A guy with a puny chest pretty much looks like crap, not matter how big his other muscles are. There’s something about well-built pecs that screams “Warrior!” Or maybe it’s that a thick chest makes you more likely to reflect a lone spear that’s flying through the air? Beats me, but one thing’s for sure: all guys want a big chest, and all women want a guy with impressively powerful pecs. It’s hard-wired into our DNA.
Research shows that women are more sexually attracted to men who have who a low waist-to-chest ratio. You know, that V-shaped look. And yes, research was actually performed and money was spent to come to this blatantly obvious conclusion.
The cool thing about building a more powerful chest is that it can be done remarkably well without any equipment whatsoever.
I’ll tell you right now that adding meat to your chest doesn’t require much ingenuity. Start doing 100 push-ups every day and you’ll get the job done. However, there are two shortcomings with this approach.
First, you won’t build a powerful chest that way. Developing muscular power to elite levels requires a more explosive approach. High volume push-up training develops muscular endurance without regard for power. Since the pecs respond well to sets of high reps, doing 100 push-ups each day might make your pecs bigger but it won’t make you punch much harder. Second, it’s likely that the length-tension relationship around your shoulder joint will regress when you do nothing but traditional push-ups all the time. At the very least, it will magnify underlying shoulder dysfunction. This leads to pain that eventually makes you stop all chest work, and damn it if you’re not back to where you started.
So I’ve put together a plan that will supercharge your pecs, improve shoulder health, and build knockout power at the same time.
Warm-up the Shoulders: arm circles
Preparing for chest training couldn’t be any simpler. Start with 20 arm circles in each direction. The circles should start small and get progressively larger every few reps. By the time you reach rep 15 you should exaggerate the range of motion as much as possible. Also, do these arm circles faster and faster over time. Don’t rip into 20 high-speed arm circles for the first workout because you can strain your pecs, but train those muscles over time to withstand fast arm circles.
Activate the Core: side plank with rotation
Before my clients do any chest training, I always have them perform the side plank with rotation. This exercise activates the lats and side core muscles which immediately enhances your upper body pushing power.
If you’re ever in a bar with one of those punching bag machines that measures the power of your punch and your buddy bets you $50 he can puncher harder than you, run to the pisser and do this exercise first. When you return, he won’t suspect a thing and you’re sure to beat him. Well, unless he’s Shane Carwin. In that case you’re screwed.
Perform one set of 10 rotations on each side. This exercise should be performed slowly with maximum core tension throughout the movement.
Build Shoulder Stability Strength: hand over hand
Once the core and lats have been activated it’s not time to jump into any explosive training just yet. To protect the shoulder joints it’s important to activate and strengthen the rotator cuff while boosting stability in the glenohumeral joint. The hand over hand exercise gets the job done.
Perform one set of five holds on each side (10 holds total). Hold the position for 1-2 seconds each time before switching sides.
Explosive Power: 3 Position Hand Hop
Now it’s time to turn up the juice with an exercise I use to build explosive power in the chest and core. The 3 position hand hop is an outstanding exercise for fighters because it trains your chest to fire with the core. When you jump your hands out to different positions, your core has to perform a powerful contraction to stabilize your torso. Each set should be performed with maximum speed.
Perform three reps as fast as possible. You’ll jump your hands out to three different positions and back to the center for one rep. Perform five sets of three reps with 30 seconds rest between each set. This exercise is ideal for building explosive punching power.
For fighters who need more shoulder endurance, perform as many reps as possible before your technique breaks down as an alternative to just three reps. This approach is also excellent for building muscle.
Hypertrophy and Endurance: push-up (optional)
At this point you have two choices. You can stop here if your chest is already smoked from the hand hop, and if chest power is your primary goal. Or, if you really need more chest mass this is the perfect time to knockout two sets of as many reps as possible with the good ol’ fashioned push-up.
Use a hand position that’s shoulder width, or slightly wider, and use a variation that allows 25-30 reps for the first set. For most guys this will be a regular push-up. However, if you can do more than 30 at this point in the workout, elevate your feet on a flat bench or Swiss ball.
For the second set, repeat the same exercise and do as many reps as possible, even if it’s not 25 reps.
Perform the following routine every other day for four weeks. Put this at the beginning of your workout on the days you perform your regular training.
Arm circles for 20 reps in each direction
Side plank with rotation for 10 reps on each side
Hand over hand for 5 holds on each side
3 position hand hop for 5 sets of 3 reps, rest 30 seconds between each set
(optional) Push-up for 2 sets of AMRAP, rest 60-90 seconds between each set