) Incline Bench Press 6-4 x3
    2.) Bench Press 6-4 x3
    3.) Incline Dumbbell Press 6-4 x3
    4.) Weighted Dips 6-4 x3

    • Glad you’re chest has been developing overall! I hear you on the upper chest man. It’s a bitch.

      The workout you’re doing looks good! The only thing that I see could help would be doing the incline dumbbell press right after the incline bench press. That way, your first 6 sets are heavy incline sets.

      That should help with growth. 🙂 Then after 6-8 months, you’re still not happy with the results, we can add in some extra sets.

      What do you think?

      • John Iannuzzi

        Sounds good to me, thanks for getting back so quick.

  • Mitchell Butler

    Why do you recommend keeping arms at 20 degrees relative to the torso on bench press? I understand reducing stress on the shoulders, but that’s basically a close grip bench press and wouldn’t engage the chest very much. Most people recommend 45-75 degrees and I’ve always preferred a wider grip.

    • 20 to 45 is the range. Some people tuck really close but I’m closer to 35 to 40 degrees.

      45 to 75 degrees is terrible advice. 60+ with heavy weight is a shoulder injury waiting to happen.

  • Lorenzo

    hi Mike love your programs and i have been using them latetly and I’m able to notice growth and definition thanks man. Question: do you recomend declines and why or why not.

    • Thanks! Glad to hear it! I don’t like decline pressing because it reduces the range of motion. You’ll get more out of incline and flat.

  • Robbie

    Do you ever change it up and do incline pressing with the bench at different angles? Or do you always do 45 degrees? Thank

    • Nah, I keep it the same. Any higher would be too much shoulder and lower is less upper chest and more lower.

  • James robb

    I have shoulder issues that stop me from doing dumbbell presses and dips so I’m only using barbells in my routine. What would use say was the best setup for me just now?

    • Totally fine. You can just do 4-6 sets incline barbell and 4-6 sets flat barbell.

      What do you think?

  • INOSSEP

    just wanted your opinion on wide gripe high spot incline barbell press

    https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/incline-groove-ultimate-chest-growth

    and as well , I workout in a gym where you can’t find more 100lbs dumbells and it’s getting to easy for me on incline dumbells or shoulder press
    so do you have suggestion ? do you think machine could be a good idea ? or do you think I should trick into barbell ?

    thank you

    • It’s a good exercise. Have to be careful on the weight/form though.

      Hmm are you going deep with those DBs? How many reps you getting?

      • INOSSEP

        I’m going all the way down , I’m all about form and everything that something non negotiable with me when it come to training .
        any suggestion ?
        and for the wide grip , I wonder if heavy will be a good idea ?

        • That’s good.

          You should be able to go heavy, yes. Wider grip just activates the big pec muscles more than the tris.

          • INOSSEP

            so you not recommending machine or cable exercises ?

          • Not really a fan for chest but if you want to do some flyes or whatever do after your heavy compounds.

          • INOSSEP

            I’m not a fan at all actually , just trying to find solution that all, what about hammer strength chest press machine for example ? that the kind of thing I mean , sorry for the confusion

          • INOSSEP

            ohhhh I just though about something , what you opinion for example if I would increase the number of set for a specific exercises ? let say 6 set of incline dumbbells ? instead of 3 ? and still targeting goal of 4-6 reps per set ?
            is that a good or bad idea ? hope you know what I mean
            first exercises incline barbell 3×4-6
            second : incline dumbbells 6 set of 4-6
            and finish by flat : 2 set of 4-6

            something like that

          • Yeah, that’s a good routine to follow.

      • INOSSEP

        and getting between 6-10 reps at the moment
        because I’m changing my angle of bench or doing rest pause
        so high incline I still get 8 reps
        rest pause 5-6
        regular angle incline 8-10

        so kind of out of idea now lol

        • Oh okay. Haha dang. May be time to save DB press for your last exercise when you’re already fatigued.

          • INOSSEP

            yea I’m doing that to as well , I’m just trying to stay away as much as possible from flat bench 🙁 ……so the choice of exercises is limited

          • LOL well shit.

          • INOSSEP

            yea no shit 🙂 …

          • Rest Pause sets are good. You could continue that way.

          • INOSSEP

            I guess yes , but thank you for those answers tho , really appreciated

          • No problem!

          • INOSSEP

            Right now I’m trying something new
            Incline Barbell : 2 x 2-3
            Incline Barbell wider grip and high to the chest : 3 x 4-6
            Incline Dumbbells rest pause : 2 x 4-6
            Bench press barbell : 2 x 4-6
            Dips or push up : max reps

          • That looks pretty good.

            LMK how it goes.

      • INOSSEP

        sorry another reply
        so my routine for chest now is
        Incline Barbell 2×3 first set : 295×3 second set 295×2
        incline barbell 2×4-6 , first set : 255×6 second set 255×6
        bench press 3×6 : all 3 set for 6 at 255 , I can go heavier but I’m afraid for my shoulder , for what ever reason that angle hurts me
        and last
        Dips for max reps , today I did 12 reps and I weight 266 lbs

        • Definitely need to stay away from pain. Are you doing any shoulder mobility work?

  • SAMUEL

    Hey Mike! I decided to try that 4-6 rep range in all my workouts. I was just wondering if I’m doing something wrong because for example my chest doesn’t feel as sore as before when I was doing just one heavy weight exercise and other exercises with higher reps. I train hard and go heavy. So does that “less soreness” mean my chest wont grow so much?
    What do you think about supplements like creatine or amino acids? Are they useful? And one more question about mass gainers. Is it okay to use a mass gainer drink for one month by taking one drink each day to get more calories? I’m already quite heavy, ~100kg, but also 192cm tall. I don’t think I have much of bodyfat, about 20-24% I quess. Im just 18years old, so I wouldn’t think going on a very low calorie diet is a good idea, but I would like to get some muscle, so I was thinking about using that gainer and also eating a lot of food and then next spring I could slowly decrease calories and add cardio to burn fat is necessary.
    Thanks for your advices, they’re really helpful and your posts are very motivational!

  • Ziad ElKady

    Do you mean by pushing 6 reps per set that when I increase load for the next set I do 6 reps again? Do you mean that 6 reps is the target but I cannot decrease than 4 reps? Or for example I can do 6 reps then 5 reps with more load then 4 reps with maximum load?

    • I mean that the weight should be heavy enough where you can’t get more than 6 but light enough where you don’t do less than 4.

      I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps at a weight. So set 1, 6 reps, add weight, get 4 reps or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until I get it for 6 reps, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

      What do you think?

      • Ziad ElKady

        Ohh yeah I got it now thanks you’re the best!

      • Ziad ElKady

        But I think that the 4-6 rep range focus more on the strength and the gain in size is pretty much long ranged don’t you think? I read in alot of websites that the best range is the 6-8 for both size and strength.

  • Bulldog

    Hi, Michael! I’m very thin and my arms are really long. When I do the flat and inclined barbell bench press and let the barbell touch my chest, my anterior deltoids hurt. When I just put the barbell down until my arms form a 90-degree angle, it doesn’t hurt that much. Also, when I do the closed-grip bench press and do the inclined dumbbell press the way you do, it doesn’t hurt at all. Any insights?

  • Wilbur

    Hey Mike,

    This is my current set up.
    1. Incline DB press
    2. Incline BB press
    3. Flat DB press
    4. Flat BB press.

    Usually I would be tired to pump out atleast 4 to 5 reps at the final set (6 if Im lucky) of the fourth exercise. However can I add say a light 2 sets of maybe 8 reps of of incline flys or some dips just as a finisher?

    • That’s a solid routine right there.

      I’m not fan of flies, but if you want, you can finish with a few sets of burn out dips or something.

      What do you think?

      • Wilbur

        Hey Mike and to the other readers reading this comment, I definitely believe that Mike’s method and finishing off with body weighted chest dips has a greater effect. Ive been following his method for the past 5 weeks. Can confirm that

        Incline DB press went from 30kg to 42kg (each arm)

        Incline BB press from 50kg yo 85kg

        Flat DB press from 30kg to 40kg

        Flat BB press from 50kg to 85kg.

        And as a finisher I count the total reps that I missed in all four exercises (If I cant hit 6 reps) to do body weighted chest dips. But I add a few more reps to this (at 5 to 7).

        and yes, my chest has grown thicker, stays pumped even on a weekend (I do chest mondays) and its starting to shape like a chestplated armour o_O. Mike you sure do know your stuff! Keep it up. Love reading your articles

        • Glad it’s working for you!

          That’s a big workout right there. Great job on the progress.

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • jonathan

    So after 8 weeks of doing this, then what? We switch it up? We can’t keep the same exercises. Our body will adapt to it.

    • Yeah you switch it up. If you like this then you will like my Bigger Leaner Stronger program.

  • Lucas Souza

    Hey Mike,

    In your book, BLS, you recommend 3-4 minutes of resting time between sets, but here — in your ultimate workouts — you suggest 2-3 minutes. Why is that?

