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Powerlifting Chest Workout

by
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Powerlifting Chest Workout
Powerlifters are known for intense workouts. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Powerlifters compete in three events — the bench press, squat and deadlift. The goal is to lift as much weight as possible for one repetition for each exercise. The only upper-body-dominant exercise is the bench press, one of the most well-known exercises for the chest. Powerlifters have some of the best no-nonsense training methods for training the chest because it's such a critical muscle in the bench press.

Read more: How to Isolate the Chest With Bench Press

Bench Press

As one of the main three exercises in powerlifting, and the only strictly upper body exercise, the bench press should take priority in your upper-body workout. The main goal with training your bench press is to get stronger by lifting more weight, since the goal of a powerlifter is to lift as much weight as possible for one repetition.

Your powerlifting bench press training should revolve around lifting near your maximum with few repetitions to increase strength. Aiming for a low number of repetitions allows you to use more weight. To put it simply, you can use more weight in a set of five repetitions than you can in a set of 10 repetitions.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie on a bench with a barbell on a rack an arm's length above your chest. Plant your feet flat on the ground. Grab the barbell with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. Pinch your shoulder blades together. Lift the barbell and hold it above your chest with arms straight.

Lower the barbell to your chest with control. Tap it lightly against your chest. Press the bar back up in a straight line until your elbows are straight. If your goal is to build strength, do between one and six repetitions per set, and between three and six sets per workout.

Complementary Exercises

After the bench press, move on to what powerlifters call "accessory" exercises. The main exercise is the bench press and the accessory exercises will help you train muscles that play a critical role in the bench press, mainly the chest, shoulders and triceps.

These exercises will further develop the chest muscles. Both exercises are a variation of the fly, an exercise that involves bringing your arms across your torso, almost like a bird flapping its wings.

You can use higher repetitions on these exercises because they are designed to help you build muscle, whereas the bench press was used more to strengthen them.

1. Dumbbell Fly

This exercise targets your chest muscles without tiring many other muscles. However, Max Gordon, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, warns that you should only perform these if your shoulders are healthy and you can feel a contraction in your chest muscles. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions.

HOW TO DO IT: Grab two dumbbells and lie down on the bench with the weights at your chest. Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your arms are straight. The knuckles of your hands face out to the side so that the dumbbells line up parallel to your body.

With your elbows only slightly bent, slowly lower your arms out to the side. Keep going until the dumbbells are as low as your shoulers. Don't let the dumbbells go lower than the bench. Without bending your elbows, press the weights up and bring them together at the top to complete one repetition.

Read more: Dumbbell Chest Exercises With No Bench

2. Side-Sliding Push-Up

This sliding push-up variation mimics the dumbbell fly and targets the chest by forcing you to bring your arms together. Perform three sets of six repetitions on each side.

HOW TO DO IT: Get into a push-up position with a slider or a towel under your left hand. Slowly descend into a push-up. Slide your left hand out to the side with your elbow bent.

Once you reach the bottom of the push-up, slowly slide your left hand in and press straight up with your right hand until you are back at the top of the push-up position.

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