David Hoffmann's Classic Chest Workout

German amateur David Hoffmann’s chest routine — like his career — reflects a passion for modern training and a respect for the Golden Era

December 3, 2012

By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT | Editor-at-Large

David Hoffmann

Birthdate: Feb. 26, 1980 Birthplace: Kirchheimbolanden, Germany Current residence: Koblenz, Germany Height: 6´1˝ Weight: 278 pounds offseason; 240 contest Website: www.muscledavid.de; www.facebook.com/muscledavid Marital Status: Single Contest History: 2011: Arnold Classic Amateur, 3rd, superheavyweight; Mr. Olympia Amateur, 3rd, superheavyweight; 2008: German Nationals, 1st, superheavyweight and overall. David Hoffmann Thumbing through old black-and-white photos can offer a glimpse into what was — but on occasion, those old snaps serve as eerie harbingers of things that haven’t yet come to pass. In the sleepy farming village of Kirchheimbolanden, Germany, a young David Hoffmann could often be seen striking poses in an effort to emulate well-known bodybuilders such as Shawn Ray, Kevin Levrone and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And as the years passed, while most of his friends were out on the pitch playing soccer, David could be found in the gym, working in earnest to achieve the proportions of those men. That athletic exclusion paid off. Today, he’s one of the most visible — and talked about — amateurs in the sport of bodybuilding, boasting a still-growing physique that pays homage to a time when wispy waists were still en vogue. For David, a sit-down with the family photo album is more than a trip down memory lane. In his case, what’s past was merely prologue.

Against the Grain

In the soccer-fanatic environment of Germany, not playing or at least doing your duty as a devout spectator can draw sharp criticism. But from the get-go, David was anything but a conformist; he went for a sport that was more on par with his genetic leanings. “In Germany, everybody is crazy about soccer,” he says. “I never liked soccer so I was kind of an alien. When I was about 10 years old I did some judo. I was pretty good but I lost interest since my parents weren’t willing to drive me to the competitions. I remember the other kids coming back to training and showing their trophies and I knew I had beaten most of them in training. I wanted trophies, too!” Aside from judo, David would tackle other active pursuits such as dirt biking and hiking with his two younger brothers. He was an exceptional student but found it difficult to remain focused in class. “I used to be one of the best students in class although I was very lazy,” he recalls. “I remember having arguments with some teachers concerning my eating habits and I even got bad grades for eating in class sometimes.” As early as age three, David was hitting front double biceps poses. He-Man was his biggest influence in those early years but later, he saw Arnold on the big screen. In what is a familiar theme for almost any bodybuilder today, this proved to be a defining moment for David. Even at 8, David became the proud owner of a pair of three-pound dumbbells. By the time he reached 15 that collection began to expand rapidly. “In 1995 when I got my first Sport Revue bodybuilding magazine, which is now the German MuscleMag, I realized that I’d need some more equipment to get that size. So I bought some more equipment and started training more seriously.”

Breakdown Breakthrough

When David was 15, his parents split. At this age, such a fracture in a family can have disastrous effects but David was resilient and channeled his emotions into his training instead. This cathartic outlet proved not only to be the stabilizing force he needed but it also set him on a direct path for the wide world of bodybuilding. He began training at a public gym near his father’s new digs in Lahnstein and, with the array of equipment now at his disposal, his physical transformation was rapid. “I felt like a kid in a candy store,” he says. “I was very serious about training and I gained about 45 pounds in the first year.” David saw the classic builds of the men he idolized taking shape in his own reflection, which only deepened his commitment. “When I began reading the magazines it was the era of Dorian Yates, Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray, Kevin Levrone and all those great athletes,” he says. “When I was training at home, the walls in my home gym were full of posters of those guys. But I also had a passion for the golden era bodybuilders. The more I learned about bodybuilding history the more I began to admire the classic physiques like Arnold, Serge Nubret, Robby Robinson and many others.”

Love of the Classics

Once he began applying sound bodybuilding nutrition principles to his plan, David underwent another drastic makeover, prompting him to take the plunge into competition. His first contest was the Nordrhein-Westfalen Championship in 2000, where he won the junior heavyweight division. Touted for his classic lines, shoulder-to-waist ratio and overall mass, the 6´1˝ competitor quickly became a force on the amateur circuit, eventually catching the eye of supplement giant Universal Nutrition. “They were looking for a bodybuilder with a classic physique featuring a tiny waist, like the guys from the 1970s,” he says. “They weren’t interested in the typical blocky bodybuilding physique. I realized that this company was the perfect match! One of the most renowned supplement companies in the world chose me because they wanted a Golden Era physique to represent their brand, and I enjoy working with them very much.” While David can’t help but forecast big things for himself — including prognostications about his eventual finishes at the Mr. Olympia — it’s clear that he’s humbled by the success he has enjoyed to this point. “I was getting my hair cut in Los Angeles and a guy there recognized me,” he says. “He asked me to sign the Universal ad inside of a bodybuilding magazine. Here I was, a boy from a small town in Germany with some 350 people living in it, signing autographs in L.A. That memory and experience is something money just can’t buy.” David Hoffmann is a promising bodybuilder on the rise. These pics, then, like those of his childhood, are more than glimpses of fleeting moments in time. They’re almost certainly an indicator of what’s to come.