    • Good question. These workouts were based on the first edition of BLS but after reviewing additional research (and testing it myself and with a few dozen people that were “beta testing” with me) 3 to 4 minutes seems to be optimal for 80 to 85% of 1RM if you want to preserve maximal strength.

  • Mohamed

    Hey Mike,

    Machines add less stress on my shoulders because I have a slap tear and I refuse to make a surgery and fix it with nails in my bones because some cases become worse after surgery, training with machines will be totally useless or it will provide 80-90% of free weight gains?

    • You can definitely make progress on machines. It’s not the same but it’s not a waste of time either.

  • TD

    Never thought working out my chest would benefit me much being female. Now I can say that working to develop those muscles has given me a nicer overall look to my upper body in general.

  • Dimes

    Yo Mike,

    I’m a lil confused about the 4-6 rep range for 3 sets.

    I can hit 4 reps on my first set (for example: bench press) but then on the next 2 sets I sometimes hit failure on the 2nd or 3rd rep. Is this OK or am I doing too heavy work?

    Should I rest longer (5 min) between sets?

    Also is 3 sets of 80% rm absolutely enough for the entire day?

    • Trey

      Hey Dimes, you should really read his book “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger.” In his book, he recommends 3-4 minute rests. I highly recommend the book. It will give you a great grasp and (if you are anything like me) realize you could’ve made way more progression than you have. I have been lifting (and eating decent but not nearly as much as I should have for bulking) for almost 4 years and made decent gains, but when I got on his program, (especially his recommended diet!) I feel like I’m making newbie gains. It’s awesome to go in the gym every week to gain strength in all or most lifts, even when it is only 1 or 2 reps because I was going nowhere with my lower calorie and higher rep range workouts. Seriously, it will be the best decision you make for lifting to buy his book and follow it.

    • At the beginning, you won’t have as much endurance, but it will come.

      Make sure you’re resting 3-4 minutes, and if you need to, drop weight for the 2nd and/or 3rd set. Eventually, you’ll be able to do the same weight all 3 sets.

      The entire workout will have 9-12 sets. 3 sets would be for just one exercise and you should be doing 3-4 exercises a day.

  • Lucas

    Hello, Michael.

    Instead of 3 sets of 6 reps, can I do 8x6x4?

  • Storm

    Mike – What is your opinion of using the floor press in our chest workouts, or perhaps the close grip floor press on arm day?? Thanks.

    • I’m not really a fan. Unless you have a specific reason for having to do it from the floor, it limits the range of motion.

  • Mark

    You mentioned to have the bar touch your chest for each rep. Doesn’t that place a lot of stress on your shoulders when your arms go back that far?

    • Not if you have proper form.

      If you have your arms at a 45 degree angle from your body, the shoulder will have no problem getting the bar to the chest. If you flare your elbows out making a 90 degree angle from you body, that will cause shoulder issues.

  • Belaid Kaouane

    Hi mike, i’m French and i find your website on internet.
    i firstly wants to say that i find it really good thanks.
    I have a question to ask you recomend to do Chest workout , Shoulder, Legs a Arm after 5-7 days.
    For example if i do Chest workout thursday, Shoulder friday, Arm Saturday, Leg sunday
    If i want to have 5 days between chest i have to do it tuesday or should i use tuesday to rest and do it thursday ?
    or i have to mix 2 workout on the same day in my routine like this i can do chest tuesday and have a rest day monday.
    Sorry for my English and thanks for the answer.

    • Thanks!

      I wouldn’t do shoulders after chest because you’re not going to be able to push as much weight. Personally I train chest on Monday and Shoulders on Thursday.

      Same with back and legs. If you deadlift and then try to squat the next day, or vice versa, #2 is going to suffer.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/

      • Belaid Kaouane

        Thank you for your answer i just read the article and i will folow the 5-day workout routine.
        but after the day 5 i should have 1 day , two day of rest or no day ?

        • I recommend 2 rest days a week. You can do the 2 rest days after 5 days of training or you can split up the rest days.

  • Trey

    Hey Mike,

    For dumbbell bench press, do the arms go out at 45 or 90 degrees?

    Thanks!

  • Pain Akatsuki

    I want to thank you mike,you really taught me good stuff today.this was the most honest article i found on the internet and your website is great.From today onwards i am following you,you’re a scientist man.Seriously can’t thank you enough.Hoping to hear from you soon.#RESPECT

    • No problem my friend. Happy to do it!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Pain Akatsuki

        thanks for replying mike,this is the attitude i want from most fitness professionals,always taking a step forward to help people.,really appericiate it.Mike i have a slight query maybe you can suggest me.currently i am 18 years and have been lifting for 1 year and i have made a considerable progress i went from 48 kgs to 62 kgs.but my chest seems to be lacking in width.it’s stuck at 36-37 inches really i want to increase the upper body width to like 42-43.i stand at 5 feet 8 inches.maybe you can resolve my query and also which supplement you recommend for good lean bulk.i am currently using ON gold standard whey.Hoping for a positive reply.thanx in advance.:-)

        • YW.

          Slow chest growth is probably the issue I’m most often emailed about, haha. This is definitely the most common genetic weak point, and really just takes time and hard work to get through. In my opinion, it takes 1-2 years to build what we would consider a solid chest, and 3-4 to build an awesome chest.

          Don’t be discouraged by that though. As long as your diet is right and you’re getting stronger each month, your chest WILL grow. It just grows slower than most people prefer.

          Here’s one little trick you can do:

          On the 3rd day after chest day, start your workout with a chest warm-up and 3 heavy sets of incline barbell press. Then move on to your normal workout. This won’t be enough to interfere with your next chest day, and can give you a little boost.

          More important than the supplements, make sure your diet and training are on point. After that, there are a few products that help you reach your goals. Check out legionathletics.com.

          LMK what you think!

          • Pain Akatsuki

            thanks for replying mike really appreciate that.you’re a goddamn scientist.noone could have explained it any better.so now i get that it just takes a hell of time.I have officially become your fan now from this moment and i will be following your chest workout plan until i have a solid chest with DD press and BB press.Any advice on delts,i mean they are not popping out.i have the same issue you had years ago with lagging deltoids.Hope to hear from you soon.

          • YW! Thanks for the support dude.

            Cool on following the chest workout.

            For the shoulders, just follow the routine brother. It has everything you need. Check it out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/best-shoulder-workout/

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Jake Johnson

    Hey Mike. I’ve been a long-time fan of your books and advice. I worked out for years and made minimal gains, then read Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, and made considerable improvements. Unfortunately, over the past year I’ve fallen away from working out due to work, school, family, and all the typical obstacles that tend to discourage people from dedication to staying in shape. However, I’ve ordered some of your supplements (Pulse, Whey+, and Recharge), and am now ready to start back on that path.

    There are some things I’m unclear on regarding your workout plan, and I’m wondering if I was doing it correctly before. What I did was the following (using chest day as an example):

    Week 1
    Flat Bench: warm-up sets, then 3 sets of 4 reps
    Incline Bench: 3 sets of 4
    Dips (chest): 3 sets of 4

    I would basically do the heaviest weights I felt I could get 4 sets of, then when I made it around to chest day again on week 2, I would up the reps to 5 for each exercise; week 3, 6 reps; then start back over with 4-rep sets on week 1, but adding 5-10 pounds depending on the exercise. Based on what I’ve read in the above article, I now feel like this routine was wrong. Could you clarify?

    Thanks,

    Jake

    • Glad to hear you’re back on track to getting in shape!

      Thanks for picking up my products. LMK how you like them.

      The rep range you’re going for is 4-6 reps. You want to go as heavy as possible so you’re not getting more than 6 reps, but not too heavy where you can’t get 4 reps.

      I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

      Hope that helps! LMK.

  • Bin Lee

    Hi Mike. Thank you always for the great articles. It helped me alot. I have been training for more than 10years and most of the time, I have been doing atleast 5sets of each excercise, and do about 6-8 different excercises. But your ariticles suggest I do only 3sets of 3different excercises. I tried following your routine, and carried as heavy as possible. It felt like a very good workout but it only took me like 25-30mins to finish them. I was used to working out for 80-90mins and I felt that I didn’t do enough as this workout ended in 25-30mins? Are your routines meant to be 30mins? Or am I doing something wrong? Thanks always.

    • As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle. That said, if you’ve been training for quite some time, I recommend bumping the workouts up by 3 more sets. Just add one more exercise, and do 3 sets.

      Also, make sure you really are lifting as heavy as you can for the 4-6 reps. It should be heavy enough where you can’t get more than 6 reps, but light enough where you can get at least 4.

      When you’re pushing that hard, you’ll find that you need the 2-4 minutes of rest I recommend before doing your next set.

  • PONOVO1000

    Hey Mike, you I like your suggestion about doing 9 sets of incline bench press on monday instead of doing flat for lagging upper chest, but my question, if you do 3 sets of incline bb and 6 sets of incline db how to organise reps? Maybe 4-6 reps on incline bb and 10-4 reps or incline db? Cheers

    • PONOVO1000

      It would be like doing 6 heavy sets and 3 moderate reps… Is it any way to do all 9 sets of incline heavy???

