Powerbuilding Chest Training: The Ultimate Guide!


powerbuilding chest

How do the best bodybuilders in the world train their chest? That is a great question!

In my opinion they almost always use powerbuilding style chest workouts with lots of volume, moderate rep ranges and heavy ass weight.

If you want to train your chest like an IFBB pro bodybuilder then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Dorian Yates Chest Routine
  • Part 2: The DC Training Chest Routine
  • Part 3: The Steve Kuclo Chest Routine
  • Part 4: The John Meadows Chest Routine
  • Part 5: The Stan Efferding Chest Routine

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you how many of the world’s top bodybuilders train their chest using powerbuilding style workouts.

Powerbuilding is a training style where you use techniques from bodybuilding and powerlifting to build size and strength at the same time. Powerbuilding is for anyone who wants the muscular physique of a bodybuilder and the raw strength of a powerlifter.

In my experience the chest responds EXTREMELY well to powerbuilding style workouts.

The chest has a large percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers and responds really well to moderate rep ranges and heavy ass weight.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilders including Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates and Arnold Schwarzenegger have used powerbuilding style workouts to build up their massive pecs.

One of the hardest parts about the powerbuilding training style is finding ways to get stronger without having to train in the super lower rep ranges. After all, most powerbuilders are trying to build muscle mass.

Getting stronger and “beating the logbook” is just a tool they use to increase the size of their chest.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilders use different high-intensity training techniques like forced reps, rest-pause sets and drop sets in their powerbuilding chest workouts. These techniques help them to build strength on the big compound chest exercises while training in higher rep ranges.

I will show you exactly how to use them in your own workouts throughout this article. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The Dorian Yates Chest Routine

Dorian Yates is one of the greatest bodybuilders who ever lived. He won the Mr. Olympia title 6 times in a row from 1991 – 1997 and was known as the first true “mass monster” in the bodybuilding world.

Dorian’s chest was always one of his weaker body parts. He tried many different bodybuilding style workouts until he found what works best for him.

Dorian believes that increasing your training intensity is the key to bringing up lagging body parts like a weak chest. 

Here are Dorian’s exact thoughts on training lagging body parts:

“Any body part that’s weak or lagging behind, the answer is not to train it more frequently or do more exercises or more sets or more reps.

The answer is to do it with more focus and to use techniques that increase the intensity of the workout.”

Dorian trained his chest with 4 separate exercises. For each exercise he performed several warm up sets followed by 1 all-out working set to failure.

Dorian even trained beyond failure on many exercises with extra forced reps and negative reps. These forced reps helped Dorian to overload the eccentric or lowering phase of the exercise which is a powerful way to stimulate size and strength gains. 

Here is the exact power building chest workout that Dorian used throughout his professional bodybuilding career. Check it out:

Dorian Yates’ Chest Routine

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
  • Exercise #2: Flat machine press, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #3: 30 degree incline DB fly, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • Exercise #4: Standing cable crossover, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**

**Perform 1-3 extra forced reps after reaching failure with the help of your training partner.

Here is Dorian’s chest training video:

Talk about an intense workout! Dorian used this routine every time he trained his chest with very little variation.

As you can see Dorian performs forced reps on his 2nd, 3rd and 4th chest exercises.

Here is Dorian talking about how to perform these forced reps:

“So slow down your negatives. If you have a training partner then do 1-2 forced reps at the end.

If you do an exercise on a machine, when you reach failure on the positive you can get somebody to lift it into the end position and lower it down again for a couple of more negatives.”

In my opinion the Dorian Yates chest routine is one of the best ways to train for a massive chest.

Dorian is using a wide variety of exercises to overload his chest from many different angles. However, his overall training volume is relatively low because he is only performing 1 working set per exercise.

He performs plenty of warm up sets but the only set that he counts is his final set where he trains to failure.

I also really like how he uses forced reps throughout the routine. Forced reps help you to overload the eccentric or lowering phase of the exercise which is AWESOME for building strength. This way Dorian can build strength over time without having to train in the 1-5 rep ranges like a powerlifter.

If you are going to use this kind of low-volume powerbuilding workout then you have to lift heavier weight over time. This is known as the “progressive overload” training principle.

After all, if Dorian performed the same chest routine over and over but never got any stronger then why would his chest grow? It wouldn’t!

To solve this problem Dorian recorded all of his workouts in a training logbook. Every time he trained his chest his goal was to beat his personal best on all 4 chest exercises.

