Since he first stepped on the NPC National-level stage in 2000, Pete Ciccone has placed in the top five of nearly every contest he’s entered – seven to be exact, in three different weight classes. Ciccone came closest to winning that elusive IFBB Pro card with a 2nd place finish in the Light Heavyweight division at the 2010 USA Championships, and most recently placed fifth in the Light Heavies at last year’s USAs.

This year, Ciccone will attempt to break into the professional ranks once again at the Masters Nationals in July. Here, Pete takes us through a typical chest workout in the first installment of our NPC Training Journal series.

“Over the years I’ve learned that simple, heavy movements are only a part of building that 3-dimensional look to your upper body by filling in all the space, clavicles to sternum,” Ciccone says. “Here’s my multi-angled approach – give it a try and rock your own “war chest”!”

Go here to see more contest photos of Pete Ciccone!


EXERCISE 1 Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
Sets 4 Reps 5-7

Set 1 120 x 8-10
Set 2 130 x 7
Set 3 135 x 6 + 2 assisted reps
Set 4 140 x 5 + 1 assisted rep

Pete says “I start by alternating between an incline-angled heavy, basic exercise, and flat bench movement (bar or dumbbell), every other week or so. Although your priority moves are always size and mass-focused, the angle change will result in more complete pec development over time.”


EXERCISE 2 Incline Hammer Press
Sets 4 Reps 7-10

Set 1 320 x 10
Set 2 360 x 7-8
Set 3 360 x 7-8
Set 4 360 x 6, 270 x 4-5 assisted reps

Pete says “On my heavy movement, and often on the secondary heavy movement, I’ll use forced reps to dig deep into the muscles. My spotter will assist me only as much as needed to help keep me moving in the concentric phase of the movement, to squeeze out 1-2 assisted “bonus” rep to be sure that we’ve exhausted every single lingering muscle fiber in this “attack” plane of movement.”


EXERCISE 3 Flat Machine Press (overhand grip)
Sets 3 Reps 12-15

Pete says “I vary my hand positioning on these, sometimes using a slightly closer grip or a slightly wider grip to switch it up. Use as much weight as possible for 8-10 reps, plus 2-3 assisted reps at the end of each set to go beyond failure.”


EXERCISE 4 Flat Machine Press (neutral grip)
Sets 3 Reps 12-15

Pete says “If you’ve got an old-school machine like the Polaris Chest press at our gym, use the medium-width, parallel grip handles to prioritize mid-pecs. Use as much weight as possible for 12-15 squeeze-your-brains-out sets to failure, then go for 2-3 more assisted reps!”


EXERCISE 5 Cable Crossover
Sets 7 Reps 12-15

Pete says “I alternate angles each set of this FST-7 variation. First set, I’ll stand up almost fully erect, like a “hands-on-hips” most muscular posture. Next set, I’ll lean forward slightly, to hit more mid-pec. Third set, I’ll lean even further forward, in the “crab-most-muscular” pose, to target the mid-upper pec. Use the mirror as your visual cue to be sure you’re hitting your target area of the pecs. Repeat through 7 sets, taking each set to 12-15 reps. Rest only long enough for your training partner to go, or about 30 seconds. Get right back in it, and squeeze the living hell out of each rep!”


Ciccone from Sunday after the 2011 NPC USA Championships