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brian chamberlain chest challenge

New IFBB Pro Brian Chamberlain’s Chest Challenge

These were the words of the newest member of the IFBB pro division, 2004 North American Light Heavyweight and Overall champ, Brian Chamberlain.


Readers of Musclemag will know that I am a big believer that you can learn more about training a specific body part from someone who has had to bring a weak point into balance with the more impressive muscle groups on their physique than someone who is genetically gifted in that same area.

While you may be interested in how Tom Prince trained those ridiculous hamstrings and quads of his, you get the sense that Tom was so gifted in the legs that he could have walked up a steep flight of stairs once a week and he’d have built 30-inch thighs anyway. Take a look at the massive back of new pro Will Harris and you sense that if he did a few sets of chins once in a while that he’d still look like he could fly with the help of slight breeze when he does a lat spread.


On the other hand, when I sat down to talk chest training with Brian Chamberlain, I quickly understood that his current routine was born out of years of experimentation and analysis that has allowed him to prioritize his chest in general as well as pinpointing specific areas of his pec region that he felt warranted additional attention.

How did Brian experiment his way to balanced chest development while throwing the old standby, flat barbell presses, out the window? Let’s find out.

the routine


Brian Chamberlain chest challenge

Brian starts his assault on his pecs with an old standby for the upper pec, Incline Barbell Presses with the bench set 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. Remember that Brian constructed this routine to keep the stress off his delts and put it squarely on his chest. He will use precise form, doing all reps in a controlled fashion. He is also careful to make sure to keep his elbows back as he performs the press.

“When I started weight training, I’m sure that I did what everyone else did. I focused on heavy pressing movements and spent ample time on the flat barbell press. After doing this for a while, I realized that my chest was not in balance with the rest of my physique and that it seemed like my delts were taking the most of the stimulus from all the pressing. So, I started to experiment with doing more shaping, flying and isolation movements to really deliver the stress to my pec and keep my shoulders out of the exercises. I still do pressing movements, but you’ll see that the rep schemes are higher than what most guys use and I play with the hand positioning as well. The results started to come fast and furious, so I’ve stayed with this approach for the last several years.”

“If I allow them to come forward at all, the stress will go to my triceps, as if I were doing a close grip bench press. If you have strong tris, make sure to feel the stress in your chest when you press, and not anywhere else. Focus on feeling what you are doing in the area you are trying to work. That’s the key.”

“My chest is definitely a bodypart that I’ve had to continually work to keep in line with the rest of my physique. In fact, I still feel that it needs to improve in order for me to take my body on to a pro stage and be successful. I guess you could call my chest a bit of a challenge for me, but I love a challenge!”

Brian will perform three sets on this exercise once he is warmed up. The first set sees him getting 20 reps, 15 on the second and 10 on the third. “I feel that by training in a higher rep range I am able to worry less about how much weight I am using and focus on that all-important feel.” 


“I feel that the area of my pecs that I needed to work on the most is the inner pec. As a result, I experimented with changing my hand position from having the dumbbells form a straight line to keep my hands parallel to each other. The contraction I get in the inner pec when I do the movement this way is really intense and has worked great for me.”

Brian begins the movement with the dumbbells over his pecs and brings them down into a deep, stretched at the sides of the pec. From there, he powers them back up to the starting point, touching the dumbbells at the top and squeezing hard to enhance the contraction. Brian will again perform three sets of 20, 15 and 10 reps before moving on to his next movement. 


brian chamberlain chest challenge

Brian’s next exercise is among the best pec stretching movements in the game, incline dumbbell flys.

“You can never have enough upper pec, especially if you have big delts.”

Beginning with the dumbbells overhead and palms facing each other, Brian keeps a slight bend in the elbow as he slowly lowers the dumbbells straight out to the sides until he reaches the stretched position. From there, he makes sure to use the chest to pull them back to the starting point. The critical thing here is to keep the elbows slightly bent and not let your ego allow you to partially press the weight. Brian again does three sets of 20, 15 and 10 reps. 


Brian is ready to polish off his pecs as he moves on to his last chest movement, cable crossovers from the low pulley. He begins the movement with a cable handle attached to the low cable station of the pulley machine. The palms face in from the beginning to the end of the movement. The motion begins as he slowly brings the handles up from the starting position across his body, making sure to keep the elbows slightly bent. As with the incline dumbbell fly, the key here is to pull with the chest. It is very easy on this movement to start to curl the weight up at the beginning of the movement, so be sure to stay very focused on feeling the chest and not using so much weight that the form is sacrificed to flatter your ego.

Brian completes the positive portion of the repetition by touching the cables just above his eyeliner. From there, a very controlled return to the starting point completes the rep. As his chest is well beyond warmed up before he gets to this movement, he will go right into two working sets of fifteen reps before calling it a day.


Although his resounding victory at the North American marked the sixth time Brian competed in a pro qualifying event, very few know much about him. Now that he has achieved his dream of turning pro, he intends to make a name for himself in the bodybuilding world.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how good it feels to have finally turned pro. It has been a dream of mine since I first competed as a teenager. But, I know that I have to establish myself at a new level of competition and that means continuing to improve my overall physique and, of course, pounding those pecs into balance with the rest of my upper body. Like I said when we started, I’m up for that challenge.”

Are you up for Brian’s chest challenge? There’s only one way to find out! See you at the gym.   

Brian Chamberlain’s Bodypart Split

  • Sunday:          Quads, Light Hams
  • Monday:         Off
  • Tuesday:         Chest, Light Triceps, Calves
  • Wednesday:  Back, Light Biceps, Hams
  • Thursday:       Shoulders
  • Friday:             Off
  • Saturday:        Arms, Calves, Abs
Spread the Knowledge

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.


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