A Twist On Chest & Arms Training – Nick Mitchell

As any long time reader of this page knows I do like to experiment with different workouts from time to time. What sounds good on paper very often doesn’t quite translate to the gym, and vice versa. The chest and arms workout detailed below ended up working quite well given the circumstances. This phrase “given the circumstances” is one that we would always do well to think about when it comes to constructing workouts.

I should have been at the end of a series of twice a day training sessions (and due to go into a deload next week) with the goal of getting up to 125kg (I am 123.8kg right now and was hoping for a nice rebound on the back-off week) but fate was conspiring against me today. I’ve had a sore throat for a few days, my kids have been waking me up in the night and I feel “unrested” rather than actually tired, my stress levels with work are naggingly high (I’ve pretty much worked full days every single day for the last 5 weeks), my diet has been too loose and when that happens I get more aches, pains and general symptoms of feeling poorly, and to cap it off I woke up with an upset stomach. Let’s just say that I didn’t feel like training. At all.

However, for me and the way I operate ‘a goal is a goal’ and if I don’t try then I beat myself up for being a loser, so there was no way I was going to bail. But I knew that a twice a day training session would be overkill, and I also realised as I was driving into the gym and stuck in a 30 minute traffic queue, that I didn’t have that spark in me to push properly heavy weights, that it was probably going to take me 10-15 minutes of training to start firing properly regardless of how heavy I was training (normally I can jump right into a super intense session if it’s a lighter load day).

I also wanted to hit some decent volume and get as big a pump as possible as I really wanted to have a proper back off (in volume, not in effort or intensity) next week and was so full of glycogen that a “squeeze and stretch” blood flow workout was exactly what I needed for hypertrophy.

All that long-winded exposition is to set the scene as I don’t like giving any workout in total isolation. Without context a workout really means nothing.

Chest & Arms Training

Alternated Exercise (see point 4 for explanation): 45 Degree Incline Dumbell Press

No rest

Alternated Exercise: 45 Degree Decline Dumbell Press

30-60 secs rest / 10 sets of 10-15 reps

I really couldn’t face a multi exercise ordeal like some of my giant sets workouts I’ve written about in the past, so I kept this simple so that my less than focused brain could deal with it better today. Here are a few of the tricks I used to make it work:

  1. On the incline press I really pushed my elbows back to get a maximum stretch on the pec minor (think upper pecs)
  2. I paused in the bottom position for 1-3 secs on the incline press, whilst ensuring that maximum tension was still on my chest muscles (so no relaxing at all), and then for at least 6-8 reps I only pressed the dumbells halfway up before bringing them down. As I fatigued I’d go higher in my range, but what I did this time was rather than draw the dumbbells slightly across my body as I normally do in order to get more of a squeeze and peak contraction, I simply pressed them straight up. I found this worked really well and will be incorporating this into my training more.
  3. In order to change muscle fibre recruitment as much as possible I used a semi supinated grip on the decline press and kept my elbows tight into my body whilst doing a very full rang of motion and squeezing my pecs as hard as possible (and by as hard as possible I really do mean squeezing them as if they owe you money) at the very top of the movement.
  4. To provide a different range of stress rather than do the usual A1 / A2 sequence I alternated the order with each set. So the first set was incline followed by decline, and the second set was decline followed by incline, and so on for a total of 10 sets. I did this across the workout today and it’s a great tool for hypertrophy that I’ve never really seen anyone else put into practice.
  5. I should also note that I pyramided the weight, starting extremely light (15kg dumbells!) and using a very slow tempo along the lines of 3330, and then as things got progressively heavier the tempo shortened considerably.

Alternated Exercise : 45 Degree Incline Dumbell Curls
No rest
Alternated Exercise: Reverse Fat EZ Bar Curls
No rest
Alternated Exercise : Overhead Cable Rope Extensions
No rest
Alternated Exercise: Barbell Triceps Extensions To Neck
30-60 secs rest / 10 sets of 10-15 reps

Because I was already very well warmed up I jumped straight into reasonable weights and kept the weights the same for all the sets. To make it harder in the first few sets I might slow the tempo down to something silly like a 5050 tempo, but as the sets progress that was forced to change.

I am actually wrapping up the writing of this workout a few days later and I am still sore, especially in my arms. If you give this workout a try, ensure that you are very well hydrated before hand (this will help blood flow, which is really one of the main aims of this type of session), and don’t blame me if you need a friend to help you clean your teeth for the following couple of days!!