  • PONOVO1000

    Mike can we make visible improvements on our lagging upper chest by doing this routine ( with emphasis on upper chest) in 5 months of propper bulk? Cheers

    • PONOVO1000

      What is minimum time on bulk to see decent gains, 4,5,6 months?

      • I would never bulk for less than 3 months personally and I try to go as long as possible. 6 months is a good run.

    • Yeah definitely. That’s a good amount of time.

  • Richard Wiskin

    I’ll give this a go but i would think that dips are very similar to decline bench in terms of how they hit the lower chest??

    • With dips you get better ROM and the shoulders and tris get better work too.

  • It sounds like the aim is to focus the training on fast twitch fibers and work in the ATP zone?

  • PONOVO1000

    Mike, do you recommend using wrist wraps to maybe add a few pounds on bench and overhead press and further overload those muscles?

  • George Soden-Freeth

    Hi, I started doing some exercises like pressups 6 months ago but I want to start doing some heavy weight lifting. Do you know how heavy my first dumbbells and barbell should be for the 4 – 6 rep range? (I borrowed some 8kg dumbbells and I could do 25 dumbbell bench presses). Thanks.

  • Frank S

    Mike, can you describe how you setup and come out of a heavy dumbbell flat bench press or link to a video that shows a good method? I have seen a few but would love to hear it from you. Thanks!

    • Sure!

      Before you sit down, pick up the weight and have them against your thighs so that when you sit down, dumbbells are upright on your knees.

      From there, when you go to lay on the bench, kick both legs up hard. If you do that, you should be laying flat on the bench and in proper position to press.

      You can see me doing it with the incline dumbbells in this article. Check it out. 🙂

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Jaliel PhillyKid Randle

    How many reps and sets of dips should I do if I wanted to add that in to the routine?

    • You can do them at the end of the chest routine and stick to the 4-6 rep range. So, if you need to add weight, do so.

      If you’re a more advanced lifter and are looking to add some higher rep work to your workouts, you max out 3 sets of dips instead of going heavy for 4-6 reps.

  • Basically Bass

    Can you explain why you start with incline rather than flat bench press? Ending with flat bench press makes it a little hard to judge how I’m progressing with it. Easier to do with squat, dead lift ad military press because I start workouts with those movements, respectively.
    Thanks,
    Bill

    • The reason why is because after emailing with thousands of people, the majority of people are lagging mainly in their upper chest while a lot of people are bottom heavy.

      So, the main focus on chest day is heavy, incline presses to help build that upper chest.

      Your muscle endurance will improve as you do it, and you’ll be able to measure your progress with your incline sets as well!

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Brad Linn

    Hey Mike,

    I started lifting as a newbie about 8 months ago. For my chest workout, I’ve switched back and forth a couple times now between these two workouts:

    Incline BB x 4
    Incline DB x 4
    Flat BB x 4
    ———————-
    Incline DB x 4
    Incline BB x 4
    Flat DB x 4

    4 to 6 reps on all sets.

    I’m making improvements most weeks but I’ve noticed that I’m actually stronger on my incline pressing than I am on my flat pressing. There’s not a huge difference, but the other day I pushed 70 pound Dumbbells on incline for 5 reps, and on the next set I switched to flat DB pressing and I only hit 65 pounds for 3 reps. (I made sure I had a full ROM for both sets too, I’m pretty anal about form)

    Not a huge deal I guess, I’ve just never seen it where someone is actually stronger on incline pressing than they are flat pressing. Is it a big deal? Should I emphasize flat pressing for awhile until it surpasses my incline pressing, like is the case for most people?

    Also, not that I’m very strong yet, but relative to my chest strength, my shoulders are decently strong compared to what I’ve seen from others. If a started a workout with BB military pressing right now I’d be able to lift 135 for around 4 reps. Idk, I’m guessing that might have something to do with it as well.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to make it so long. =

    • Yeah that’s to be expected because your flat is coming last in your workouts.

      IMO work in a routine that has you start with flat pressing and then move to incline. It’ll be a better gauge of your flat strength.

  • richard

    hey mike,
    great books and articles. i got the BBLS even though i just started the BLS program few month ago 😀
    if only smith machine is available and not free weight what can we do in that case to increase the muscle gain?

    • Thanks so much!

      Yeah Smith is fine for benching if you don’t have another option. I don’t recommend you squat or deadlift on it.

  • Hi,

    I have a small question why didn’t you put flat Dumbbell Bench Press?
    Don’t you think it is better than dips?

  • MsJadensDad .

    Hey Mike, I haven’t had the chest growth I was hoping for over the past couple of years on BLS and BBLS, although I have been happy with my strength gains. After completing my most recent cut, I was planning on focusing on chest growth over the upcoming ‘mesocycle’ while putting all other lifts into maintenance mode (and reverse dieting back up too). After laying out my plan, I counted 20 total sets while using a combination of 4-6 and 8-10 reps at 85% and 70% of my 1 RM, broken up over MWF. I know the volume will be a ton, but I had planned on taking a break every fifth week…too much weekly volume? Thanks as always.

    • Hey hey!

      Yup this is a good idea. Many people do this and it’s something I want to write more about. It’s on my list.

      Basically building your routine around a bench program. Other people have built around squat programs, deadlifting programs, etc.

  • Renier

    outstanding work mike!

  • ryan

    Hi Mike i have a few problems i need advise on.
    I have been lifting heavy for some time now, and the first issue is i always get accused of “ego lifting”. whats the main thing to differentiate ego lifting and just plain lifting heavy?
    also, lots of guys at my gym lift no more than 50 lbs dumbbells, one guy doesnt even do barbell presses, and they got great chest shape. meanwhile, ive been lifting relatively heavy, or atleast heavy for me, for about 9 month, and my chest sucks… anything im doing wrong? i bench the olympic bar with 70kgs plates per side at the heaviest

    • If your form is good, you’re good. If it’s not, you’re ego lifting. 🙂

      Same goes for progress with your chest. Half-repping isn’t very effective.

      • Ryan

        Thanks for the reply Mike..
        I had a question though. I wanted to get your opinion on 2 things. I saw something about Coach Rambod’s FST7 training, and in the video, he encouraged posing or flexing the muscle after each set in order to “get a better pump”, “promote volume” and get a better “mind-muscle connection”. any take on this?
        Also, he had the trainee, in this case, Jeremy Buendia, do loads of partial reps at the end of the set, right after failure on normal reps. Apparently, this is to help “break plateaus” and increase volume. Any opinion on this?

        • YW!

          That type of stuff might be relevant to people on drugs trying to squeeze out every ounce of growth but it doesn’t really matter for us mere mortals.

  • Chin

    Hi Mike, I see your sample program has 9 working sets. Since I have a totally undeveloped upper chest, would it be wrong to solely work on inclined press? Like 9 sets of just barbell inclined press. If I commit a few sets to flat bench wouldn’t that maintain or increase the contrast between my upper and lower chest?

    • That’s totally fine. If you’d like to really focus on the incline for now and just do 9 working sets of incline, go ahead!

      LMK how it goes.

  • Alex

    Hi Mike, I need your advice. It’s about the bench press, I’ve read your book and seen youtube videos etc etc on how to do the bench press but I’ve got a problem – I can’t feel my pecs working out. Until recently, I looked up the problem and found an article that explains the pec’s primary function. And that is to bring the arm to the center of your body. Basically I had to squeeze or imagine squeezing my pecs in order to have them do the work.

    It’s easy enough to do it with the dumbell bench press (Incline and flat) since your arms are capable of moving pretty much anyway, I can easily make a ”squeezing” movement while I’m reach the top position of the exercise.

    But I can’t do it with the bench press! No matter what I do, I can’t seem to squeeze my pecs or anything while I do the exercise, in fact, whenever I try, I end up firing up my front delts and probably my triceps, completely eliminating my chest in the formula whenever I bench press. And it’s so frustrating because I don’t know what to do in order to make this work. I literally stopped on my second set while bench pressing because I just couldn’t figure out how to do it properly. Even after reading your book etc etc, and retracting the shoulder blades together, keeping the arms at 45-esque degree angle, I still can’t seem to do it.

    Any advice? :S Aren’t there any home exercises I can do or something to make it easier for me to feel the pecs working during the bench press?? It’s literally the only thing that I’m having trouble with, and my chest is definitely falling behind everything else. 🙁

    • Hey Alex!

      Some people run into this issue and it’s usually newbies that are quite weak to start out with.

      Is that you?

      • Alex

        Hahaha well um.. I actually wouldn’t call myself a newbie, but I’ve been training with bad form for a long time, I won’t go into details how long, otherwise I’ll just get depressed. 😂😂

        • Oh okay well how much do you weigh and how much are you benching?

          • Alex

            174 pounds. And I bench 88 pounds, including the barbell.

