Disclaimer: you’ll find that your humble author is not sporting a bodybuilder’s chest. It’s never been a priority for me. I like to look good, but I lift for strength, not physique. The muscle that comes with getting stronger is a nice side effect of strength, and in 2010 I was able to put on 30 lbs of muscle without too much effort. My evidence was anecdotal, but as a non-professional bodybuilder who simply wants to get stronger, look better, and feel good, it’s enough for me.
I suspect most people reading this won’t be in the professional physique champion category anyway.
That’s the basis of this piece today about the best chest workout for size.
Whenever I have lifted heavy weights, I have grown larger. Whenever I have lifted weights, weather heavy or light, at high volume, I get bigger. But whenever I lift heavy and do high volume, I make my best gains.
If you consistently increase the volume you lift during a workout, you are doing more work and should grow. If the chest is the bodypart you’re trying to bring up, then simply apply the concept of high-volume at a steady increase with bigger chest muscles.
As far as the lifts, the ones which allow you to lift the most weight will allow you to get the most work done. This means, you guessed it, bench press and its variations.
But the movements do not concern me as much as my volume. There’s a catch, of course. Chasing high volume takes a toll on the body if we push too hard, too often. I’m a bit different in this respect in that I never push hard, ever. I put on the muscle without putting out much effort. I hit high volume with heavy (for me) weights, and it was possible because I only performed chest movements on days when they tested well.
By testing, I refer to a range of motion test (a toe touch, usually), that tells me whether a movement is good or bad for me on any given day. There is a cost for every rep, and the cost can be positive or negative. So for me, the best workout for chest is not always going to be possible, because there are going to be days when anything chest-related doesn’t test well.
I first heard of this concept from Frankie Faires, creator of the Gym Movement protocol, which is best taught in the Grip and Rip 2.1 DVD produced by professional strongman Adam T. Glass.
If a movement makes me more mobile, then it will allow me to do more volume as I will be exerting less tension and not tire as quickly. If a movement makes me less mobile and more rigid, then I am asking for trouble if I try to chase increased numbers.
When I only pursue movements that test well, I hit PRs in intensity, volume, density, or all of the above on those great strength training sessions.
So if you’re interested in growing more muscle but don’t love the “no pain no gain” mentality, I recommend taking a look at volume first, particularly if you have a history of injuries resulting from pushing too hard. Your chest will grow. So will any other muscle subjected to responsible testing. If you track the data and the numbers are going up, you’ll get more muscle.
I don’t worry about hitting specific rep or set schemes. I don’t need to follow whatever chest and tricep workout routine Muscle & Fitness insists that I do this Monday and Thursday. I just show up and do what my body tells me to. It’s fun to make progress, and the more often you can move forward, the better you’ll be.