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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

The best types of chest workouts and chest exercises aren’t what most people believe. In this article, you’re going to learn what it really takes to build full, strong pecs.


“Help, my chest is too small!”

I receive those words, or something similar, at least 10 times per week. It’s by far the most common complaint among the guys that email and message me asking for help.

And I understand. Building a big, strong chest can be quite tough if you’re focusing on the wrong chest exercises and rep ranges (and if your nutrition is off, of course).

In this article, I’m going to share with you the chest exercises that have not only helped me build a full, strong chest, but have helped many of my readers and followers do the same.

You Don’t Just Want to Build a “Big Chest”–You Want a Full, Proportionate Chest

The first thing I want to address is the goal. Simply having a “big chest” shouldn’t be the goal, because just adding size willy-nilly won’t necessarily give you the look you want.

The most common mistake we want to avoid is building a big lower chest and small upper chest. Here’s an example of this:


Now, he doesn’t have a bad physique, and has clearly been working hard for at least a couple of years. But take a closer look at his chest. All his mass is on the lower, outer portions of he pecs, with little-to-none in the upper, inner portions.

Compare that now to a picture of Greg Plitt’s chest:


While the overall physiques aren’t remotely comparable, again look to the chest It’s actually not THAT much larger than the first, but it’s much better developed. But what’s the major difference here? The upper and inner portions of the chest.

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

Well, let’s take a moment to address that.

The Truth About the “Upper Chest” and “Lower 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? And even more to the point, is there even such a thing as the “upper chest?”

Well, I’ll keep this short and sweet.

First, yes, there is a muscle that forms what we call the “upper chest.” It’s known as the clavicular pectoralis. Here’s what it looks like:


clavicular pectoralis for upper chest

Despite what people might tell you, this muscle is not a part of the big chest muscle, the pectoralis major. While part of the pectoralis major shares nerves with the clavicular pectoralis, the angle of the muscle fibers varies greatly. Thus, certain movements can emphasize the pectoralis major, whereas others can emphasize the clavicular pectoralis.

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. But the bottom line is 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.

Curious how this plays out in the real world? Well, let’s look to my own body as an example. First, check out the following picture of me, taken about 2 years ago:

chest workout

I looked decent, but 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 had a very bottom-heavy chest with not much to show for upstairs.

I started addressing this by following the chest workouts I’m going to share you with later in this article, and this was the result:

best chest exercises

See how much of a difference a full upper chest makes? And yes, that transformation was accomplished by doing exactly what I’m going to share with you here, and nothing else.

So, let’s get right to it then…

The Ultimate Chest Workout:
The Chest Exercises That Build Outstanding Pecs

I go over the science of this full on my article on muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth), but here’s the first thing you need to know:

If you want to build a big, strong chest, the majority of your reps should be performed with 80 – 85% of your one-rep max (1RM). This is the 4 – 6 or 5 – 7 rep range.

Pump away in the 10+ rep range all you want, and you’ll never have a great chest. I guarantee it. That’s why you’re going to see a lot of heavy weightlifting in my routine.

The Best Chest Exercises

The best chest exercises are few, and accomplish a very simple task: they maximally recruit muscle fibers, and allow for heavy, progressive overload without dramatically increasing the risk of injury. These exercises are…

  • Barbell Bench Press (Incline and Flat, free weight not Smith Machine)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press (Incline and Flat)
  • Dips (Chest Version, weighted if possible)

These are the exercises you must master if you want to build an impressive chest. Period. Forget cable work, dumbbell flys, push-up variations, machines, and every other type of chest exercise out there. They are not nearly as effective as the above three core, foundation-building lifts.

Why no Smith Machine, you ask? Simply because research has proven it inferior to free weight exercises in terms of muscle recruitment.

And why no decline pressing? Because the decline press not only reduces the range of motion of the exercise, thus reducing the amount of work your muscles have to do, it places maximum emphasis on the pectoralis major and minimum emphasis on the clavicular pectoralis, which simply isn’t ideal (if you want to build a really droopy, bottom-heavy chest, do a ton of flat and decline pressing and no incline pressing).

Now, many people are surprised to hear this advice of mine, and are even more surprised when they see my pictures and hear that was accomplished by doing nothing but the exercises listed above. That’s right–not a single fly, cable crossover, or machine rep was done.

Is building an awesome chest really that simple? Yep, it is.

(That said, I do think dumbbell flys and cable work has a place in the routine of an advanced weightlifter that has already built a big, strong chest, but we’ll save that for another article. In order to get to that point, it only requires the above.)

