We’ve all heard the saying: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” In my first installment to this Functional Spectrum Bodybuilding (FSB) series, I showed you how to use the Performance U FSB system to ensure that every workout:
- Is fully comprehensive
- Hits the muscle group you’re targeting (that day) in the most effective manner possible
- Stimulates constant muscle growth
In each installment from here on out, I’m also going to “give you a fish”, by showing you how we apply the FSB system to train specific body-parts. This way, before you hit the ground running with our FSB system, you can be sure you’ll be running in the right direction. The first sample FSB workout I’m giving you is for Chest. Before we get into my the program, here’s a quick review of the FSB exercises classification system, which we’ll apply to both traditional and unconventional chest exercises.
3 Types of FSB Exercise Classifications for Chest
In our FSB system, we categorize exercises according to three types based on their Point of Maximal Loading (PML) on the muscle. This classification system includes compound and isolation exercises with both free weights and plate loaded machines. The three catergories are: 1. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscle (or muscle group) in the lengthened position. These exercises create the most muscle damage – that’s a good thing! 2. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscles in the mid-range position. These exercises aid in increasing motor unit-recruitment. 3. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscle (or muscle group) in the shortened position. These exercises tend to create the best muscle pump! Since there are clear-cut benefits to all three types of exercises, we include at least one exercise from each category in every workout to ensure that we’ve done all we can to maximize muscle growth. In each FSB workout, we also like to include at least one CAM machine that uses a weight-stack because they don’t have a specific PML. This allows us to keep a consistent resistance on the target muscle(s) throughout the entire range of motion. Here’s a comprehensive list of how we categorize the best chest exercises in each category:
Chest exercises that create a PML on the pecs in the lengthened position:
Incline Bench Press
Incline Dumbbell Press
Dumbbell Chest Flyes
Parallel Bar Dips (with forward lean)
Plate-Loaded Chest Press Machine
Plate-Loaded Incline Chest Press Machine
Chest exercises that create a PML on the pecs in the mid-range position:
Wide-Grip Board (or Towel)
Floor Bench Press
Cable Chest Flyes (standing between the cables)
One-Arm Cable Chest Flyes (standing between the cable)
Standing Chest Press (standing in-front of the cables)
Standing Single-Arm Cable Press
Chest exercises that create a PML on the pecs in the shortened position:
Cable Chest Flyes (standing behind the cables)
One-Arm Cable Chest Flyes (standing behind the cable)
Standing Chest Press (standing behind the cables)
Techno-Gym Chest Press
Free Motion Chest Press
How to do the Unconventional Exercises
As promised, the list above consists of many classic exercises you already love and know damn well how to perform. Sprinkled in with those are also some new variations on classic exercises we developed to create a different PML on the pecs.
You’re probably thinking: “C’mon Nick…I already know how to do push-ups.” The problem with saying, “I already know that” indicates that you think you’ve got nothing else to learn about this topic because you feel understand it as well as you need to. Well, we’re all students and I know from experience that the basic moves we take most for granted are often times those we can most improve on. Let me be your bus driver and take you to push-up school with this video:
Board (or towel) Bench Press
Board presses are a commonly used bench press variation among the powerlifting community. However, they can also be helpful for bodybuilders. Using the towel roll or boards reduces your range of motion and prevents you from touching the bar to your chest so the PML is higher than if you were using a full range of motion with the normal bench press. The thicker the board or towel the shorter the ROM.
Floor bench press (w/ barbell or dumbbell)
Like the towel or board press, floor bench presses also reduce your range of motion. Simply lay on the floor and perform a bench press. Obviously, the floor stops your arms. When doing this exercise, focus on a slow eccentric (negative) as your elbows should not crash into the floor, but lightly touch before you push up for the next rep.
Three Ways to do Cable Chest Flyes
When performing chest flyes in a cable crossover, you can easily change the PML on the pecs by where you stand relative to the cables. You can either stand in front of the cables, inside the cables or behind the cables. Each of these changes the point within the range of motion when your arm is 90 degrees with the cable line (i.e. the force vector) and therefore the PML. Check out this video demonstrating the three ways to do cable chest flyes:
Three Ways Ways to do One-Arm Cable Chest Flyes
If you really wanted to focus on one-side at a time, you can perform a single arm version of each of the three cable chest flye variations demonstrated above. We like throwing in some one-arm flyes because it helps us ensure left/right muscle balance and brings in some serious activation from the core muscles in order to control the offset load.