          • Alright well we definitely need to focus on increasing your strength.

            Have you really dug into form? It’s on point?

          • Alex

            Well if you ask me it’s more on point than others – I mean, I make an small arch in my back to shoot my chest up. I don’t flare out my arms. I pinch my shoulder blades together. Heck I’ve even watched a video by Matty Fusara on Scapula retraction – How to properly retract your shoulder blades to make the bench press emphasize on your pecs

            Then I read an article on how to use your pecs by Lyle McDonald: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/training/benching-with-the-pecs.html/

            And it gave me a good idea on to how to use my pecs.. But the problem is, I can only do that with dumbells because I can only ”squeeze” my pecs when my arms are moving freely in 3D.. I can’t squeeze my pecs when my arms/hands are basically in the same position throughout the entire movement of the bench press. 🙁

          • Alex

            Nothing? 😛

          • Lindsay Rice

            Just taking a stab here, how heavy are you lifting (what range)? Is 88 your max? I suck at bench & I know I’m a girl but I love to lift heavy in the 4-7 range. Sometimes having too little weight on the bar makes it hard for me to keep the same form/muscle triggers as when it’s heavier. I notice this most when watching new people deadlift with like 65lbs. For me anyway, it’s hard to activate the lats when you don’t have that heavy-ish resistance to pull up/back against. So for bench, if up in the 12+ range, that weight wouldn’t be a heavy enough challenge for me to fully activate all involved muscles (lats, delts, pecs, legs, core) because I can almost lift that weight using triceps alone. Not sure if this is making sense. I do notice less feels with DB than barbell also though. Do you do incline? I feel that way more especially day after. Anyway regardless just keep at it and get your sets in. Sometimes you don’t feel it and sometimes you aren’t sore, but that doesn’t mean you’re not getting stronger.

          • Alex

            Hey Lindsey, I used to lift quite heavy and I admit that I was able to feel it in my chest muscles a bit more but even so, it was nowhere near what I wanted. My chest muscles stayed small too during that period so I figured I didn’t properly stimulate them during the exercise. So I’ve been lifting with lighter weight to just get the feeling of pec stimulation.

          • Shit I think Lindsay hit the nail on the head.

            I assumed you were following my advice in this article and were lifting heavy.

            IMO get on some strength training ASAP:

            https://legionathletics.com/strength-training/

          • Alex

            I saw just read the article and it made sense – I just need to ask you one question regarding the article. The calculator part – What does brzycki, baechle and dos remidos mean? Are they the various calculating method? If so, which one should I follow?

            Also – At the part where it tells us the various rep ranges after calculating the percentages of the 1RM – Is that the amount of weight that we should lift if we want to lift a certain amount of reps?

          • Alex

            Also I kinda take it back – I tried benching today to no luck. While I could very faintly feel my chest it’s still no go. I simply cannot squeeze my chest during the bench press exercise. I watched a video of Athlean X where he explained that a narrower grip can better activate the chest the the typical wide grip. If I’m one of the cases where a conventional grip doesn’t work then I’ll have to work with a slightly narrower to actually feel my chest muscles activate.

          • I see. I still think you’re overthinking it and should just focus on building strength.

          • Yeah methods. Choose any as a starting point.

            That’s telling you how much weight you can move for those reps. It’s all approximation of course but it tends to be fairly accurate.

          • Okay good.

            Is this a problem with both flat and incline BB?

          • Alex

            Honestly, it’s kinda both. I mean, when I was practicing my form – I could feel my chest at least on two occasions on the flat, but on the incline it’s practically impossible. 🙁

          • Alex

            Ok.. I did chest today and basically, I could actually feel my chest doing the dumbell variant of the exercise.. And that was by following Scott Herman’s advice on how to improve your mind muscle connection.. When I tried to do the same thing on the Barbell bench press.. it didn’t go to well.

            I had literally no weights on the barbell and I could still not feel my chest even slightly. The only times I felt my chest activate during my bench – Was right after I performed the movements described in the article I just posted.. But even after that set of actually activating my chest, I couldn’t activate it anymore 🙁

            Also it seems like my right pec activates more than my left pec.. Needless to say, I’m a mess 🙁

          • Very interesting. Just stick with DB press until you get stronger and then go to BB. You can build a great chest with DB only, really.

          • Alex

            I know but.. Isn’t there anything I can do to make it all easier? I really want to learn how to bench press properly too.

          • Possibly but I would have to actually see what’s going on to advise further.

          • Alex

            That’s not very helpful though.. I just have a hard time actually using my chest really. But I do want to ask you two things, the primary muscles that are supposed to benefit the most from the exercise, are they supposed to contract before the secondary muscle groups? So basically during a bench bress, it’s the chest that actually has to activate before the other muscle groups right?

            Also the second question – Is the delts supposed to fire up during a bench press? It’s kinda hard to fire up my chest muscles without my delts firing up too – I’m doing isolation exercises to kinda get more in tune with my chest muscle.

          • Sorry brother I rarely ever run into issues like this. I would suspect it has something to do with form but biomechanics may be involved too.

            The pecs are the primary movers, yes, but the secondaries are involved throughout the movement (and some more than others).

            Yeah the anterior delts are heavily involved as are the triceps. You should feel your lats as well.

          • Alex

            Hey – I actually uploaded a video of this. Tell me what you think.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkisnA4H8Vk&feature=youtu.be

          • Looks spot on in the video. Are you sure this isn’t in your head more than anything else? Haha.

          • Alex

            No I’m pretty sure. Though I did show it to someone else, and he told me that I should try and flare my elbows out slightly more. I did do a benching motion without a barbell while standing upright, and then immediately did one at home while lying down. I compared my arm position both times. And my arms were significantly closer to my body while lying down than standing up.

            I’ll try and flare out my elbows a bit more next time and see if it does a difference.

          • Nah elbow flaring isn’t a good idea. Go too far and you’ll run the risk of impinging your shoulders and/or injuring your RC.

  • John

    Hi Mike! I’m John. Thanks for your article. It really helped a lot. I have an question though. I’ve been weight lifting over 6 months, and I’m 19. I’m splitting my muscle groups like Monday chest/tricep, Tuesday back/bicep, Wednesday legs, Thursday shoulders, and Friday biceps/triceps. So my question is, in order to bulk, should I lift super heavy on all of my muscle groups around 6-8 reps? And also, do you prefer taking whey protein powder after workout or before workout? or both?

  • Hikmat

    Hi Mike, I’ve been doing the ultimate workouts that you have on your website and they’ve really put me on track to achieve my goals. my question for you is what should i do when I’ve progressed to the point were i can’t get heavier dumbbells. For example on the incline dumbbell press I’m using 32kg dumbbells and my gym only go up to 36kg. So pretty soon i won’t be able to go heavier.

    • Happy to hear it 🙂

      If your gym doesn’t have heavy enough dumbbells to continue in the 4-6 rep range, I recommend sticking to the barbell exercises so you can continue progressively overloading.

      Thoughts?

      • Hikmat

        Hi Mike
        I appreciate the reply, in response to your suggestion i was thinking i could swap out incline dumbbell press with reverse grip bench press thus keeping the focus on my upper chest.

  • Luke Willoughby

    Hey Mike, quick question. What order do you work out different muscles during the week to avoid using muscles you worked out a day or two before? I’ve injured my foot so not doing any legs for a few weeks and say I go from chest/ tri’s to back/bi’s then shoulders, my tri’s are too sore from chest to do shoulder press for e.g, what can I do? (Would usually do legs between do split it up but even then my muscles are sore).

    Cheers,
    Luke

  • Kimber1185

    Hey Mike,
    I LOVE your website and all of the information that you have to offer. I was just wondering if Recharge is Vegan? I currently have been lifting pretty heavy, but don’t take any supplements. I am thinking that it might be time 🙂 Thanks!

    Kimberly

    • Thanks! Happy to hear it. 🙂

      Recharge is not certified vegan, but none of the ingredients contain animal products.

      Supplementing with creatine is definitely a good idea and will improve performance/results!

  • Luke Chudders

    Hey mike I’ve been following your program for 6 weeks but now the bench press is getting really heavy I have trouble unracking and my arms don’t seem to be strong anoth , I’m strict on form. should I lower the weight and maybe do 6-8 reps or stick with it. I can get 6 reps for the first set but after that I can hardly get it off the rack and I always work a rep or 2 short of failure thanks

    • Cool you’re rolling on the program Luke!

      I hear you on the bench. Glad you’re keeping your form in.

      Let’s stick to the 4-6 rep range if possible. To help with unracking the weight, I recommend getting a spotter that can help with lifting the weight off the rack. If that’s not possible, try getting closer to the bar when laying down so it’s easier to unrack but still not in the way when benching.

      Try those out and LMK how it goes.

