Ultimate Fitness Events (UFE) is pleased to introduce to our website a new training series named MUSCLES OF THE MONTH (MOTM). The information provided each month is one of the many new features on our website to help you get into the best shape of your life and make your journey to the UFE stage.
Each monthly MOTM installment will provide a competitor-friendly, intermediate-level education on a respective muscle group plus a unique, specially designed workout program based on the muscles involved. Whether your ambition is to compete in Bodybuilding, Physique, Fitness Model, Figure, Bikini or Glamour, you’ll be certain to benefit and learn; in turn, you should observe significant improvements to the size and shape of your muscles. This new series will be written by Timothy Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT who has written over 240 full-length training packages for several of the world’s leading fitness publications.
The workouts contained herein can be used effectively by any athlete seeking to boost their gains. A Novice competitor will be able to jump-start their muscle-building equally as effectively as a Pro who happens to be seeking an innovative new stimulus. There are, to be sure, many principles of resistance training that apply to all of your muscle groups, so let’s outline a few of the most important ones herein.
PRINCIPLES OF TRAINING
Always Have A Plan. You may have heard the expression that any training is better than no training, and this is true – but only to a very limited extent. You can easily enter the gym and work out for an hour willy-nilly, randomly picking up whatever pieces of equipment suit your fancy. You’ll burn some calories, break down a little muscle tissue for growth and possibly add a nominal amount of strength. But that’s likely where your gains end. Long-term training for real, progressive gains is accomplished by those who formulate a specific training protocol and carry it out. You need look no further than to ask any successful pro; every single one of them will testify that before they even began a program, it was vital for them to have an organized training schedule. It’s the only way you’re going to succeed. Measure your reps, sets and rest periods for each workout, and make note of your split rotations whether it’s weekly or every 3 or 4 days.
Begin Each Workout With The Heaviest Resistance. Let’s face it, if you have an opportunity to optimize your gains, you’re going to jump all over it, right? Therefore, when you arrange the respective exercises you plan to perform in each workout, you should begin with the heaviest movement. This is usually in the form of a compound move and could include, for example, the deadlift, squat, bench press, overhead press or upright row. The principle herein is very basic but it’s important. At the start of your workout, your energy levels are freshest and you have the most strength available at your disposal. For those who consume a pre-workout shake or blend 30 to 45 minutes prior to arriving at the gym, it’s during the first few exercises where you’ll be able to take advantage of your supplementation the strongest.
Once you’ve completed some heavy exercises at the start of your routine, you can move on to other exercises that employ less resistance, including a mix of some multi-joint and isolation moves. Finally, at the conclusion of your workout, you can focus on shape and definition by pumping out strict isolation moves for high reps to induce a good pump and help deliver oxygen to your muscles to better set them up for growth.
Don’t Overtrain. You have to be smart when you train. It’s very easy for the most enthusiastic of athletes to overdo it, since their zeal naturally directs them to crush as many reps as they can within a workout. But there’s a fine line you want to identify: you want to work out with sufficient intensity and effort to make it worthwhile for your muscle-building goals, but you don’t want to overstep this line. Excessively long workouts can be counterproductive and actually slow down your progress since they take longer from which to recover. Furthermore, training with excess work volume each and every workout can lead to burnout altogether over time – not to mention make you vulnerable to injury. Put away those notions that a “successful” workout must be 60-90 minutes in length. If you execute your moves correctly and with solid, consistent effort, you’ll have more than sufficiently completed an effective resistance training workout in around 45 minutes.
Remember to always look at the big picture: that resistance training is only about one-third of the equation for an athlete to maintain a competitive physique. Nutrition, lifestyle and rest account for the majority of your responsibilities.
FOCUS ON: CHEST
Having a well-developed chest definitely makes you look formidable on stage and can give you a competitive advantage. Possessing a large chest is also what non-athletes strive for constantly, as it can be truly eye-catching and appealing. However, for a competitive athlete, it’s not simply a matter of bigger is better; in fact, there’s a lot more to an aesthetically pleasing chest than simply size. This is why it’s important for you to structure your training carefully, and not just simply load up the bench press barbell to grind out countless reps constantly.
As an all-natural organization, UFE athletes sport aesthetically pleasing chest muscles that are not only well-developed and rich in size, but also symmetrical, defined, and dense.
While those who compete in Bodybuilding will inherently possess proportionately larger chest muscles, it’s still important for them to maintain the symmetry, definition and density of those in Physique, Figure and the other competition categories. This being the case, the workout you’re about to undertake below will act as a “one-stop shop” for you in terms of building mass and carving definition. One of the things you’ll learn from undertaking this workout is that it’s not all about the upper pecs; we’ll have you work on your lower pecs as well. We’ll also hit both your inner and outer pecs to stimulate muscle growth throughout your entire pecs region by using exercises from a variety of angles.
When you’re training for the stage, always keep in mind that the judges will likely notice your chest first. Therefore, you want to give it due diligence by adhering to a program of training it with intensity. In the day of your workout, make sure to hydrate more than you normally would, increase your calories early in the day and don’t forget to consume your pre-workout blend 30 to 45 minutes before hitting the gym. Follow the parameters of the workout herein to the letter, perform it twice every week for six weeks, then in the interest of stimulating new muscle growth, move on eventually to a new chest workout of different design.
