Hunter Labrada Talks Best Chest Exercises for Growth, Fixing Muscle Imbalances, and More

Labrada suggests de-emphasizing the weight and focus on range of motion and technique.

Suppose you follow bodybuilder Hunter Labrada on YouTube and Instagram. In that case, you know that he’s always willing to answer fan questions and offer tips on how to continuously make improvements in the gym.

During his latest “Saturday Q&A” video from Sept. 3, 2022, Labrada answered a number of questions, including how to grow a bigger chest, the best side delt exercise, and whether a bodybuilder can (and should) drink alcohol in the off-season. Check it out:

[Related: Big Ramy Machine Presses 440 Pounds for Reps During Olympia Prep With Bodybuilder Dennis James]

How to Grow Your Chest

It’s one of the most common questions uttered in gyms and on message boards around the world: How do I get a bigger chest? So it was inevitable that Labrada would address it one day. The key, he says, is less about the amount of weight you’re moving and more about the form and exercise selection.

“I see with a lot of people, whenever their chests are lagging, [it’s because] they’re way too concerned with the amount of weight they’re using and they’re using a lot more triceps and front delt than they are chest,” Labrada says.


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[Related: 10 Athletes With the Best Chests in Men’s Bodybuilding]

Rather than looking at your one-rep max as the best tool for chest growth, Labrada suggests concentrating on your range of motion and picking exercises that optimize the pecs. He suggests these four:

Though he doesn’t give strict rep or set amounts, he mentions that you should shoot for failure sets in the 10 to 12-rep range.

Labrada’s Favorite Side Delt Exercise

This one was simple: For his favorite side delt exercise, Labrada brings up the chest-supported cuff Y raise that he does during every push session. For this move, set up an adjustable bench at a nearly vertical angle so the pad is facing a cable machine. Then, put the cuff attachments on the cables, face away from the machine, and put your opposite hands through the cuffs.

While facing the bench, set yourself with the cables behind your back. Then, stand at the bench and brace your chest against the pad. Perform lateral raises with both arms, extending as high as you can go and lowering back down to your sides. Keep your chest pressed against the pad throughout. Watch the tutorial at the 26-minute mark in the video above.

Bodybuilding and Booze

Labrada was asked if a bodybuilder could enjoy alcohol during the off-season. And while he knows bodybuilders who drink regularly, he says it’s obviously not optimal to indulge too much, even when you’re not prepping for a show. In general, moderation and common sense reign supreme.

“I personally treat my off-season like prep when it comes to the fact that I’m not drinking alcohol or doing anything that impedes my recovery,” Labrada says. “At the end of the day, how seriously do you want to take it?”

One thing he does drink, however, is zero-calorie beverages like Gatorade Zero and Powerade Zero. Though he says his coach might take him off artificial sweeteners close to the Olympia, these drinks keep him satiated and help him get his fluids in.

Fixing a Muscle Imbalance

When the question of fixing muscle imbalances came up, Labrada says it’s all about concentrating on forced reps and slowly matching up both sides.

[Know] which side is the weakest side [and start] with that side [to get] your extra forced rep. When you go to the strong side, just match reps.

Find an exercise — like hammer curls — where you can get 10 solid reps and one forced rep on your weak arm. On your stronger arm, match that with 11 reps. Even if it’s easier on your stronger arm, your weak side will soon catch up after a few weeks, Labrada says.


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[Related: Smash Imbalances and Weaknesses With Functional Symmetry]

If there’s more than a two- or three-rep discrepancy between the sides, Labrada suggests adding a standalone set or two with the weak side to bring it up to speed.

Labrada’s next bodybuilding show will be the 2022 Mr. Olympia contest on Dec. 16-18, 2022, in Las Vegas, NV.

Featured Image: @hunterlabrada on Instagram