  • joseph

    Hey mike,
    I see your point about people often focusing on lower chest, but what if the reverse is true? In my case, my chest lacks allot in the lower outer portions, you know the part that creates that epic angle at the bottom of the chest? My chest is alright/ pretty thick in the inner portions, and quickly improving on the upper portions, thanks to the tips on your site, but what about that lower-outer chest thing? Some say that that just comes out eventually, others say you have to work it out? Any option on this?
    Joseph

    • Oh okay. In your case you may actually benefit from some decline pressing. Include it in your routine.

  • Jim Walker

    Hey Mike,
    Great article, and sick pecs.
    I was just wondering what a “strong” number would be for incline dumbbell bench. I recently have worked up to 80 lbs per hand for 6 reps, this is the first exercise I do in my workouts.
    Thanks

    • Thanks Jim. 🙂

      Really depends on your body weight and training experience.

      IMO anything over 100 lbs for reps is solid.

  • Chris Cusimano

    Hey Mike, I finished the ‘old’ Year 1 Challenge and I’m on week 2 of the updated version. On Day 4 it has Incline BB Bench Press but with reps 8-10. I can’t find any info in the updated BLS book or online about the reasoning for this. Am I just missing it? Also, does this mean to use a weight to max out at 8-10?

    • Hey Chris!

      That’s great you’re a year in. How has it gone so far?

      BLS 2.0 explains why but basically it’s just to squeeze in a little more weekly volume for the upper body, which develops slower than the lower.

      The weight is lighter to prevent overtraining.

      • Chris Cusimano

        Thanks Mike. Year 1 was great. I added a tremendous amount of muscle; however, I ate to the plan maybe 30-40% of the time :/ No excuses, I just pussed out

        • Welcome! Great to hear on the results from year 1.

          I hear you on the diet. If you want the best results possible year 2, let’s stick to the diet. 🙂

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,

    Is it normal to have just a little bit of soreness in my Lower Back the day after Bench Pressing with an Arched Back? Also, could I train my Back the day before my Chest? In all Workout Splits you’ve given – it is the opposite and I was wondering if it Matters the Order in which you train your Muscle Groups..

    Have a great day : )

    • Yeah it can happen. Nothing unusual there.

      It does matter because you don’t want your deadlifting and squatting and bench and military press to be back to back.

  • ReeferInferno

    Hey Mike I was wondering whether it makes a difference when dumbbell bench pressing if the dumbbells go all the way down to chest level or you keep your arms at a 90 degree angle parallel to the floor. I’ve seen some people say one way and others another, and would really like your opinion. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • I’m a fan of a greater range of motion because it makes your chest do more work, which is the point. It’s not bad for your shoulders or any other such nonsense.

  • aaa

    Hey Mike! I have been following the plan on this website since April (i think) upto now. I am 5,11 (1,80 cm) and used to weigh around 57 kg. Now I am 70 kg due to eating loads of carbs and Protein all day (since I am a kind of a hardgainer) and following your gym plan here of course. Thanks a ton!! I have never weighed 70kg in my life and am getting comments on my weight gain from many. I have a question about the chest. From the front my chest looks fine but from the side, the bottom chest looks a bit droopy….Is there a way i can send you a pic so you can assess if this is a natural progression or unsual? I have been researching and there are so many theories I am lost!! I bench press about 40 kg for 4-6 reps which is not even much. I am also a skinny guy or at least used to be!! I asked my neighbor who works out and a couple more people (who dont) and they all said it is drooping a bit when you look at it from the side. Any ideas on how to round out and flatten the bottom chest like yours? The workout regime proposed on the website is going stellar for me at the moment as far as building mass. So I never really put any thought into changing it in the last 6 months. Should I buy your book now or just continue cos its going well?!! If I could send you a picture of front and side shot of my chest that would be great. I am totally lost and chest is super important!! Thank you!

  • aaa

    Hey mike.There is two kinds of bottom chest which is aesthetic. You and Ryan gosling for example have a similar kind where it is round at the bottom and for example jeff seid and Brad pitt ( movie fight club) have a triangular kind of bottom chest. I dont know which kind I want. I guess by following the directions in your book I can get your kind of round chest??…I wonder how to get triangular kind? I think both these chest types train differently,…

    • Definitely true but unfortunately we can’t control this–it’s genetic.

  • aaa

    Just ordered Bigger Leaner Stronger!

  • Sam K

    Hi Mike, I’m 5 foot and my feet don’t go flat on the round when I’m on a bench. If I put both my feet up on the bench and try not to have a flat back do you think this would be safe to avoid strain on the lower back?

    • That’s a good question. Normally you don’t want your legs up on the bench. Check out how shorter powerlifters handle this?

  • Tuan

    hey mike, because when I started out I did a lot of incline bench so now my lower chest is lacking incompare to my upper chest, will incorporating x3 sets of decline help with this problem? I prefer decline bench over dips because it feels better and more powerful and I don’t have the dip belt thing. thxxx

  • Rob

    Mike, quick question on warming up on “Upper Body” day (I’m doing the 5-day plan that you laid out in BLS). I’ll try to explain this the best I can…I understand the warm-up plan in the book, 50% of the working sets weight for 12 reps, 10 reps and then 70% for 4 reps, 90% for 1, etc. My question is that since I’m basing those percentages on my working sets weight, which obviously change between day 1 (4-6 reps) and day 4 (8-10 reps) do I alter the warm-up weight based on the working set weight? This is mainly in regards to the incline bench press. For example, if I’m using 225 for my working sets on day 1 and only 195-205 on the higher rep day, which weight do I base my warm-ups on for the higher rep day? Do I still use 225 even though my working sets on the higher rep day will be less? I’ve been warming up based on what weight I’ll be using that particular day, but didn’t know if I should always base my warm-up weight on my heaviest days instead. Hope I was able to get my point across without too much confusion.

    • Good question! You can base your percentages for the warm-ups based off the weight you’ll be working with that day, just as you’ve been doing.

  • Vemund

    Hi Mike! I just finished a 3 month long personal trainer study, and I recognize a lot of stuff that you’re saying about supplements, dieting, exercises and etc. There is just one thing, particularly, I can say that I’ve learned differently. And that’s how the rep ranges and the rest between sets are most benefitial for muscle growth. Here is what I was taught:

    Strong as possible(not necessarily bigger) = 3-5 reps with 3-5min rest
    Bigger = 8-12 reps with 30sek-2min rest
    Muscular stamina = 15-20 reps with 2min rest

    I understand the fact that you would also want to be as strong as possible. Because your muscle CSA would increase if you could lift more weight. So a mix between those two would benefit muscle growth (I was taught). For example: that you one session focus on 3-5 reps and the next you focus on 8-12 reps and then back to 3-5 again.

    So my question(s) is; What is your opinion on this? Is it just a matter of different training philosophys? And does this even matter if you workout,eat, sleep and rest enough?

    (Sorry for long post and if the English isn’t readable)

  • Derek

    Hey Mike,

    I come to you for advice. I’ve hit my first wall on the bench press. I’ve been pretty much at 145 lb for the last month or so doing 4 reps (struggling with the 4th one). I started at about 95 lb, so I made pretty rapid progress at the beginning, but now, I am not sure what to do to continue advancing. I feel like my chest isn’t growing since my weights aren’t increasing. Any advice?

  • aaa

    When I started your plan I was 56kgs. Now about 9 months later (with a 2 month break due to sickness and injury in between) I am 71 kgs. Before I could never go past 64kg. I am a skinny guy with not much body fat. However my bottom chest – the outer part- is kind of bulky inherently. I went to the doctor…i dont have gyno. I would like to build the upper chest as it is lacking….should I still do dips and bench press or leave them for a while? Any excersices to flatten out the bottom chest?The oustdsie part of the bottom chest is bulky but the inner part has no definition or anthying….I want to build the upper chest and define/ flatten the bottom chest…which exercises should I do?!

    • I would just do a lot of incline pressing and you can throw in some flat pressing here and there if you’d like.

      You also may need to reduce your body fat %:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

      • aaa

        Thanks for the reply. I found something cool on the Internet, which I would like to try as it describes exactly what I am looking for. I, however, value your opinion. Could you have a look at it? It will probably take you 5 mins. I prefer if I could send you the link in a private message (is that possible) because it involves this other guys chest programme.

        If I do a lot of incline pressing (I use the 45 degree angle) and lets say do flat pressing once every 2 weeks what about the middle and lower part of the inner chest?

        Should I change to 30 degrees? I have been doing it at 45 and I can see a bit of development on the MOST upper part of my chest.

        I have a BMI of about 22 and 16-19% body fat. Losing fat will help but I think I genetically have a biggish lower outer chest and Im afraid flat pressing will develop the inner chest but also increase the lower outer part (which i dont want).

        Thank you

        • No worries just post it here and I’ll let you know what I think.

          FYI, though, there’s no way to “flatten out” your pecs with training. Some people’s pecs are naturally rounder and some are flatter. Mine, for instance, are round and I have to stay quite lean to have the flatter type of look that we all want…

  • Shahvi

    Thanks for the info.
    Would you help me in adjusting my chest routine.
    My chest workout is
    .Butterfly
    .Flat barbell bench press
    .Incline barbell bech press
    .Flat dumbbell bench press
    .Decline dumbell bech press
    .Cable pull for lowest part
    .Pull over
    3 sets each (progressive overloading)
    Please help in any kind of adjustment 🙂

    • NP.

