If you think you need a gym full of heavyweight and all manner of machines and cables in order to get in a great chest workout, then you’re in for a treat. In this article, you will discover how to effectively target every area of your pecs with nothing but a couple pairs of dumbbells, a dip bar and a simple bench. And you’ll find out how you can get it all done in less than twenty minutes.
What You’ll Need
For this home-based workout you will want two pairs of dumbbells. One of them will be your heaviest pair, that will be used for pressing in the 6-10 rep range. The other pair should be about half of that weight and will be used for flyes and press pushes.
You will also want to have a sturdy pair of dipping bars. Ideally these should be mounted to a solid wall. As a last resort you can dip between two chairs, but make sure that both of them are well supported.
Your final piece of equipment should be a sturdy bench that is able to be adjusted to flat, incline and decline angles. Also, make sure that the incline angle is adjustable to 30 degrees, which is the ideal angle to work the upper pecs without bringing in the deltoids.
The Workout Strategy
This chest workout is based upon 2 key training principles:
(1) Intensity – Intensity refers to the continued applied tension on the target muscle. The variables that impact upon intensity are the amount of resistance, the training tempo and the time under tension. In terms of training tempo, we want each set to be around 45 seconds in length with short periods of only 60 seconds between sets.
(2) Form – When it comes to working the chest, it is imperative that you follow the correct form in order to place the pressure on the chest and not the shoulders. They key to doing this is push your chest out while pulling your shoulders back, while bringing the shoulder blades together.
Exercise Group 1: Pre-Exhaust Flys / DB Bench Press
In order to put the entire focus of your main pressing move on the pecs, we are going to use a technique known as pre-exhaustion. This involves doing an exercise that pre-exhausts your chest muscles immediately before going to your pressing move. This will temporarily make your pecs weaker than your delts and triceps so that they take the full effect of the pressing move.
We will pre-exhaust with the dumbbell fly and then go straight to the dumbbell bench press. Set up your two pairs of dumbbells by the flat bench, with the heavy pair at the foot and the lighter pair on either side half way up the bench.
Now lie on the bench with your feet firmly set on the floor. Reach down and grab hold of the lighter pair of dumbbells, bringing them up to an extended arm position over your mid chest. Bend your elbows slightly and keep them locked in that position. In this position, strongly contract your pec muscles.
Next, extend your arms back down, pivoting from the shoulder joint. Feel for the stretch in your pecs as you lower into the fully extended position. Hold for a second and then return through the same arc to the starting position. Imagine throughout that you are hugging a tree. In the top position, try to extend your hands beyond each other a few inches before reversing the movement.
Perform 12 reps on this exercise.
Now immediately drop those dumbbells and sit up to grab the heavy pair that are sitting at your feet. Roll back and bring the weights up to the starting position of the flat dumbbell press. In this position contract your pecs to push it up while depressing the shoulder blades and pulling the shoulders down.
From this starting position, contract the pecs to drive the weights directly up to a top position that is in line with your mid pecs. Slowly lower the weights back to the start position, being sure to come all the way down to a position that is level with your armpits. Keep your elbows out and your forearms in a position which is perpendicular to your upper arms.
Perform 8-10 reps on this exercise.
You will find doing presses immediately after flys a lot harder than doing straight dumbbell presses. But you will also feel the pecs working a LOT harder and you will end up with an amazing pump!
Perform 3 of these supersets, giving yourself only 60 seconds of rest between each one.
Exercise Group 2: Dips / Pull Overs
After a sixty second rest following your last set of presses, move to your dip station. Get up in position, with your feet crossed over and your torso leaning slightly forward. Keep your shoulders back and down as you lower into the bottom dip position. Hold the bottom position for a two count to feel the stretch through the pecs and then power back to the start position.
Do 10-12 reps on this exercise.
Now go immediately to the dumbbell pullover. Position one of your heaviest dumbbells alongside your flat bench. Grab the dumbbell with both hands cradling one end and lie across the bench so that your shoulder blades are making contact with it. Keeping your hips down extend the dumbbell up above your chest.
Lower the dumbbell down over your head, keeping your arms straight and your butt down. You do not need to go all the way down to the floor; a position where your hands are in line with your forehead is about ideal. Now squeeze your hands in toward each other to contract the chest and then, maintaining this squeeze, bringing the dumbbell back to the starting position.
Perform 10 reps on this exercise.
Give yourself exactly 60 seconds of rest before returning to the dip station.
Do a total of 3 sets of these supersetted exercises.
Exercise Group 3: Incline Dumbbell Press / Plate Squeeze
During your 60 second rest at the conclusion of your last set of pull overs, set the incline of your bench to 30 degrees. Now set your lighter pair of dumbbells at the foot of the bench. At this stage of the workout, your chest will already be heavily fatigued so you can use a lighter pressing weight. We will be going for higher reps than on the flat bench press and utilising more time under tension.
Position yourself on the bench and bring the dumbbells up to the starting position resting at the sides of your pecs. As you press the weights up to meet above your chest, make sure that your palms are facing forward and lead with the thumbs so that the dumbbells are slightly angled downward. In the top position your thumbs should be touching each other.
As with the flat bench press, flare your pecs out and keep your shoulders back and down when you perform the incline press. On the last rep of this exercise, hold the bottom position of the press for a 10 second count. Keep your elbows out and your forearms perpendicular to your upper arms.
You will do 15 slow controlled reps on this exercise.
Now go directly to the plate squeeze.
For this exercise you need two relatively light exercise plates. They should be between 5 and 15 pounds. Place the plates against each other between your palms. Start with them at a full arm extension at mid-thigh level. You should be holding the plates in your hands only by way of inward palm pressure – do not grab them with your fingers.
Now, squeezing the plates together as hard as you can, lift them up to the level of your chest, keeping your arms straight through the movement. From here lower them to the start position, moving through a controlled range of motion. Think of crushing the plates through each other as you do this move.
Do 10 reps on this exercise.
After a 60 second rest, perform two more super sets on these exercises.
Twisting Push Up
This is a great finishing move that will take your chest to total exhaustion. Get down in push up position with arms at shoulder width. Perform a standard push up. However, in the top position, twist your torso to the right and strongly contract the chest muscles on that side. Try also to lift as high as you can without removing your finger tips from the floor. On the next move do the same thing on the left-hand side.
You want to keep going on this exercise until you reach failure (the point where you cannot do another complete rep without compromising your form). If you’ve been working hard on the previous exercises, that point of failure should arrive before your hit 20 reps.
Home Chest Workout Summary
Flat Bench Flys 3 x 12
Pre-exhausted with . . .
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 6-10
Dips 3 x 12
Supersetted with . . .
Pull Overs 3 x 12
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 x 15
Super-setted with . . .
Plate Squeeze 3 x 10
Twisting Push Ups 3 x as many reps as possible
This chest workout will hit every portion of your pecs, producing a massive pump and precipitating the growth and strength spurt that you are after. You should not do this workout more than twice each week, making sure that you give yourself at least 48 hours between each session. Your goal for each session should be to do a little bit more than you did last time. This may involve doing an extra rep or two on your last set of an exercise, or put a couple of extra pounds onto the bar. This constant progression will continue putting added tension onto your muscle fibers as you get big and stronger from week to week.