David's Workout Split

Day 1 - Legs, calves Day 2 - Back, biceps Day 3 - Rest Day 4 - Shoulders, triceps Day 5 - Back, biceps Day 6 - Rest Day 7 - Chest, triceps David doesn’t do any direct training for his abs. “For my abs, I rely on heavy squats, pullovers and pressdowns for indirect work but before a contest, I’ll train abs every other day.” For calves, David trains them once per week after hitting his hamstrings and quads. Preferring the stationary bike, he does cardio only precontest, sticking to three 30-minute sessions per week. If necessary, he’ll add a second session in a day. He does cardio on an empty stomach or post-weight training to maximize his fat-burning capabilities. “Sometimes, I’ll do HIIT to get some variety but in general I think this puts too much stress on my body while dieting.”

David's Chest Routine

Incline Dumbbell Press     3 Sets x 4–12 Reps Incline Dumbbell Flye     3 Sets x 6–12 Reps Cable Crossover     3 Sets x 10–15 Reps Low-Pulley Cable Crossover     3 Sets x 10–15 Reps Weighted Dip     3 Sets x 5–10 Reps *David trains instinctively, selecting weight loads that bring about muscle failure anywhere within the rep ranges listed. This number varies depending on his fatigue level. In general, he tries to increase the weight from set to set.

Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline-Dumbbell-Press Target: Upper Chest Start: Adjust a bench so that the incline in the bench is roughly 30 degrees. Lie faceup on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand just outside your shoulders. Action: Powerfully press the dumbbells upward toward the ceiling, stopping when the weights are an inch or so away from each other, then slowly return the dumbbells to the start and repeat. Power Pointer: “I don't feel my pecs as much when using a barbell on inclines,” says David. “So I prefer dumbbells and I use them in every chest session.”

Weighted Dip

Weighted-Dip Target: Lower Pecs Start: With weight hanging around your waist, grasp the dip bars with your arms extended. Lean forward and bend your knees while keeping your legs crossed. Move: Keep your elbows out to your sides as you bend them to lower your body down until your upper arms are about parallel to the floor. Press your hands into the bars to extend your arms and raise your body. Power Pointer: “I imagine pressing the two dip bars together, like if I was doing crossovers,” David says. “This really helps to get the pecs working harder than the tri’s. Look for V-shaped dip bars. Those allow you to individualize your grip distance.”

Incline Dumbbell Flye

Incline-Dumbbell-Flye Target: Upper Pecs Start: Adjust a bench so that the incline in the bench is roughly 30–40 degrees. Lie faceup on the bench with your feet flat and wide on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip and extend your arms above your chest. Bend your elbows slightly. Move: Slowly lower the weights in a wide arc down to your sides. Keep your elbows locked in the slightly bent position throughout the range of motion. Stop when your elbows reach shoulder level before reversing the motion. Power Pointer: “I lower the weights until I feel a good stretch but not so deep that I have to go light,” David says. “Imagine hugging a big tree. Because it’s a single-joint move you can’t use the same weights as you press.”

Cable Crossover

Cable-Crossover Target: Inner, Lower Pecs Start: Attach handles to the upper pulleys and stand in the middle of the apparatus with your knees slightly bent. Grasp the handles with your palms facing each other and bend your elbows slightly, bending forward slightly at the waist. Action: Contract your pecs to bring the handles down and below your waist close to your body, keeping your arms slightly bent throughout. Pause a moment and squeeze the peak contraction before slowly allowing the weights to pull your arms back to the start position. Power Pointer: “With this move you have a huge range of motion,” David says. “It allows you to get a deep contraction. Keep your arms locked in the slightly bent position throughout.”

Low-Pulley Cable Crossover

Low-Pulley-Cable-Crossover Target: Upper Pecs Start: Set two pulleys to their lowest settings and attach a D-handle on each side. Grasp one handle and then the other, and position yourself midway between the two stacks. Stand erect with your palms facing forward, thumbs wrapped around the handles and arms at 45-degree angles to the floor. Keep your elbows locked in the slightly bent position. For stability, position one foot slightly in front of the other, knees unlocked. Action: Keeping your arms slightly bent, contract your pecs to bring the handles together in a scooping motion to just above shoulder level. Squeeze your pecs for a count before slowly returning to the start. Power Pointer: “I don’t bring the handles too high because there’s a point where the cables begin to pull you backward, taking tension off the pecs. You can compare this to dumbbell flyes, where there’s reduced resistance at the top of the movement. I stop at a position where I can feel full contraction.”

David's Keys to Building Your Best Chest

David Hoffman Chest 1 GET LOOSE: If it’s cold outside and my joints and my tendons feel stiff and inflexible, I do more warm-up sets — maybe up to 5–6 sets. A pec tear is one of the worst injuries a bodybuilder can suffer and I really want to avoid that. 2 PRESS, TOO: I always make sure I have heavy pressing movements in my routine. In this routine, it’s the incline dumbbell press but I also do the classic flat-bench barbell version. 3 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: It’s good to focus on your upper chest because it usually develops more slowly. Once you build it up, your chest looks fuller and more complete. 4 PRESS & THE REST: Pressing movements allow you to use big weights, which is essential for getting big strong pecs — but I don’t believe they’re the holy grail of pec development. I tried a routine that was 2–3 sets of flyes at every angle the bench offered — there was no pressing at all and it still worked great. 5 COMBO KILLER: Usually I train triceps after chest. Training chest isn’t that exhausting for me. My tri’s are warmed up already, so this is the perfect bodypart combo. 6 DON’T DO THIS: Doing too much volume with a lack of intensity is just counterproductive. Train hard! Increase the weight from week to week and don’t try to get too complicated. Keep it old school! 7 GOING EXTREME: When I train with a partner I like to do 2–3 forced reps on each set. When I train alone, I use a few other techniques like rest-pause or drop sets, which can be performed without help. I also used to do 2–5 partial reps and hold the weight as long as possible when I’m not able to do one more full rep to fry my chest.