      That’s a LOT of volume. I’d just do something like this:

      Barbell Incline Bench Press for 3 sets of 4-6 reps
      Dumbbell Incline Bench Press for 3 sets of 4-6 reps
      Flat Barbell Bench Press for 3 sets of 4-6 reps

      That’s a great workout, and you don’t need more volume than that.

      What do you think?

      • Shahvi

        Thanks for pointing out flaws.
        But what should I do for mid line as my chest is almost flat from the middle and my lowest part of chest is also squishy, how to lose that.

  • Tony Williams

    How’s it going Michael, let me just say this – my eyes just went literally pumped out when I was reading this article. Thanks for the info. I consider myself a beginner in this thing but I just want to share my chest workouts:

    -Barbell Incline Bench Press
    -Incline Dumbbell Press
    -Incline Dumbbell Flyes
    – and Pushups

    Also, if could just ask for some insights about an article I stumble uopn in the internet just before I found yours. It is about 10 foods to build muscle mass fast on this site http://www.musclebuildingmasters.com/

    Can you give me some of your thoughts about foods that I need to eat? You have mentioned about Creatine that can be found in red meats. I am not well versed in terms of dieting plan if I may say. Also, I have heard that food-supplements can help as well but for personal reasons, as much as possible, I would like to stay away from it.

    Any advice will be deeply appreciated. Thumbs up and shout outs to Michael!

  • David

    Hi man!

    I do my bench presses either with dumbbells or the smith machine. I know you said that smith machines block out the stability muscle work and also your form is dropping due to limited motion. However, my gym offers a smith machine that is more free, you can move the bar wherever you want, but still it holds up the stability. It looks something like this:
    http://www.fitnesszone.com/Merchant2/graphics/00000001/BodyCraft-Jones-Club-Smith-Machine-fs.jpg
    That means that you still can retain proper form while pressing.

    My reflection and adoption is that if I also do dumbbell-presses over my smith machine pressing I should be fine. The smith-machine allow me to build more strength thus it doesn’t require any stabilisation and I can focus more on my pectoral strength. And then the dumbbells do the other job of hitting the muscle stabilizers.
    Any recommendations or opinions about this? Seems accurate?

    • Yeah I’m familiar with that type of Smith and it’s better than a traditional one but I still prefer the free bench.

      But yes, you’re going to be fine in that you will be able to build muscle and strength.

  • When’s the best time to pick up dumbbells off a rack prior to starting a set? I often feel like the mere act of picking up dumbbells and carrying them over to a bench (if it’s far-ish) fatigues me somewhat, though perhaps it doesn’t make much of a difference.

    • Whatever works best for you. Some people pick them up off the rack, walk them over to the bench and immediately start their set. Some bring the weights to the bench and set them down for a minute or two and then begin their set. Either way works though.

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Not sure how to proceed here. Incline dumbbell press, I can do 8 reps at 20kg easy, so I moved up, but the minimum bump on the sets at this gym is 2.5kg, at which I can only hit 3 reps.

    • Hmm. Are you doing the 8 reps with full ROM and good form? You should be able to get more than 3 reps with that jump in weight…

      If so, you’ll just have to stick with the 20 KG dumbbells until you can get 10 reps and then try going up in weight again.

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Possibly, my ROM is too much? I usually dip down below a 90 degree angle, but it just feels so much like I’m doing almost nothing when I stop at 90. BTW my gym has nothing I can use for chest dips. What is the best replacement?

    • If you’re adding weight it can just put your shoulders in a compromised position…

  • Eric Zwerneman

    I’m utilizing your 1-yr workbook, and I have everything at my home gym that you recommend in BLS, except a machine that allows me to do dips. Is there a good alternative?

    • Great! Yeah personally I would just alternate between more pressing and probably something like DB flyes (8 to 10 rep range).

  • Cam

    Hey Mike, I’m in the same boat as Alex, I can’t really feel my chest doing pushing exercises like Bench press. I feel my chest a lot more when it comes to flies. I’m a beginner, could it be because my chest muscles aren’t developed enough for me to properly activate them? can I just do isolation work to get a better feeling to them?

    • Yeah that’s a common problem among beginners. As you build more strength and size, it should be a non-issue…

  • Edwin

    Hey Mike! I have been following your Bigger leaner stronger program for a while now and have seen improvement in most of my lifts except for chest. I do incline bench, incline BB and flat bench with dips. I have been doing this for over 3-4 months now and cannot seem to gain strenth or even reps when doing these exercises. I feel my triceps kind of give up more when it comes to it then actually my chest. Furtheremore, I have been and still am going on a cut and I am aware during cuts your will not gain strength but however I have been for my deadlifts and squats. I have always been stronger in my lower body movements, and would like to really improve my upper body strength. Thanks alot!

  • NoApoloG

    How often should I expect to see increases in reps in my workouts? Some weeks I can get 6 reps which results in me going up 5lbs on each side. But then the next week I sometimes find myself struggling to get the 4 reps I’m used to before I made the increase

    • NoApoloG

      Hey mike I re-read the training section in BLS and found the answer to my own question lol The wonders of reading right?

      • Haha no worries! Glad you were able to get your question answered. 🙂

  • John

    Mike, you say every 5-7 days. I’ve been doing 5-6 reps 3 a week (in All Body workouts). Would I be better of having a split routine or have Chest Day?

    I’m not a fan of flyes or cables so am pleased they are not recommended 🙂

  • Cain09

    Could you help me. I have a problem with my benchpress. In my chest routine it is the first exersise and i push hard benches for few reps. My next excersise is incline bumbbell and my both dumbbells are as heavy as my whole barbeell used during benching. So i think there is something wrong. Is there something that can improve my benchpress ? Because my dumbbells maxs are running up but my bench maxs not and the difference between dumbbell and barbell weights is still increasing.

    • Happy to!

      To help improve your bench press, check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/bench-press/

      LMK what you think.

      • Cain09

        It”s really insane, because it works incredibly. During my chest routines I have made big progress. Now I push ten kilos more than last weeks. Just focusing on the technique mentioned in the article ( especially the point about tiring the bar apart which increases my starting impuls in my chest and hands, because in past I have ever had my upper body too releaxed and that decreased exposive force at the beginning of the motion). Thanke you very much for it. It¨s unbelievable but since I read your article about natural training for the first time, I have been lifting with higher weights and fewer reps only to produce maximum of testosteron. You are right that more reps ( 10 and more ) and pumping is only for peolpe using sterodis because with their routine I have never made such progress I would like to and now I breaking my records one by one, feeling better, looking forward to next routine and curious about my gains in next weeks.

        • That’s awesome! It’s amazing how much improvement can occur with proper form and a few tips. 🙂

          Happy to help!

          Glad you started training heavier and in the lower rep range and are noticing results!

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Alex A

    Left pec is bigger then the right! Quick google search says this is fairly common and to my horror it appears for the first time you haven’t wrote an article about it!

    I’ve started doing the BLS for 2 weeks now so doing DB incline (prior to this workout I was only using barbel). You think that will do the trick?

    Cheers

    • Yep, most people have some sort of an imbalance.

      Imbalances are common and they usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months on my program and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

  • tengai

    Hey, Michael!
    I have been doing your “Ultimate Exercises” for I think, 4 or 5 months now. I have definitely improved, you have been a great help. There’s one thing, though. I have gained some fat, too. I don’t want to be those bulky guys with big muscles but no definitions. I want to be ripped, shredded just like you.
    Here’s my routine:
    Leg, calves and abs
    Chest
    Back, calves and abs
    Rest
    Shoulder, calves and abs
    Arms
    Rest then repeat
    Do I need to do a more intense workout, or should I focus on my diet (I think it’s my diet)?
    Now, I am still a student (18 years old)….So, if it’s my diet, can you recommend me a budget friendly diet? I am Asian, so we always eat rice, but it’s not like I want to. I want a nice diet. I like eating vegetables so it’s all cool.
    Thanks, Michael! I hope you can help me again 😀

    • Cool you’ve been following those workouts and awesome on the gains you’ve made.

      Putting on fat while bulking is part of the process. However, it may be time to cut, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      If it is, you can set up your cutting diet here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      You can include whatever foods you like as long as they fit your cals and macros. 🙂

      Hope this helps! My pleasure.

      • tengai

        Man, I am pretty confused, but I will try.
        By the way, the protein shake that I take is ‘Gold Standard WPI’. Is it good?

        • Haha what’s up?

          Yep, Gold Standard is great.

          • tengai

            Yeah, all these measuring stuff is pretty confusing to me haha. I guess I’ll just stick to my current one and add some.

            Cool! Thanks.

          • Well take a good look at the article and then LMK any questions you have! I’m happy to help.

            Welcome!

