The Ultimate Guide to Building Upper Body Muscle: Chest and Back Workouts

Want to build your biggest upper body muscles without spending so much time in the gym that you feel like you owe them rent money? And you’ll need to learn to train, rather than just show up and throw around whatever weight you can find randomly supposed to be training.One of the simplest ways to do this is by training muscle groups together—and for the upper body, that means combining your chest and back workouts into one.

Training your chest and back together is highly efficient because they are opposing muscle groups. This means that while one muscle group is working, the other is resting. For example, you push with your arms to target the front muscles like the pecs (chest) and pull to work the back muscles like the lats, traps, and rhomboids. By doing this, you can cut down on rest time using supersets and other rep schemes that don’t require long recovery periods. This approach means less time spent on your workouts and helps you break free from old-school training methods.

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This technique goes against how most people are introduced to strength training. Many guys train one specific muscle or muscle group per workout—like arm day, leg day, chest day, etc.—using a multi-day split to give each group focused attention. These workouts are actually very long because you take quite a long rest between sets and exercises; you need this to recover before moving to the next thing.

By stacking supersets of exercises aimed at opposing muscle groups, you can cut down on rest time and add an extra point of focus to your workout. This approach makes your training more efficient and effective.

Pros of Working Superset on Opposite Muscle Groups

The principle behind training two opposing muscle groups in one session is simple: You can accomplish more in less time. Opposing muscle groups, also known as agonist and antagonist muscles, perform opposite functions. Think of biceps and triceps with elbow flexion and extension, and chest and back with pushing and pulling.

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By performing exercises for two different muscles, you can recover without fully resting. This is where a superset structure is perfect. Instead of doing one exercise, resting, and then doing another, you do one exercise for the first muscle group and immediately follow with an exercise for the opposing muscle group. Then you rest and repeat.

Pros of the Chest and Back Workouts Split

The chest-and-back superset session is one of the best training options for your upper body. It’s grueling and challenging, giving you an intense pump while targeting all the critical upper body muscles.

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Despite the challenge, this workout is smartly crafted. For shoulder health and good posture, it’s essential to blend pushing and pulling exercises. By doing this, you are super setting a chest exercise with a back exercise. Start with the back exercise in each pair; for better physique balance, aim to pull more weight and more frequently than you push.

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A chest and back superset workout also allows you to handle challenging weights. You’ll perform major movements like bench presses and rows, and lifting heavy weights will promote muscle growth.

When to Do Chest and Back Workouts

This isn’t a workout you want to do every day, especially if you’re training hard. I’ll work my chest and back with supersets twice per week, with a space of at least 2 days between.

Chest and back workouts best in a weekly split routine. Try a three-day split: start with legs on the first day, focus on the upper body on the second day, and take a third day for rest and recovery.

Not sure how to initiate a chest-and-back superset workout? Here’s a sample session designed by MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., to get you started.

The Chest-and-Back Blast Workout


Follow the exercises in order, performing exercises 1A and 1B as a superset. Do both moves back-to-back, resting one minute after each set. Repeat the same for exercises 2A and 2B. Do exercise 3 by itself, resting for one minute between sets. Finish with two sets of exercise 4.

1A. Barbell Row

How to do it:

  • Lift a loaded barbell from the floor using an overhand grip with both hands, just beyond shoulder width.
  • Hinge at the hips and tighten your core, keeping your shoulders slightly higher than your hips. Avoid rounding your lower back.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades, then row the barbell to your chest. Return to the start position.

Sets and reps: 3 x 10 reps

1B. Dumbbell Bench Press

How to do it:

  • Lie on a bench with your back, holding dumbbells directly over your shoulders with arms straight. Contract your core and glutes
  • Elbows bent to lower the weights all the way down to within an inch of your chest, then press the dumbbells back up.

Sets and reps: 3 x 10 reps

Related : How to Train Triceps Exercise at Home?

2A. Chinup

How to do it:

  • Hang from a pullup bar with a shoulder-width, underhand grip. Keep your core tight.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades and chest, drawing your chest up towards the bar.
  • Hold when your chest reaches the bar, then slowly lower to the starting position.

Sets and reps: 3 x 10 reps

2B. Mixed-Style Incline Press

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How to do it:

  • Lie on an adjustable bench set to a 30-degree incline, holding light to medium dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Keep your core and glutes tight. Keep your core tight and your glutes squeezed.
  • Keep your right arm straight while lowering the left dumbbell to your chest, then press it back up. Repeat twice.
  • Keep the left arm straight while lowering the right dumbbell to your chest, then press it back up twice.
  • Lower both dumbbells to your chest and press them back up together.

Sets and reps: 3 x 2 x 3 clusters of reps

3.Incline Bench Dumbbell Row

How to do it:

  • Lie face down on an adjustable bench set to a 30-degree incline, holding light dumbbells. Let your arms hang naturally.
  • Squeeze your butt muscles, brace your abs, and pull your shoulder blades back.
  • Row the dumbbells upwards, driving your elbows higher than your torso. Squeeze your back at the top of each repetition.

Sets and reps: 3 x 10 x 12 reps

4.Pushup-to-Triceps Push Up Finisher

How to do it:

  • Get into a pushup position. Do one pushup. As you push your torso upwards, jump your hands into position for a triceps pushup, with hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  • Do one triceps pushup, then jump (or step) your hands back to the regular pushup position and do two standard push ups.
  • After the second pushup, move back into the triceps pushup position and do two triceps pushups.
  • Continue alternating and increasing reps until you can no longer maintain good form.

Sets and reps: 2 rounds

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How often should I do chest and back workouts?
A: Aim to do chest and back supersets twice a week, with at least two days of rest between upper body training sessions.

Q: What are the benefits of combining chest and back exercises?
A: Combining chest and back workouts is efficient because these muscle groups are opposing. This allows one group to rest while the other works, reducing overall workout time.

Q: Can beginners do chest and back supersets?
A: Yes, beginners can start with lighter weights and focus on proper form. It’s a great way to build strength and muscle balance.

Q: What is a superset?
A: A superset involves performing two exercises back-to-back without resting in between. In this workout, each superset targets opposing muscle groups.

Q: How long should I rest between supersets?
A: Rest for about one minute between supersets to allow for recovery and maintain workout intensity.

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