Are you a lifter who has lifted rep after rep, upped the poundage every chance you get, and still seem to struggle to develop that armor-like chest that you’ve always wanted?
Have you committed every Monday (aka International Chest Day) to sweating it out for years now and are frustrated with your results…or lack thereof?
Once you’re done reading this article, make sure you print it or add it to your bookmarks because this will be the program that finally helps you achieve the gains you’ve always looked for, but never found.
The Stretch and Push Method
As great as bench pressing is for both the body and the ego, one exercise can only do so much to help you fully develop the pecs. Although you can press from an incline or decline position as well, even that isn’t enough to take your chest to epic size and shape.
Presses involve both the elbows and shoulders which means any version of the bench press also incorporates the shoulders and triceps. They are assisting the pecs in the movement but they can take away some of the benefits of the exercise as well. This results in the chest not being as properly fatigued and stressed as necessary to create growth when you recover.
Enter the flye.
Flye movements are exercises that most athletes throw in at the end of the workout or sometimes will warm up with. Either way, they’re not taken very seriously and not given the credit they deserve when it comes to chest training.
Both dumbbell and machine versions of the flye can isolate the pecs, so they're being stressed as much as safely possible throughout the movement. This means the delts and triceps stay on the sidelines and will not play a role in the exercise. Obviously this is what we want to see - improvement in the pecs.
Also, the bottom of the flye really stretches the pecs out so it affects the fascia of the muscle, which is the thin layer of skin that covers the muscles. Stretching the fascia will create more room for the muscle fiber themselves to stretch so you can get more blood to the area which means a bigger pump.
Now that we’ve covered all the benefits of flyes, where do we put them in the workout?
With the Stretch and Push Method, we alternate flyes and presses so you will have them in at the beginning, middle, and near the end of the workout.
We’ll start the workout off with a flye movement to pre-exhaust the pecs, establish a mind-muscle connection so we can know exactly what to feel with each rep, and stretch the pecs out to make room for the blood we will send it with the presses which follow next.
After the first pressing exercise, we’ll go back to a flye movement, followed by a second press from a different angle. We’ll do a third and final flye movement to prepare the pecs for the final onslaught coming from a press movement which will complete the workout.
A Word About Form
Many people feel that when you are performing any version of the flye that your elbows should be locked out.
Keeping your arms straight places strain on the elbows, which can take away from the benefits that the exercise offers for the pecs. Keep a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement. You don’t have to take it to 90 degrees, but a 30 to 45 degree bend will suffice.
Also, make sure you get a deep stretch at the bottom of the exercise. The whole point of doing flyes is to stretch the pecs out as best as you can and increasing the flexibility in that area.
If you stop short of that stretch, you’re not going to get that stretch and will be doing something that mimics a press. If you feel that going deep will lead to injury, then lower the weight you’re using and perform the reps slowly.
Incline Dumbbell Flye
Don’t treat the incline dumbbell flye as a warm up!
Although you should do a warm up set or two, you should still give this exercise serious effort.
You might not be as strong as you normally are when you start pressing but this isn’t about how much weight you can move, it’s about developing your chest to the fullest potential possible. Leave your ego at the gym door.
After you do one or two warm up sets, perform three sets of 8-10 reps and rest for 90 seconds between sets.
Incline Barbell Bench Press
If you’re able to do so, take an adjustable bench with the lowest or second lowest incline and place it inside a rack.
There are many inclines that have the bench at a high angle that allows the shoulders to get involved in the movement. Doing incline barbell bench presses in a rack with a low incline will help you target the upper pecs while keeping the front delts minimally involved.
Make sure that when you lower the bar that you pause the weight on your chest before you press.
Banging it off your chest not only takes away from the effectiveness of the movement but it also can lead to injury if you’re not careful. Pausing the weight might affect how much you can do or the number of reps but as we covered earlier, this is about training the muscle and not about what you’re lifting.
Don’t lock your elbows out at the top – stop just short of lockout and squeeze the pecs. This subtle change will impact the entire set.
Go for three work sets of 8-10 reps with 90 seconds rest between each set.
Flat Cable Flye or Pec-Dec
You’ve used two free weight movements and they were both from an incline position so now we’re switching to a machine which is safer due to the fixed pattern the handles travel and we’ve transitioned to a flat position to focus on the center of the pec area.
Focus on the stretch of the flye movement here because we’re trying to create that room for more blood to travel to the area and are also getting accustomed to a flat bench which means you’ll feel the stretch differently than on incline. Three sets of 10-12 reps with 90 seconds rest is the plan for this movement.
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
It’s time to flat dumbbell bench press the issue. At this point you should be feeling a pretty good pump in your pecs. Take a moment before you begin this exercise to not only stretch the pecs but flex them as well. At this point in the workout, you will likely start to fatigue and the delts will want to assist. Stretching and flexing will help you regain the mind-muscle connection you need to continue isolating the pecs.
Remember to not immediately go straight to the end of the rack. Use a weight that will help you feel the pecs working effectively. Also don’t lock out the elbows at the top. We want to keep constant tension on the chest throughout the entire set so as soon as you feel the triceps working to lock the weight out, stop and lower the dumbbells back down for the next rep. You’ll do three working sets of 10-12 reps.
Cable Crossover doesn’t have the word “flye” in it, but the movement counts as a flye type exercise. Now we’re going to target the lower pecs to insure that you attacked the chest from all angles. When you perform this movement make sure you step away from the cable station so you feel an extra stretch when your arms are to your sides.
As you bring the weight in, you’ll be tempted to bend the elbows in to help you. Don’t do it. Keep the slight bend as you would with any other flye but the only movement that should be performed here is the arms coming in front of your torso. Connect the handles and squeeze the pecs as hard as you can before slowly bringing the handles back up.
Take as much as three seconds to perform the negative portion of the lift. For this exercise we’ll do three sets of 12 reps with 60 seconds rest. We decrease the rest to add intensity to the workout as we come down the home stretch.
Now we finish the push and stretch workout off in serious fashion. The grand finale will be bodyweight dips with the upper body leaning forward for chest emphasis. Don’t bother adding weight or chains onto yourself. You’re purpose here is to do as many reps as possible (AMRAP) before reaching failure. The goal is to pump as much blood into the area as possible before finishing the workout off. Two sets to failure with 60 seconds rest between sets will be all you need.
The Stretch And Push Workout
|Incline Dumbbell Flye||3||8-10||90|
|Incline Barbell Bench Press||3||8-10||90|
|Flat Cable Flye||3||10-12||90|
|Flat Dumbbell Bench Press||3||10-12||90|