Building the chest of your dreams shouldn’t be treated like rocket science—overly complicated with a chance of blowing up in your face. James Grage likes to stick to the basics, using different angles and rep ranges to blitz every fiber in his pecs and elicit maximum growth.
The exercises themselves may look simple enough, but it’s up to you to dial up the intensity by giving yourself less time for rest. “I like to take as little rest as possible,” says Grage, suggesting that you take 15-20 seconds of rest between your sets.
There’s no time for lollygagging. Great results don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work. Hit these five simple-but-brutally effective moves and build a chiseled chest!
1. Barbell Bench Press
3 sets of 20, 15, 10 reps
When it comes to chest day, the barbell bench press is a perennial favorite. “It’s the ultimate muscle-builder,” Grage says. He likes to grasp the bar with a wide grip and use the first set of 20 reps as a warm-up set. Add more weight as you move through to the final set, in which you perform only 10 reps but with a load heavy enough to truly test your mettle.
Grage Tip: “You’re not just counting reps here. You’ve got to push yourself and really fatigue the muscle.”
2. Incline Dumbbell Press
2 sets of 10-12 reps to failure
The benefit of the incline bench’s angle is its ability to emphasize the upper chest, carving out that more rounded look in your pecs. Grab a challenging weight and bang out the first 10-12 reps of the first set. For the second set, keep the same weight but bring your muscles to failure. Make sure that your elbows never drop past your shoulders as you perform each rep, and squeeze the pecs throughout.
Grage Tip: “Go for quality reps. This isn’t about slinging weight. This isn’t about your ego. This is about building your physique.”
3. Flat Dumbbell Fly
2 sets of 15 reps to failure
The fly helps recruit a greater amount of muscle fibers across your chest than some pressing exercises and improves the “mind-muscle connection” in more novice lifters, allowing them to engage the chest muscles more in other exercises.
Knock out two sets of the flat fly. The first set has a stopping point of 10-12 reps, but the second set should take you to muscle failure again. According to James, you should “emphasize going really deep on these, getting that stretch. Really feel that at the bottom of it and squeeze it all the way to the top. Don’t worry about clanking the weights together.”
Grage Tip: “Keep them slow and keep them controlled.”
4. Bar Dip
3 sets to failure
Next up is a fairly underrated and forgotten exercise. Grage’s version of the bar dip focuses on the lower portion of the motion to really hammer and isolate the chest.
Start with as wide of a grip as you can. Drop as low as you can and heave yourself only halfway up while kicking your feet back and keeping your body forward as much as possible. Crush every set all the way to failure.
Grage Tip: “I don’t add any weight on here. I just concentrate on form.”
Push-ups: the one bodyweight chest exercise to rule them all.
Using this set as a pretty red ribbon to complete the whole pain package, James cranks out 100 reps total in as few sets as possible. Do as many as you can and rest briefly, if needed, and then continue riding the gain train.
Grage Tip: Note that James is a badass and does push-ups on his knuckles—no big deal. “Do them in whatever fashion you choose, so long as you complete the 100 reps and really burn the muscle out,” he says. “This will give you that blood flow and extra pump.”