Not everyone has time to train one body part a day. And not everyone wants to do that. Sometimes, you just need to get all your upper-body training into one session.
On days like that, the chest-and-back superset session is one of your best training options. It’s gruelling and challenging, but it will leave your entire upper body with a vicious pump, and ensure that you’re hitting all critical upper-body muscles.
And while it’s challenging, it’s also smartly crafted: For the health of your shoulders and your posture, you always want to blend pushing and pulling exercises into your training. Supersetting a chest exercise with a back exercise ensures that you do that. Lead with the back exercise in each pair first; for physique balance, you should aim to pull more weight (and more frequently) than you push in all your training.
A chest-and-back superset workout also lets you move challenging weights; you’ll wind up doing major movements, such as bench presses and rows, and by lifting heavy weights, you’ll spur your body towards muscle growth.
This isn’t the kind of workout you want to do all week, though, especially if you’re training hard. If you try doing chest-and-back supersets, think of doing them twice a week, with at least two days of rest for upper-body training in between. Chest-and-back supersets work ideally with a weekly split that has you training on a three-day split that starts with legs on the first day, the upper body on the second day, and includes a third day of rest and recovery.
Not sure where to start with a chest-and-back superset workout? Here’s a sample session that can get you jumpstarted.
The Chest-and-Back Blast
Do the exercises in order, with exercises 1a and 1b as a superset. Perform both moves back-to-back, resting one minute after completing each set. Do the same for moves 2a and 2b. Do exercise 3 by itself, resting for 1 minute between sets. Finish with 2 sets of exercise 4.
1a) Barbell Row
Hold a loaded barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. Hinge at the hips and tighten your core, working to keep your shoulders slightly higher than your hips. Don’t round your lower back. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then row the barbell to your chest. Return to the start. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
1b) Dumbbell Bench Press
Lie with your back on a bench, holding dumbbells directly over your shoulders, arms straight. Your core should be tight and your glutes should be squeezed. Bend at the elbows and shoulders, lowering the weights to within an inch of your chest, then press the dumbbells back up. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
2a) Chin up
Hang from a pull-up bar with a shoulder-width, underhand grip. Keep your core tight. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then pull your chest toward the bar. Hold when you’ve pulled your chest to the bar, then slowly lower to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps.
2b) Mixed-style Incline Press
Lie with your back on an adjustable bench set to a 30-degree incline, holding light- to medium-weight dumbbells directly over your shoulders, core tight and glutes squeezed. Keeping your right arm straight, lower the left dumbbell to your chest then press it back up. Do that twice. Then keep the left arm straight as you lower the right dumbbell to your chest and press it back up twice. Lower both dumbbells to your chest and press them back up. Do 2 to 3 clusters of reps like that. Do 3 sets.
3) Incline Bench Dumbbell Row
Lie with your chest on an adjustable bench set to a 30-degree incline, holding light dumbbells. Let your arms hang naturally. Tighten your glutes, flex your abs, and squeeze your shoulder blades. Row the dumbbells upwards, aiming to drive your elbows higher than your torso. Squeeze your back at the top of each rep. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12.
4) Pushup-to-triceps Pushup Finisher
Get in pushup position. Do one pushup. As you push your torso upwards, jump your hands in the air, into position for a triceps pushup, hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Do one triceps pushup, then jump (or step) your hands back to regular pushup position and do two standard pushups. After the second one, move back into triceps pushups position and do two triceps pushups.
Continue laddering up until you can do no more good-form reps. Do 2 sets.
By Ebenezer Samuel