Programming for Optimal Chest Hypertrophy
As always my blogs are a part 2 conjoined with a YouTube video. Be sure to watch our video linked above first before continuing on reading here otherwise this article will NOT make as much sense.
In this blog, I will pick up where the YouTube video left off and give you recommendations on programming and some hypertrophy tips to maximally grow your pecs! I have extrapolated all of this info from my own experience as a coach over the last half-decade as well as from the latest scientific research on muscular hypertrophy & biomechanics.
In the video, we discussed the best exercises & why (biomechanical explanations mostly) as well as the pec anatomy and fiber alignment. Below we will move on to how to optimally program for maximal pec growth!
FREQUENCY (how many times per week to train the pecs)
Starting with training frequency we want to determine the optimal exposure rate of direct stress stimulus to the pectoral muscles intended to induce hypertrophy. The issue with frequency is people assume this is very black and white. There is no magic number and a multitude of program arrangements can work. These are the recommendations I offer based on what I USUALLY give out. Keep in mind frequency MOST of the time is intended to help distribute more volume to the pecs without having to stack 8 exercises on one day only to receive diminishing returns upon your efforts. In a broad sense frequency is more so a manipulator of volume than anything else. But let’s have a brief discussion on some theories you may have heard on the inter-webzz.
Many lifting enthusiasts turn to the science on muscle protein synthesis elevation for the answer to “how many times per week should I train my chest bro?” This is a very misunderstood topic. To give a quick run down, muscle protein synthesis is elevated when we train a muscle hard. Muscle growth takes place during these periods of elevated muscle protein synthesis (hence the obvious name). Extrapolated from this lies a reductionist theory based on a few studies that show some natural lifters only having elevated muscle protein synthesis for 48-72 hours. The theory goes because you usually only see elevated MPS for 48-72 hours you should always stimulate directly after the synthesis rate declines back to baseline. The problem here is if you look at the body of literature you will actually find training experience, type of training protocol, and much more seem to actually affect MPS and these listed rates. Some lifters training extremely hard at advanced levels on a new protocol that are desensitized to training can actually end up elevating MPS for far beyond 72 hours. Likewise those same advanced athletes may actually be trained to a high level of work capacity and if the session is moderately low volume they at most might synthesize protein for 24 hours. Same for newer lifters, it isn’t uncommon for them to decline in synthesis rates even after 24 hours. Furthermore this theory also assumes training during MPS elevation is a bad thing. Ask any crossfitter, weight lifter, or high-frequency programming powerlifter about training through soreness lol they’ll tell your they do it often and I don’t see them getting smaller. It has become the new trendy thing to say “just stimulate the muscle every 48 hours bro and use full-body splits” but it really isn’t that simplistic.
Here is exactly what I do. I base all of this on my actual experience prepping athletes to the stage as well as making some of the most aesthetically jacked powerlifters there are! This is also based on the pragmatics of programming other muscle groups and exercises in a well defined training protocol. This can fit any protocol well! I also give a range of frequency rather than a set number. This is due to work capacity fluctuations and purposefully wanting to desensitize athletes from stimulus from time to time.
Beginners: 2x per week minimum with a maximum of 3x per week
Intermediates: 2x per week for desensitization, 3x per week for most and sometimes 4x per week during specialization phases that never last longer than 8 weeks.
Advanced: 3x per week minimum with often times going 4-5x per week for high frequency phases. Definitely be careful and include desensitization phases of 2x per week every training cycle or two. Advanced athletes largest issue is staying healthy in the joints!
It is best though in most cases to instead find your optimal weekly volume and space that out how you like throughout the week. Usually I recommend 3x per week for most with 25% of volume on the heavy day, 25% of the volume on tertiary recovery day and 50% on hypertrophy day.
SET & REP VOLUME RECOMMENDATIONS (how many sets per week to do)
This question is VERY difficult to answer broadly. It really does DEPEND which is the answer you never want to hear however I will do my best to define some GUIDELINES to follow. To best answer this I opened up 10 protocols from clients in each respective category and took the average and created a range based on volume increases during a training block.
Beginners: 12-16 sets per week
Advanced: 22-28 sets per week, on average we give out 20 sets to prime clients however admittedly I definitely have more advanced guys than novices. (averaged from 30 client protocols)
Optimal exercise volume distribution: 75% towards compound free weight exercises, 25% towards machine/isolation exercises
Optimal rep ranges: 1-8 for heavy comp work (primary), 7-12 for targeted compound exercises (secondary), 10-20 reps for accessory exercises. It is ok to use the primary or secondary exercises interchangeably a bit however generally this is what I do.
Optimal sets per exercise: 3-5 sets for primary exercises. Usually 2-4 sets for secondary exercises and lastly 3-5 sets for accessory exercises. Sometimes in unique circumstances bench can handle higher set counts of 5-7 sets but only in specific more powerlifting centric programs or very high volume overreaching blocks.
OPTIMAL TRAINING SPLIT
Strength day: 1 heavy primary press: 1-5 reps, 1 secondary press: 5-9 reps
Hypertrophy day: 2-3 secondary presses in a row: 8-15 reps, 1 isolation exercise: 12-16 reps
Secondary hypertrophy day: 1 slightly lighter primary exercise for moderate reps: 3-7 reps, 1 secondary press: 7-11 reps, isolation exercise: 15-20 reps
FAVORITE ADVANCED HYPERTROPHY TECHNIQUES
Now if you would like to have a program that INCLUDES everything written above along with the rest of the body/exercises to maximize total body hypertrophy and strength we got you! We have 3 group coaching programs that will maximize your gains for a very cheap rate!
Along with the programs we have a large database of videos that we add to weekly! In these videos we included a series this week on learning to optimally adjust your shoulder and elbow position for matching your bench press with your pec fiber orientation! We add videos like this every week to the website and you can find many advanced hypertrophy technique videos in there! We also cover a ton on strength!
Go check out more here: if you are interested! If you have any questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org