Workouts for every body part series
Putting on mass isn’t an overnight miracle, because it requires time and dedication to the iron and your workout routine, especially when you want to build mass for your chest area and back.
The chest exercises work the pushing muscles in the body (chest, front deltoids and triceps) while the back exercises involve the pushing muscles (back, biceps and rear deltoids).
The chest area is made up of two muscles – pectoralis majoris and pectoralis minoris. These chest muscles start at the clavicle and go to the sternum and the armpit area. The best way to work your chest is to break the muscle in three parts – the upper, the middle and the lower portions of the chest. All these different portions are stimulated by changing the angle of the execution for an exercise.
The upper and the lower portions of the chest are stimulated by exercises done on a 30-45 degrees incline bench such as dumbbell bench press, decline barbell, or incline dumbbell flyes. The middle portion of the chest is best worked when doing exercises on a flat bench such as flat barbell and dumbbell bench press.
Let’s see a list of exercises that best work the chest muscles:
- Bench press – lie on the bench and take the barbell from the rack over your upper chest using a wide oblique overhand grip. Lower the weight to your chest, then press the bar upward until arms are extended
- Decline bench press – lie on a decline bench with your feet under leg brace and dumbbells resting on your thighs. Position dumbbells to the sides of your chest with the arms bent under each dumbbell. Press the dumbbells up with elbows to the sides until your arms are fully extended. Lower weight to the sides of your chest until a slight stretch is felt in chest or shoulder.
- Decline fly – with two dumbbells lie supine on a decline bench. Support dumbbells above upper abdomen with arms fixed in slightly bent position. Internally rotate shoulders so your elbows are to the sides and lower the dumbbells to the sides until chest muscles are stretched with elbows fixed. Bring dumbbells together in wide hugging motion until they are nearly together.
- Dumbbell pullover – lie on your upper back perpendicular to bench and slightly flex your hips. Grasp one dumbbell from behind or from side with both hands under inner plate of dumbbell. Position the dumbbell over the chest with your elbows slightly bent. Keeping your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement, lower the dumbbell over and beyond head until your upper arms are in-line with your torso. Pull the dumbbell up and over the chest.
Sculpting a bigger stronger back takes work but it comes with a long list of benefits. For example, you will stand taller because training your back means targeting the weak points that lead to poor posture.
The strategy for working your back is simple enough:
- focus on lifting heavy weights – and focus on the 4 to 6 or 5 to 7 rep change
- focus on the back exercises that safely allow for progressive overload – number one rule of natural muscle building is progressive overload, which means adding weight to the bar over time
If you want a wide, thick and strong back, these are the exercises you’ll want to do:
- Barbell deadlift –keeping your feet beneath the bar, squat down and grab it with a shoulder width or slightly wider overhand or mixed grip. Lift the bar by extending your hips and knees to full extension. Pull your shoulders back at the top of the lift and slowly go to the starting position.
- Lever T-bar row –bend your knees slightly and bend over the lever handles with your back straight. Grab the handles with a shoulder width to wide overhand grip. Pull the lever up to your torso and return until your arms are extended and your shoulders are stretched downwards.
- Wide-grip seated cable row -sit slightly forward on the platform in order to grasp the cable attachment. With a wider than shoulder width grip, slide hips back positioning your slightly bent knees. Pull the cable attachment to your waist while pulling your torso upright. Pull your shoulders back and push chest forward while arching back. Return until arms are extended, shoulders are stretched forward, and lower back is flexed forward.
- Wide-grip pull-ups –grab a bar with a wide overhand grip and pull your body up until your neck reaches the height of the hands. Lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully extended.
Now let’s combine the two and take a look at a workout routine that works your chest and back at the same time.
Deadlifts – with your feet flat beneath the bar, squat don and grasp the bar with a shoulder-wide mixed grip. Lift the bar by fully extending your hips and knees. Pull your shoulders back at the top of the lift.
Bench press – lie on the bench and take the barbell from the rack over your upper chest using a wide oblique overhand grip. Lower the weight to your chest, then press the bar upward until arms are extended.
Dips – mount a wide dip bar using an oblique grip and keeping your arms straight with your shoulders above hands. Slightly bend your knees and hips and lower your body by bending your arms, allowing elbows to flare out to sides. When you feel a slight stretch in your chest or shoulders, push your body up until arms are straight.
Barbell bent-over rows – slightly bend your knees and bend over the bar with your back straight. Grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip and pull it to your upper waist. Return until your arms are extended and shoulders are stretched downward.
One arm dumbbell rows – grasp the dumbbells with your palms facing the front of your thighs. Position your other hand for support and pull the dumbbell to front of shoulder with elbow leading, allowing your wrist to flex as the dumbbell rises upward.
Barbell shrugs – stand holding barbell with an overhand or mixed grip and shoulder width or slightly wider. Elevate shoulders as high as possible, then lower and repeat.
Before you perform this workout routine take some time for a warm up and stretch. About 10 minutes of light cardio on a treadmill, elliptical or stair stepper should be all you need to warm up.
To stretch your chest you can extend your arm straight out to the side and grip a wall or machine, then twist your body forward lightly to begin stretching out your chest.
To stretch your back, you only need to sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and twist your upper body so your shoulders rotate to one side. You can use the chair for support, holding on to get a deep muscle stretch.