To Break Plateaus, Be Fearless

The Giant Killer

By Two-Time 212 Olympia Champion Shaun Clarida

Sponsored by MUTANT

Q: How can I improve my front delts and chest in both strength and muscle definition? My back, side and rear delts are three times stronger than my chest, and my legs are four times stronger (literally). Mostly I train alone, and because of that, I’m always afraid of pushing my limits. I have been training since 2009 and have tried so hard to get past it, but I still have this fear that the weights may collapse on my chest. This keeps me from pushing my limits, and my strength isn’t developing in those areas, even after 10 weeks of consistent work using the same machine. Usually, I start at 25 pounds and go up to 90 pounds and that’s it – it’s like a plateau that I can’t crack.

A: My first piece of advice is, don’t ever be scared of the weights. I’ve never walked into the gym and thought, oh no, I’m scared to do this or that because God forbid, something might happen. For one thing, if you always have that fear, I honestly believe you are more likely to get hurt because it’s a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another thing you said that stood out to me was that you do the same exact routine over and over. I believe in changing my program every week to continuously shock the muscle with a new type of stimulus. Whatever I do for back today is different from what I did last week, and next week will be different from that. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the term or idea of “confusing the muscle,” but it has worked very well for me and has helped me continue making gains long after people assured me that I was all maxed-out.

Third, if you are trying to bring up a specific area and you say your chest is a weak point, scale back on the training you do for the stronger muscle groups and increase the frequency of your chest training. At one point, my chest was a weaker area and I started training it twice a week on a schedule and routine that my coach, the late John Meadows, helped create for me. Tuesday would be my heavy compound day. I would do heavy incline presses, heavy flat presses, and heavy flyes, all with barbells and dumbbells. Friday would be a pump day. It was the same types of movements but with machines and cables. The reps were higher, and the rest periods between sets were shorter. On the compound days I did 8-10 reps, while I was doing 10-15 reps on the pump days. Eventually my chest became one of my better body parts.

Finally, you mention not having a spotter and that this was limiting you in the weights you use and how close to failure you could safely go. That’s a real issue when using barbells, so I highly recommend using dumbbells instead. If you fail and can’t get any more reps, you don’t have to worry about getting crushed with a bar on your chest. You can just drop the dumbbells, though be considerate of your gym and try to place them down carefully instead of letting them drop from a few feet! Good luck.

Don’t Skip Meals

Q: If you had to choose between missing a meal and missing two hours of sleep, which one would you choose and why?

A: Right now, I would take the full night’s sleep, because right now with the baby I don’t sleep a whole lot. But if I miss a meal, that’s like 5 pounds gone! When I got into Las Vegas a few days before the last Olympia, it was 1:00 a.m. by the time I got into my hotel room. I still needed to eat that final meal of the day to stay on track. I don’t miss meals, and neither should anyone else who’s trying to be their very best in terms of his or her physique.

I Am Officially a Texan!


2023 isn’t even half over, and my life has changed so much this year. I became a father in January, and in May, after living my entire life in New Jersey, my family and I are now living in Texas. Leading into the last Olympia, my wife and I were looking to move and were originally thinking about Florida. We couldn’t find any houses that had everything we wanted, so we started talking about other places we might want to live. The two main criteria were a lot of space and good weather. I’ve been out to the Dallas area many times over the last few years for GASP and Better Bodies, and we’ve always liked the area. A realtor friend of mind helped me search and eventually we found an amazing house. I said, let’s do it! I hadn’t seen the house in person, only in photos and videos, but it was exactly what we were looking for and literally three times the space of where we were living in New Jersey. I actually bought it a couple of months before we moved in May, but with so much going on with the new baby and the Arnold, we had to wait a bit to make the move across country. We love this house. It has five bedrooms, an inground pool, a movie theater, it’s just amazing. The only thing left to nail down is where I will train. Of course, I will go to Destination Dallas a few times a month and especially to film any video content for Iron World, the YouTube channel for GASP and Better Bodies. I’m trying out a few of the best gyms in my area now to figure out which one will be the best for everyday training. It can’t be too far away, because I don’t want to spend an hour or more every day just driving to and from the gym. I will find the right place very soon.

Instagram @shaunclarida

YouTube: Shaun Clarida

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