Two-time Ms. Figure Olympia Erin Stern has tremendous shoulders, not only because she trains them hard, but because she trains them frequently.
In fact, in her popular Bodybuilding.com All Access program Erin Stern’s Elite Body 4-Week Fitness Trainer, Stern has you hit them twice a week: once with arms, and once with chest.
If you’re a woman who hasn’t done much dedicated chest training aside from push-ups, get ready to be sore after this workout! Flyes and decline push-ups both put a serious stretch on the chest muscles, which predictably produces DOMS. But that’s no reason not to hit it hard and perform each set and rep in this upper-body burner with excellence!
Elite Body Training Tips
Instead of doing agonist-antagonist supersets like you’ve done in many workouts, today you’ll be supersetting body parts that have similar functions. Both the chest and the shoulders move the arm. When you’re training either of them, both muscle groups come into play, so supersets are a natural and intelligent choice for training these muscle groups.
The pectoralis major is a fan-shaped muscle group that starts along the sternum and clavicle and inserts on the biceps. The pec major is responsible for pulling the arms in like you’re giving somebody a hug. Any fly or pressing movement will develop the chest.
Start today’s workout with a general warm-up. Jumping rope for 5 minutes will prep your entire body and activate your shoulders. If you warm up on the bike or treadmill, mobilize your shoulders with some basic arm circles and movement before lifting heavy.
Your warm-up is a great opportunity to focus on the specific exercises you’ll do and to think about how you want your body to look and function. Think about how you can push yourself with more weight. Visualize yourself achieving your goals.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Keep your back flat against the bench and focus on lifting with your chest. Push evenly with both sides and make sure your wrists are straight. Bring the dumbbells to your shoulders and don’t let one arm dip below the other.
Your body should be completely upright. Squeeze your glutes, brace your abs, and don’t lean forward or back. Bring the dumbbells down to about 90 degrees, pause at the bottom, then press back up for a pause at the top. Your chest should be stronger than your shoulders, so choose a lighter weight for this movement.
As you do this lift, picture yourself hugging a barrel and bend slightly at the elbows. Bring your upper arms together at the top and focus on squeezing the chest. Men and women alike need to put more focus on their upper chest. Too much flat benching makes for a lagging upper chest.
This is a great exercise to work on your mind-muscle connection. Doing this exercise on a bench eliminates the use of momentum from your trunk. When your chest is against the pad, you have to begin the movement by contracting your shoulders.
Incline Dumbbell Bench
Bring the dumbbells down to your chest, pause at the bottom, and control the dumbbells with strong wrists to the top. Keep your back straight against the bench. Don’t arch too much and focus on pushing with your chest.
The incline bench press directly targets your pec fibers. After performing that exercise, standing lateral raises target your side delts. Lateral raises are a perfect exercise to isolate your shoulder caps and work on widening your V-taper.
Don’t bounce as the reps wear on. You’ll be tired, but it’s important that you focus on using only your shoulders to move the weight. Your shoulders should swell with blood and burn with lactate. The burn is good! A pump is important for developing great shoulder caps.
This finisher will challenge your mental toughness. Keep your core tight and your hips level, and don’t let your back arch. The decline adds a little stability work to the push-up and will activate your abdominals as well as your upper pecs.
You may feel like quitting after a few reps, but keep going. Think about what this work will do to your physique and strength. It’s fine if you can only get 2-3 reps. If you’re struggling to get even 1 rep, however, move to regular push-ups. You can even use a band on a bar above for extra assistance!