Build Big Pecs
Build Big Pecs
by Nasser El Sonbaty
To build a champion’s chest, every season must be a growing season.
Contrary to what we like to believe, progress is really an evolution toward greater simplicity rather than complexity, and this has been especially evident in bodybuilding during the past few years.
Not too long ago, we were obsessed with details, with off season vs. pre contest training, with precision training regimens, with keeping computerized records so detailed that we collapsed into bed at night exhausted more from mental than physical fatigue. Lately, however, we’ve discovered that such detail work does more to stifle our growth than enhance it. Quite simply, by obeying all those rules, we are not giving ourselves room to stretch our physical boundaries.
I got in on the tail end of that complicated style of bodybuilding and gradually but modestly improved. As soon as I started training the way I really wanted to, however, I seemed to grow visibly by the day. It was as if I had been set free.
NO SUCH THING AS OFF-SEASON
Perhaps the best example of these liberating changes can be seen in my chest training. In the past, I never would have thought of letting my off-season training creep over into my pre-contest period by even one day. There was off-sea on and the was pre-contest, and never did the two meet.
Now, there is no such thing as off-season and pre contest chest training for me. There’s only chest training, and that means lifting as heavy as I can every time I enter the gym. I train this way right up to a show. During pre-contest, the only difference I make is adding a couple more cable movements in the hope that they will accelerate my definition. Still, my philosophy is: Where there was once a season for growing and a season for getting cut, there is no only one season that lasts for 12 months, and that season is for growth. Period.
While before I carefully mapped out high-and low-repetition cycles, now I think only in terms of low reps. Those are the only ones that do any good, so summer, winter autumn, whoever, I keep my reps at six.
I don’t even work my muscle-groups in a set order anymore, although I do train each body part only once a week, except for calves and abs, which I hit three times weekly. Other than that, it doesn’t’ matter which muscle group I trained the previous day. My training, as well as my body, is organic, I give it room to progress naturally.
CHEST COMES FIRST
Usually I find myself training chest with various other muscle groups for a number of reasons. Often, I do chest with shoulders, because these two body parts are complimentary. But for precisely the opposite reason, you will sometimes find me training chest with biceps and forearms, because they do not affect each other. Likewise, I train chest with hamstrings and calves, because neither detracts from the other. Whichever combinations I use, I always hit chest first in the workout, because it should be allocated all the power and energy I can give it.
Instead of isolating my pectorals, I do just the opposite. Building barrel-like chest mass is a function of three different muscle-groups; pectorals, deltoids and triceps. The pecs are the specific muscles I want to grow, but they cannot do so without extensively involving the delts and triceps. Therefore, my chest workout always begins with cable crossovers to warm up my pecs, dumbbell laterals to warm up my shoulders and cable pushdowns to warm up my triceps — all for three or four sets of 15-20 reps.
These days, I’m trying to improve my upper chest, so I do incline barbell presses first in my chest routine. Nothing strict here; in fact, quite the opposite. I bring the weight down slowly, tightening as I go, then power it back to the top with a controlled explosion. My sets pyramid upward through as many as I feel necessary to get to my heaviest weight, where I then do three sets of six reps, just as I do with inclines.
Then it’s back to another pushing movement, either flat dumbbell presses or dips, for three sets of eight. Often, I alternate these each workout.
For every muscle group, I like to finish with a cable movement for three sets of 15 reps. Up to this point, my entire workout has utilized heavy basic power movements, which consequently can affect my control over my chest muscles toward the end of my routine. Cables allow me to regain that control and work the muscles with continuous tension though the full range of motion.
Not only do cable movements during the off season help me maintain some level of cuts for a future contest, but they also allow me to leave the gym with the sensation of having my chest flushed with blood. I like that.
Other than that one cable movement, I prefer to face the torture of brutal training. I’m in the gym by 4:30 every morning, sometimes by 4, not because I want to, but because it tests my character. That, I think, is absolutely necessary. You can’t take the easy way and be successful. You have to do more than anyone else is willing to do. You must make yourself go that extra distance.
I have no choice. I’m not so genetically gifted that I can attain success through casual effort. If I want to be exceptional, I need to push myself to be exceptional. I can take pride in myself when I do that.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m a slave to my psyche, in the sense that I’m always trying to satisfy my hunger for hard training. For instance, I always have to train heavy. If I don’t — even if I train very hard but sue moderate weights — I feel as though I’m shrinking. In fact, I’m convinced I actually do shrink. Scientifically, it makes sense. At my degree of mass and density, the margin for hardness is more critical In other words I may lose my hardness faster than someone who is smaller.
Let’s face it: a person can reach his maximum size only by using free weights, so it makes sense that if he stops using them, he will shrink back to the size he would have been without having used them.
Many bodybuilders claim it’s not necessary to use free weights and train heavy; that if you do, you will hurt yourself, or at least experience pain. I think the real reason people train with machines rather than free weights is not because machines are better but because they are less painful to use.
Sorry, but I know I have to train till it hurts. If you want to be successful, you must cross the pain threshold, and free weights mean pain. No one likes pain, and I try to avoid it in my life, but only when it comes to bodybuilding.