Whether you’ve been working out for years or you just did your first push-up today, the pecs are going to hold a special place for every dude looking to get swole.
Sure—yeah we get it—balancing your physique is important, you don’t want chicken legs, blah blah blah. But there’s a reason chest day is the best day. A lot of reasons.
Obviously, there’s the aesthetic element and the improved self-esteem; the pecs are prominent and big pecs doubly so. It’s no wonder that we spend so much time sculpting the crème de la crème of upper body muscles.
We’ve already looked at the exercises and lifestyle changes necessary for cultivating some serious chest muscle mass. But pec building is a serious time sink (even if it’s so worth it in the end), so tackling the pecs can benefit from a bit of strategizing.
Which is where supersets come in. A method of working out that’ll undoubtedly turbocharge your gains, it’s high time you include these in your workouts if you haven’t already.
We get it—chances are that the majority of us don’t need any convincing, so we’ll keep this brief.
In terms of aesthetics, it’s all summarized with the age-old adage of “no pecs, no sex”. A big chest equals the v-shaped torso and that equals a confidence boost and more interest from potential partners. Women aren’t left out of the aesthetic benefits either; developing the pectorals will improve posture while also lifting the breasts.
And speaking of posture, bigger pecs will encourage you to stand taller and straighter (to properly show them off), helping to ward off potential lower back problems. The pec minor is also an important part of balancing, creating stability for your shoulder blades, and helping maintain an upright position.
Last but definitely not least are the strength gains. While we are mostly focusing on size gains over strength, you’ll definitely see a lot of upper body strength unlocked with the proper development of the pecs. This will translate to sports that necessitate a lot of upper body strength, along with boosting your other lifts and helping you become more functionally fit.
Any action of shoulder flexion, shoulder adduction, and the internal rotation of the arm will be improved with the development of the pecs.
Supersets have been a mainstay in the bodybuilding community for decades, notably being championed by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and others. Supersets have you moving between two different exercises without taking a rest in between them, making them an efficient way to work out. There are two types of supersets.
A superset can consist of two movements that engage different muscle groups that are usually opposing. So, for example, the chest and the back or the biceps and triceps.
The second superset type is the one we’ll be looking at here since it’s used to really hammer in one muscle group. When it comes to mass gains and hypertrophy, there are several benefits that come from this type of superset.
When it comes to getting big pecs you’re going to want to follow specific programming. But what does that mean?
The one-size-fits-all recommendation of 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps isn’t going to cut it for most people. A beginner will see both size and strength gains, but if you’re looking for bulk then you’re going to want to modify your rep ranges to better reflect your goals.
This means moving less weight but with a higher amount of reps in order to get the best pump possible. The optimal programming is 15 to 20 reps; if you can’t get to 15 then that means the weight is too heavy while being able to go for 20 or more reps usually means it’s too light.
You’ll have to find that goldilocks zone in order to garner the best muscle mass gains.
A superset is uniquely capable of helping you reach these higher rep ranges in a shorter amount of time—making it a perfect way to cultivate upper-body mass. The other side of the coin is the ability of supersets to give you a great pump.
Working out causes by-product build-up around your muscle cells which causes your body to pump more blood into the region. While this blood flushes out these chemicals, some of the blood stays behind and gives your muscles a more “pumped up” look. However, these chemicals are also a good way to stimulate muscle growth. So, it follows that the more of these chemicals, the fewer gains you’re leaving on the table.
The high rep range of a superset is terrific for giving you a good pump because of the short rest periods in between sets.
The other superset ingredient that makes the method great for hypertrophy is the fact that shortened rest periods with raised rep ranges cause spikes in growth hormones and testosterone.
Intense bouts of tension with weightlifting effectively increase your lactate levels which serve to increase the acidity of your blood. And this spike of acidity works as a trigger for releasing growth hormone in your body. Paired with increases of testosterone and insulin-like growth factor, your body is primed for a turbocharged level of growth and muscle recovery.
While supersets are a great tool to utilize in the path to bigger pecs, there are certain things to keep in mind that’ll help you out in the long run. Above all, it’s important to avoid injury and overtraining.
Since a superset that hits the same muscle group with two exercises is already pushing it to very high levels of stress, not pushing it too far becomes that much more important. This is especially critical when looking at stabilizer; you don’t want to combine a heavy squat with a core isolation exercise since the core will already be extremely challenged.
Additionally, you don’t want to be placing too much stress on the spine when you’re programming together supersets. That much volume in a short amount of time can lead to serious injury—especially over the long term.
While rest time should be minimized, give yourself about 45 seconds in between each set in order for your muscles to slightly recover. While it’s important to go hard and fast, it’s just as important that the reps are of a high-quality and your muscle fibers are recovered enough to move some serious volume. Balancing the rest time with the volume is the surest way to put on extra muscle mass.
And of course, make sure to properly warm-up before each superset—and that goes for the mental aspect as well. Make sure you’re hyped up and ready to give it your all.
When it comes to physically warming up, do some rotator cuff movements and stretches; keep in mind that the triceps, elbows, and shoulders are also going to play an important role in all of these chest exercises.
A.) Incline Barbell Bench Press: For the incline press with a barbell, set up at an angle of 30 to 45-degrees. Make sure that the barbell is set up at a comfortable height. Lying down on the bench, retract your shoulder blades and squeeze—as if you’re holding a pencil in between them.
