How to Pair Exercises for a Chest and Back Workout

February 18, 2013 | Richard Choueiri

Must See Strength Training Videos

If you want to build your upper body, you are probably already doing a workout that targets your chest and back. However, performing enough exercises to properly target these two muscle groups can take along time if you don't use supersets.

The chest and back are opposing muscle groups, allowing for exercises to be performed immediately after each other in superset fashion and making for shorter, more intense and more productive training sessions.

To do chest and back exercises in supersets, perform a set of a chest exercise and immediately follow it with a set of a back exercise. Rest for two to three minutes and repeat.

Chest

The primary muscle of the chest is the pectoralis major. It is made up of three parts: clavicular (upper), sternocostal (middle) and abdominal (lower). All three parts work to move your humerus, or arm bone, towards the midline of your chest. (Learn 5 Tricks to BuIld a Bigger Bench.)

The best exercises to build your pec major are the Bench Press and the Fly. Varying the angles for each movement allows you to emphasize a specific part of your chest. You engage the upper pecs if you do these exercises on an incline at an angle between 45 and 60 degrees. Doing the movements on a flat bench engages the middle pecs, while a decline hits the lower pecs.

Back and Chest Workout

Back

The main superficial back muscles—those you can see from the outside—are the latissimus dorsi, middle trapezius and lower trapezius. The first allows you to move your arms towards your sides and to the rear. The latter two allow you to bring your shoulder blades close together. (See Build a Strong Back With Pull-Ups.)

To work the lats, perform Pull-Ups, Lat Pulldowns and Straight-Arm Pulldowns. For the middle and lower traps, do Bent-Over Rows and scapular retraction exercises. Bent-Over Rows also work your lats, especially if you use a reverse grip.

Building a Chest and Back Workout

To blast your pecs, lats and traps, perform three to four of the aforementioned chest and back exercises. Complete three sets of eight to 12 reps per exercise. Use the maximum workload possible and go to failure during each set.

It's best to pair Bench Press exercises with rowing/scapular retraction exercises, and to pair Chest Flies with pulldown exercises. For best results, use a variety of exercise equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, resistance machines and cable pulleys.

Chest-Back Superset Variations

While supersets are typically performed with no rest between exercises, you can alter them to change up the routine every few workouts. Instead of taking no rest between sets, you can rest for 15 to 30 seconds, or even up to a minute, if you need an additional recovery period.

You can also rest for one minute between exercises and between sets. This allows you to perform high-intensity exercises that elevate your heart rate in superset fashion.

Topics: BACK | CHEST

Featured Videos

Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 588,664
Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Learn to Hit Open Three-Pointers With Damian Lillard's Baseline Drift Drill Views: 241,761
Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Teach Any Athlete How To Squat Properly Views: 284,490
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,844
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,151,981
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,164
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 6,099,366
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,009,040

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Improve Your Power With These Hardcore Methods

Improve Your Power With These Hardcore Methods

Explosive power training is essential for baseball and softball players. When you see players hitting home runs or pitchers throwing gas, those are...

The Most American Workout Ever

The Most American Workout Ever

Build Elite Strength With This Training System

Build Elite Strength With This Training System

Build Lower-Body Power with This Squat Workout

Build Lower-Body Power with This Squat Workout

Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

10-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up for Any Workout

10-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up for Any Workout

Why Single-Arm and Single-Leg Training is Better for Athletes

Why Single-Arm and Single-Leg Training is Better for Athletes

Strength Isn’t Just How Much You Can Lift on a Barbell

Strength Isn't Just How Much You Can Lift on a Barbell

Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges

Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges

2015 Summer Training Guide: Football

2015 Summer Training Guide: Football

2015 Summer Training Guide: Basketball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Basketball

Fix 7 Common Problem Areas with Exercises From Todd Durkin

Fix 7 Common Problem Areas with Exercises From Todd Durkin

2015 Summer Training Guide: Soccer

2015 Summer Training Guide: Soccer

Building Functional Balance for Figure Skaters

Building Functional Balance for Figure Skaters

Olympian Carrie Tollefson's Core Workout

Olympian Carrie Tollefson's Core Workout

7 Trap Bar Exercises You Should Try

7 Trap Bar Exercises You Should Try

Are You Using the Right Weight for Every Exercise?

Are You Using the Right Weight for Every Exercise?

9 Ways to Improve Your Squat Technique

9 Ways to Improve Your Squat Technique

Go Against Traditional Workout Order for Bigger Gains

Go Against Traditional Workout Order for Bigger Gains

Use Single-Leg Strength to Enhance Soccer Performance

Use Single-Leg Strength to Enhance Soccer Performance

What Sport Coaches Need to Know About Strength and Conditioning

What Sport Coaches Need to Know About Strength and Conditioning

2015 Summer Training Guide: Track

2015 Summer Training Guide: Track

A Modern Twist to the Original Burpee

A Modern Twist to the Original Burpee

5 Things to Remember When You Wing Your Workout

5 Things to Remember When You Wing Your Workout

2015 Summer Training Guide: Softball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Softball

Mix Up Your Workout With Unique Partner Exercises

Mix Up Your Workout With Unique Partner Exercises

Building Brakes for More Speed

Building Brakes for More Speed

How to Build Strong Neck Muscles

How to Build Strong Neck Muscles

Why You Should Add Depth Jumps to Your Workouts

Why You Should Add Depth Jumps to Your Workouts

2015 Summer Training Guide: Baseball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Baseball

Battle Rope Workout That Will Get You Shredded

Battle Rope Workout That Will Get You Shredded

Marcus Mariota's Speed and Strength Workout

Marcus Mariota's Speed and Strength Workout

The 10-Minute Grip Strengthening Workout

The 10-Minute Grip Strengthening Workout

2015 Summer Training Guide: Wrestling

2015 Summer Training Guide: Wrestling

2015 Summer Training Guide: Lacrosse

2015 Summer Training Guide: Lacrosse

2015 Summer Training Guide: Volleyball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Volleyball

Bulletproof Shoulders: A Shoulder Training Guide

Bulletproof Shoulders: A Shoulder Training Guide

YardBarker