Hardgainer’s Guide to Chest Training

When it comes to Chest training, we must first analyze the shape and function of the muscle itself. Unlike the biceps, triceps, and back, the chest contains a single muscle, the pectoralis major. However, as we all know, the chest area contains different regions that need to be attacked specifically.

There is the all important upper chest region that lies along your collarbone, the outer chest region that curves toward your armpit, the inner chest region that attaches to your sternum, the bottom chest region that hangs below your nipple,  and everything in the middle being considered the middle chest region.

As outlined in all of my training guides, an effective workout targets each of these regions specifically to build a world class chest!

When working a large muscle like the chest, HardGainers should aim for 4 sets, with reps in the 8-12 range.

Hardgainer Chest Workout:

Exercise Rep Range # of Sets
Incline Dumbbell Press 12-8 4
Flat Dumbbell Press 12-8 3
Pec-Deck Machine 12-8 3
Incline Dumbbell Flyes 12-8 3


I always start off my chest workouts with an upper chest movement. The reasoning behind this is that when isolating the upper chest we are able to take stress off the shoulders and triceps and focus all our energy on hitting the chest area. Thats why we go hard and heavy on this movement. Another reason is purely for aesthetics. If hit the middle chest area first, over time we will build drooping, sagging, pecs. Whereas with a strong upper chest it pulls the pec up making it look better. To warm up your shoulder and elbow joints do 2 warm-up sets of this exercise before jumping into your 4 working sets.

Next we move onto a Flat Dumbbell Press to hit the middle chest area. Lower the dumbells all the way down to your chest and extend out so they are almost touching at the peak contraction. Don’t let them touch as this will take the stress off the pecs and onto your elbows and shoulders.

To get an extra pump going and hit that inner chest effectively we head over to the pec-deck machine. Put the arm back far enough so you get a good stretch at the beginning, and pause for a second at the peak contraction to get a good squeeze in. At this point your pecs should be engorged with blood.

To finish of our workout, we head back over to the incline bench to do incline dumbbell flyes. These take alot of concentration to do effectively. You will need to go light on these to really feel them working. Get a good stretch at the beginning, and slowly bring your arms up in an arc. Hold the contraction while the dumbbells are about a foot apart from eachother at the top. This keeps the stress on the upper and inner chest regions.

This completes our chest workout! At this point you should have an insane pump going on. Remember to stretch out your pecs the next day when they are sore to break down that scare tissue, and get the blood flowing.

You may have noticed that we didn’t hit the lower chest region specifically in this workout. There is a strong reason for that. I believe that lower chest work is left for the advanced bodybuilders who are looking on refining their phsyique. As a hardgainer, if you start hitting the lower chest hard you will end up with drooping, saggy, “man-boobs”. You don’t want that right!!


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20 Responses to Hardgainer’s Guide to Chest Training

  1. Brian @ hardgainer-transformation.com January 8, 2009 at 8:14 pm #

    Great article, for mass building I’d probably simplify the routine by sticking to flat bench and incline bench presses. Simplicity usually is best for hardgainers.

    I also agree that working trying to work the lower chest is a waste of time. Primarily because if your aim is to build size you don’t need to worry about detailing so much.

    As for “man boobs” they are a result of certain anabolic steroids. So even if we did target the lower section we would not be at risk for getting this. The correct terminology is gynecomastia aka man boobs

  2. no January 8, 2009 at 11:01 pm #

    “break down that scare tissue”


  3. alex January 29, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    Keep going man, I would love to see more routines concerning other body parts. great site

  4. Jesse June 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Love the site man.. great resource for hard gainers like myself.. the graphics really help!

  5. Bill July 5, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    Great routine. I like concentrating on the upper pecs too. I had many years of flat benching and it’s really easy to over-develop the lower pecs. Though I will say that one of the best overall upperbody exercises is the parallel bar dip.

  6. Mike Mentzer November 28, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    13 sets for a hardgainer!!!! Author do you know what you’re actually doing?

  7. Ralph December 21, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    I agree with Mentzer

  8. Chico April 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Mentzer and ralph, what is he doing by doing 13 sets for a hardgainer? i would like to know..

  9. Tommo April 27, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    13 sets is absolutely fine for a hardgainer, but the versatility of the workout is weak. In reality, a hardgainer wouldnt target JUST their chest in 1 workout. Ok, these are compound exercises but the amount is unneccessary, remove the flyes and peck deck. and substitute these with back or shoulder exercises. Compliment this workout with legs and either shoulders/back (whichever wasnt chosen with the chest workout) compound exercises every other day. Im talking chin ups, deadlifts, squats, rows ;) .

  10. Mike Mentzer June 24, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    The workout is dire. He’s driving ANY hardgainer into the ground with a routine like that. A hardgainer will ONLY gain off 10 sets of a basic full body routine a couple of times a week. End of story.

  11. Muscle Building July 29, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Interesting angle, and nice exercise demonstrations.

    My chest workouts vary month to the month. I often do the muscle that is lagging the most, at the beginning of each workout, when the body is as its strongest.

  12. Natrix November 7, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    although these are general suggestions for the masses, you have to
    remember that everyBODY is different. Ultimately you have to try a few
    different routines until you find the one that works best for you. I use machines to iso. and bulk; then free weights to tune and sulpt and it has worked for me.

