Nothing builds confidence and attracts compliments like a well developed chest and muscular arms. From making your t-shirts fit better to enhancing your athletic performance, a strong chest and arms has both aesthetic and athletic benefits.
There are hundreds of chest and arm workouts out there, ranging from classic curls and bench press routines to creative training strategies built around a combination of bodyweight exercises and high-intensity resistance training.
In this blog post, you’ll learn the ultimate chest and arm workout for building mass, increasing your single-rep max, and sculpting a set of pectorals, triceps and biceps that turns heads on the beach, in the gym and on the playing field.
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How often should you train your chest?
As a beginner, it can be tempting to assume that training as frequently as possible is the best strategy. Contrary to popular belief (and the workouts in fitness magazines) most athletes and bodybuilders train their chest just one or two times every week.
If you follow a three-day workout routine, dedicate one workout per week to chest and arms. If you follow a two-day push/pull routine, train your chest and triceps on your push day, and your biceps on your pull day.
There’s no need to train your chest more than twice a week. Since this workout uses heavy weights and low rep ranges, you’ll actually get better results from training at a low frequency and letting your body fully recover between each workout. Don’t forget the Recovery Nutrition for Athletes, essential to rebuilding the muscle after an intense workout. Get the secrets of modifying your diet and supplementation regime to improve recovery and avoid soreness.
Building a strong chest with compound exercises
Most weight training movements fall into one of two categories: compound exercises and isolation exercises. Compound exercises target more than one muscle group at a time, while isolation exercises are designed to only train a single muscle group.
For rapidly building mass and gaining strength, the best strategy is to develop your workout around one or two compound exercises. Compound exercises offer better bang for your buck, from a training perspective, than isolation exercises.
There are two compound exercises that target the pectoral muscles that form your chest. They are the bench press, which can be performed at a variety of angles, and the chest dip.
This chest and arm workout uses both compound exercises. Let’s get started with the bench press. We’ll be performing the bench press using a flat bench (although it’s also possible to use an incline or decline bench) and a barbell.
Start with just the barbell and perform one set of eight to twelve reps, lowering the bar all the way down to your chest. Keep your shoulders flat against the bench and use a moderate grip that works both your pectorals and your triceps.
Once you’ve warmed up your muscles, start with a set of eight reps using a weight that’s about half of your single-rep max. After you’ve finished your half-weight set, it’s time to start putting some serious pressure on your chest muscles.
Rack up the bar with a weight that you can lift for ten reps. We’ll be performing sets of eight reps each. Complete your first set, then take a one-minute break in between the second and third sets to allow your muscles and mind to recover.
Once you’ve completed the flat bench press, it’s time to perform another compound chest exercises: the parallel bar dip. Make your way over to your gym’s dip machine and set the parallel bars to a wide position to target your pectorals.
Bench press targets the same muscles as parallel dips, so there’s no need to warm up for this exercises. Perform three sets of eight to twelve reps, giving yourself one minute after each set to gain your breath and allow your muscles to recover.
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Sculpting your arms and chest with isolation exercises
Compound exercises like bench press and parallel bar dips are ideal for packing on lean muscle mass. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, help give your muscles an extra pump at the end of your workout to build mass in specific places.
Once you’ve finished your bench press and parallel bar dips, it’s time to start doing your chest and arm isolation exercises. Our workout includes two isolation lifts for chest and two specifically for arms to give you a well-rounded upper body.
Let’s start with the chest exercises. After you’ve finished your dips, find a flat bench and choose a pair of light but challenging dumbbells. Lie down on the bench and do three sets of dumbbell flies, focusing on slow movement and perfect form.
Once you’ve finished the flies, it’s time to work your upper chest with some incline dumbbell press. Raise the back of your bench and select a heavier set of dumbbells, then perform three sets of incline dumbbell press for eight to twelve reps. Don’t have access to a flat bench or cable pushdown machine? Get the same results as you would with this workout using nothing more than your bodyweight with No Equipment, No Excuses Home Workout.
Incline press targets your chest and your triceps, making it a great warm-up for the two tricep exercises we’ll start on next. Take a 30-second break between sets when you perform these isolation exercises to give your muscles time to recover.
Ready to start working your arms? Fully raise the back of your bench until it’s in a vertical position. Hold one dumbbell in both hands, place it behind your head, and perform sets of eight to ten overhead dumbbell extensions to target your triceps.
Complete three sets, taking a 30-second break between every set. Once you’re done, switch to tricep pushdowns using a cable machine to target the three heads of your triceps muscles for balanced development.
Should you train your biceps on chest day?
If your training routine is divided into pushing and pulling workouts, it might not be a good idea to train your biceps along with your chest and triceps. If your biceps are still recovering during your pulling workout, you could strain or tear them.
If your back workout is one or two days after your chest workout, leave your biceps out and train them alongside your back. If there’s three or more days between your chest and back workouts, feel free to add some biceps exercises to your chest day.
Good biceps exercises include ez-bar curls, chin-ups, seated rows, close-grip cable pulldowns and more. Train your biceps after you’ve finished your triceps isolation exercises, and stick with a rep range of eight to 12 for optimum hypertrophy.
Are you ready to start training?
Whether you want to gain mass and bulk up or retain as much muscle as possible while you cut calories, training your arms and chest to the limit is one of the most important parts of building a great physique.