The name Brian DeCosta isn’t a new one for many Bodybuilding.com followers. DeCosta’s swipe workouts on Instagram are earning him new fans every day, and the rest of the fitness world is quickly noticing. As he explained in the article “The Self-Made Bodybuilder,” DeCosta has overcome adversity to build a successful coaching business, all while ruthlessly training to look the way he does.
But consider yourself warned: DeCosta’s workouts aren’t easy. We asked him to share his favorite upper-body push day so you, too, can experience his no-nonsense workout style. He incorporates tweaks on classic exercises—single-arm decline dumbbell bench and cable shoulder presses, for instance—as well as plenty of dropsets and supersets.
Volume is the key when you’re pushing for size, and if you’ve done any of DeCosta’s workouts before, you’ve felt the satisfying pain that comes with it. Buckle up and get ready for the chest, shoulder, and triceps pump of your life.
For the Arnold press, don’t look to take your first 3 working sets to complete failure. Instead, pick a weight that gives you that satisfying shoulder burn and get that blood flowing for the rest of the movements to come! Except for that final set, of course. Take that dropset all the way to failure.
Dumbbell Front Raise
As the first movement in your first superset, again, choose a challenging weight that doesn’t require you to use momentum from the rest of your body to get it from the bottom position to parallel. Hit your reps and let the volume do its work! Keep your shoulders pulled back and core engaged to stay sitting tall.
Seated Overhead Triceps Extension
If possible, use the EZ-bar for this movement to create a more comfortable position for your wrists and avoid the awkward setup of a dumbbell. Focus on using both triceps equally to press the bar up and not favoring one or the other.
Single-Arm Cable Shoulder Press
After hitting the Arnolds earlier, you’ll take a more isolated approach for shoulders one side at a time! Move through a full range of motion, bringing your elbow down just below your shoulder joint and press all the way up until your elbow is locked out and biceps aligned with your ear. These will burn like crazy.
Overhead Cable Rope Triceps Extension
Again, find that sweet spot with enough weight to get a good pump and be able to complete the full 15 reps with great form. Focus on keeping your elbows tucked and fixed in place as you extend with each rep. If you have to go down in weight over the course of 4 sets to stay in the 12-15 rep range, do it.
Incline Bench Press
It’s tempting to want to go super heavy on a big compound movement like this one, but after all the pre-exhaust work you’ve done so far, it shouldn’t be an option. You have 3 sets of 10 reps to complete, so select a moderately challenging weight and try to hit every rep! Your last set will finish with a dropset, so take off about 20 percent of the weight from your first 2 sets and do another set right after your second. Keep a spotter around if you need one!
Pec-Deck Chest Fly
Pec deck—simple enough, right? Not so fast. In the video you’ll notice DeCosta does a combination of moves here in his sets. He starts with one rep using both arms. Then he holds his left arm in the contracted position performing a rep with the right arm. Then he holds the right arm in a static hold while the left arm performs a rep. Think “both, right, left.” Do that five times per set, which equates to 15 total reps.
Single-Arm Decline Dumbbell Press
Think the dumbbell chest press is just…a chest exercise? This move will teach you otherwise. It takes a lot of core stability here in order to keep yourself from falling sideways, and you’ll need to generate tension from throughout the upper body to move that weight. Press the weight directly up and keep your elbow slightly tucked to avoid excess stress on your anterior delt.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press with Crunch Static Hold
On the decline bench, crunch up and hold the top position with your chest tall. This movement will challenge your core, hip flexors, upper back, and of course, your shoulders. Use dumbbells light enough to allow you to stay in position and complete all reps without folding. Don’t worry: 10 reps in, they’ll still feel plenty heavy!