          • tengai

            Can you like, summaries it to me in simpler terms. I mean, I get it, but I’m still pretty confused.

  • Azouri

    Hey mike i was wondering for a chest workout, which mix of two exercises would it be better to include for better overall chest development, bench press and incline dumbbell press or incline bench press and flat dumbbell press?

    • Both are great. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other.

  • Bill

    What is you DB press 1RM? Is it lower than the BB one? If so why is this case? And

  • Wil

    Hey mike! I came here for an advice. Im really wondering why my left lower pec is bigger than my right lower pec, and my right upper pec is bigger than my left lower pec. Im right handed. One reason im thinking is that im a fan of force rep (with a spotter of course) and when i force myself to push the bar i always think that my left arm is weaker than my right, so what i do is i exert a little effort to help my left arm but what happens sometimes is my left arm extends more than my right arm and maybe losing the right form. Is that what causing it? I’ve been doing your workout (3-day routine) for 1 month already. And you said i should do it for 8 weeks. What routine i will make after the 8 week mark?

    Lastly, i wanted to add more workouts in my chest.. How can i add more workouts to my chest so that the improvements (looks) can go faster? Im a student so i have a trouble with the schedule. But i force myself in hitting the gym every other day. Im just wondering which is better, adding 3 sets of flat BB bench press in the Back & Biceps day or in the Legs & Shoulder day?

    • Wil

      Dont get me wrong, i mean when im bench pressing (with spotter) and made it with 5 reps (struggling with the fifth) i stil try to make the 6th one making it force rep thats what they call in our gym. Thats the time my left arm extends more than my right.. Hope u can answer my questions and help me. Thank you very much you inspire and motivate us all! Godbless!

      • Yeah I get it. If things get really imbalanced for me, I abort the set.

    • I’ve seen different reasons for this. One is simply not paying enough attention to keep things balanced while barbell pressing. Another is not doing any dumbbell pressing. Yet another is a biomechanical issue that a PT could help correct.

      Honestly if you do this chest workout once every 5 to 7 days, that’s all you need.

      Checking your diet might help:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

  • Michael

    Mike,
    In this article you say you can add optional 3 sets of dips to failure. Is this just bodyweight? I´m currently doing your BLS 1 year challenge. In phase 1 on chest day it says optional dips with 3 working sets (weighted if possible). I understand this as 4-6 reps and currently do these with 60lbs attached.
    Which variation of the dips do you prefer and recommend?
    Thanks,
    Michael

    • Either or, honestly. These days I alternate–one week it will be 4 to 6 (added weight), and the next, bodyweight (to failure).

  • Onur

    Hi Michael.
    It’s a very nice feeling to see your advices really work 🙂
    Let’s come to the question:
    We know that the heavier weights mean the fewer reps.. Should we do reps with lighter weights in order to complete the number?
    Thanks.

    • Glad to hear it! 🙂

      You want to work in the given rep range. Once you hit the top, you add weight. If you can’t get at least the bottom, you remove weight.

  • Azouri

    Hey mike, I was wondering since the reverse grip on a bench press increases stimulation in the upper pecs is it a better exercise than the incline bench press if you were to do a reverse grip on the incline increasing more upper pecs? or reverse grip incline dumbbells

  • Paulo Dias

    I was a professional soccer player and I’ve never done gym work very seriously until I was 34 when
    i stopped playing, I started by wanting to see a bit more of muscles in the upper body, i
    climb 3kg up to 83kg in first year without gain a lot of fat, but visually don´t see much,
    then I met crossfit which for me was a follow-up what i fell in love in sport (competition) did it
    for two years and got up my marks in all aspects, but unfortunately I had to stop due to cervical
    problems, i already had 37 years and reached the 86kg perhaps 15% fat mass (height 1.80 m), then i
    found an incentive in Jim Wendler program, which i do for half a year and climbed my marks in the
    deadlift (10x335pounds) and back squat (1x330pounds), but in the bench press and shoulder just stayed the same (from the beginning i was never be able to get up on the bench press but the shoulder press in crossfit skyrocketed, always had big and stronger legs and increase volume but the same can not apply for upper body), but again had to stop because systematic contractures on thighs.
    So I found and bought the “Bigger Leanner Stronger” which i found the answers to many doubts.
    I decided that this was the program that i wanted to follow i’m 38 years and started the program
    “The year one challenge” without the leg day (intentionally) because I continue with great legs without doing absolutely nothing) i started 8 weeks ago with 83.5Kg and 15% body
    fat, in 8 weeks i go down to 80kg and 12.5% ​​body fat (lost 7 pounds in 8 weeks) and eating more that recommended
    (averaging 205gr protein (220) 265gr hydrates (220) and 55gr fat (45)) managed to keep the loads
    on some and lowering the deadlift and bench press (where I am worse).

    1.Should i start Bulking?
    2.Should i eat more that you advised?
    3.it´s a good idea not to do leg? (Perhaps it´s taking nutrients to the rest)
    4. Can I make some kind of crossfit exercise for cardio? which ?
    5. Should I add something to the program to get up on bench press?
    6. When moving to the phase of Bulking i will have some trouble to eat the entire amount of calories, what can I do?

    Thanks for the patience, advice and the clarity of the book “Bigger Leaner Stronger” which I make
    a repair, in my opinion the book cover does not do justice to the content, because i thing this book is the basis of all the doubts of fitness/bodybuilding/diet.

    Paulo Dias
    Lisbon, Portugal

    • Hey man!

      Great on everything you’ve done so far.

      IMO cut a bit more and then start your bulk. Here’s why:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      You may want to do just 3 sets of heavy squats per week in addition to your deads (just to maintain leg size and strength). Up to you.

      The program has you benching twice per week so no, I don’t think we need to do anything there.

      I’m going to write an article soon on increasing appetite for gaining weight.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Tim Martin

    Hi Michael, just to clarify from Bigger Leaner Stronger… While cutting I shouldn’t expect any strength gains during the 5 day routine (but maintain pre-cut strength levels on all lifts)?

  • Dan

    Hi Mike,

    What is your view on the following 4 day split?

    Day 1: Back
    Day 2: Chest & Shoulders
    Day 3: Legs
    Day 4: Arms

    I feel my arms are lagging, and sticking Biceps & Triceps at the end of Back & Chest days, I don’t lift as heavy.

  • Bryon Deane

    Hi Mike,

    Recently purchased BLS and I’m about half way through the book and feeling really good about the program so far. I have one issue I need to deal with and would like your advice on. i currently work out five days a week but only have access to dumbbells (employer provided gym). Due to time constraints, I can only attend a gym with barbells 2 days a week. How can I make the BLS program work for me with these limits?

    • Thanks for picking up my book!

      Hmm. I’d save your leg day and back day for the gym with barbells. Then, for your chest, shoulders and arms, you can use dumbbell alternatives for the barbell exercises. You can get great results with dumbbells. I’m a fan of them.

      Thoughts?

      • Bryon Deane

        Thanks Mike!!

        Appreciate the response!

  • James

    Hi Mike,
    I want to get the full 12 sets in for my chest workout, but cannot do dips due to AC Joint issues. I was thinking of doing 4 sets each for Incline Barbell, Incline DD, and Flat Barbell Bench. Thoughts? Thank you!

    • That’d work! Or you can keep them at 3 sets each and add a 4th exercise of your choice. Up to you!

      My pleasure.

      • James

        Awesome!! Perhaps I’ll just do Flat DB Bench as my 4th.
        I purchased BBLS, but am going to buy BLS and start with that first. I’m 37, 5’10”, 190lbs, 15%BF. Going to cut to 10-12%, then begin lean bulk after that. My goal is 190lbs at 10%BF.

        • Great!

          Thanks for picking up the books. LMK what you think of them!

          Sounds good on your plans for cutting and bulking. I look forward to seeing your results!

  • Lance

    Hello Mike,

    I’ve been doing your Ultimate Chest, Biceps & Triceps, Back, Shoulders exercises for 2 weeks now. And I can say that I’m already seeing results, especially with my chest. I would just like to ask whether I have to follow the 5 day rest plan. I currently only train twice a week since when I go to the gym I train arms and shoulders 1 day, and then chest and shoulders the other. But I see that you, yourself, go to the gym 5 days a week.. Currently I am at (kg)
    Military Press 17.5 each hand
    Side lateral raise 10 each hand
    Rear lateral raise – 27 (using a machine)
    Arnold military press – 12.5 each

    Barbell curl 25
    Close grip bench press 10
    Hmmer curls 12.5 each hand

    Deadlifts 55
    barbell row 20
    1 arm dumbell rows 10 each

    incline bench press 35
    inclined dubell press 17.5 each
    bench press 50

    do i really need 5 days rest for where i am right now? if yes, what other workouts can i do during the other days i’m free and which ones should i pair? i’m also trying to lose belly fat right now I would say i’m at 20-24% body fat based on pictures online, so i’m also looking for a cardio program to supplement what i am doing.

    Thank you, Mike!

