Inspired (read: struck with jealousy) by a new friend who knocks out bench press and push-ups/pull-ups with a weighted vest like it’s nothing, I decided to end my 5(potentially +) years of skipping chest workouts. As can be expected after years of neglect, the results were less than stellar compared to my expectations. But, here’s to baby steps toward being able to bench my body weight again. Since I was only at 85lbs this week, I’m still a ways away.
Despite chest not being my favorite workout, I know it’s important to be more balanced in my approach and to stop avoiding workouts just because I’m not great at them. To ease my pain (and bruised ego, ha), though, I superset with back.
The workout consisted of:
- 8-6-4-2 pyramid of incline chest press @ 75lbs
- 8-6-4-2 narrow grip lat pulldowns @ 85lbs
- 8-6-4-2 chest press @ 85lbs
- 8-6-4-2 pyramid of wide-grip rows @80 lbs, one-arm rows @20kg, row to bent-elbow reverse fly @ 15lbs/arm, outward extensions @ 15lbs/arm, pushups, and pushups to renegade rows @ 15lbs/arm.
The last set was with 5-10-20 style weight ranges for back, though we stuck with the 8-6-4-2 pyramid structure.
(1) 8-6-4-2 reps of Incline Chest Press @75lbs – I think incline chest press is harder than regular bench press, but your weight range will depend on your strengths/weaknesses. We aimed for a 3 sec down- 2 sec up cadence with these, which made them much more difficult for me. Rest time should be the time it takes your partner/spotter to complete the set, or about 45 sec for the first round and 10-15 sec for the last round.
Start with your arms wide, and lower the bar with your elbows bending out to your sides. Continue lowering to your chest (we failed to capture this moment, but this is where the bar should hit.)
(My face in this one says it all – surprised at how bad it hurt, wonder and amazement that I managed to get the bar up for the last rep because it hurt. bad.)
(If you’re moving at the right cadence, there should be a moment in the middle where you are struggling *not* to let the weight immediately hit your chest).
(2) 8-6-4-2 Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown @ 85lbs: Instead of using the lat pulldown bar, we used the Triangle Pulldown Bar to target the upper lat/teres muscles and to get a little more chest work in. The cadence was about 2 sec down, 2 sec up. Just like with a regular pulldown, the movement involved keeping your back straight and shoulders relaxed while pulling the attachment down to your middle chest.
(3) 8-6-4-2 of chest press @ 85lbs: As with incline press, we aimed for a 3 sec down- 2 sec up cadence with these, which again made these much more difficult for me. Rest time should be the time it takes your partner/spotter to complete the set, or about 45 sec for the first round and 10-15 sec for the last round.
Start with your arms slightly wider than shoulder width apart, and lower the bar with your elbows bending out to your sides. Continue lowering to your chest and press the weight up until arms are straight, but elbows are not locked.
(5) 8-6-4-2 of the Back/Chest Superset
(5)(a) Wide-Grip Row: Most of yesterday morning’s workout involved switching between wider and narrower grips. To again target the upper lat/teres muscles, we used a wider grip for rows.
Start with your arms wide apart on the barbell, bent over with back straight and with the weight slightly below your knees. Lift upwards by raising your elbows up and back, and lower the weight to the starting position.
(5)(b) One arm kettlebell rows: Bend over with your right knee forward, bracing yourself with your right elbow on your right knee. Holding the kettlebell in your left hand, raise your elbow up and back, ending with your left hand near your left ribs at the top of the movement. Repeat on the other side.
(5)(c) Row to Bent-Elbow Reverse Fly: This movement is a little weird, but targets the back while also allowing me (and you) to work on shoulder rotation and mobility.
Begin with the your knees bent and your back flat, with the weights at your side and palms facing in. Lift your elbows up and back, with your arms close to the body. When your palms meet your ribs, lift your arms out and away from your body, allowing your elbows to move up and away from your torso.
(5)(d) Outward Extensions: This move also targets the shoulder, but it helps strengthen the upper pecs and teres muscles. Begin with elbows bent and with the weights in front of you with palms facing in. Keeping the elbows glued to your sides, pull the weights apart by moving your arms perpendicular to your torso.
(5)(d) Pushups: We did regular push-ups next – arms about shoulder width apart, lowering all the way down with neck long. Nothing fancy.
(5)(e) Renegade Rows: We finished with a pushup to row combo. Perform a pushup with hands on 2 weights, then perform a row on each side, working to keep the hips neutral/facing the floor.
We finished off with an 8-6-4-2 combo for abs before stretching: Alternating bicycles, Med Ball Raises, Med Ball Oblique crunches, and Plank holds for 16 sec down to 4 sec, with no rest between sets.
For alternating bicycles, start by bringing your left knee to your chest and reaching across with your right hand to tap your left foot. Lower, and repeat on the other side for 8 reps/side.
For med ball raises, begin with the med ball at your chest. Crunch up and raise the med ball up over your knees.
For oblique crunches, sit with feet on the floor and upper body raised and bring the med ball from one hip to the other.
Finally, for plank holds, keep your back flat and try to distribute the weight evenly between your arms and legs.
This workout killed me. My pecs are beyond sore today! It was certainly an ironic day for my “I’m not strong for a girl – I’m just strong” shirt – though I guess part of being strong is embracing your weaknesses and working to improve them. 🙂