Set your hands wider than shoulder-width apart with your thumbs hooked underneath. Make sure that your feet are set flat on the floor directly underneath your knees—the toes should be either pointing straight or at an angle up to 45-degrees. Engaging your core and glutes, un-rack the bar by pressing up. Slowly lower the bar by tucking your elbows rather than flaring them out and keep going until the bar touches your upper chest.
Pause for a moment and reverse the movement by engaging your glutes and driving your feet into the floor. Continue the movement until your elbow lock out back in the starting position. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
B.) Incline Dumbbell Fly: Set up the exercise by gripping the dumbbells with a neutral grip and sitting down on an incline bench. Lay back on the bench while keeping the weights close to your chest.
Once you’ve properly set up for the movement, take a deep breath and press the dumbbells up to lock out your elbows. Keep your shoulder blades back as you allow your elbows to bend and slowly lower the dumbbells laterally.
Keeping a slight bend in your elbow, pause once the dumbbells reach chest level. Reverse the movement by engaging your pectorals and returning to the starting position.
A.) Cable Crossover: Set the pulleys up and grab one in each hand while standing in between the stacks. Step forward with one foot while pulling your arms forward in front of you—there should be a slight bend in your torso.
Bending your elbows, take a deep breath, and extend your arms out so that your hands are in line with your shoulders. Exhaling, activate your pecs so as to return your arms to the starting position and repeat for the desired amount of reps.
The cable crossover can be adjusted for your own goals; whether you want to be focusing on the upper or lower chest area.
B.) Push-ups: Get into position by setting your arms out slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Set your feet in a way that allows you to maintain balance throughout the motion. Your core and glutes should be engaged so your body is one straight line from your head down to your heels. Keep your head looking forwards.
Initiate the movement by bending your elbows and slowly lowering your body until you're almost touching the floor. Pause at the bottom of the movement and then return to the starting position, driving through your arms and locking out at the top.
A.) Machine Chest Press: Make sure you’re comfortably sitting on the machine with your feet firmly on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Grab the handles with your thumbs around the handle and keep your wrists in line with your forearms.
Engaging your muscles, push the bar outward to a full extension, but without locking out your elbows. Exhale as you push out. Keep your head looking straight ahead. You should be feeling the burn in your chest.
At the full extension pause for a count before slowly reversing the movement over 2 or 3 seconds. Make sure to inhale during this and return to the starting position.
B.) Incline Dumbbell Pullovers: Sit down on an incline bench with a single dumbbell held in your hands, over your chest. Make sure your core is engaged, extend your arms out, and then lift the dumbbell over your head. Keep your arms straight out to target the pecs more.
Lower the dumbbell back behind your head, slowly and in a controlled manner. The weight should trace a nice arc. Keep going until you feel a stretch in your arms. Pause when you’ve reached this point and reverse the movement by squeezing your chest together. Return to the starting position and repeat.
A.) Dips: Begin by grabbing onto the parallels (or dip bars) and jumping up, straightening out your arms during the motion. Lockout your elbows at the top.
In order for this movement to target more of your pecs, engage your core and slightly lean forward while keeping your legs together. Your entire body should be braced. Initiate the movement by bending your elbows and slowly descending until your upper arms are at least parallel to the floor.
Explosively reverse the movement by driving through your hands and straightening your arms, locking out at the top, and returning to the starting position.
B.) Pec Deck Flys: Adjust the seat and the pads so you’re as comfortable as possible. It might also be necessary to adjust the arm levers. Sit tall in the seat and keep your feet flat and rooted to the floor.
Grab the handles so your palms are facing each other. Engage your chest and squeeze together—pressing your arms towards each other with a controlled and slow movement. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows throughout the movement.
When your arms reach the end of the movement, pause for a second before slowly bringing them back into the starting position. Make sure to keep a rooted and upright posture throughout.
A.) Flat Dumbbell Fly: Laying with your back flat on a flat bench, firmly ground your feet on the floor to either side of the bench. Your head and back should be pressed into the bench.
Picking up the dumbbells, lift your arms up above your head without locking them out at the elbow. Your palms should be facing each other. Breathing in, slowly lower the dumbbells in a wide arc—going down until the weights are in line with your chest. While your arms will be extended out, don’t lock them out.
Slowly reverse the movement in the same arc motion.
B.) Flat Dumbbell Bench Press: Lying back on a flat bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand to the sides of your shoulders. Have your palms facing your feet during the starting position.
Extend the dumbbells upwards until your arms are straight, without touching them at the top. Pausing at the top of the exercise, slowly return them back down. You can take advantage of the dumbbells with this exercise by bringing your arms down lower than in a conventional bench press; the dumbbells can go down past your shoulders.
While the superset is an indispensable method for taking your gains to the next level, it’s not going to help at all if you don’t support your body’s development.
First and foremost, this means having the proper diet. If you’re looking for mass gains, you’re going to want to make eating a chore. Putting on weight is difficult, and getting the lean muscle mass necessary for a sculpted chest is going to be even more difficult.
Find a diet that works for you, but make sure that you’re eating enough and that a large part of your nutrition is high-quality protein. There’s no way anyone can get the body they want if they ignore the diet; cultivating lean muscle is going to take just as much commitment in the kitchen as in the gym—maybe even more, depending on your body type.
Along with a nutritious diet, make sure that you’re getting enough rest. Supersets can be brutal and you’re going to need to back up all that hard work with enough recovery to make it all worth it.
High-quality and long-standing gains will only come when all of these elements come together. While it’ll take a huge amount of commitment, before you know it you’ll have transformed your pecs into something great—transforming the rest of your physique in the process.