The Old-School Bodybuilding Chest Workout

Bodybuilding training is all about finding a good rut. Like clockwork, you want to eat all the same array of muscle-building foods at about the same times each day, and you want to hit your workouts with serious consistency. That said, it doesn’t mean a switch-up isn’t called for now and again to keep your body guessing and adapting.

“The traditional way of thinking when it comes to the order of your exercises within a workout is to start with compound exercises — ones that target multiple muscle groups — and then move on to isolation exercises that hit one specific muscle,” explains Houston-based certified personal trainer and owner of Bombshell Bootcamp, Cari Shoemate. “But you can also get amazing results by flipping that script.”

Take chest, where the usual course of a session is to do presses up front, followed by flye movements later. What happens if you instead do your flyes first? Remember, in a pressing move, your pectorals, anterior (front) delts, and triceps all work together synergistically to lift the weight. But the chest, being the largest and strongest of those three muscles, bears the brunt of the load.

Now imagine what happens when you do flyes first, which focus more wholly on the pecs. They’ll be “pre-fatigued” for the pressing movement — which means they’ll need to step up and work harder during the press to keep pace with the supporting delts and tri’s.

“Reversing the order can more deeply stimulate muscle fibers in your chest as the workout progresses from flyes to presses,” Shoemate says. “You’ll gain more strength and fire up the pecs even better than in the typical bodybuilding-style chest workout.”

To take the following workout one step further, Shoemate also adds a “finishing touch” to the four exercises, making sure you squeeze every last benefit out of each of them. “I’ve found that that the pecs respond well when you play with the pace of the movement,” she says.

The Reverse-Play Bodybuilding Chest Workout

Instructions: Gather two sets of dumbbells (one medium weight and one heavier) and a flat bench. (You can also use towels or a mat and perform the moves on the floor.) After a cardio warm-up of at least 5 minutes to get your muscles activated and blood pumping, you’ll do 3 sets of each exercise listed.

Rest 1 minute between sets and 1-2 minutes between exercises.

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