Here is what his logbook might look like before a chest workout:

Dorian Yates’ Chest Day Logbook

Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press

  • LT: 415 x 7
  • TT: 

Exercise #2: Hammer strength flat machine press

  • LT: 175 / side x 5 (+3 forced reps) 
  • TT:

Exercise #3: 30 degree incline DB fly

  • LT: 95s x 8 (+2 forced reps)
  • TT:

Exercise #4: Cable crossover

  • LT: 170 x 7 (+2 forced reps)
  • TT:

The symbol “LT” stands for “last time” and the symbol “TT” stands for “this time.” Dorian’s goal for every exercise was to lift more weight or perform more reps with the same weight.

If you are going to use a powerbuilding chest routine like Dorian Yates then I strongly recommend you use a training logbook. The logbook will tell you right away if your training program is working or if you are just pretending that you are making progress! 

Part 2: The Dusty Hanshaw Chest Routine

Dusty Hanshaw is an IFBB professional bodybuilder. He is known for his powerbuilding style workouts and for throwing around incredibly heavy weights in the gym.

Dusty believes that one of the fastest ways to build a massive chest is with the DC Training program.

DC Training uses lots of high-intensity training techniques like rest-pause sets and extreme stretches to help bodybuilders build muscle mass as fast as possible.

One of the really cool things about DC Training is it is designed to help you build strength while training in higher rep ranges. That is a recipe for rapid muscle mass accumulation! 

Dusty Hanshaw’s chest workouts are pretty straightforward. He trains his chest with 3-4 exercise followed by an extreme stretch.

For each chest exercise he performs 1 all-out rest-pause set to failure.

A rest-pause set is a high-intensity training technique where you train to failure 3 times in a row on an exercise with 20-30 seconds rest in between sets. For example:

The Rest-Pause Training Method

  • Step #1: Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, then rest 20-30 seconds
  • Step #2: Train to failure a second time with the same weight, then rest 20-30 seconds
  • Step #3: Train to failure a third time with the same weight, done!

Here is IFBB pro Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of a rest-pause set on the 30 degree incline bench press:

Talk about an intense set!

A rest-pause set is basically 3 separate sets with very short rest periods. A typical rest-pause set will look something like this: 8 reps, rest 30 seconds, 3 reps, rest 30 seconds, 2 reps = 13 total reps.

After the rest-pause set you perform an extreme stretch for your chest.

One of Dusty Hanshaw’s favorite ways to do this for chest is to hold the bottom position of a dumbbell fly with a very heavy weight for 60-90 seconds. For example:

The chest extreme stretch is very painful but it works ridiculously well for building size and strength. 

Dusty Hanshaw’s power building chest routine is actually very similar to Dorian Yates’ powerbuilding chest routine. They both train their chest with 3-4 exercises and perform 1 all-out working set to failure per exercise. I guess great minds think a like!

You will see throughout this article that many professional bodybuilders train their chest way – even so-called “high-volume” bodybuilders. 

Here is one of Dusty Hanshaw’s go-to powerbuilding chest workouts. Check it out:

Dusty Hanshaw chest Routine #1

  • A1: 60 degree incline smith machine press (wide grip), 1 x 11-20 RP**
  • B1: Flat machine press, 1 x 11-20 RP**
  • C1: Flat DB fly, 1 x 20-30 RP**
  • D1: DB fly extreme stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set as described above.

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Dusty Hanshaw works up to 4 plates per side on the incline smith machine press. That is the power of rest-pause sets!

They are so effective for building size AND strength all at the same time. This means you can make consistent progress over time instead of spinning your wheels like most people in the gym.

Sometimes Dusty Hanshaw cranks up the volume to 4 separate exercises for his chest workouts. However, he still sticks to his guns and uses 1 all-out rest-pause set per exercise. Check it out:

Dusty Hanshaw Chest Routine #2

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 x 11-20 RP**
  • B1: Machine pec dec, 1 x 11-20 RP**
  • C1: Flat DB press, 1 x 11-20 RP**
  • D1: Decline hammer strength machine, 1 x 11-20 RP**
  • E1: DB fly extreme stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds

Here is the training video for this workout:

If this powerbuilding workout won’t get your chest to grow then nothing will!

I should warn you that Dusty Hanshaw is a very advanced bodybuilder who has been training for a very long time.

Most bodybuilders will get better results training their chest with 1-2 exercises per workout so they can recover and build strength more quickly.

If you want to learn more about the DC Training program then check out any of the following articles:

DC Training is easily one of the best powerbuilding training programs that you can use.

Part 3: The Steve Kuclo Chest Routine

Steve Kuclo is one of the best bodybuilders in the world. He has won numerous IFBB pro contests including the 2019 Indy Pro and the 2016 California Pro. He has also placed as high as 6th place in the prestigious Mr. Olympia contest.

Steve Kuclo trained for many years using the DC Training program with his old training partner Justin Harris. Today Steve Kuclo trains using his own powerbuilding style workouts.

