1 Get off the damned barbell bench press

We’re not here to discuss the efficacy of the bench press for building up your pecs. But if you’re like a lot of people and always start your chest-training session on the bench, you probably hit a plateau in your training long ago. That’s because the value of an exercise decreases over time, a concept called diminishing returns. It can happen with any movement you do in your workout unless you start making changes.

There are several ways to introduce variety into your training that will provide just enough change to keep you growing. The most obvious option is using dumbbells. Not only does that enable you to work each side separately, you can work your pecs through a longer range of motion. That variation is also kinder to your shoulders over the long haul.


Another option is to occasionally do flat benches later in your workout session. This will result in greater energy levels—and the ability to push more weight—with whatever movement comes first. So if your upper chest is lagging, instead of pushing your incline presses with 225 pounds, you might be able to do 255 when you do them first. That’s a nifty muscle-building stimulus to those upper-pec fibers that have long been worked at less intense levels.

Keep in mind that when you do flat benches later in your workout, your strength levels will be somewhat compromised. Don’t expect to be putting up the same amount of weight for the same number of reps. Here’s where machine training can help too, so you’re not having to balance the weight.