  13. Tyler December 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Hey, I’m actually new to planned workouts. So according to this page, I should do a Flat Dumbbell press 12-8 times in one workout session 3-4 times a day? Another, how many days a week should I work out? How many should I rest? In what order; Work/rest/work/work/rest or what? If someone could type me up a loose schedule that would be great.
    Tyler, email: theredoktoberprojekt@hotmail.com. Thanks

  14. wes July 26, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    Those of you questioning the effectiveness of having such a high set range just need to increase your muscular endurance. I was a college athlete and am now a West Point athlete. In almost all of our workouts we would do 30+ sets. This is because we all had the athleticism to be able to stick with such large sets. If you continue to work your muscular endurance you will definitly be able to increase your sets. You just need to give it time and effort. However, something that will help all of you is that you should mix it up use compund lifts to start out think olympic lifts to start your workout then proceed to isolation. You also do need to mix in the body parts and always be doing split workouts. You cannot simply have a chest days. This is a vital mistake many beginners make. You must create sets like legs and back, chest and triceps, back and triceps, abs and legs, chest and legs, etc. the reason we mix it up is to really engage our body fully in every workout. If you really build up a great muscular endurance you may be able to try to do three muscle groups, yet this is very compound it is neccesary to continue to push your body to its very limit every workout. An important thing to note many people dread adding their legs to their workout, however, it is the most beneficial thing any of you hardgainers can do for your selves. You may ask why would i want to do that? Well it is quite simple when you do excercises that target your your legs as well as all of their component muscles by doing something like a full squat. By doing this you excert so much energy your body begins producing natural HGH. This is the secret to success and the best reason to always incorporate legs and compound excercises.

  15. former puney guy August 27, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    Top marks for effort, to put up a website to help those of the same ilk is FANTASTIC. If anyone else has a website that details what worked for them as a hardgainer, I would love the link. Thats for all the -gative A$$hole comments too.

    AGREE however that sets need to be reduced – 48 sets is just gonna lead to muscle wastage and stamina building if u dont add bulk with these u will add stamina and muscles will adapt long term = plateau /limbo

    Stick to an OLD SKOOL – 5X5 workout 3 day split and reduce excercises to 3 or 4 compound per day.

    5×5 sets – 2 warm up sets first set 60% of working weight used on final three sets
    second set is 80% of working weight used on final set.

    rest 2 minutes between sets and upto 5 mins for squats/deadlift

    squat, bench, wide grip pull up, crunches

    Deadlift, seated barbell press, barbell curls
    alt: calf raise, 2 handed lateral dumbell raise

    Front squat (only 80% of mondays topweight)
    Close grip bench press
    Bent over row/ bent over long bar row
    romanian deadlift

    Yes include the good basic ones. LIKE squats, flat bench, seated curls, romanian deadlift, bent over row. Real basic compound excercises – known to add mass forget isolation at this point thats for shredding up and vanity. Incorporate some basic callisthenics and stretches for warmup no more than 20 sets, eg chinups, wide grip pull ups, pressups and some skipping. Not all at the same time spread the warm up excercises across 3 days. Take say 2500 calories / day for a 70kg guy for bulking up, incorporate 2 – 3 protein shakes on workout days and one shake on rest days at night for repair and recovery on a rest day. Take some vits but dont overdo it say SOLGAR male complex half a tab on workout days in the morning.
    Be consistent, determined and focussed – Try for 12 weeks and during this time concentrate on technique, pace and breathing. I GUARANTEE you will add pounds beyond this point alternate with different compound excercises or use isolation for cutting up. It worked for me, I made my own bulking up shake in the morning – like if u can stomach it then feel free to do the same – 2 egg whites, half a banana, scoop of ice cream, scoop of whey protein, teaspoon of honey, 2 spoons of peeled almonds soaked overnight, scoop of peanut butter, 2 large spoons OATS, flaxseed oil and some mint leaves, milkshake powder if u must. Mango and passion fruit optional. Tastes not bad but does the job. Blend till smooth. During this phase eat like a horse, and restrain from self pleasure or excessive sex. Essential for the body to retain nutrients for growth and repair. THATS IT – sites like these are just great for sharing experiences they are not “the gospel”. Would luv to answer any comments.

  16. former puny guy August 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Sorry – btw also maiantain consistent and healthy sleep patterns.

    I went from 8 stone to 12 stone in 4 months.

  17. vic September 19, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    my workout is similar to former puny guy (but less consistancy).
    i mix between drop sets and 7 of 7 sets. went from 55 kgs to 70 and still climbing.(gradually)
    muscle failure is key.
    now incorporating more frequency mon,tue,wed compound exercises and keeping a mental record of amounts and reps. should write it down though.

    eating as regular, as much as possible just long as its HEALTHY. ive got to stop getting trashed on fridays though .

  18. HardToEarn December 13, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    Learn the anatomy. There is a pectoralis minor.

    CHEST: What I find works:

    Lift heavy! Do at least 4 exercises for chest with at least 6 sets of each. Start light with high volume…like 20 reps for warm up then keep adding weight every set. Aim to fail at the final rep of each set.

    Set 1 = 20 reps
    Set 2 = 12 reps
    Set 3 = 8 reps
    Set 4 = 6 reps
    Set 5 = 4 reps
    Set 6 = 2 reps
    Set 7 = single

    This will make you stronger and bigger. It does however take time. Every week aim to add just a touch more weight to each set.

    A regimen to consider:

    Bench Press
    Incline Barbell Press
    Incline Dumbell Press

    Lift strong all.

  19. Dan May 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Do you do this without twice a week for hardgainers or just stick to once a week at full intensity?

  20. Dan May 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Sorry Workout*

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