Push Session on Contest Prep

I wrote the last chest training article when I was 12 weeks out and still had quite a bit of volume in place. Since then my workouts are getting more focused on maintaining strength and muscle tissue. A lot of the “fluff” is cut out and down to the bare bones of the program. This will be my training session at 8 weeks out.

When I say bare bones, I mean getting down to just straight sets and focusing on maintaining the weight that I lift. You can reduce training volume (the amount of sets you do), but as long as intensity (the weight you lift) is maintained you can maintain muscle. Dropping off drop sets and supersets is a great way to reduce training volume and prevent overtaxing your muscle, which could limit recovery during a recovery compromised state like during contest prep. This is why I constantly talk about the importance of keeping a log book and writing down how much weight you lift and how many reps you perform. You need to know if strength is dropping when you are dieting, and make changes if it is. Do keep in mind that strength will inevitably drop at some point during a cutting phase, but you still need to fight like hell to keep it.

For the push session, I will train chest, front and side delt, and triceps. I believe that a push session stimulates everything adequately and allows me to keep focus on chest where I need the most growth. If you needed to bring up triceps but had a great chest, you could do this workout in the opposite order. Or if you need more shoulders, then put the shoulder exercises first. There is a lot of flexibility in being able to tailor this plan to your needs. I have also dropped out my higher rep training day which had a lot of super sets. Now it was time to just focus on heavy loads. I do still like to use cluster sets. A cluster set, similar to a superset, allows a rest period between exercises, so you can refocus and recover and put more into the next set than you would be able to with a superset.

John’s Push Session

*All sets are work sets and taken to failure.
*No warm up sets are listed. Take as many warm up sets as needed to get to your work sets.

Flat Hammer Strength Press

Set 1 at 6-10 reps
Set 2 at 12-15 reps

Warm up to your first work sets and hit failure between the prescribed rep range. Drop 20-30% of the weight for the second set and try to hit failure between the prescribed rep range.

Keep hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep the shoulder blades retracted and depressed. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase. Try to pull the handles together as you press.

Decline Hammer Strength Press

Set 1 at 6-10 reps
Set 2 at 12-15 reps

This lift has the same lifting protocol as the Flat Hammer Strength press. On my other push session, I focus on upper chest, but this session I leave in a decline press to hit the lower pecs.

Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Shoulder blades should be retracted and depressed. The seat height should allow the handles to sit at nipple level. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase.

Smith Machine Military Press

Set 1 at 6-10 reps
Set 2 at 12-15 reps

Same lifting protocol as the previous lifts. I will do my first 3 compound movements for chest and delts before moving on to isolation work. I want to make sure I get the most out of these lifts.

Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep the bar slightly out in front of you to allow for safer shoulder mechanics. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase.

Cluster Set: Reverse Grip Smith Machine Bench Press with Incline Cable Fly
3 sets at 10-15 reps
60 second rest after each exercise

A cluster set is a superset with rest periods, so you will be going back and forth between lifts. On the first set, try to hit failure close to 15 reps. On each subsequent set, the reps will be decreasing due to fatigue. You may end up only getting 5 reps on the last set.

Both of the moves will work the upper pec fibers. Reverse grip bench press is a great choice for those with shoulder issues and is a good tricep builder as well.

Keep the hand pronated and slightly wider than shoulder width on the reverse grip bench press. On the incline cable fly, use either an incline bench or do them standing, but set the cable to hip level. Focus on bringing the pinkies of each hand together.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

3 sets of 10 full reps
followed by 10 partial reps from the bottom of the movement
Pick a weight you can only do for 10 reps. Use this as your work weight for the 3 sets. Try to hit 10 full range of motion reps. Then immediately go into 10 partial reps from the starting position, bringing the dumbbell up only 1/3 of the way. Each subsequent set should have fewer reps due to fatigue.

Perform these seated to stabilize the body and prevent momentum. Make sure to lead the movement with the elbow and keep the pinkie knuckle pointed up the entire time. I keep my arms locked straight for the partial raises.

Machine Lateral Raise

2 sets of 15-20 reps

Work up to a weight where you can only get 20 reps. Stick with the same weight for one more set of as many reps as you can get.

Use your elbows to lead the movement and not the hands. Avoid starting the movement with a shrug and try to initiate the movement with the delts.

Cluster Set: Rope Push Down with Close Grip Smith Machine Bench Press

3 sets at 15-20 reps
Perform like a superset but take 60 second rest after every exercise

Start with a weight on both lifts where you can only get 20 reps. This should be all out to failure. The reps will be decreasing on each subsequent set.

I like using higher reps for triceps to save the elbow joint. Also, the triceps were already worked hard from the earlier exercises, so I know I can give them a different stimulus.

On the rope push downs, keep the elbows at your sides and do not let them start swinging. Focus on pulling your hands back into your body.

For the close grip bench, keep the hands at shoulder width. Lower the bar to sternum level.

That wraps up my Push session at 8 weeks out. Let me know what you think—I would love to see how you modified it to focus on your weak body parts.