How to Design a Hypertrophy Chest Workout

How to Design a Hypertrophy Chest Workout


Since Arnold’s rise to the top in the ‘60s and ‘70s, fitness enthusiasts all over have been obsessed with trying to grow the size of their chests.

However, growing the chest is tough. To achieve this, workouts need to be specifically designed for hypertrophy. This blog will show you how to create a hypertrophy chest workout progression, the best exercises to use, and include sample training programs, helping you and your clients achieve their physique goals.

What is a Hypertrophy Chest Workout?

First, we need to define a hypertrophy chest workout. Specifically, what is it? To do this we must break down each word.

Hypertrophy, short for muscular hypertrophy, refers to the enlargement of a muscle achieved through exercise. 

The chest refers to the pectoral region of the body. The three major muscles in this region are the pectoralis major, the pectoralis minor, and the serratus anterior.

A hypertrophy chest workout is a workout specifically designed to grow the muscles in the pectoral region. But putting on muscle and growing the chest is not easy. It requires a great lifestyle and a well-executed resistance training progression.

The Secret to Muscle Growth: A Great Lifestyle

Before we talk about resistance training progressions we must cover the most important part of growing muscle, a quality lifestyle. It is unnatural to grow muscle. Your body resists it because muscle is expensive to grow and maintain, requiring a lot of energy. So, to grow your chest you have to create an anabolic environment.

To create an anabolic environment live a great lifestyle that lowers stress on your system. Make sure to get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, chew your food thoroughly, consume the recommended amount of protein, and have a clear purpose for why you are working out. These are OPEX Basic Lifestyle Guidelines. Learn a more detailed version of them in this free LearnRx course.

The Hypertrophy Resistance Training Progression

Once you’ve established a foundation of a great lifestyle you can begin hypertrophy chest training.

To grow the chest you need a lot of time under tension. You also have to be strong enough to endure this time under tension and physically able to contract the muscles in the pectoral region. The best way to develop these characteristics is to follow the muscle endurance tree progression. Start with motor control exercises, then progress to muscle endurance, and finish with strength endurance.

Motor Control 

Start the progression with motor control exercises. These exercises focus on motor learning and teach the body how to engage the muscles in the chest. Over time you will build efficiency in the movement pattern. This is the foundation for the rest of the progression because before you can start to challenge the chest you must be able to control the movement pattern.

Reps, Sets, Intensity, and Variation

Develop motor control with high repetitions in the 10-15 rep range. It is common to start with 3 sets, but let movement quality dictate the number of repetitions prescribed. Use a low weight to keep the intensity low, as the challenge will be the movement pattern and not mechanical fatigue.

EX: Dumbbell Bench Press @ 3232 tempo, 15 Reps x 3 Sets; 60 second rest

Use a weight you can easily complete all reps and sets with*

Muscle Endurance

After developing motor control, the next step is to focus on muscle endurance. This is the ability of a muscle to contract a submaximal force, for an extended number of repetitions, under fatigue. The rep ranges and tempo will look similar to motor control. However, the focus of muscle endurance is to develop strength in the muscle, while the focus of motor control is control itself. 

Reps, Sets, Intensity, and Variation

For these exercises program 8 to 12 repetitions. Start with 3 sets and build volume or increase intensity over time. The limitation will be fatigue in the muscle. . You can add variation and change the exercises once adaptation halts.

EX: Dumbbell Bench Press @ 3131 tempo, 10-12 reps x 3 sets; 2 minutes rest

Use a weight that makes it tough to complete each set*

Strength Endurance

Strength endurance is the last step in the progression. These are exercises that challenge the strength of the muscle even more and are more demanding on the central nervous system than muscle endurance exercises.

Reps, Sets, Intensity, and Variation

For these exercises keep the rep range low. You can build volume over time by adding sets or increase intensity. The intensity is high. Once adaptation stops, vary the exercises.

EX: Bench Press @20X1, 5-6 reps x 4 sets; 3 minutes rest

Use a very challenging weight*

2 Types of Training Programs

Everyone can benefit from implementing the principles of  the progression laid out above. But how you follow that progression, that is, your specific training program will look different depending on your level of experience.

The Beginner

You are a beginner if you have no experience with exercise or have been training for less than two years consistently. For your training program, train full-body splits 2-3 times a week. You can train the chest in each session. Focus on compound movements over isolation exercises.

The Advanced 

If you have been training consistently for 2 to or more years you are advanced. For your training program, train 4-5 times a week using upper and lower body splits. Focus on the chest 1-2 times a week. You will need more stimulus to create adaptation so start with compound exercises and then finish your session with isolation exercises.

The Best Hypertrophy Chest Exercises

The specific exercises in your hypertrophy chest workout will depend on your ability. Have a coach assess your abilities, or do so yourself. This will help determine your ability and the best exercises for you. With that in mind, here is a list of chest exercises that you can choose from:

Horizontal Pushing Exercises:

Incline Pushing Exercises:

Chest Isolation Exercises:

Sample Training Programs for Each Level

Here are two sample training programs for a beginner and an advanced client. The beginner client is following a full body resistance training day with a focus on horizontal pressing exercises, and the advanced client is following a upper body training day with a focus on horizontal pressing (chest) and elbow extension (triceps).

The Beginner

A1. Dumbbell Bench Press @3211, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; 90 seconds rest

A2. Dumbbell RDL @30X0, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; 90 seconds rest

B1. Dumbbell Bent Over Row @30X1, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; 90 seconds rest

B2. Dumbbell Front Squat @32X1, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; 90 seconds rest

C1. Incline Dumbbell Neutral Grip Fly @3030, 12-15 reps x 2 sets; 60 seconds rest

C2. Dumbbell Skull Crusher @3030, 12-15 reps x 2 sets; 60 seconds rest

The Advanced

A1. Bench Press @20X0, 6-8 reps x 4 sets; rest 3 minutes

B1. Dip @21X1, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; rest 30 seconds

B2. Push-Up @20X0, As Many Reps as Possible x 3 sets; rest 2 minutes

C1. Cable Rope Pushdown, 12-15 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds

C2. Cable Fly @30X1, 12-15 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds

C3. Maltese Raise @2121, 12-15 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds

The Secret to Hypertrophy Workouts


It’s not a secret. As any great bodybuilder or coach knows, personalized programs always yield the best results. Unlike templates, these programs take into account your current level of ability. Then using what you can do today, they progress you towards your goals. 

Makes sense right? We think so, but this isn’t the status quo in the fitness industry. Learn how to design personalized exercise programs in our free coaching course on LearnRx. Sign up today and learn how to create programs that will give you the best results possible. 


Fitness Assessments for New Clients