CHEST WORKOUT FOR ASPIRING UFE COMPETITORS
Let’s begin your chest training by making note of the numerous distinctions among exercises in terms of number of sets, reps and rest periods. This is no basic chest workout of three sets of ten reps ad nauseam. Within this workout, you’ll perform both compound moves and isolation moves while targeting your pectorals from a multitude of angles.
For your warm-up, don’t fall into the trap of performing cardio “to get the blood flowing”. You want to save every ounce of your energy for the lifts. In this case, it’s remarkably simple, in that you should perform the first exercise (incline barbell press) with a very light weight for warm-up sets of ten, eight and six reps respectively. Increase the weight slightly for each of these three sets.
Finally, make every rep count! You’ve made the commitment to visit the gym, so there’s no point leaving anything on the table with sloppy form or rushing through the workout to get it over with. Take your time and use strict form by following the technique instructions herein. By doing so, you’ll develop feel and muscle memory that will help you efficiently build excellent quality size and shape in your chest.
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
INCLINE BARBELL PRESS 4 10, 10, 8, 6 2:00 mins
BENCH DUMBBELL FLYE 3 12, 10, 8 1:30 mins
CABLE CROSSOVER (LOW) 3 12, 10, 8 1:30 mins
CABLE CROSSOVER (HIGH) 3 12, 10, 8 1:30 mins
REVERSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS 3 12, 10, 8 1:30 mins
PEC-DEC FLYE 2 10, AMRAP* 1:00 min.
*AMRAP means “As Many Reps As Possible”. Continue the set until you can no longer complete a rep using good form (e. g. you complete eight reps with good form but cannot complete a ninth rep with good form; stop the set here).
INCLINE BARBELL PRESS
- Set an adjustable bench to an incline of 45 degrees.
- Rack a barbell and load it with your desired resistance.
- Set yourself face up on the bench with your back along the incline, then arch your back slightly.
- Spread your feet a little wider than shoulder-width for stability.
- Grasp the bar with a pronated (overhand) grip, also a little wider than your shoulders, and then hold it overhead with arms extended.
- With your body fixed in position, lower the bar vertically toward your sternum.
- Use a gentle “touch and go” with the barbell in the bottom position and press it forcefully up to the top position.
BENCH DUMBBELL FLYE
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip (palms facing inward).
- Lie flat on a bench facing up, bend your knees 90 degrees and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise the dumbbells above you in the plane of your shoulders with arms almost extended (leave a slight bend at your elbows).
- Using control, allow gravity to lower the dumbbells in an outward arcing motion until your arms are essentially parallel to the floor.
- In this bottom position, hold for a quarter-second, elbows still slightly bent.
- Using force from your chest and shoulders, raise the weights along the same path back up to the start.
CABLE CROSSOVER (LOW)
- Set both pulleys of a cable crossover apparatus to a low position and attach a D-handle to each of them.
- Stand in the middle of the apparatus and grasp a D-handle in each hand using a supinated (underhand) grip.
- With your back straight and head level, separate your feet in the form of a minor split stance.
- Imagine you are “scooping” the handles upward using force from your upper pecs and draw your hands together in front of you.
- Stop the motion when your arms are parallel to the floor; don’t raise the handles higher than the plane of your shoulders.
- Hold the handles for a half-second, then lower along the same path back down to the start.
CABLE CROSSOVER (HIGH)
- Set both pulleys of a cable crossover apparatus to a high position and attach a D-handle to each of them.
- Stand in the middle of the apparatus and grasp a D-handle in each hand using a neutral grip.
- With your back straight and head level, separate your feet in the form of a minor split stance.
- Using force mainly from your mid to lower pecs, draw your hands together in a downward arcing path in front of you.
- Stop the motion when your hands are about at the level of your navel.
- Hold the handles for a half-second, then in a controlled manner, allow the cables to release carefully back up to the start.
REVERSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS
- Load a barbell on a bench press rack to your desired weight, keeping in mind you’ll be able to lift a considerably smaller amount than the standard bench press.
- Lie on the bench facing up, with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet squarely on the floor for stability. Then arch your back slightly.
- Grasp the bar using a very-wide supinated (underhand) grip. This will likely feel unusual, so make sure you’re in a comfortable position before performing the action.
- Lower the bar using control until it makes a very gentle touch with your upper pecs.
- Hold the bar for a half-second to stabilize it.
- Forcefully press the bar upward along the same path, stopping just short of a fully locked-out arms extension.
- Adjust the seat to a level where your thighs are parallel to the floor when you sit in the apparatus.
- Sit tall in the seat with your upper back and glutes firmly against the pad.
- Position your arms within the pads such that they’re bent 90 degrees at the elbows with your upper arms at the level of your shoulders.
- Grasp onto the handles with an overhand grip that will rotate into a neutral grip.
- Press the pads with your elbows in an outward arcing motion until the pads come together gently in front of you.
- Hold in this front position for a full second, actively squeeze your pecs inward, then release the pads using control back to the start position.
Timothy Rigby, M.A., NCSA-CPT is a freelance writer and one of Canada’s most published fitness writers.