A1: Set these up on a functional trainer with the pulleys at roughly knee height. Hold onto the cables rather than using an attachment and lead with your thumbs through the movement. The cables should be crossing in front of your body. Tinker with your distance from the pulleys and see what feels the most comfortable but note that this will subtly change the mechanics and how your delts experience the tension. Make sure to get a full ROM and keep the tempo nice and slow. Take the last set to 1RIR. No rest before A2.
A2: Adjust the band tension so you fall in the rep range with the intensity given. The goal here should be hard contractions and to get a ton of blood into your triceps/elbows. Adhere to the tempo closely. Take the last set to 1RIR. No rest before A3.
A3: Use the same pulley setup as with A1 but face out now. Still no handles and lead with your thumbs. Your upper arms should move across your body to best line up with your upper pecs. The load may have to be pretty light here but really focus on perfect execution with strong MMC. Take the last set to 1RIR. Full rest before returning to A1.
B: Set the spotter arms/pins to about an inch off your chest. Perform the movement just like you would a normal bench press except allow the bar to settle on the pins completely before initiating the concentric. These should be heavy but manageable to get solid reps in. Take full rest between sets.
C: Choose a machine that allows for strong, sustained tension in your pecs and one that can be taken to failure safely and easily. Use a load that would be about your 12 rep max. Perform 1-2 feeder sets of 4-6 to get a good handle on the movement pattern before the working set. Rest ~20 sec between RP sets and take each to technical failure. Move on after this sequence but give it everything you have!
D: Set the angle of the bench to ~75º. Get a full ROM on each rep (try to touch your chest if possible) and build a ton of productive volume here. Use a handle on the bar that is roughly equal to your shoulder width. Keep a few reps in the tank and use a conservative load here. Full rest between sets.
E1: Note the tempo here. Make sure to pause for a full 2 count with your elbows on the floor but do not relax completely! Maintain tension and tightness. Press through the concentric with power. Take the last set to failure. Rest ~30 sec before E2.
E2: Elevate each hand by ~3 inches for more ROM. Get a deep stretch at the bottom of each rep and try to lengthen your pecs. Take the last set to failure. Full rest before returning to E1.
With training, it’s good practice to periodically revert training to caveman principles. “Just lift heavy shit” tends to work really well for hypertrophy due to the beauty of its simplicity—You can add slabs of muscle to your physique by doing nothing more than finding the hardest, heaviest exercise possible and attempting to move it from point A to point B. I’m talking about bar-bending, metal-clashing, movements that make you question why the fuck you do this in the first place. Your muscles, tendons and spirit all hang on for dear-life; walking the tight-rope of high-intensity and recklessness. Granted, the sustainability of this approach is questionable, but the efficacy isn’t.
These exercises are kind of like rocket launchers—they don’t discriminate in their effective radius. You just have to get in the vicinity.
Now this isn’t to say that higher efficiency should be swept aside. There are movements on the other end of the spectrum that are going to be limited in magnitude but make up for it with precision.
These exercises are the snipers—quiet, non-disruptive, and targeted.
Depending on what your training goals are, it may be beneficial to bias one end of this spectrum over the other. For example, a powerlifter obviously needs to focus on lifting as much load as possible, so the degree in which their glutes are being isolated in a squat isn’t incredibly top-of-mind. On the other hand, a bodybuilder with underdeveloped glutes may approach exercise selection more carefully as to not divert too much of the stimulus to the quads or erectors. Whereas the former may go with repeated cycles of heavy barbell back squats as their primary movement, the latter might opt for a wide-stance belt squat with a pause just above parallel.
Or the bodybuilder can ditch the squat pattern altogether...They can refine further and further until the former spectrum has been completely discarded and all that’s left is an enclosed box of hyper-specificity.
And this is where we’ve gotten it all wrong.
I truly understand the desire to go down this path. The higher up the ladder of advancement one goes, the more crucial it is to select exercises that match not only the training goals but also limitations; injuries or otherwise. But there is such a thing as taking it too far. A pursuit for specificity can quickly turn into justification against doing hard stuff. As much as I love cables and machines, the inescapable fact is that efficiency and practicality are often used as a veil by those who would prefer to live within their comfort zone (I’m in this boat as well).
Of course, it’s great when you’re able to find that perfect variation that hits your muscle at just the right angle with the optimal amount of tension. But most of these types of movements just aren’t the needle-movers when it comes to putting on muscle in any meaningful way.
Yes, I program glute kickbacks and cable pullovers and pec deck for my clients but I’m under no impression that those exercises alone are going to be more impactful towards hypertrophy than barbell squats, pull-ups, or bench press.
So why program them at all you might be wondering?
Well to answer that, let’s go back to the spectrum that we established earlier. On one side, we have the rocket launchers. And on the other, we have the snipers. Anyone who has ever played COD as a teenager will know that before you send in the battering rams of tanks and infantry, the area has to be secured from a distance. The snipers lay cover fire and create an umbrella of security for the rocket launchers to sweep through and blow shit up. Having an army of only snipers isn’t likely to have the impact necessary to win a war but running gung-ho into battle shooting rockets all over the place probably isn’t the greatest strategy either.
One side is precision while the other is brute force. Yin and yang. Opposites but symbiotic.
I use this extremely stretched analogy to make the point that putting all your eggs in the “glute kickback” basket isn’t going to have enough oomph to create the changes you’re hoping for. These variations can be extremely useful in a supporting role but they can’t be the main character. That position needs to be occupied by the “barbell squats” of the training world.
The caveman principle of “Just lift heavy shit” is overly simplistic, yes, and it shouldn’t be the ONLY approach used—But if you want to get people’s attention, a rocket launcher is more effective than a sniper.