One of Steve’s favorite ways to design a chest workout is to perform 1 heavy exercise in the 4-6 rep range followed by several bodybuilding style exercises in the 8-12 rep range. For example:

Steve Kuclo’s Typical Chest Workout

  • Exercise #1: Work up to 1-3 heavy sets of 4-8 reps
  • Exercises #2-5: Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps

This is Steve’s favorite way to design a chest workout.

His first chest exercise will be a heavy compound exercise like the incline bench press or the incline dumbbell press. He will work up to 1-3 heavy sets in the 4-8 rep range to build strength and overload the fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Then he performs a bunch of bodybuilding style exercises in the 8-15 rep range to create as much muscle damage and metabolic fatigue as humanly possible.

Steve Kuclo’s chest workouts are almost like 2 separate workouts performed together! Here is one of Steve’s go-to chest routines. Check it out:

Steve Kuclo’s Chest Workout #1

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3 sets of 5-10 reps
  • B1: Supine machine press (neutral grip), 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • C1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • C2: Machine pec dec, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • D1: Cable crossover (high pulley), 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • D2: Cable crossover (mid pulley), 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Here is the training video:

Steve starts this chest workout by incline pressing the 200 pound dumbbells for reps! Then he moves onto a bunch of bodybuilding style movements for higher reps.

Steve throws in a couple of supersets for his chest to create even more muscular damage. This is a technique that the strength coach Charles Poliquin often used with his bodybuilding clients.

Here is a slightly lower volume chest workout that Steve performed earlier in his career. Check it out:

Steve Kuclo’s Chest Workout #2

  • A1: 30 degree incline barbell press, 3 sets 3-5 reps
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • C1: Hammer strength dip machine, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • D1: Pec dec machine, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video:

For this workout Steve incline presses a ridiculous 495 pounds for 3 reps. This is his heavy “meat and potatoes” exercise that he uses to increase his upper body strength. After that he moves onto a variety of chest isolation exercises to further fatigue his chest.

If you are an advanced bodybuilder with a good foundation of strength then I highly recommend you give Steve Kuclo’s chest routine a shot. It is a great way to incorporate powerbuilding style principles into a higher volume bodybuilding style chest workout. 

Part 4: The John Meadows Chest Routine

John Meadows is an IFBB professional bodybuilder and the creator of the Mountain Dog training program.

John’s bodybuilding program is designed to help you build as much muscle mass as possible while staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary injuries.

However, that doesn’t mean that John performs a bunch of “foo-foo” exercises with the pink dumbbells. John uses many different powerlifting techniques and exercises that he learned while training with Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting club. 

John Meadows likes to structure his powerbuilding chest workouts where he performs his heavy barbell pressing exercises second or third in the workout. This is different from someone like Steve Kuclo who performs his heaviest exercise right away when he is fresh.

John argues that performing your barbell exercises a little later keeps you healthier and gives you even chest growth.

Here is a normal looking Mountain Dog chest workout. Check it out:

John Meadows Powerbuilding Chest Routine #1

  • A1: Flat machine press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • B1: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • C1: Incline machine press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • D1: Machine pec dec, 4 sets of 10 reps**

**On your last set perform 10 reps just shy of failure, then perform 15 partials in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second isometric hold in the stretched position

Here is the training video for this workout:

If you have never heard of Mountain Dog Training then this chest workout may look a little weird.

After all, why is John performing the incline bench press second in his routine? Doesn’t he know that you should perform your heavy / low rep exercises first in your workout?

John found through trial and error that he can avoid injuries and get even better chest growth performing the incline bench press later in his workout when he is warmed up.

Actually John has a 4-phase gameplan that he uses for his chest workouts:

  • Phase #1: The Pre-Activation / Pump Phase
  • Phase #2: The Explosive Phase
  • Phase #3: The Supra-Maximal Pump Phase
  • Phase #4: The Stretch Phase

John always starts his chest workouts with something he calls the “pre-activation / pump phase.” He picks a joint-friendly compound exercise like a dumbbell press or hammer strength machine press and performs a few hard sets in the 8-10 rep range.

Next John performs his “explosive phase” where he works up to a heavy set of 6 reps on a big compound exercise like the incline bench press. John wants to perform this exercise when his chest is slightly fatigued and pumped full of blood.

John finds he can overload his chest better when he performs this exercise a little later in the workout.

Finally John finishes his workout with 1-2 exercises in the higher rep ranges. He likes to use different high-intensity techniques like drop sets, partial reps, iso-holds and extreme stretches for these exercises.

This is a really interesting way to organize a powerbuilding chest workout and it has worked wonders for John’s clients including the 212 class Mr. Olympia winner Shaun Clarida.

