Craig’s Chiseled Chest: How Emerging Pro Star Craig Richardson Pounds Pecs
New Jersey native Craig Richardson exemplifies everything his home state stands for. Strong work ethic, strong family values and making sure your priorities are in order. Craig took a hiatus from the competitive side of bodybuilding for three years after turning pro to develop his now successful personal training business so that he could make sure to properly provide for his wife of seven years, Jennifer, and his three children, Qualayia, Quashawn and Quaterra.
“I trained hard through those three years because I wanted to make the improvements I needed to compete successfully as a pro. Bodybuilding is my passion, and that never changed.”
If you want to see Craig’s work ethic in action, show up on chest day at John Kemper’s Diamond Gym and you’ll get a hint of old-school training in action.
“I’ve trained with my partner, Harley Breite, for over seven years now. He’s a criminal attorney here in Jersey and owns a karate and kickboxing school. Harley is a great training partner and a great friend as well. He trains his with real intensity and pushes me to my limits every day. In fact, I went from taking fifth at Nationals to second after only eight months of training with him.”
Craig’s Chiseled Chest Training
Craig has phenomenal chest development, but it wasn’t always that way.
“When I started bodybuilding, I did what I think everyone did…heavy, flat bench presses. As I developed, I noticed two things were happening to my physique. First, my front delts were getting huge, but were really overshadowing my chest development. I was starting to get unbalanced when I looked at that area of my body. The other thing that was happening was that my upper pec was lacking. I realized that I had to make some changes to remedy these issues if I was going to successfully compete at the national level and eventually turn pro.”
Craig felt that the flat bench press was at the root of his problems.
“The first thing I did was dump the flat bench press. I reasoned that my delts were getting the majority of the stimulation on this movement, not my chest. The next change was to start every chest workout with an incline movement to prioritize my upper pec. Whatever pressing movement you do second in a workout is going to suffer a bit from the fatigue of your first pressing movement. By putting the incline press first, I was guaranteeing that I would be my strongest when I tackled the movement that would work the weakest area of my chest, the upper pec. It worked like a charm and I never looked back. Hey, when you find something that works, why change it?”
Craig shared the exact chest routine that he discovered to balance his pecs and make them one of his true standout bodyparts with me so that Musclemag readers can benefit from his experience. Ready? Let’s go.
Exercise 1: Incline Smith Machine Press or Incline Dumbbell Press
Craig starts every chest workout with either of these premiere upper pec movements. When he chooses Incline Presses on a Smith Machine, he will set the bench at about a 45-degree angle. His grip is slightly wider than shoulder width, but he is careful not to go too wide for fear that the stimulus will move off the chest and into the shoulders. As you would expect, Craig uses precise form, doing all reps in a controlled fashion. Craig will lower the bar to his upper pec and press to a full, hard contraction at the top of the movement. He does two warm up sets to get sufficient blood in the area and then moves on to three sets of six to eight reps.
If Craig feels that he would rather do incline dumbbell presses, the sets and reps are the same.
“I start with the dumbbells overhead forming a straight line and bring them down to a stretched position at the outside of my pec. From there, I press them straight up overhead and touch the dumbbells at the top. Nothing fancy, just good old-fashioned hard work.”
Exercise 2: Seated Decline Presses on the Hammer Strength Machine
Placing his back firmly against the backrest of the Decline Hammer Strength press machine, Craig will keep his chest high and shoulders back as he begins the exercise. He makes sure to perform full reps from the starting position to full extension of the arms with a hard squeeze in the fully contracted position on every rep. He is careful not to go too wide or too far back on the exercise for fear that the stimulus will move off the chest and into the shoulders. By doing this movement on the machine, Craig does not have to concern himself with stabilizing dumbbells or a barbell.
“You can really focus on stimulating the pec because once you get in position, your total mindset is to just press and get a strong contraction in the pec.”
Given that he is already warmed from his first movement, Craig goes straight in to three heavy working sets of six to eight reps.
Exercise 3: Pec Dec Flys or Cable Crossovers
Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on his chest. Craig will choose to do either Pec Dec Flys or Cable Crossovers. When he does the former movement he will sit on the machine with his back arched, shoulders back and chest held high. He will also make sure that his hands come together right in front of the lower line of the pec when fully contracted, as it would if he were doing dumbbell flys. Once he gets positioned correctly, he will start the movement by bringing his arms outward until they form a straight line across his body. From that point, making sure to keep a slight bend in his elbows, he slowly brings the handles together to a fully contracted position and squeezes hard for a second before returning to the stretched starting position.
When Craig decides to do cable crossovers, he will position himself evenly between the two weight stacks and bend slightly at the waist. Then, from a fully outstretched position, he keeps his palms facing down throughout the movement and squeezes the chest hard during the entire downward motion. He will bring his arms down to a point right in front of his waist and forcefully contract the pec. Regardless of which exercise he chooses, Craig will do anywhere from one to three sets of 12-15 reps depending on how he feels.
Forget the Bench Press
“I stopped benching seven or eight years ago and I’ve never looked back. My chest development is much better, and more balanced, than it was when I was doing them. Plus, I’ve known so many guys who tore their pecs doing bench presses and ended any really chance they had to reach their genetic potential. It was the right decision for me, maybe it will the right decision for Musclemag readers as well.”
You can visit Craig online at www.CraigRichardson.com. Larry Pepe is the author of the new book, The Precontest Bible, which can be viewed online at www.PrecontestBible.com. Larry can be reached by email at Larry@MuscleFlex.com.
Craig’s Training Split
Craig trains five days per week, using a three-on, one-off, two-on, one-off rotation. He will rotate the workouts using the following bodypart breakdown:
Day 1: Chest, Hams
Day 2: Back, Calves, Abs
Day 3: Biceps, Triceps
Day 4: Delts, Calves, Abs
Day 5: Quads