12 Week Chest Muscle Workout

The following program is designed to emphasize specific areas of the chest through targeted, twice-weekly training. Weeks one and two which, when repeated for 12 weeks, form the entirety of the program will respectively target, along with complete chest development, mass and shape/definition through lighter and heavier sessions modulated via high and low rep sets and staggered rest periods.

Dumbbell Press

As the bench press, the dumbbell activities maximize your muscle fiber engagement, but with a muscle-building twist: it allows a slightly deeper range of motion due to each arm works independently, the chest muscles are presented with a greater challenge and must work harder to stabilize the arms through their full range of motion. Furthermore, because the arms are not clamped into a fixed plane (as when using a bar), the shoulder joints freely navigate their own natural angle of ascent and descent; this may activate more muscle fibers while ensuring fewer injuries.

dumbell-press
Dumbbell Press

Muscles worked: entire region of chest

Advantages: allows a greater range of motion and is safer ( as compared to bench presses).

Execution

Beginning movement with both dumbbells pressed together (with arms fully extended and palms facing feet), slowly lower weights until each dumbbell slightly touches the outer-middle portion of the chest before (without resting) pressing back to the starting position.

Flat Bench Barbell Press

A movement responsible for adding more chest mass than any other, the flat bench barbell press is often called the king of the upper body movements, and for good reason: because of its angle of execution and involvement of more assisting muscle groups, it allows massive amounts of weight to be lifted. And when done correctly it serves to isolate the entire pec region, stimulating maximum muscle fiber recruitment.

Flat Bench Barbell Press
Flat Bench Barbell Press

Muscles worked: entire region of chest

Advantages: ultra-heavy loads can be lifted and can be used to generate optimal bulk and power.

Execution

Upon lowering the bar to mid-pec level (just above the nipple line) – using a medium-spaced grip – press weight (without pausing) to a full contraction (flexing the chest upon completion).

Weighted Chest Dip

An excellent movement for creating lower-chest depth, the dip will help to carve deep separation in this region to achieve that squared-off look so important for total pec shape and proportionality. Initially use bodyweight as resistance until 12 reps can be performed with perfect technique; then add weight, increasing training load in progressive resistance fashion from session to session.

Chest Dip
Chest Dips

Muscles worked: lower pecs

Advantages: a great lower pec shaping movement, which also adds plenty of size.

Execution

Place hands on dipping bars (holding upper body static and tensing triceps); slowly lower upper body – with knees bent – until arms are bent to a 90 degree angle. Upon complete descent press upper body to starting position, ensuring shoulders are locked into place to avoid a rotator cuff injury.

Incline Dumbbell Press

Emphasizing upper chest development is the incline dumbbell press, probably the best movement of its kind in existence. Allowing a greater range of motion compared to the straight-bar version, this exercise will help to add that all-important ridge just below the clavicle to balance out chest development from top to bottom. As with their flat bench counterpart, this movement must be controlled and deliberate, possibly more so considering the precarious positioning of the dumbbells (above the head) and the limiting factor of relatively weaker upper pec involvement.

Incline Dumbbell Press
Incline Dumbbell Press

Muscles worked: upper chest

Advantages: provides a full range of motion and allows for complete development of the upper pecs.

Execution

Set incline bench at 30-degrees. Complete movement following flat-bench protocols, with the exception of lowering the dumbbells to the front deltoids instead of the outer pecs.

Flat Bench Fly

A variation of the dumbbell bench press in that it allows a complete contraction of the pectoralis major fibers, the flat bench flye – and this applies to its incline version also – is, however, and for two main reasons, a trickier chest-training proposition. Firstly, your elbow joints, throughout the duration of this movement, remain at a fixed angle, which restricts range of motion. Secondly, because of its lack of elbow-joint assistance and its fixed plane of resistance, the amount of weight that can be lifted will be limited and, thus, the execution of this movement must be slow and considered. It’s not a simple case of controlled lowering, then pressing; the weights must be guided into position in a safe manner, before they are squeezed to completion through pure pec power. Flyes are known to more effectively work the inner chest compared with pressing movements.

Flat Bench Fly
Flat Bench Fly

Muscles worked: entire chest region with an emphasis on the inner fibers.

Advantages: works inner chest and ensures a greater peak contraction (compared to its dumbbell counterpart).

