A Chest Routine Good Enough to Win the Olympia
Phil Heath, AKA “The Gift,” knows a little something about building an award winning chest. His recent statement of wanting 10 Mr. Olympia titles may seem far fetched for some, but the title is his to lose and he does not appear ready to stop putting in the work to lose his title any time soon. Suffice it to say that if you want to learn how to get a huge chest, Mr. Heath is a good place to draw inspiration from.
When anyone thinks of lifting weights, the first thought on most people’s minds is “how much do you bench bro?”. This is sad but true. Big arms are impressive, but there is something that everyone’s attention to a well developed chest. The chest and arms are indeed glamour muscles to a lot of people.
When you think of amazing chest, you typically think of folks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio Oliva, Franco Columbu, Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman. These days, it is hard not to include Phil Heath in the conversation for any well developed set up muscles. He has the size and proportion that every professional bodybuilder is aspiring to attain.
During Heath’s early professional career, most said that his chest development lagged too far behind his arm and delt development and his pecs were simply overpowered by them. Of course, Heath turned pro just three years after starting to lift with the aspiration of becoming a professional bodybuilder and turned pro after one competing for one year.
The chest routine below was taken from Heath’s chest routine from a little more than a year ago and consists of 4 simple chest exercises. Heath likes to work fast so rest periods are typically between 45 and 60 seconds. Please note that the number of sets listed below are working sets (does not include warm-up sets). Heath works his chest one time per week over a 5 day split routine with a rest day and then the beginning of the cycle again.
Phil Heath’s Chest Routine
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3–5 sets, 8–12 reps
Incline Dumbbell Flye: 3–5 sets, 8–12 reps
Seated Chest Press: 3–5 sets, 8–12 reps
Cable Crossover*: 7 sets, 15 reps
*Performed with 30 seconds’ rest between sets. Heath calls this type of training with 7 sets of 15 reps and 30 seconds of rest FST-7. We discuss FST-7 training in a recent episode of the Mass and Shred Podcast.
Incline Dumbbell Press
Performing the incline dumbbell press can be tricky at times because most gyms probably do not have heavy enough dumbbells if you have lifted for a while. These days, it is normal for gyms to max out at 60 pound dumbbells, so pick your gym accordingly depending on what your goals are.
Seated Chest Press
Heath pays attention to every detail during every exercise and focuses on time under tension (TUT). He focused on the concentric portion of the movement. When performing the seated chest press, focus on forcing the weight up in a controlled manner and then hold the weight at the top of the rep for a second before controlling it down in a slow, methodical fashion.
Incline Dumbbell Flye
Dumbbell flyes (check out our guide to Dumbbell flyes) are great movements assuming that you do not have rotator cuff issues, and if you do, go see someone about that. Dumbbell flyes are great to get a nice wide stretch in the chest muscles and add to the general size and roundness of the chest muscles.
Cable crossovers are all about the mind/muscle connection. Each rep should get a nice stretch on the pecs.
Pay close attention to each rep of exercise when you lift. It is all about working the muscle. Strength comes in time and no one cares how much you lift (seriously). If you plan to turn pro any time soon, it is time to get serious about your training. As Heath himself says, “it’s about quality over quantity.” Bodybuilding is not about getting bigger. Adding 20 pounds to your frame is not always a great idea. Heath stays true to slow gains over time and is not always the biggest guy on stage, but is surely the most well rounded or he would not be where he is today.