Here is a chest workout that John Meadows took Shaun through while preparing for the 2021 Mr. Olympia contest. Check it out:

John Meadows Powerbuilding Chest Routine #2

  • A1: Flat DB press, 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • B1: Machine pec dec, 4 sets of 10-12 reps**
  • C1: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps***
  • D1: Chest dips, 3 x AMRAP****

**On your last set perform 10-12 reps just shy of failure, then perform 8 partials in the stretched position, then perform a 10-second isometric hold in the stretched position.

***Perform 4 progressively heavier sets at approximately 70%, 80%, 90% and 100% of a weight you can do 6 times.

****Perform 3 working sets to failure.

Here is the training routine:

For this workout John Meadows mixes things up even more by putting the heavy incline barbell press 3rd in his workout rather than 2nd. John is doing everything he can to keep Shaun healthy while still training in the lower rep ranges on this exercise.

If you are looking for a great way to build your chest while staying as healthy as possible then you have to give one of these Mountain Dog workouts a try.

John does a great job blending together different powerlifting and bodybuilding techniques into his powerbuilding chest workouts.

Part 5: The Stan Efferding Chest Routine

Stan Efferding is one of my favorite people in the fitness industry today.

Stan earned the title of the “World’s Strongest Bodybuilder” after he earned his IFBB pro card and set the all-time powerlifting world record in the 275 pound weight class. 

Here are Stan’s best lifts:

  • Squat: 865 pounds
  • Bench Press: 600 pounds
  • Deadlift: 837 pounds

Stan is a true powerbuilder at heart. He dreamed of getting jacked and tan more than anyone else in history but he also loved throwing around heavy slag iron in the gym.

Here is a great video of Stan Efferding incline pressing the 210 pound dumbbells. Check it out:

So how does Stan train when he is getting ready for his bodybuilding competitions? Stan trains his chest with about 4 different exercises per workout. He likes to perform 2 all-out working sets per exercise.

Whenever possible he uses high-intensity training techniques like drop sets and forced reps on these working sets to stimulate even more growth. Stan calls these all-out working sets “growth sets.”

Here is Stan describing his bodybuilding training philosophy:

“We’re going to build a workout around a few really big sets – I call them growth sets. One way to make progress is to stay focused on them and to really give 100%.”

This sounds a lot like the philosophy of Dorian Yates or Dusty Hanshaw. I guess great minds think alike!

Here is a chest workout that Stan Efferding performed in 2012 while training for one of his professional bodybuilding competitions. Check it out:

Stan Efferding Bodybuilding Chest Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline barbell press, 2 x (5, 8**), 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 2 x 6-8****, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Decline hammer strength press, 2 x 7-9**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Standing cable crossover, 2 x 15-20, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest

**Performed as a double drop set. Perform 7-9 reps, drop the weight, perform as many reps as you can, drop the weight, perform as many reps as you can, done!

****Perform 6-8 reps to failure, then perform 4 extra forced reps with the help of a training partner.

Here is the training video:

This is an absolutely brutal workout. Stan uses every trick in the book including a huge variety of exercises, low / medium / high rep sets and different high intensity training techniques to stimulate as much growth as possible.

Here is Stan Efferding describing this workout:

“I’ll do a heavy basic movement… but then after I’m just trying to get as many angles and as much pump as possible. So I’ll bring the reps up, I’ll do some flyes, incline dumbbells, get a good squeeze.”

This sounds exactly like the approach that Steve Kuclo uses in his workouts: perform 1 heavy compound exercise with maximum weight, then perform a bunch of bodybuilding style exercises and train for the pump. 

If you want to learn more about how “The White Rhino” trains then check out the following articles:

  • The Stan Efferding Training Philosophy!
  • The Stan Efferding Bodybuilding Program!
  • The Stan Efferding Powerlifting Program!

Maybe one day Stan Efferding will take a break from promoting his Vertical Diet meal prep company and talk more about his unique training style.

Wait – who am I kidding? The only thing Stan Efferding loves more than being jacked and tan is his Vertical Diet. That will never happen!!

Conclusion

powerbuilding chest

One of the best ways to train for a huge chest is to use a powerbuilding training style. Many of the best bodybuilders in the world have blended together different powerlifting and bodybuilding techniques to build up their pecs.

One of the big advantages of powerbuilding style chest workouts over traditional “high volume” chest workouts is the emphasis on long-term strength gains.

With a powerbuilding chest workout you get the best of both worlds: long-term strength gains AND short term muscle growth.

If you are still incline pressing the pink dumbbells then a powerbuilding chest workout may be just what you need to start making progress again.

Here is Arnold Schwarzenegger giving you some great advice on how to stay focused on that goal of building a massive chest:

“Concentrate on your goals. Do not allow other thoughts to enter your mind. If you allow them to, other things could take your concentration away from your ultimate aim.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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