Execution

Lying on a flat bench, and keeping the elbow joints at a fixed angle, slowly lower dumbbells until palms are almost parallel with the outer chest; press dumbbells together and squeeze pecs.

Incline Fly

Along with incline dumbbell presses, this movement effectively targets the upper pecs; unlike its dumbbell version, and due to less deltoid activation at the top of the movement, a greater peak contraction can be accomplished.

Incline Fly
Incline Fly

Muscles worked: upper chest

Advantages: greater focus can be placed upon the upper pecs and a tighter squeeze can be achieved upon completion.

Execution

Replicate flat bench flye form, with one variation: the dumbbells must be angled (on a 30-degree incline bench) above the head, rather than at chest-level, and lowered to the frontal deltoids rather than the outer chest.

The Program

Note: program to be completed over 12 weeks, followed by one week of rest before (if necessary or desirable) completing the same program with ongoing modifications to training load.

RBS = Rest Between Sets: rest periods will alternate between higher reps (8-12 – to target muscle hypertrophy via a flushing effect which shuttles nutrients into the muscles and removes waste products, and which results in profound muscle pumping) and lower reps (4-6 – to stimulate fast twitch fibers, which have the greatest potential for growth). By combining these rep ranges (with lower reps placed first in a sequence of sets and higher reps saved until last) more muscle mass can be built sequentially through fast twitch muscle fiber activation and increased blood flow to the working muscles.

Note on movement execution: on all exercises ensure that weights are taken through a full range of motion and that no resting occurs at any given point during each set. All sets must be completed as fluidly as possible and muscular failure must be reached on each.

Note on cardio: depending on your training goals cardio can be done 3 (when mass building) to 6 (when cutting) times per week. For muscle preservation it is advised that 1-2 sessions are of a high intensity, short duration nature (following HIT protocols) with the remaining sessions consisting of steady state aerobic work (30-45 minutes at 80 percent of maximal heart rate). Cardio is to be done, wherever possible, during the morning period so as to more effectively target stubborn fat cells.

Week one

Monday – Chest and triceps

Note: 2 minute RBS between first and second set (of each exercise) and 40 seconds RBS between final sets

Sets: 18

  1. Bench Press (medium-width grip) – 1 set of 4-6, 2 sets of 8-12
  2. Incline Flys – 1 set of 4-6, 3 sets of 8-12
  3. Flat Bench Flys – 1 set of 4-6, 2 sets of 8-12
  4. Chest Dips – 1 set of 4-6, 3 sets of 8-12
  5. Dumbbell Bench Press – 1 set of 4-6, 3 sets of 8-12
  6. Triceps (3 sets): Routine of your choosing

Tuesday – Back & Biceps

Routine of your choosing

Wednesday – Legs

Routine of your choosing

Thursday

Rest Day

 Friday – Chest: Power & Size Day

Note: 2 minutes RBS for all sets (of each exercise)

Sets: 12

  1. Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 sets of 4-6
  2. Bench Press – 4 sets of 4-6
  3. Chest Dips – 4 sets of 4-6 (add weight)

Saturday

Rest Day

Sunday

Rest Day

Week two

Monday – Chest & Triceps

Note: 2 minute RBS between first and second set (of each exercise) and 40 seconds RBS between final sets

Sets: 15

  1. Incline Flys – 1 set of 4-6, 3 sets of 8-12
  2. Dumbbell Bench Press – 1 set of 4-6, 3 sets of 8-12
  3. Bench Press (wide grip for outer chest development) – 1 set of 4-6, 2 sets of 8-12
  4. Chest Dips – 1 set of 4-6, 3 sets of 8-12
  5. Triceps (3 sets): Routine of your choosing

Tuesday – Back & Biceps

Routine of your choosing

Wednesday – Legs

Routine of your choosing

Thursday

Rest Day

 Friday – Chest: Power & Size Day

Note: 2 minutes RBS for all sets (of each exercise)

Sets: 12

  • Bench Press (wide grip for outer pec development) – 4 sets of 4-6
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 sets of 4-6
  • Chest Dips – 4 sets of 4-6

Saturday

Rest Day

Sunday

Rest Day

Weeks 3 to 12

Week three: repeat week one…

Week four: repeat week two… and so on (repeating weeks one and two) for 12 weeks

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