've never belonged to or trained in a professional gym. All of my bodybuilding has been done in my home, and in my opinion, home training offers many advantages over working out in a commercial club.
There were many times, though, when, out of curiosity and interest, I've taken the time to visit some commercial gyms to watch others train. Most of the really advanced guys who work out in gyms by the way, do so simply because the management allows them to do so for free -- it's darn good publicity for them, and it attracts customers when the word gets around that Mr. Big is training in so-and-so's health club. In the majority of cases they don't train there for the rather debatable "greater advantages" -- the Mr. Winners, by far, prefer solitude and isolation when they are working out. Commercial health studios rarely offer it.
There are other men and women in the iron game who simply don't care to set up home training facilities, or possibly they travel a great deal, and for them I readily concede, the health clubs are a tremendous advantage.
Since we're going to talk about the best exercises for chest development this month, I'd like to recount an incident that occurred when I visited a well-known New York City gym, and was fortunate enough to watch one of the greats in the iron game going through his routine. You want a Herculean chest, so why not get the inside dope on how a real live Hercules got his? That makes sense, doesn't it?
When I walked into the gym I noticed Mr. Muscles right away. I was lucky enough to be here at a time when he was taking a workout I thought, so maybe I could get in a few questions before he commenced his gyrations. I spoke to him for a couple of minutes before he began his workout, and I asked him if he'd mind if I watched.
"Not at all," he said. "Just don't interrupt me when I'm halfway through a set."
"Now what kind of a nut would do that?" I asked.
A sneer crossed his face, and he glanced up at the ceiling. "Friend," he said, "you'd be surprised what some guys do. I was training in a west coast gym one time, and midway in a set of heavy presses, one of the newer fellows around the gym walked up to me and asked if I wasn't training too hard, and he added, shouldn't I quit now that I was forcing the reps out?"
"You're kidding,' I said.
"Nope. I wanted to drop that barbell right on top of his fat head. I was hoping to force out another three or four reps, but he spoiled my concentration, and the set was ruined. Now I make a special point of warning anyone else who happens to be in the gym and wants to watch me train that next time I will drop the weight on the jerk's head!"
I took a gander at his arms and swallowed hard. Then I said, "Okay if I ask you a question before you start your workout?"
"Oh, sure . . . go ahead." He sat down on a flat bench and looked up at me.
"I'd like to know what you'll be working today," I said.
"Back and chest."
"I see . . . thanks."
"Not at all." He smiled, stood up, picked up his towel and walked over to the barbell rack. He picked up a medium heavy weight and did some fast warmup cleans. Then he did some prone hyperextensions, and the next forty minutes he worked his back harder than most guys work their entire bodies in a week. Then he started on his chest work.
He was breathing heavy from the back work so he started his chest routine with the first basic chest exercise: the two-dumbbell breathing pullover. He sucked in air like a jet fighter and I could see his chest stretch the front of his sweat suit as he inhaled. He blew the air out with such force it shook the ceiling lights. The dumbbells were very light -- and they always must be in this exercise -- and he repeated the exercise for 20 reps. He stretched his rib box fantastically with each movement. He did two more sets, 20 reps each. Then he stood up and walked over to an incline bench. He took two 80-pound dumbbells and cleaned them to his shoulders. Then he laid back on the incline. He did a fairly fast set of 12 repetition presses. He set the weights down, rested for about a minute and a half, and then repeated the process for 10 reps with two 100-pound dumbbells. This time he rested almost two minutes, and he did a third set of incline DB presses with 110 pounds, for 10 reps.
His pecs seemed to bulge through his sweat suit . . . he walked over to the dumbbell rack and selected a pair of 120's for his final set, and I couldn't believe it when he actually started to press those things! He forced out 8 hard reps. I didn't think he'd make the last one, but somehow he did.
The incline press with dumbbells is the second basic, essential exercise for herculean chest development.
After the incline work, he rested for about four minutes. He was psyching up for the next exercise: the heavy barbell bench press -- the number ONE exercise for massive, powerful pectoral muscles.
