08 Jan How To Build A Superman Chest and Become A Man of Steel
Ever notice how ridiculously exaggerated Superman’s chest is? I remember playing with my action figures as a kid and laughing because it seemed like they had just slapped a square block of plastic on his torso and called it a day.
← I mean, look at this shit. It could cut diamonds!
Jokes aside, I would be lying if I didn’t say I wanted my own chest to look more like Superman’s. It’s a sentiment shared by just about every guy who’s ever picked up a barbell. I mean, it’s why you’re reading this now, right?
On that note, let’s get to the nitty gritty of this article: laying out the exact steps you need to follow in order to build a set of pecs like the Man of Steel.
First things first, if you want to build a respectable chest you should have a basic understanding of what your chest does.
The muscle in question here is the pectoralis major. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the full anatomy lesson and fancy language, but you at least need to know the function of this muscle if you’re looking to optimize it.
This picture shows the pectoralis major in red with all the other muscles cut away. Notice how it attaches to your upper arm bone (the humerus) below the shoulder joint?
Essentially, the main function of this muscle is to move your arms upwards as well as in towards the midline of the body. Try it out now by placing one hand on your chest and moving your arm around.
Given its function, pressing and fly type motions are going to be your best bet for developing your pecs into broad slabs of muscle.
Let’s break exercise selection for the chest down into a bit more detail.
Exercises targeting the chest can be organized into three basic categories: horizontal presses, incline presses, and flyes.
- Horizontal presses include exercises such as ever-classic barbell bench press, flat dumbbell press, machine chest press, and pushups.
- Incline presses encompass practically the same movements as the horizontal presses previously listed, but are performed at an inclined angle.
- Flyes are the isolation exercise of choice for the chest. They can be performed at variety of angles and thus allow for a high degree of variability. Dumbbells, cables, and machine variants are all solid choices.
What To Do And When
Regardless of what exercises you choose for each category, it’s important to ensure that you are performing at least one movement of each type over the course of a week’s training.
What’s the best way to do that?
Here’s a run down of best practices when structuring your program for chest hypertrophy.
Volume is the key driver of muscle growth and you need the right amount to grow those pecs. But what does volume mean in this context? You can conceptualize it as weight x reps for a given exercise, but the best way to measure it is in working sets of said exercise.
You can consider a working set to be one that brings you one to three reps from failure. Too little working sets and there won’t be enough stimulus for growth. Too much and your body won’t have the recovery capacity needed to build new muscle tissue. In order to net enough working sets each week without overdoing it in any single session, aim to work the chest two to three times per week.
You’re most likely going to require between ten and twenty working sets per week to see progress. Because this can vary from person to person, your best bet is to start off with around ten working sets in the first week of your training block and add one to two working sets of chest exercises each week. Prioritize compound exercises when adding sets as they tend to give you more bang for your buck.
For these working sets, your rep range will most commonly fall between six and twenty reps, but most will find between eight and twelve reps to be the sweet spot for growth. While you can technically gain muscle in just about any rep range, this moderate range tends to allow for the best mix of volume accumulation and fatigue management for the pectorals.
Along with additional working sets, you should also look to add a bit of weight from week to week. That is, as long as it’s not causing you to lose significant reps. Prioritize adding weight to compound exercises before isolation movements. If you bite off more than you can chew and start to see your reps dropping significantly, don’t be afraid to drop the weightload 10% or so and focus on building back up from there.
Once you notice your strength or reps slipping on heavier compound presses (which will usually occur after 4-6 weeks of accumulating volume), you’ve probably reached the tail-end of your recovery capabilities and should consider taking a deload week. Here’s a super simple way to structure a deload week: dial the weight back to what it was at the start of the training block and then perform one set less of each exercise than you did in week one.
Let’s review. As long as you’re following this checklist you should be on track to becoming a Man of Steel yourself:
✅ Your program includes all three types of chest exercises: horizontal presses, incline presses, and flyes.
✅ You’re working the chest at least twice per week with at least 24-48 hours of recovery between those workouts.
✅ You’re completing between ten and twenty working sets per week by progressively adding sets over time.
✅ You’re performing the majority of your sets within the 8-12 rep range (with one or two reps left in the tank) and adding small increments of weight when possible.
✅ You’re consuming enough calories and protein to support muscle growth.
Confused or overwhelmed by any of these or just can’t seem to fit all the pieces of your fitness puzzle together?
Just enter your information here and I’ll send you my Superman Chest Training Template along with some brief, helpful emails that will have you filling out your tights in no time.