Two Ways to do the Standing Chest Press
We recommend performing standing cable presses using one of those dual-arm adjustable cable machines because they aren't as wide as the cable crossover. Like cable chest flyes, standing cable presses also offer some variations in the PML based on how you position yourself relative to the cables. Here’s a video showing you the two ways we perform this exercise:
Standing Single-Arm Cable Press
This is just as much a core exercise as it is an upper-body pushing move. Although many fitness professionals would consider this exercise very “functional”, we don’t prioritize with our bodybuilders because what is “functional” is determined by the training goal, not by the exercise itself. With our bodybuilders and others interested in putting on some serious muscle size, we throw in a standing single arm press toward the end of the workout after we’ve really hit the pecs. Unlike your friendly local gym “functional trainer” we don’t use pink bands for this move – we go heavy!
FSB Chest Workouts
In our FSB workouts, we generally like to shoot for a total of 12-20 total sets per muscle each week. We also usually choose one exercise from each of the four categories (the three above + CAM Machines). When we want to increase the overload and workout volume, we’ll include two exercises that put the PML on the muscle when it’s in the lengthened position. Here are five sample FSB chest workouts that put all this cool training information into real-world application:
PML in Stretch – Dumbbell Press, 4-5 sets x 6-10 reps PML in Mid – Wide-Grip Board (or Towel) Bench Press, 4-5 sets x 6-10 reps PML in Short – Cable Chest Flyes (standing behind the cables), 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps CAM Machine – Freemotion Chest Press, 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps
PML in Short – Standing Chest Press (standing behind the cables), 3-4 sets x 8-15 reps PML in Stretch – Incline Dumbbell Press, 4-5 sets x 6-12 reps PML in Mid – Wide-Grip Push-Ups, 3-4 sets x max reps CAM Machine - Pec Flye Machine, 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps
PML in Stretch – Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, 3-5 sets x 6-12 reps PML in Mid – Wide-Grip Board (or Towel) Bench Press, 3-5 sets x 6-12 reps PML in Short – One-Arm Cable Chest Flye (standing behind the cable), 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps CAM Machine – Pec Deck, 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps PML in Stretch – Parallel Bar Dips (with forward lean), 2 sets x max reps (burnout)
PML in Stretch – Barbell Bench Press, 3-4 sets x 6-10 reps PML in Stretch – Dumbbell Chest Flyes, 2-3 sets x 8-15 reps PML in Short – Cable Chest Flys (standing behind the cables), 3 sets x 8-15 reps PML in Mid – Standing Single Arm Cable Press, 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps CAM Machine – Techno-Gym Chest Press, 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps
Additional Training Tips from Coach Nick
Order of Exercises
Although we usually follow the general rule of thumb that compound exercises come before isolation exercises, we look at it as more of a guideline than a rule. In other words, we often mix up the order of our exercises to create training variety.
There’s no magic order of PML
Along with what I just told you above, we also like to mix up the order of how we apply the PML. Sometimes we hit the muscles from it’s shortened position first in the workout, sometime we go mid-range and other times we begin workouts using moves that create a PML when the muscle is in its stretched position. That said, we most often begin workouts by creating a PML in the stretched position of the muscles we’re targeting.
Sets & Reps Schemes
Since this article series is about how to structure your workouts, not about the wide variety of set/rep schemes available, I’ve kept the sets and reps (in the sample workouts above) very basic and general. I encourage you to get creative with the rep schemes you use when implementing our FSB workout structure in order to keep “shocking” your muscles and also to keep things fresh and interesting.
Adding in Other Muscles to Your Workout
Just because each article covers one muscles group doesn’t mean that we only train one muscle group per workout. We often hit chest and triceps on the same day as many bodybuilders commonly do. Sometimes we’ll also bring in some shoulders into the mix as well. In the final installment of my FSB article series, I’ll show you our favorite FSB workout splits and as well as how we put what you’ve learned from each article together. Next Up… The next article in this series will cover FSB for QUADS!