  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike,

    I was wondering what you thought of one armed dumbell chest presses?

    Zak

  • Pargs

    Hey Mike, what is your take on dumbbell flies and dumbell pullovers – Shall I do them with a heavy weight and fewer reps or light weight with more reps? – Currently I’m 19 weighing in at 90kg and my bench press 1RM is 140kg. I also want to improve on that, are there any other excercises besides close grip that will help me do this?

  • Claudio Tonelli

    Hi Michael!
    I don’t really like how my chest is developing.
    It looks a little weird
    The shape of the left is completely different from the right and is more filled.
    The right is wider but less filled.But it looks better than the left.
    They’re both empty in the “inner” chest,
    It’s not growing at all.
    This is my seventh week of training.
    I Dumbbell Bench Press,Incline Dumbbell Bench Press and dips.
    I know we are not perfectly symmetrical,but what can I do to rebalance the situation and developing a wide full chest???
    Last but not least i want to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience!
    Ciao from Italy

    • Slow chest growth is probably the issue I’m most often emailed about, haha. This is definitely the most common genetic weak point, and really just takes time and hard work to get through. In my opinion, it takes 1-2 years to build what we would consider a solid chest, and 3-4 to build an awesome chest.

      Don’t be discouraged by that though. As long as your diet is right and you’re getting stronger each month, your chest WILL grow. It just grows slower than most people prefer.

      Regarding the imbalance, it will usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      What do you think?

      My pleasure for everything. 🙂 Talk soon!

  • balint nagy

    Hi Mike!
    One of my gym buddy asked me, how to develop inner chest. I told him, there is no such exercise that will target his inner chest, it’s mostly genetics and he just needs to build his chest with heavy incline and flat benchpresses. Am i right? Is there such exercise?

    • Hey hey!

      Yeah, nah. It just comes down to building your chest with heavy flat and incline presses and then getting lean enough to show the “cleavage”.

  • Catalin

    Hi, Mike. I bought your training program(BLS) 1 week ago. It is amazing. But one thing I can’t understand, the progression. Can you explain me better, 3 sets of 4-6 reps, when I hit the first set 6 reps add weight. I can’t understand. I am not English maybe this is the reason. Thank you.

    • Hey hey! Thanks for picking up my book! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

      NP! I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

      Hope that clears it up for you! My pleasure.

  • ollie powell

    Can you explain why to only do 3 sets? Why not 4 or 5 sets of 5?

    • Ian

      I have a similar question. My bench at home in “incline” position doesn’t allow the bar to go high enough for it to be comfortable or safe to perform. Long story short I am not doing incline pressing until I get a new bench. In the mean time would 4 or 5 sets of flat barbell press and 4 or 5 sets of flat reverse grip press suffice? I have fallen in love with reverse grip by the way.

    • You can but you’d have to reduce sets on other exercises because you can only do so much per week for each major muscle group before you fall behind in recovery.

      Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/hypertrophy-how-to-build-muscle/

  • Ivo Naves

    Hey Mike,

    What do you think of the theory bellow, in the last minutes, in which it is said that “if you are (full range) pressing 100s for reps, you should be pressing in the mid-three hundreds”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfd77Djj3V0

    I do exactly like he (and you at your YT How to – Chest video) says, fullest range Incline Dumbbell, parallel hands and then arms extend to the max. I’ve been doing with 42kgs – 92,5 pounds for 5 to 6 reaps each set, and I see a rapid progress yet to come for me. I like DBs more because of my long arms.

    So… do you think this theory is true? I really hope so…

  • Matt

    Hey Mike! I know you are a big fan of 3×4-6 seeing as it’s what’s prescribed in BLS and your articles on here for the most part, but I’m just curious to get your thoughts on 5×5. I feel like my Incline Bench and OHP technique could use some work and I was thinking of lowering weight a bit and running 5×5 for a while to get better form.

    • Hey Matt! That’s totally fine! There are a couple strength programs that are done 5×5 that I like. You’ll just need to reduce the volume of sets on the following exercises for the day so you’re not overtraining.

  • Bob Hope

    Hi Michael is the barbell bench press really better than the Smith machine bench press

    • Absolutely. I always recommend keeping the focus on free weights.

      • Bob Hope

        Ok I have been using the Smith for a while but tried the barbell on Monday it felt pretty good along with the chest workout you recommend

        • Great! Let’s stick with it and see how you do. 🙂

          • Bob Hope

            Yep let’s do that have you ever used fat grips before just wondering if they are any good

          • Sweet. Nah, I haven’t. You can use them if you want though.

          • Bob Hope

            Ok thank you for your help I will let you know how I get on

          • Welcome!

            Yep, for your arm routine, check this out:

            https://legionathletics.com/best-biceps-workout/

            https://legionathletics.com/triceps-workouts/

            Aside from that, to help with the arms, feel free to add 3 sets of bis to the end of your back day and 3 sets of tris to the end of your chest day.

            Hope this helps! LMK how it goes.

          • Bob Hope

            I know must people do back and biceps and chest and triceps any good

          • For a little boost, you can do 3 sets of bis on back day and 3 sets of tris on chest day, but if your arms are lagging, you’ll still want a day devoted to arm training.

          • Bob Hope

            Ok on my arm day I do barbell curl dumbbell hammer curl ez curl bar and triceps is close grip bench and skull crunches is this workout any good

          • Yep, that’s great. To see exactly what I recommend check these out:

            https://legionathletics.com/best-biceps-workout/

            https://legionathletics.com/triceps-workouts/

            You do that full bicep workout on back day and that full tricep workout on chest day? That’s a lot of volume…

          • Bob Hope

            ok I will give the bicep and tricep workout you recommend a go

          • Awesome! LMK how it goes.

          • Bob Hope

            Would six to 8 reps work with this program or should I keep it at the 4/6 reps

          • You can still make gains in that rep range for sure, but I recommend the 4-6 rep range. It’s easier to progressively overload in the 4-6 rep range and that’s main driver of muscle growth. Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

          • Bob Hope

            Hey Michael can I do a couple of sets of barbell bench press with the chest workout

          • Sure can!

  • abelcsabai

    Hi Mike, it’s more of a rethorical question – since I’m in a special (rehabing from injury) but what would you think about push ups loaded in creative ways (back pack, weighted vest, etc, so you can do 6-8 RM-s still? It works quite nicely for me as my scapula can work freely – which is nice with nagging shoulder injury

  • Barney

    Hi Mike. My gym is very small and only has dumbbells up to 32kg. I’m in phase 3 of the one year challenge and I can now quite easily do 3 sets of 6 (or even 8) reps using the 32kg dumbbells on both my incline and flat bench press. The obvious solution is to swap the dumbbell exercises for barbell, which I have been doing, but this means I can only do three exercises on chest day (incline bench, flat bench and weighted dips), where I would prefer to do four. What would you suggest I do? Thanks

    • Hey Barney! I understand the issue. If you’d really like to continue the incline dumbbell pressing, you can do it at the end of your workout after the two barbell exercises and dips. By then, you should be tired enough for the weight to be heavy enough. Also, if you go higher rep at the end of your workout, that’s fine. So, you should have room to progressively overload too.

      Welcome! LMK what you think.

  • John Iannuzzi

    Hey Mike,

    Love your stuff! I’ve been following BLS for a while now and have received some killer results, so thanks. That being said my left pec has developed more so than my right, not super noticeable yet still super frustrating. I played baseball for a large majority of my youth and am right handed. I have read that since my right shoulder is most likely stronger than my left because of this, my right pec has to do less work than my left to lift the same amount of weight. Does this sound right? How to I even out my pecs as soon as possible (either growing one or shrinking the other)? Thanks!

    p.s. I should also say that I am currently cutting, so I would appreciate an option that doesn’t involve bulking. However, if thats the only way so be it : )

    • Hey John! Glad to hear you’ve been rolling on the BLS routine and have been getting results! YW. 🙂

      I hear you! Imbalances are common and usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      What do you think?

  • sami_h

    great article, one question though: how can I build lower chest if I can’t perform even a single dip?

    • Hey Sami,

      If you can’t perform a single dip yet, I’d focus on just developing your chest in general through the bench press and incline.

  • Ivo Naves

    Hey Mike,

    First and foremost, congratulations and a BIG thank. you. for this wonderful last entry on your Instagram, “Remember that Future You is Depending on Present You”. This is real food for thought and I should meditate upon that.

    Now, talking about fitness, do you think being able to Dumbbell Bench Press (with the full ROM you teached in that YT video about chest workouts) 46 kgs (101 lbs) for 5 reps x 3, that would put me in a Beginner or Intermediate level, Bench Press-wise? (Do you understand what I mean…?)

    Because I’m also 6’2″ tall with very long arms, I ended up avoiding the Barbell Bench for more than a semester, focusing only on Db variations. I tried doing the BB Bench recently and only got around 85 kgs (187 pounds) for reps.

    Any idea about the BB Bench to DB Bench conversion? I would like to know your opinion!

    Greetings from Sao Paulo,

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