Dear Mr. Fitness:
I only recently purchased a gym membership and enjoy going there and working out. The reason I'm writing to you is that I have no clue on how to develop my chest and shoulder areas. I have been doing some pushups and bench presses, but this doesn't seem to help.
My chest and shoulders look and feel weak. Mostly my chest.
Any ideas would help.
Now that you've purchased yourself a gym membership, let's use it to your advantage. You didn't say how many times per week you're training the chest and shoulder area. Limit this workout to only once a week. Allow the chest and shoulders to fully recover.
Let's begin the routine with those pushups. Do three sets of as many repetitions as you can. Rest only one minute between sets. Move on to the bench press. Instead of doing the ubiquitous barbell bench press, let's try some dumbbell flat presses. Select a pair of dumbbells that you can easily handle: something light. I know, I know, you want to lift the heaviest dumbbells in the gym. But chill! Grab a lighter pair and let's proceed.
Now do three sets with good form for 12 to 15 reps. Begin with those light dumbbells and go up to the next-heaviest for each set. It should go like this: First set: 20 pounders. Second set: 25 pounds. Third set: 30 pounds. Got it?
This type of training is known as pyramiding sets. It's designed to produce the fastest results for you. I want you to pyramid on every exercise.
On to the next exercise. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps on incline barbell presses. Make certain that you bring the bar down to your upper chest. This will ensure the greatest stretch of your upper pectoralis muscles. Go slowly when doing this and every chest exercise. We don't want any injuries, only massive, freakish chest development, right?
Your final chest exercise should be dips. You may need to do these with the weight-assist machine initially. If so, select a weight that allows you to perform no more than 10 to 12 reps. Your chest should be feeling it!
For your shoulders I would only do two exercises to stimulate growth. These would be the upright row and the barbell press behind the head. Stick with three sets of 12 to 15 reps. Be certain when performing the upright row that your elbows come up first, not your hands. This will ensure that you're targeting the shoulders, not the forearms.
Do not lock out the arms when doing the behind-the-neck press. This keeps the pressure on your shoulders and not your triceps. Try this routine for four weeks and watch your chest become "unsinkable"!
-- Mr. Fitness
Tony Wagner, aka Mr. Fitness, has more than 30 years of fitness and nutritional expertise. A certified personal trainer and author, he has helped thousands get into and stay in shape. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or stop by Bodyzone Fitness Center, 2740 N. Roosevelt Blvd., 305-292-2930.