Plateau Busters – The Chest Workout Routine

October 28, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug


As you now know from yesterdays post, one of the first things you will need to do to overcome those dreaded weightlifting workout plateaus is to start alternating your weightlifting exercises. There are many ways to train each muscle group, but not even I ‘Fitbug Shaun’ can give you all of that information in one post. Besides, I’m sure that you would get bored of reading all of that after a while.

Over the past few weeks I have been bombarded with muscle heads complaining that they cannot increase the size of their chest muscles, and for me, that seems quite bizarre, as I find that the chest is one of the easiest places to build muscle mass. And that statement right there is the universal weightlifting dilemma…

There is no one weightlifting routine to suit everyone!

Everyone’s bodies will respond differently in methods of building muscle fast.

Because of the complaints that I have been hearing about people having trouble building up their chest muscles, I decided to focus on that first. Below are several things you can do to alternate your workouts with some chest exercises that you may already be performing in your weightlifting workouts.

Dumbbell bench press

Now, the default exercise to do when you enter the gym will probably be the bench press, which is great. But you probably perform the bench press exercise with a barbell. As I mentioned yesterday, that is fine and you can give your muscles a real shocker, which will promote muscle growth. But after some weeks you will notice that muscle growth may seem to stop, as you are only working on a few muscle groups and your muscles will no longer be challenged. They will scream at you saying,

‘Come on, this is boring, show me something new already’

What we do is introduce the dumbbell bench press.

Key benefits

  • Develops more muscle mass in the middle and outer pectoral muscles
  • Allows for a greater stretch at the bottom and more efficient peak contraction at the top of the lift compared to using a barbell.

This can be performed in 3 different ways, just like the barbell bench press.

  • Decline – Lower chest
  • Flat – Base chest
  • Incline – Upper chest

And this is how you do them.

  • Start seated on a bench with the weights resting on your thighs.
  • Lay back and swing the weights back to the point where the corners of each dumbbell are slightly touching your outer pecs.
  • Push the weight up, bringing them slightly closer together at the top of the movement.
  • Lower the weight back down slowly.
  • (Two seconds on the way down for every second on the way up is a good rule.).
  • Repeat.


This exercises is in my favorite top 5. However, there have been times where I have hit a weightlifting plateau with this exercise.

How do you know when you have hit a plateau?

When you first perform the dips exercise, it will be hard as hell to lift yourself to at least 10 reps. Once you have surpassed that and can perform 10-15 reps a set, you will have probably hit a plateau. If so, here is what you can do.

Add resistance with a dipping belt

Progryp 100% Leather Dipping Belt, One Size Fits All, Black

This was one of the first things I started to do when I hit a plateau with this exercise and this is one great way to keep performing the exercise while gaining muscle mass.

Chest focus movement

To increase the role the pecs play in this exercise, point your elbows outward.

Keep them tucked in and pointed back. This forces your triceps to feel the force of your bodyweight, but you first need to decide whether you’re doing it for your chest or your triceps.

Don’t whip out each rep at explosive speed by dropping down fast and pushing back up even faster. Keep to a slow motion movement.

Seated Chest Presses

With this exercise, you will use similar movements as you do with the bench press. However, because this exercise is performed on a machine, your movements will be stabilized and the weights will not be moving around. This is one of the rare times that I actually give praise to machine weights.

Having the weights stabilized means that you get a more focused workout for your pectoral muscles and avoid wasting energy stabilizing the weight.

How to do it

  • Grip the handles.
  • Push them forward in a controlled motion.
  • And don’t lock your elbows at end of extension.

Push ups

Many people seem to neglect push ups once they get their gym membership, but don’t let that be you. After a month or two, try doing push ups again. If you can do at least 50 straight in one set, then you really are doing something right, for strength and for muscle mass. If not, then you need to be including push ups as a part of your alternate weightlifting workout.

You can also vary your push up workouts by adjusting the positions of your hands or by adjusting the elevation of your feet. I’ll will cover that in the up and coming bodyweight workout ebook, but for the mean time have a read of unique bodyweight exercise pt.3 for an example.

To really challenge yourself stick a 40-50 lb plate, or weight plates in a back pack on your back. Then perform the exercise. That will bust your plateau for sure.

Close Grip Bench Press

Close grip bench press is a great way to help break a plateau for your flat bench press exercise. This exercise is exactly the same as the free weight medium grip barbell bench press except that you will use a closer grip when performing this exercise.

How to do it

  • Lie flat on your back and grab the barbell above you with a grip about 12 inches apart. Lift the barbell off of the rack and slowly lower it to about 3 inches above your chest Press the bar back to the start position.
  • Be sure that when you are lowering the bar that you do so in a slow and controlled fashion.
  • Also, when you press the bar upward, you want to do so in an explosive fashion.

That is the key method of doing this exercise, however, there are some things to note.

– Having your hands in too close can actually damage your wrists and shoulder joints. As long as your elbows are in and the grip is about shoulder width or slightly less, performing this exercise will actually begin to hit your triceps more.

– Turn your palms inward at the top. It gives a better contraction for your muscles.

Stay tuned for more plateau busters, and again, do share your experiences with the weightlifting plateaus that you have faced.

See you in the comments

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