If you really want to break through your training plateaus, you might have to put yourself through hell.
This chest and shoulder burner from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. uses multiple tempos to fire up your effort levels and challenge your toughness. “We’ve got multiple contractions going on: Early on you get to be explosive and natural, then at the end, you’ll pile up good eccentric contractions,” says Samuel. “There’s some core challenge and shoulder stability challenge via the unilateral approach to things.”
But the most important part of the series, according to Samuel, is when you ratchet up the tension and focus on your timing. “And the best part is the end, when you challenge your pecs to operate in the absence of all explosive, momentum-generating (however minimal this may be, it’s a factor) contraction, insuring that every part of your chest musculature has to do equal work to elevate the weight,” he says. “We’re shifting into constant-tension presses, and here, you’re thinking 3 seconds up, 3 seconds down.”
To take on the dumbbell incline press hellset, you’ll need an adjustable bench and a set of dumbbells. Check out this adjustable option from Bowflex if you want a pair for home workouts.
- Sit on the bench holding the dumbbells in each hand. Press both arms up to get into the starting position.
- Perform 2 explosive press reps with one arm, holding the press position with the other. Squeeze your core to keep your torso in position on the bench. After the reps, switch and repeat the process for 2 reps with the other arm. Repeat twice without stopping for 6 reps on each arm.
- Once you’re finished with the explosive alternating reps in the press position, lower both weights slowly through the eccentric portion of the press, taking 3 seconds to reach the bottom position.
- Press just as slowly up, taking 3 seconds to reach the top, then squeeze your triceps and chest to finish the rep. Repeat for 4 to 6 reps.
That slowdown in the latter half of the series is big for your brain. “Working in the absence of explosion near the end of this hellset also leads to greater mental focus,” says Samuel. “When we get near the end of any pressing set (or really, any set of any exercise), our default is to start cheating as form starts to break down. By operating with this constant-tension principle, we force greater mental engagement.”
When you’re ready to take on the hellset, be sure that you’re not going too heavy. Samuel recommends that you start with a weight 10 to 15 pounds lighter than you would for a standard mixed-style incline press. Work the series into your upper body routine for 3 sets.