Chest and Back Exercises That Will Get You Pumped

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chest and back exercises

Most gym-goers train a different muscle group each day of the week, so Monday would be exercises for chest, Tuesday would be back, Wednesday legs, and so on. This approach is quite outdated and can actually hinder progress. A better way to train is to pair muscle groups together, for example, shoulders and arms, or a chest and back workout. This article will look at exactly that.

First, we will establish the ten of best chest and back exercises, then we will put them together in a simple workout for you to follow.

Exercise One: The Pull Up

The Pull Up

The pull up is a truly amazing exercise, it will work all of the muscles in your back, your biceps and will even work your abs! The main muscles worked are the Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, and the Brachioradialis (your forearms). Grab a bar with both hands using an overhand grip, push your chest out and arch your back slightly to improve your posture.

Use your arms and back to pull yourself up to the bar so that your collar bone is in line with it. Pause, and then lower yourself back down until your arms are almost (but not quite) locked.

Exercise Two: Bench Press

Bench Press

The king of chest exercises, the barbell bench press has been the go-to exercise for men to prove their awesomeness for years. Nobody's ever said, "Yo how much you lat pulldown?". The main muscles worked are the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and the Triceps Brachii. Grab barbell with an overhand grip, make sure your grip is slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

Hold bar over your chest and then slowly lower it until it is touching your chest. Pause, and then drive the bar upwards until your arms are almost fully locked out. Pause and then repeat. If you are going heavy, then make sure you have a spotter as getting stuck under a barbell is one of the most humiliating experiences a man can have!

Exercise Three: Bent Over Row

Bent Over Row

A great exercise for the back, lets you lift a lot of weight and can be changed to emphasise different muscles very easily. There are two variations to this exercise, the overhand grip will emphasise the Rhomboids, and the lower Trapezius muscles.

While the underhand grip will place more emphasis on the Biceps Brachii and upper Trapezius muscles. The Latissimus Dorsi and Posterior Deltoids (rear delts) will be worked equally with either variation.

Grab a barbell (with either grip) and standing with legs bent and leaning forward hold the bar with straight arms. Then while keeping your chest pushed out and back straight pull the barbell up towards your chest (elbows should be slightly flared out). Pause, and then lower to the original position.

Exercise Four: Push Ups

Push Ups

Everyone has attempted a push-up at some point in their lives, and most people are surprised by how challenging they can be. Push ups work the chest muscles (Pectoralis major, and the clavicular head of the Pectoralis major), the Anterior (front) Deltoid, and the Triceps Brachii. Hands on the floor just wider than shoulder width apart.

Legs straight with toes touching the floor, your chest should also be touching the floor. Whilst your abdominals are braced and back straight. Using your chest and arms push your upper body off the floor until your arms are almost fully extended, make sure your back is straight. Pause, then lower yourself back down to the floor.

Exercise Five: Single Arm Dumbbell Row

Single Arm Dumbbell Row

A very underrated exercise, the single arm dumbbell row when performed properly is an incredibly satisfying and effective exercise. This exercise works the Latissimus Dorsi, the Trapezius, Posterior (rear) Deltoid, and the Biceps Brachii.

You will need a bench and a heavy dumbbell. There are many variations to this exercise, but the best in our opinion involves you standing parallel to the bench, placing both hands on the bench and bending your knees. Leaning forward and keeping a straight back place the dumbbell on the floor. Grab it in your weak hand, and then pull it up until your wrist is in line with your chest.

Try to keep your back straight because if the weight is too heavy your body will start to rotate with the dumbbell. Pause, and then lower the weight back down again. Once you have completed the allotted reps, place the dumbbell in your stronger hand and repeat.

Exercise Six: Chest Flies

Chest Flies

There are many ways to perform chest flies but we will be looking at incline dumbbell flies today. This exercise is the first isolation exercise we have looked at (the other exercises have all worked multiple muscles) and only works the Pectoralis Major (chest muscles).

