By Tom Venuto, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
If your pecs are a weak body part, or, if you’ve simply hit a progress plateau in your chest development, then this high intensity chest training program will pack slabs of muscle mass on your chest after just 3-4 workouts – and I guarantee it. This is a high intensity bodybuilding workout for advanced bodybuilders only. (Beginners don’t even think about it…)
Considering I’m on a calorie deficit in a cutting phase, I’m especially impressed with the increase in my chest size and development after 3 workouts. You’re not going to gain much if any muscular body weight if you are in a caloric deficit, but NO DOUBT, you can improve the development of a muscle group even while cutting up. This is a perfect example. I’m going to return to this program again for sure on my next mass phase. This program is called…
Multi-Angular Rest Pause With Pump Finisher
Here’s how it works. You select two exercises. For exercise one (the main course), I chose a basic pec mass exercise that can be done at any angle from steep incline to flat bench. That’s the primary exercise you stick with for all 4 workouts. Incline Dumbbell Press was the natural choice. I set up on a fully adjustable bench that allows multiple angles of incline.
For exercise two (dessert), I chose an isolation exercise for a pump finisher, and it changes with every workout.
Here’s the sequence:
A1 Incline Dumbbell Press – steep incline – about 65-70 degrees
rest 10 seconds
A2 Incline Dumbbell Press – medium (regular) incline – about 45 degrees
rest 10 seconds
A3 Incline Dumbbell Press – low incline – about 20-25 degrees
rest 10 seconds
A4 Dumbbell Press – flat bench
Now rest 2 – 3 minutes.
That’s one “set.” Technically of course, that is FOUR SETS, done in rest pause fashion, so lets call it one “round” for clarity’s sake.
Yes… that was round ONE. Now do it two more times.
Note: It helps a lot if you have a training partner change the bench angle so you can stay seated and keep the dumbbells in your hands. Doing it alone is slow and cumbersome.
For poundage, you’re going to have to go MUCH lighter than usual. Although I don’t train heavy pecs anymore, last time I did, I was doing 6 reps with 125s on the incline. So for this program I took about 50-60% of that; 70 lbs on workout 1, 75 lbs on workout 2,and 80 lbs on workout 3. On the last one, I had to drop to the 75s to finish all 3 rounds and even then I needed some forced reps towards the end.
You may need to decrease the weight on the 2nd or 3rd round, but if at all humanly possible, do NOT reduce the weight during each round. Doing all four angles at the same poundage is the whole idea.
What may happen, especially if you even slightly overestimated your starting poundage, is that reps may drop with each angle change within a round. First angle – 6 reps is easy. second angle, a little harder, but still no problem. Third angle, you might only squeeze out 5 reps or hit honest failure on the 6th rep. 4th angle (flat), you might hit total failure on the 4th or 5th rep.
Now this is also where a training partner comes in. This routine should not be attempted without a spotter. Sorry, but you are a dork if you try to do this without a spotter. This program causes HONEST muscle failure (I’ll explain that in more detail shortly), so you need the spotter for safety, but moreover, you will need a spotter’s assistance to complete forced reps, at least on the final round or two, if not the first round. In general, forced reps should not be overused, but they play an important part of this program.
Ok, where were we? Oh yeah, you just finished your 3rd round. You might be finished! Yeah. some people will be DONE, KAPUT, ZONKED, BONKED, NUKED, GAME OVER, after 3 rounds of that (think about it – that was 12 sets, disguised as 3 sets!) However, for those who want the full course…. come with me and lets finish off those pecs with the pump (oh, you thought were already pumped… heh.. just wait…you’ll see what a pump is!)
The second exercise (exercise B) is going to be an isolation exercise.. ie., DB fly, cable crossover, machine fly (pec deck), etc., and you will perform 20-25 reps, non stop in piston-like fashion. use a steady quick tempo, but not so fast that you use momentum.
This isolation /pump exercise will change with every workout:
B1 Workout 1: standing cable crossover
2-3 sets, 20-25 reps
B1 Workout 2: machine flye or pec deck
2-3 sets, 20-25 reps
B1 Workout 3: decline dumbbell flye
2-3 sets 20-25 reps
B1 Workout 4: flat bench cable flyes in cable crossover machine
2-3 sets, 20-25 reps
That’s it! That’s the whole program. Three rounds of multi-angular rest pause, then finish your workout with 2-3 sets of 25 reps on a pumping, isolation movement.
This routine is performed within a standard bodybuilding type of split, so it should be done once in 5-7 days, no more. You would probably do another body part after chest,such as biceps or triceps, depending on how you organize your split routine.
I would recommend advanced bodybuilders use this program a couple times a year if and when they need a boost in chest development. This is not the type of program you would use all the time. You would burn out and overtrain.
There’s one more very important part of this routine – progression.
On the Incline Dumbbell Presses, you will increase the poundage with every workout. Keep in mind, you will not be able to complete all 3 rounds at all 4 angles for 6 unassisted reps. Its going to get harder each time, even as you get stronger. You may have to use a spotter more with each progressing workout. You may also find that on workout 1 or workout 2, you can complete all 3 rounds with the same dumbbells, but on workout 3, by the 2nd or 3rd round, you have to drop the weight or you’ll barely be getting 2 or 3 reps.
Now let me re-emphasize the importance of a spotter. Theres something thats going to happen when you do this routine that does not happen often. You will hit what my training partner and I call “HONEST FAILURE.” This means that your muscles literally fail, or give out right underneath you. Mind you, this is not something you would usually aim for, but that’s just the nature of this program and this is only a 4-workout high intensity “shock” type of routine.
When I say your muscles will give out, I mean that literally. On the last rep or two of 3rd or 4th angle, of the 2nd or 3rd round, your arms may literally buckle underneath you. That’s honest failure.
Types of Failure
You see, there are several types of failure… First there is “sissy failure”.. that’s when there is a lactic acid burn or a fatigue in the muscle (you’re tired) and because it hurts or you’re tired, that causes you to stop. That’s sissy failure (sarcasm).
Then you have positive failure. This is where you can no longer push the weight up in a concentric motion, but you are still able to lower the weight and exert an upward force against the weight. For example, you’re bench pressing and you hit the “sticking point,” but you are holding that bar at the sticking point (its not coming back down), and you’re still exerting force to push the bar upward, but the bar simply isn’t moving up!
Then you have honest failure. This is where the muscle simply gives out.. it buckles. you have reached concentric and eccentric failure. This type of failure is rarely discussed. In fact I don’t recall anyone ever writing about it except for Arthur Jones and Ellington Darden and the rest of the High Intensity Training (HIT) camp.
Rarely does any bodybuilder tread in this territory, and for good reason, as it is really not necessary and can be dangerous for anyone but a veteran who knows what the heck he is doing – and all the kidding aside for a moment, I’m serious about this. Its no joke if your chest and arms give out from underneath you and you dump a 70 or 80 pound dumbbell on your face. (you do like your teeth, don’t you?)
However, as a technique you use on rare occasion for a shock routine that breaks through progress plateaus, that untrodden territory is there… for those who dare. There is something about this particular program (multi angular rest pause) that takes you there. You’ve been warned! Train hard, but be safe!
Now, go out there and get jacked!
Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS
Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder