The Best Chest and Back Workout for Men

Man viewed from the side holding a dumbbell in one hand next to a dumbbell rack. chest and back workout
Bastien Plu / Unsplash

There’s no shortage of vanity training happening at your local gym. International chest day isn’t only reserved for Monday mornings anymore, and the mirror muscle craze is alive and well. But you can’t just focus on a select few isolated muscle groups. To get a well-rounded physique, you need balance. That’s where a solid chest and back workout comes in.

Working your chest and back together is a great way to build an impressive overall musculature. A strong, developed back will accentuate a well-built chest: It’ll help pull the shoulders back into good posture so you can stand taller and prouder. It’ll also add width to the upper body as a whole for a proper V-taper. Who wouldn’t want that?

This chest and back workout will help you focus on the essentials. Not only does this routine promote the balance described above, it also utilizes antagonistic supersets—a fancy way of saying you’ll be training opposing muscle groups back-to-back to keep your heart rate up and maximize your fitness results. You’ll make gains happen and feel fantastic doing it, too. Time to get to work.

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The Best Chest and Back Workout for Men

For this workout, you’ll need access to some key pieces of equipment for the upper body. Nothing fancy here, just the staples:

  • Adjustable bench
  • Pullup bar
  • Seated row machine
  • Dumbbells (variety of weights)
  • Cable station

Each exercise pairing will be performed as a superset for the sets and reps required. Aim for the final reps of each set to be approaching failure. On your final set of each exercise, it’s OK to reach full failure.

Part 1

Directions: Perform 5 supersets of the exercises below. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

  1. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press x 12 (slow eccentric tempo): This means lower the weight slowly (count 3 to 4 seconds as you lower it), and then explode up to the top position. This will increase total time under tension and promote greater muscle growth.
  2. Single-arm Dumbbell Row x 12 (each arm): Plant one knee on the same bench you used to do the dumbbell press, and perform single-arm rows. Be sure to maintain a high chest and flat back, and pull through the elbow in a mild “sweeping” motion to recruit your upper back and lats.

Part 2

Directions: Perform 4 supersets of the exercises below. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

  1. Pullup x Max reps
  2. Feet-elevated Pushup x 15
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Part 3

Directions: Perform 4 supersets of the exercises below. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

  1. Incline Dumbbell Press x 10 (slow eccentric tempo)
  2. Seated Row x 15

Part 4

Directions: Perform 4 supersets of the exercises below. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.

  1. Standing Cable Chest Flye x 15: Set the cable pulleys just above shoulder level and assume a staggered stance (one foot forward, one back). Aim slightly downward so your starting point is around shoulder level, but your finishing point is in line with your stomach. Squeeze the chest hard on each rep.
  2. Dumbbell Bentover Face Pull x 12: Start with light dumbbells in each hand and assume a bentover row position: in a squat with your torso parallel to the floor and your spine flat. Next, without changing your torso position, pull the dumbbells up next to your ears. As you bring them up, rotate your hands so that your thumbs are on top and the dumbbell handles are perpendicular to the floor. Keep your elbows high and squeeze the upper back on each rep. Hold the top position for a second before lowering back to the start position.
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