Mix compound and isolation moves in your workouts.
Four weeks isn't long enough to turn a set of saggy pecs into a lean, chiseled chest, but it is enough time to gain some size and strength in your chest muscles. Additionally, an intense four-week workout cycle can even help advanced trainers break training plateaus and smash personal bests in the gym. When partaking in a four-week chest routine, managing your workout intensity and volume is crucial.
Start every workout with a bench press variation. Nothing comes close to the bench press when building upper body muscle, according to personal trainer Tony Schober of Coach Calorie. In week one, perform regular barbell bench presses. Switch to bench presses on a 30-degree incline bench in week two, then decline bench presses in week three and paused bench presses -- where you hold the bar on your chest for two to three seconds before pushing up -- in week four.
The bench press variation may be your main strength builder, but don't rest on your laurels when you're done on the bench. After benching, it's time for accessory exercises. In weeks one and three, perform incline dumbbell presses and parallel bar dips. In weeks two and four, opt for flat dumbbell presses and pushups. For your dumbbell presses, squeeze the weights together for two seconds at the top and take two seconds to lower each rep. When dipping, aim to get a big stretch across your chest at the bottom of every rep and for pushups, strength coach Nick Tumminello ranks one-armed pushups as the ultimate chest-builder, so go with these if you're strong enough. If not, stick to regular or decline pushups.
Reps and Sets for Size
Your chest is composed of around 60 percent fast-twitch muscle fibers, notes coach Menno Henselmans on the Simply Shredded website. These are muscles that respond best to heavy, low-rep training, so perform your bench press exercise for five sets of five reps. Switch up the rest of your session by performing your first accessory exercise for four sets of eight to 12 reps and your third for two to three sets of 15 to 20. This ensures you hit every type of muscle fiber and optimize your growth potential.
Pick one exercise per session to use an intensity technique on. Strength coach Jimmy Pena recommends five different intensification methods: drop sets, forced reps, partial reps, rest-pause and negatives. In week one, perform a drop set on your bench press by finishing your fifth set, reducing the weight by 20 percent and going to failure, then going 20 percent lower again and knocking out a few more reps. In week two have a partner help you with forced reps on your last set of incline bench presses. Do partial reps on your incline dumbbell presses in week three by only pressing the dumbbells through the first half of the range of movement. In week four, use a rest-pause technique on your pushups, where you rest five to 10 seconds at the end of a set, then perform a few extra reps and throw in five to 10 slow, negative-only pushups for good measure.