He walked over to a flat bench that was fitted for supports for heavy bench work, and I watched him place an Olympic bar across the supports and start piling plates on it. The bar began to bend.
He sat down on the end of the bench for a moment and closed his eyes. Then he laid back on the bench and got a strong, evenly placed grip on the bar. I could sense the amount of concentration he was summoning as though it was a physical presence in the room. The bench press was to him, as it is to every top bodybuilder, number one for chest perfection.
Now he began the set. Each rep seemed doubtful, and I just can't figure out how in heck he blasted that bar up 10 times. I blinked when I saw him add more weight to the bar and start the whole thing over again! But the second set was started and completed -- 10 good reps -- before I fully realized what happened.
He stood up and shook out his arms. His chest was pumped up so tremendously he could have won a beauty contest! I figured that was it for today, and I almost stepped forward to ask him a question, when he added still more weight to the bar. I thought about that fellow who interrupted his presses out on the west coast and I stepped back.
He battled out 8 reps. The last one was sheer agony. But he wasn't through yet.
He put some more weight on the bar, and his final set was downright inspiring. I never saw anyone work so hard in my life. He almost blacked out on the last set, but he fought out a final four reps. I could see every ounce of nerve force and sinew power in his body fighting to get out that last rep. It was a sobering sight.
He topped off his chest routine with a final set of 20 breathing pullovers. He breathed so hard and heavy he sounded as though he had asthma. Then he stood up, picked up his towel and wiped his forehead.
Then he headed for the shower.
Such, my friends, is the way a top Mr. Winner works hard on developing his chest. There's nothing complicated or fancy about it, and there are, as we've seen, only three basic exercises for massive chest development. They are:
1) The two-dumbbell breathing pullover.
2) The heavy incline dumbbell press, and
3) The heavy barbell bench press.
Let's go over these three exercises again, just to make certain that you're able to work them into your own programs for maximum results.
The first exercise is the breathing pullover with dumbbells. It has any form of barbell pullover beat, because the weights are more difficult to handle when you use dumbbells, and your chest receives maximum stretch. You should do the movement with light weights, and it's preferable to use it after you've done an exercise which has stimulated heavy breathing, such as repetition squats, deadlifts, power cleans, etc. The purpose of this exercise is not to build the pectoral muscles. It is intended to expand the rib box.
The only real worthwhile variant of the two-dumbbell pullover is the decline pullover with dumbbells. Use it occasionally for variation.
George Eiferman was well-known some time back for what was perhaps the finest set of pectoral muscles in the weight game.
He favored what is the second essential chest exercise: incline dumbbell pressing. Use heavy dumbbells in this one, and always let the weights drop well down and back after each press. This is the secret of fullest development. Breathe deeply in this movement too, as this will aid greatly in expanding the shoulder girdle.
The third essential exercise for chest development is the most important. It is to the chest, what the press behind the neck is to the shoulders. Reg Park has rammed up 500 pounds in this exercise. John Citrone has worked on more weight in the bench press than any other man in the world for his size!
You know what upper body development Citrone and Park have. Get your bench pressing up to par . . . quick! The exercise, by the way, has overlapping benefits for the triceps.
Keep forcing yourself to handle heavier and heavier weights in the bench press, and use medium, wide and narrow grips from time to time. They'll all benefit you tremendously.
Incidentally, I would never advocate the use of inline barbell presses over flat benching. The incline dumbbell presses are far superior for upper pectoral development, and the amount of weight that you will be able to use with a barbell in this position will be considerable below what you are able to handle in regular bench pressing. Heavy weights are the thing for big muscles, and you can really use 'em in the bench press if you work hard.
There you have the essential exercises for the chest. There's only three of them, but believe me, they're enough. Work hard on them. You'll be rewarded with a powerful, massive chest if you do.
In Part III we'll be covering a lot of ground when we discuss the essential exercises for Back Development. Keep working hard.
Enjoy Your Lifting!