BEST CHEST SUPERSETS TO BUILD LARGER, MORE POWERFUL PECS

BEST CHEST SUPERSETS TO BUILD LARGER, MORE POWERFUL PECS

SHARE

When it comes to supersets, the chest presents a challenge: so many chest exercises involve pushing movements, and not much else. That’s where supersets come in.

The benefit of a superset of course, is to combine movements that allow you to keep moving with no rest. If we do a series of pushing movements with no rest in-between, we’ll quickly fatigue. The key to the superset is to alternate movements. That way, when one set of muscles is working, the other set of muscles is resting. This is not only a time-efficient way to train, but also an effective way to perform each exercise better, since supersets allow non-working muscles to recover faster while their opposing muscles work. You should be able to jump right into that second exercise without resting.

Fortunately, we can do plenty of pulling motions to blast the chest as effectively as our many pushing options. By alternating these motions, we can keep moving without rest between movements or even between supersets.

With this workout, we’re going to do five supersets of two exercises. Do one set of the first exercise, a set of the other, and then a second set of each before moving on to the next superset.

1. Bench Press / Pullups

1A. BENCH PRESS

WHY IT WORKS: There’s a reason the NFL tests its prospects on the 225-lb bench at the Combine: It tests strength and power in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. You can start with much lower weight, of course, but the effect will be the same.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie face-up on the bench with your feet on the floor. Your shoulders and hips should remain in contact with the bench. Grab the bar just wider than shoulder-width, and hold it with straight arms over your shoulders. Breathe in, lowering the bar to your chest, and then drive the bar back to starting position. Extend your arms and shoulders fully.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps

1B. PULLUP

WHY IT WORKS: No other move makes you feel like you’re building that V-shaped torso, and with good reason. You’re working the muscles of your upper back, shoulders, biceps, and forearms, along with the chest.

HOW TO DO IT: Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Hanging from the bar, pull your shoulder blades back and down to lift your body up and build momentum. Finish by pulling up with your arms. Keep your legs straight—no kicking.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps. If you can only do five, do five. If the pullup is too challenging at first, start with a “horizontal” pullup by lying underneath the bar of a squat rack.

2. Dumbbell Bench Press / One-Arm, One-Leg Dumbbell Row

2A. DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS

WHY IT WORKS: This bench variation stabilizes your shoulders in addition to providing the same benefits of the traditional bench press.

HOW TO DO IT: Lying face-up on the bench, holding dumbbells at the outside edges of your shoulders, press the dumbbells straight up over your chest. Lower the dumbbells, touching the outside of your shoulders, then push them back up.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps

2B. ONE-ARM, ONE-LEG DUMBBELL ROW

WHY IT WORKS: This is a total-body exercise, but it hits the chest, too. You’ll also get a stretch of the hamstrings, and also challenge the lats.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand on one leg, gripping a stable surface in front of you (perhaps the dumbbell rack) with one hand. Bend by dropping your chest and lifting the leg opposite your free hand. Grab a dumbbell with your free hand. Pull it to the side of your waist and then lower it. Do 10, and switch sides.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps per side.

3. Kettlebell Swings / Physio Ball Pushups

3A. KETTLEBELL SWING

WHY IT WORKS: These don’t directly target the chest, but they provide so many benefits in terms of strengthening the hips, shoulders, and core (and burning a lot of calories). You’ll inevitably see results in your chest, too.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand holding a kettlebell with both hands in front of you with straight arms. Squat as you lower the kettlebell along an arc under and between your legs. Drive your hips and swing the kettlebell up until your arms are parallel to the floor. Remember to keep your arms straight and your shoulder blades drawn back and down throughout the swing.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps.

3B. PHYSIO BALL PUSHUP

WHY IT WORKS: This is the chest-intensive exercise in this set. As with a pushup, this balance-intensive move increases strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps—but the ball’s instability forces you to work your core and shoulder stability.

HOW TO DO IT: Assume pushup position on a Swiss or physioball with fingers pointed down the sides. Push your shoulder blades away from each other. Lower yourself until your chest barely touches the ball. Maintain control of the ball as you push as far away from the ball as possible. Keep your body straight from ear to ankle.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps.

4: Dumbbell Incline Press / Cable Rotational Row

4A. DUMBBELL INCLINE PRESS

WHY IT WORKS: Because this lift hits your chest at a different angle, it forces you to emphasize your upper chest and the front of your shoulders.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie face-up on a bench set at a 45-degree angle. Holding dumbbells at the outside edges of your shoulders, press the dumbbells straight up over your chest. Lower the dumbbells, touching the outside of your shoulders, then push them back up.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps

4B. CABLE ROTATIONAL ROW

HOW TO DO IT: Attach a handle to a low pulley. Kneel facing the cable machine with your right knee and left foot on the floor. Reach across your body with your right hand to grab the handle, turning hips and shoulders to the machine. Rotate your right shoulder back, and pull the handle to your right hip. The movement should feel like you’re starting a lawn mower.

WHY IT WORKS: This works your entire torso and chest, improving stability and strength. It also improves everyday rotational movements like, of course, starting a lawn mower.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps

5. Dip / Dumbbell Flye

5A. DIP

WHY IT WORKS: It forces you to use your triceps—and, depending on your torso angle, your chest—to lift your entire bodyweight.

HOW TO DO IT: Position yourself above and between the bars, grabbing them with an overhand grip. For a slightly easier way of doing the exercise, cross your ankles behind you; to make it more difficult, keep your legs straight and your toes pointed forward. Lower yourself slowly, and push yourself back up in a controlled manner.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps

5B. DUMBBELL FLYE

WHY IT WORKS: Few movements so effectively challenge the pecs while also hitting the shoulders and biceps. Another advantage to the dumbbell flye: It’s not as triceps-intensive as other chest moves, so you can pair it productively with dips.

HOW TO DO IT: Lying face-up on a flat bench, hold a pair of dumbbells over your chest with elbows slightly bent, palms facing each other. Separate the hands and lower the dumbbells to the sides until you feel a stretch in your chest. At the bottom of the movement, your palms should be facing the ceiling. Reverse the motion until you reach the starting point, a movement some liken to “hugging a barrel”.

PRESCRIPTION: 2 sets of 10 reps

Pete Williams is a N.A.S.M.-certified personal trainer and the author or co-author of a number of books on performance and training.