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Chest Specialization: Powerful Pectorals

Dr. Darden,

Making plans to shift specialization routine. Heading for my “weakest” muscle group: Chest.
Thinking about an adaptation of your “powerful pectorals” routine from the new HIT:

  1. Pec-dec
  2. Chest press machine
  3. Negative dips
  4. Pushup on floor, negative only

My question is how to modernize this routine, more to your current findings? Is 30-10-30 on both pec-dec and chest press too much to ask, especially in combination with negative dips?

I am considering 30-10-30 on pec-dec for pre exhaust, 3pos/3neg tempo for 10-12 reps on chest press and a 10 sec cadence of negative dips, followed by pushup as stated - how about that?

The only change I’d make above is to do the #2 exercise, chest press in the 30-10-30 style. So both #1 and #2 are 30-10-30. Then, go straight into negative dips and negative push-ups.

Those four are going to get your attention. Try it and if they are too much, then drop #2.


Amazing! Tried the individualized specialization routine today! Yes, indeed it caught my attention. Highly recommended!

Managed to match the weights perfectly, which made the pec-dec and chest press a good combination. The shoulders felt tired during negative dips, which tells me to be careful not overdoing it or go to low. Did negative pushups, and realized I had more to give than expected. Will do regular pushups followed by negatives next week.

As a bonus I did the suggested superset of backrow and bicepcurl (from the new HIT) - a splendid combination (which also paced up the workout)! Added leg press, calfpresses in Smithmachine and trunk curl. All in 30-10-30 style exc for abs.

What surprised me the most, was how well I managed the routine - no excessive breathing or exhaustion. It seems the concept of metabolic conditioning is a force to be reckoned with!

Question: Is a 60 sec neg dip friendlier on the shoulders than a series of 10 secs?

Yes, as long as you don’t go too low.

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Dr Darden,

Considering your later/recent findings - how would a preferred chest specialization look today? Any Next-routine to look forward to?

I’ve been testing some NExT leg workouts. I’ll be writing about the best one soon.

What would you suggest for chest in the NExT style?

Pec deck or flyes 10-30
Chest press 30-10-30
Push ups 10-30
Cable crossovers 10 reps squeeze contractions for 2 or 3 seconds

No rest between exercises

Yes, that will work. But also try putting the chest press 30-10-30 first, then pec deck or flyes 10-30, followed by push ups 10-30, and cable crossovers.

Let me know which series you like the best.

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Dr. Darden,

In all of your years of experience with different machines, in your opinion, which do you think is the better exercise for the chest

The seated machine fly where the movement is like hugging a barrel
Or the per deck machine where your elbows are pressed against the pad as you squeeze your pecs

Thx, dan

It really depends on the specific machine. You should probably go with the machine that contains the less friction.

Machines Flyes. The Pec Deck is NOT a natural positioning. On the machine flyes, how you initiate the positive portion of the rep can minimize biceps involvement (a maximize, if you so desire).

I found both machines to be of value when it comes to chest specialization. I have Nautilus NextGen 10 degree chest and Medx Arm Cross in my home gym. On 10 degree chest I do two types of movements: (1) “hugging a barrel” (arms remain parallel), and (2) like squeezing the orange placed between pecs with elbows leading the movement (as if you are trying to bring elbows together - in this way, it resembles a pec deck movement but with straight arms). On MedX Arm Cross: same movement with elbows leading and touching at full contraction, but I don’t go too far in bottom 1/4 of that movement (too much stress for my shoulders), so I usually set a pin respectively. Since both are isolation movement, I prefer higher number of reps (I am not so stupid anymore to do 6-12 reps on isolation exercises) and these two in particular respond very well to various JReps/Zones applications.

Because of safety reasons or you just respond better to higher reps ?

And what do you consider ‘higher’ ? I just don’t feel 12-15 reps as well as I do 7-9 range for straight sets. For me I feel a set of 12 -15 only feels taxing enough for the last 3-4 reps.

But that’s just me …

Well, the answer may vary depending on the exercise choice, range of motion, speed of motion, (dis)merits of a particular exercise machine, how well one feels the movement depending on his/her leverage etc. But all things being equal, I prefer (when I do straight sets) to go with 6-8 reps in compound exercises and 15-30 in isolation ones. The reasons are: safety, muscle feel/activation, energy uptake/taxing. I will be too taxed doing chest press with 12-15+ reps, although my pectorals and shoulders are mixed-to-slow. I can relax other muscles and feel my pecs worked much better during a 12-20 reps of isolation exercise vs 6-10 reps. Even for my fast-twitch muscles (bi/tri) I prefer more reps in isolation exercise and less reps in compound ones. For legs, upon trying different things, I have to agree with Brian Johnston and Steve Reeves, that nothing beats high-rep squats (up to 50 reps straight or in high-density rest-pause clusters (HDRPC)). I do the same on my super-slow leg press (although I don’t move SUPER slow), and do 20-30 reps straight or various JReps/Zone sets or HDRPC in isolation exercises. Because my legs are slow-twitch, I will not feel them worked thoroughly enough with straight sets of 6-12 (even with the maximum weight employed), and doing a set of 6-12 reps of leg extensions or leg curls (even on MedX) can be quite a risky thing.

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Thanks for the detailed response. When I do a 12-15 rep set it’s a breakdown of four or five reps with a reduction for each weight - and for this use the Performance Pins. The Performance Pins allow zero rest between drops so you aren’t even getting a couple seconds rest to reduce the weigh yourself … you don’t take your hands of the machine for a second. Great invention.

I know you’re open to new methods as you utilize Zones, etc. Have you tried Christian’s idea of two slow reps followed by two normals ? I love Brian’s stuff and this rates right there with his Zone methods.

Do two ‘slow’ reps of 4-5 up and 4-5 down - two normal speed reps - two more of the 4-5 up and down and end with two more normal speed reps.

One of the best things I’ve tried since I discovered Brian’s stuff.

Thanks for your suggestions. For the breakdown sets I suppose you start with the most weight you can handle in good form for 4-5 reps and then, with minimum rest, you make one reduction in weight for another 4-5 reps and a second reduction (for another 4-5 reps). I need to see how it will work for my type of muscle fibers and I see it will not work for all exercise choices I have. Generally, I don’t buy the idea of pre-exhaustion or short (1-3 sec) rest interval between repeated periods of tension - I prefer to match the tension and the rest time or take 5-20 seconds rest intervals between the clusters (depending on the exercise and intensity level) .
On the second suggestion of mixing slow and normal speed reps: I will give it a try for some of the compound exercises. Don’t think the number of reps is enough for isolation ones, though. But thanks for valuable suggestions.

Do more if you have to , the eight rep set was just how Christian presented it in the article. Like all methods, it works better on some things than others and you just make adjustments for yourself.

For me It works especially well on lat pulldowns at eight reps but some things I’ll need more reps and I’ll usually do two sets. I like it so much it’s become my ‘straight’ sets.