The key isn’t just doing the above exercises, however. It’s progressing on them. That is, increasing the amount of weight you can push over time. If you don’t get stronger, you won’t get bigger.

Now, a few tips in performing these exercises:

Barbell Bench Press

Many people worry that the Barbell Bench Press puts your shoulders at a high risk of injury. This is true only if your form is improper.

Here are the two major points of form that protect your shoulders when you’re performing the Barbell Bench Press:

1.  Keep your elbows at a 20 – 30 degree angle relative to your torso. The most common mistake people make is they flare their elbows out, sometimes approaching 90 degrees relative to their torsos. This dramatically increases the stress on your shoulders.

In case you’re not sure what the angles look like, here’s a picture from my book Bigger Leaner Stronger:


The position where the hands are closest to the torso puts the arms at about 20 degrees relative to the torso. The next position out is about 45 degrees. And the furthermost position is 90 degrees.

2. Keep your shoulder blades pinched and your back slightly arched. You don’t want to flatten your chest out at the bottom of the lift, rolling your shoulders. Instead, your shoulder blades should always remain tightly pinched, which pushes your chest up, and you should always have enough arch in your lower back to fit a fist in the pocket between it and the bench.

 The final point of form that you should know is the bar must touch your chest every rep. Stopping short reduces the range of motion, which as you know, means less gains.

Dumbbell Bench Press

One of the big advantages of the Dumbbell Bench Press is that it allows you to increase the range of motion beyond the barbell press. Here’s how I like to perform the Dumbbell Bench Press (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.

The Ultimate Chest Workout

A good chest workout trains the entire chest, with emphasis on the upper chest, and focuses on heavy weights. Just like any other muscle group, the chest can benefit from higher rep work, but you have to emphasize the heavy weightlifting if you want them to grow.

While I go over everything you need to program your own leg workouts in Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger (and provide you with an entire year’s worth of workouts that can, when combined with proper nutrition, help you put on 20 – 25 pounds of muscle in your first year of weightlifting), I want to leave you with a chest workout that will prove the effectiveness of what I’ve discussed in this article.

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

That’s it–just 9 heavy sets for your entire workout. If you’re an advanced lifter, or you feel you have more in you at the end of the workout, you can add 3 more sets (one more exercise, in this case, Dips), but don’t do more than that or you will likely wind up overtrained at some point.

Rest 2 – 3 minutes in between each set. 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 you that if you combine that chest workout with a proper clean bulk nutrition plan, you will be very happy with how your chest responds. This type of training is the core of my Bigger Leaner Stronger program, and I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of guys email me, ecstatic that they were finally breaking through 1+ year plateaus with ease, gaining strength and size every week.

What do you think of my choices for chest exercises? What are your favorite chest workouts? Let me know in the comments below!

Want more ultimate workouts? Check out the following:

The Ultimate Arms Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

The Ultimate Legs Workout


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Leave a Comment!
  • 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


    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:


          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 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.


    • 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:

          6-move up-4-4


          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?


          • 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: /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



    • 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


      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.

    • 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:

      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?

    • 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: /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


      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

    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.

    • 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


  • 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:

      • 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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    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?

  • 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?

    PS Thanks for removing earlier post with the blunder =)

    • Michael Matthews


      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?


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  • 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

    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:

      • 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:

      • 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


      I would do…

      Chest & tris
      Back & bis

      • 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…

          • Michael Matthews

            Great reply! Thanks!

      • Simone


        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:

            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?

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah how about the routine in this article?

  • 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


  • 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

    back/ bi



    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?


    • 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).

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  • 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:

      • 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.

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  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • Mohammed Hussein


    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.


    • Michael Matthews

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

      Incline DB
      Flat DB
      Flat Smith

      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:

    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):

    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:

          • 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


  • 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


        • 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


      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.


    • 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


  • 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:

          • 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

    • Michael Matthews


      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

    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

    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

    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

    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
    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 :D )

    • 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


    • 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


          • 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:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • Michael Matthews

      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.

    • Michael Matthews

      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.

        • Michael Matthews

          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?


    • Michael Matthews

      Sure, more incline pressing! :)

  • 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!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Lots of incline pressing my friend.

  • 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!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes you can start with flat first. YW!

  • 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?



    • Michael Matthews

      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

    • Michael Matthews

      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.

  • 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

    • Michael Matthews

      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?

    • Michael Matthews

      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!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha nice!

  • 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?

    • Michael Matthews

      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.

    • Michael Matthews

      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?

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