Jesse Laico has been documenting his transformation from self-described skinny "hardgainer" to jacked A.F. on the Athlean-X channel, explaining what he's been eating and how he's been training to pack on muscle despite his naturally slender physique. In a new video, Laico and strength coach Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. list some of the best ways to build muscle when your genes are saying "nope."
At the start of his journey, Laico began by using traditional big compound lifts like the squat and deadlift. And when it came to training his chest specifically, that meant taking up the bench press.
"I found that by increasing the amount I was benching from, let's face it, zero times a week to one to two times a week, depending on that split, I was getting more progress going," says Laico, "especially with my strength and how much I was able to progress with weight on the bar."
He then began to introduce accessory bodybuilding movements with an eccentric focus into his workouts to ensure he was achieving metabolic overload and hypertrophy. "When I stalled on my bench press, which happened to me a lot, I found that it was a really good avenue to go through different movements that would allow for more chest strength."
Cavaliere also recommended that Laico bump up the ratio of upper chest to lower chest work, as the upper area can often be overlooked in chest workouts. "Your body actually has a growth limiter effect built in to the chest fibres," Cavaliere explains. "In other words, if you're not training them enough, the sternal head is not necessarily going to continue to grow because it has an effect on the biomechanics of the shoulder. Having both heads equally developed is going to be very important."
Exploiting the full range of motion on exercises like the dumbbell bench press and cable crossover was another tactic Laico used to place a greater stretch on the muscle and maximise the effectiveness of each rep. One way to assess if you're at full range of motion in an exercise? Pause at the bottom end of a rep.
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