Place your bench at a 45-degree angle and get yourself some light dumbbells, lie back on the bench and hold the two dumbbells out in front of your chest with palms facing each other. Then extend your arms out wide so that your hands are each reaching towards the floor.

Stop when you feel the stretch in your chest (don't go further or you'll hurt yourself) and then bring your arms back together. Think of this exercise as a giant clapping movement, but don't smash the weights together at the end!

Exercise Seven: Lat Pulldown

Lat Pulldown

"Seriously though bro, how much DO you Lat Pulldown?". Whilst pull ups are probably the best strength building back exercise, they're definitely not for everyone! The lat pulldown is a great alternative or supplement to pull-ups (especially if your goal is Hypertrophy). This exercise primarily works the Latissimus Dorsi and the Biceps Brachii, whilst also working the Brachialis.

Sit yourself down on a lat pulldown machine, making sure your hips are right up against the knee pads (you want to be as close as possible to the machine). Grab the bar with a wide grip (the wider the grip the more Lat activation), and push your chest forward whilst leaning back slightly. Pull the bar towards your collar bone whilst trying to pull your elbows in an arc towards your sides. Pause at the bottom of the movement and then slowly raise back up.

Exercise Eight: Chest Dips

Chest Dips

A surprisingly difficult exercise which many fitness experts believe is a better chest developer than the Bench Press! This exercise mostly works the Pectoralis Major, all three heads if the Triceps Brachii, and the Anterior (front) Deltoid. You will need parallel bars to complete this exercise.

Hang between the two bars with your chest leaning forward and your feet tucked behind you. Lower your body down until you feel a stretch in your chest. Pause, and then drive yourself back up to the starting position.

Exercise Nine: Straight Arm Pulldown

Straight Arm Pulldown

The straight arm pulldown is similar to a regular lat pulldown except that you are standing up throughout this exercise. There is also a greater emphasis on the triceps muscles as you keep your arms straight throughout.

Grab a long bar (longer the better) and attach it to a high-pulley cable. Stand back slightly and start with your arms parallel to the ground with your hands holding the bar in a wide grip. Take a deep breath and pull the bar down in an arc towards your abdomen. Pause at the bottom and then slowly return the bar to parallel.

Exercise Ten: Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell pullovers are great for stretching the chest, while also working the Latissimus Dorsi, Serratus Anterior (muscles surrounding your ribs), and Triceps Brachii. You can also perform this exercise with a barbell (known as a barbell pullover) but dumbbells are the most popular version.

Lie on a bench with your head right at the top of it. Hold a dumbbell in two hands directly over your chest. Take a deep breath and then whilst keeping your arms slightly bent throughout, bring your arms back until they are parallel to the ground. Stop if you feel the stretch in your chest before then and then return the dumbbell to above your chest again.

The Chest & Back Workout Plan

  • Pull Ups 3 x 6-8 (or Lat Pulldown if you cannot manage pull ups yet)
  • Push Ups 3 x 8-10
  • Bent Over Row 3 x 6
  • Bench Press 3 x 6
  • Single Arm DB Row 3 x 8 (each)
  • Chest Dips 3 x 4-8
  • Straight Arm Pulldown 2-3 x 8-10
  • Dumbbell Pullovers 3 x 10
  • DB Incline Flyes 2-3 x 12-15

Notes: This is a very tough workout which you could easily split into two chest and back workouts per week. For example:

Session One

  • Pull Ups 3 x 6-8/Lat Pulldown 3 x 6-8
  • Bench Press 3 x 6
  • Single Arm DB Row 3 x 8 (each)
  • Dumbbell Pullovers 3 x 10

Session Two

  • Bent Over Row 3 x 6
  • Push Ups 3 x 8-10
  • Straight Arm Pullovers 2-3 x 8-10
  • Chest Dips
  • DB Incline Flyes 2-3 x 12-15

You could also add shoulder exercises such as Push Press, Shrugs, Seated Shoulder Press, Front and Side Raises, Face Pulls, and Rear Delt Flyes. This would turn your back and chest workout into an upper body workout (or two)

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