For many, "chest day" can mean different things. For the bodybuilder, a chest day can be several exercises like bench press, incline bench, decline, chest fly, and other cable and dumbbell exercises focusing on the pec muscles. For the powerlifter, who is trying to lift as much as possible on the bench press event in a meet for one repetition, a "chest day" is likely called bench press day. There are a few groups who do a combination of training when using their chest muscles for performance in pushups, body weight bench press, or the infamous 225 pound bench press for maximum repetitions.
Regardless of who you are on the spectrum above, you probably enjoy working on the bench. As a teen, the bench was the lift that I enjoyed most. You would hear many people say through the halls of school, "How much can you bench?"
Here is a list of workout types for bench presses for a variety of goal progressions with the ultimate progression being the 225 pound bench press for maximum repetitions. There are a few military special ops groups that use the same National Football League (NFL) Combine test of 225 pounds for max repetitions for their potential special ops selections programs.
Build a Foundation of Chest Days (2-3 days a week -- every other day)
Many lifting programs will start out with three sets of 10-12 repetitions (3 x 10-12) as a solid foundation for chest development, as well as other muscle groups / lifts in bodybuilding especially. Some in the body building world will only do a body part (muscle group) per week when lifting to add muscle mass.
As you progress, you can start increasing the weight on either the above reps/set scheme or try to build a more solid strength foundation by using five sets of five reps (5 x 5). Typically, 70-80 percent of your max 1 repetition weight is used for this strength building workout program.
More Weight – Building to Bigger One Rep Max (1RM)
Using drop sets or reverse pyramids such as 10,8,6,4,2 or 5,4,3,2,1 can be very helpful with not only warming up for heavier weight lifts, but can help you increase your overall strength fairly quickly.
Strength Lifting Become Muscle Stamina Exercises
When the goal is to increase your maximum repetitions of a particular weight (bodyweight or 225 pounds), it is good to mix in some muscle stamina / endurance exercises like pushups, dips, and light weight lifts into your bench press sets as well. Once you can successfully do 5-10 repetitions of your bodyweight or 225 pounds, start to play around with both max rep sets and adding pushups into the workout, like this: Pick your weight and do the maximum amount of repetitions you can. Immediately follow it with a max rep set of pushups or a lighter weight on the bench press. This is to fully exhaust the chest, triceps, and shoulders, and help turn this powerlift into an endurance lift. It is very similar to the way you build pullups from 1 repetition to 20 repetitions.
Do 25-50 repetitions of your body weight or 225 in as few sets as possible. See how many bench press repetitions you can get in 4-5 sets as well as pushups immediately following. Soon you will be pushing your bodyweight or 225 pounds for the max repetition test in the high teens and twenty range, which is very respectable for those lifts.
Enjoy the "chest day." But don't skip let day!