By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
How realistic is it to get a great chest workout with very little weight?
I’m talking about those moments when the gym isn’t an option OR you work out at home with your own equipment (and you don’t have very much of it).
The good news is it’s actually very realistic to intensely work out with limited weights. You just need to be pointed in the right direction.
Even if the only equipment you have for working out is a lousy 80-100 pounds of plate weight, a barbell and a pathetic flat exercise bench (rust is optional).
Listen, after 25 years of working out I still like doing bench presses big time like most guys. Throwing 225 lbs around for reps is fun but that isn’t gonna fly with nothing more than a measly 100 pounds of iron and a barbell in your garage.
But we all need to start somewhere and frankly most guys training from home don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on heavy duty racks and tons of weight. I totally get that.
So what would you do if you were limited on equipment?
Well, as I said, you do have options. Here is what I would do with that so called “worthless” 100 pounds and a barbell for hammering those pecs, shoulders and triceps.
Micro-Burst Chest Workout
For a period of three months and twice per week on non-consecutive days do flat barbell bench presses with the 100 pounds for no more than two sets; do as many reps as possible.
Here are some bullet points for you in part one of this workout:
- 90 days
- 2x per week on NON-consecutive days
- No More than Two Sets
- Rep until failure
The key is to always try to do more reps in each workout!
In other words, don’t settle for less than one additional rep each set per workout. Rest two to three minutes between the first and second set.
Upon completion of the second set strip the bar completely of all poundage and position it securely on the floor. If you must, use some type of wedge on either side of the collars to keep the bar from moving or rolling under you.
Get into a regular push-up position and grasp the bar with your regular bench press hand spacing. Now do two sets of bodyweight push-ups only for as many reps as possible.
Again, mimic the instruction given for the barbell bench press. Do as many reps as possible on each set and try to desperately add one additional rep to each set each workout.
You will experience a tremendous pump from this micro-burst chest workout but even better, at the end of three months, you will hold most of the previous gain factor on your 225 bench press reps. You may even make an increase in poundage or reps with 225 lbs.
I’m using 225 lbs as a bench mark since it’s such a common poundage used across the country for testing etc.
NOTE: It’s always recommended to hit a gym occasionally even if you work out at home most of the time. The gym gives you an opportunity to do more sub-maximal or maximal weight lifting safely which actually needs to be done here and there if strength is important to you.
There’s just no good replacement for testing yourself with 80-90% of your 1 rep max.
Remember, as long as you’re ‘properly’ destroying your body with light to moderate weights, it’s amazing how much strength you can retain when you go back to heavier weights intermittently.
By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
Does this scenario sound familiar to you?
“Man I’ve been doing really heavy bench presses lately… like 300 pounds. I walked into the gym on Monday and did it, no sweat. Then on Friday, my next bench day, lo and behold I didn’t get the 300 pounds that I easily got on Monday. I guess I was still tired from my last bench routine??
Then I came back in the gym again on Monday and I blew away my benches again. I pretty much have been gearing my whole workout towards that 300-pound bench press.
If I hit the 300-pound bench, my workout seems to go much better compared to those days when I miss it. It even affects my attitude when I leave the gym.
My attitude pretty much “SUCKS!” when I miss. Do you have any suggestions?”
Your muscle doesn’t have a brain. Your head controls the muscle. The muscle doesn’t control the brain.
So you’ve got to say, ‘O.K., I’m going to work my bench and my poundage is going to go up.’
You MUST change your mental attitude about your training. You can’t take anything negative that you are doing in the sport of bodybuilding, weightlifting or anything else and turn it into positive results, it just won’t work.
Everything you do in the gym (and on the field) has to be done on a positive note. You must condition your subconscious mind to think that you are getting stronger and training with more intensity and your body will have to respond accordingly.
Here is something you might try next time you go to the gym. I call it Mental Imagery-Rehearsal.
Mental imagery-rehearsal is conducted approximately 10-15 seconds prior to each set of an exercise. While standing or sitting, however you feel most comfortable, close your eyes and take in and exhale short breaths of air as you mentally prepare (with selective focus) for the moment at hand.
You must go to that place in your consciousness where there is no pain, no negative influences, no fear, a state of mind where only positive forces dwell.
Your mind must be time-locked (cohesive) with the muscles in order to do battle with the heavy iron.
Begin by picturing in your mind’s eye the bench, the bar, the plates. Imagine this so intensely that you can smell the sweat, feel the knurling on the bar, hear the plates rattle, and so forth.
Since you are going to be performing the flat bench press, for example, recreate all of the exercise mastery techniques that are necessary for the successful completion of each gut-wrenching rep of the set.
The more organized and detailed you can make this ritual of mentally focusing in one-set intervals, the better chance you will have for training to the outer limits of muscular size and strength.
Here’s another way to explain it. Think of how organized and detailed the ritual of mental imagery-rehearsal would be if it related to making love to a beautiful woman. The details are never slippery or vague. They’re always clear and vivid.
As the magnitude of mental imagery-rehearsal for the upcoming set becomes more and more vivid, you will begin to feel torrents of unleashed fury and your heart will beat in a manner that reflects your ability to dominate and prevail in the moment.
Open your eyes. You are now 100% mentally focused and psyched. Go for it! It’s time to lift the HEAVY IRON!
Tip: During your workout, play your own favorite high-energy music to trigger strong energy responses. Who cares if it’s the same song that triggers your best effort. Use it until you find others to add to the mix.