Big Chest Workout With Dumbbells and Smith Machine

The Strong Survive!

By IFBB Pro Johnnie Jackson

Sponsored by ALLMAX

Dumbbells would be the better choice as far as stimulating gains. That being said, there are also very real benefits in switching things up.

Q: I train alone, and that sort of limits how heavy I can safely go on certain things. For instance, I can’t really do barbell bench presses, incline presses, or military presses without a spotter because I could get stuck. There are people in the gym, but based on my experiences I am better off not even asking for a spot. Let’s just say they have no idea how to spot correctly. So, I can go heavy on the dumbbell versions of those movements, or I could use a Smith machine. Which one do you think I would be better off doing?

A: Dumbbells would be the better choice as far as stimulating gains. That being said, there are also very real benefits in switching things up. So, what you could do is rotate between them, and you have a few options as to how to arrange that. You could use all dumbbells for a couple of weeks and then use the Smith machine, or you could use one or the other for either chest or shoulders for a few weeks and then swap. You could even mix them up in the same workout. Here’s an example for chest:

Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 x 10-12

Smith Machine Flat Press – 4 x 10-12

Dumbbell Flye – 3 x 12

If you do mix them up in the same workout, I would recommend you start with the dumbbells. Since you need more balance and coordination to use dumbbells, if you get to them later in the workout when you’re already fatigued, chances are your performance will suffer. But the opposite isn’t true. You can still go pretty heavy on any type of machine even after using free weights.

Heavy Deadlifts, But Not Big Quads

Q: Johnnie, this is not meant as a dis at all as I have been a fan of yours for years and respect the hell out of you. My question is, you have been deadlifting with extremely heavy weights for decades now, and I recall Branch saying that you can actually out-squat him too. Why do you think your quads and hams didn’t blow up from all that, the way every muscle group in your upper body did? Is it a genetic thing, were you ever injured, what?

A: That’s a great question, and I take no offense to it at all. You are far from the first person to ask me that. You are correct, I am very strong in the deadlift, having held several records in it as a powerlifter over the years, and my squat is also up there. It’s not like I don’t train my legs hard. I guarantee you that I train them as hard or harder than anybody else out there. I’ve also had the privilege not only of training them with Branch for many years now, but I have also trained with many other great training minds such as Charles Glass, Milos Sarcev, and the late Tom Prince. I’ve done all types of workouts, techniques, rep ranges, you name it. Genetically, my legs are not gifted to grow the way my upper body is. My theory on this is that I have “runner’s legs,” suited more for performance. In my younger years I was a running back in football, and I also ran the 100-yard dash, 400-meter relay, and 400-yard dash. My legs have improved a little bit, but it’s an uphill battle. Still, I never give up!

Increase Cardio to Lose Gut

Q: I’m trying to get ripped and I don’t know if I’m just looking at myself too often or what. I was a fat fuck over the winter at 176 (Christmas time), and I’m down to 158 as of last Sunday. I stayed in that guideline of losing 1-2 pounds a week. Some weeks I gained a little and some weeks I stayed the same. But when I look in the mirror, my love handles and gut are still hanging around somewhat. I feel like when I was 155 before I went on a bulk, I was much leaner. But in the mornings, man, I feel awesome! My six-pack is pretty chiseled. What’s your opinion? I’m still overeating protein; I decrease it slowly as my weight loss stalls. I do two days of HIIT 20 minutes per session, either after workout or first thing in morning before breakfast. Impossible to be losing muscle, right? Thanks

A: Wow, you are all over the place, buddy! Let’s try and take things one category at a time. First off, I don’t know anything about your nutrition plan aside from the fact that you’re getting enough protein. I wouldn’t back off that as you’ve been doing. Keep your protein constant, and decrease carbohydrates and fats as needed. Most of your carbs should be eaten around your workouts, before and after them. Write down your meals, record the macronutrients in a journal along with your weight each day, and you should have an idea what may or may not need to be adjusted.

Next up, your cardio is not nearly enough to get lean on, unless you have a very fast metabolism; and it doesn’t sound like you do. You should be doing cardio every day! That’s what it takes for most of us to get lean. The reason you look tighter when you wake up is because you’re dehydrated. We all look better like that, but you need water. In fact, I would be sure to drink at least a gallon a day.

You should also be eating plenty of green veggies, some of them raw, to give you fiber and bulk so you stay regular. Take digestive enzymes with each meal too. Proper digestion and keeping your digestive tract running smoothly is important for overall health, and it’s key to fat loss too. You don’t want to be all backed up!

Finally, you shouldn’t be losing muscle as long as your protein is high and your overall calories aren’t too low. As long as you aren’t losing much strength in the gym, you aren’t losing muscle. A lot of times when guys lose weight and get leaner, they think they are losing muscle because a lot of the “bulk” they gained while bulking up wasn’t muscle as they thought, but body fat.

Instagram @johnnieojackson





1 scoop Impact Pump (helps increase blood flow and transportation of nutrients while significantly helping the focus for mind-muscle connection)

1 scoop Aminocore (prevents muscle tissue breakdown during training)

10g Glutamine (helps with DOMS, insulin sensitivity, gut health, and immune system)

5g Creatine (for that fast-acting, explosive power needed to push weights and helps with muscle hydration)

1 scoop Carbion (50g carbs) (really helps with energy and endurance during workout by giving your body carbs that don’t have to be digested, therefore they are readily available for fuel)


2 scoops IsoFlex (fast-digesting protein with essential amino acids to start the building or repairing process immediately)

10g Glutamine again (helps with DOMS, insulin sensitivity, gut health and immune system)

Give these a try and watch your energy, intensity and pumps dramatically increase in the gym.

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