Chest / Back Workout to Get Bigger - FTM Fitness
Chest / Back Workout
This workout is a mass builder. For my second 12 week bulk of 2018, I used this workout to greatly increase my overall chest and back size. This workout is best done twice a week as part of a 2 body part split. Using this workout twice a week, I was able to increase my bench press working weight by 20 lbs and increased my barbell row working set weight by 40 lbs.
The workout is built around Arnold Schwarzenegger's Intermediate Training Plan in The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. I slightly modified the workout to fit any big box gym where you do not have free barbells or olympic training style equipment/space. Out of all the training programs that I've ran, this one grew my back and chest the most. I did have trouble sticking to the 6 days a week schedule. If you find that 6 days a week is too much, switch off week to week which split you only do once and you should be fine with even muscle building.
HOW TO DO THIS WORKOUT
- Flat Barbell Bench Press: This workout starts out with the classic Flat Bench Press because it is the main movement that is focused on for strength gains, so we want to start strong and fresh! Lay flat on a bench with arms shoulder width or slightly further apart. Push your shoulder blades together and pop up the chest a bit. Make sure your neck isn't twisted or strained, plant your feet sturdy. Start off with warm up sets. Pick a weight that you can push up for 15-20 reps for set 1. Set 2, choose a weight for 12-15 reps. After the warm up, the workout goes into a heavy set. These are meant to really test your strength, so go heavy. Your heavy set can be 3-4 reps or once in awhile try your one rep max. For your 3 working sets, pick a weight that you can push for 8-10 reps. Make sure to take decent rest periods between these sets.
- Incline Barbell Press: Similar to the flat bench press, but move the bench to about a 40% incline. Line up under the barbell so that when the bar is lowered it lines up at about your nipple line. You will be slightly depleted after your flat presses, so drop the weight a bit. Pick a weight that you can do 3 working sets of 8-10 reps.
- Incline Dumbbell Fly: Lay on the incline bench and place weights above your chest, hands together, arms at a slight bend at the elbows. Wiggle your shoulder blades together a little and put a slight arch in your back so that your chest comes up a bit. This puts you in a good position to start the movement. Bring the dumbbells out to your sides, go low as you can but don't strain anything. If something feels sharp, lower weight or don't spread arms quite as wide. Do a total of 3 sets, 10-12 reps each set.
- Barbell Rows: Mind muscle connection is very important with these or you will end up overusing your traps and arms. First, step up to the barbell unloaded and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Your knees should be almost directly under the bar but back about 2 inches when looking down. Slightly bend your knees and pop out your butt. The line of your back should be straight, no arch. Pull your shoulder blades together slightly and bend down to "hook" the bar with your fingers. Avoiding a palm dominant grip will help you pull the weight with your back. Once lined up and hooked, pull the empty bar to your rib cage focusing on feeling your lats squeeze. Keep trying until this is the dominant area you fee the muscle contraction. Once your form is down, you're ready to do this lift. Start with a warm up weight the you can pull nice and smooth for 15 reps or so. Then, go into a working set weight that you can pull slow and controlled for 8-10 reps.
- Wide Leg Barbell Deadlift: Also called a Sumo Deadlift, this is a powerful movement. Yes, it primarily worked the glutes and the upper legs... BUT, I find it a very effective movement in learning control of the hip hinge and lower back. You have to go slow and controlled otherwise you will immediately feel it pull your back in a weird way. This workout plan is all about keeping mind and muscle working together, focus, focus, focus! Doing big compound movements like this keeps you engaged. Step up to the barbell and get in a wide stance. Slightly turn your feet so that the inside side of your foot is parallel with the bar. Nudge yourself tight up against the bar so that your inner calves are against the bar. Create a nice hip hinge by pushing your but back, bending at the knee, and keeping the lower back as stiff with no arch. Choose what grip style in comfortable to you and grab the bar tight. To lift, drop your center of gravity into your glutes and pull up in one slow motion using your legs and glutes. Do not lean back, just come up straight. At the top of the movement, stiffen your glutes to hold and you will feel your trap muscles engage. Slowly lower back to starting position and pushing your but back out. Stop for a brief moment and realign as needed. Do NOT use momentum, pause between reps. Do 3 working sets of a weight you can pull for 6-8 reps. Then, move into heavy sets. Pick a weight that you can pull for 1-3 reps. Pause between reps, these will be difficult.
- Pull Ups: I use an assisted pull up bar for these. Switch between wide grip and close grip if you like. Do 50 reps over the course of 5-6 sets. If you do not have access to one, you can use resistance bands to help pull you up. If you do not have access to those... do as many body weight pull ups as you can (even if it's partial) for 5-6 sets. If you can't do even one pull up, then you can just hang from the bar. Hang for a many seconds as you can for 5-6 sets.
- Rope Pull: If there's one secret weapon to build your lats... this is it. The rope pull popped my lats out more than anything else and I felt it! This is a great way to grow a connection to your lats and understand what gets them working. Go to the cable machine area and place the cable up high. Attached the rope attachment. Grab the rope with a side in each hand. Back up a few feet and get into a forward slightly squared position. Lock your lower body by slightly bending your knees and activating your glutes. Once your back in in about a 45 degree line to the cables with your arms extended up and out in front of you, you're in position. Keep your neck up while you pull the rope to your body. your arms should start close together and then slightly widen as you get to your sides. Try to pull from your back and not your shoulders. Work with a light enough weight until you feel that you understand how to pull from your lats. Pick a working weight that you can pull for around 12 reps for 3 sets.
- Pulldown: I prefer to use the pulldown machine vs. a cable pulldown but either works great. Pick close grip or wide grip and alternate workout to workout. Sit with legs tightly under the padding. Hook your fingers on the bar (do not grip with the palm dominating) and start by flexing your back and getting a feel of back activation. Keeping yourself almost completely upright, pull the bar (or handles) down until your get to the upper chest. Hold for a brief moment and then the weight come completely up. The biggest mistake that people make on this movement is twofold... First, they lean way back and put the work on their arms instead of their back. Second, they build an enormous amount of momentum and start hauling the weight down. Go slow and controlled, stay upright, and don't waste your time doing this incorrectly. Pick a weight that you can pulldown for 10-12 reps, do 3 sets.
- Abs: Finish off this training session by training your core. Pick 2-3 ab exercises and aim for a total of 3 sets for each exercise. See an example ab routine here.
Try this workout as part of a two body part split. I guarantee you this workout will build up your upper body in a big way. Each week push yourself to go up in weight on at least one exercise. If you can't do that, then go up in reps or the weight you push on those first heavy Bench Press sets. This workout can be done for all levels of lifters by modifying the weight accordingly but it is best reserved for lifters that have built up some stamina and are looking for a challenge.
If you are unfamiliar with any of the moves, check out the database on bodybuilding.com. Every exercise can be found by searching for it by name.
*I am not a certified personal trainer. My experience is limited to myself. If you are new to lifting, please seek out resources online and the help of a trainer or experienced friend before embarking on a new fitness regime.
Please feel free to comment and share this post! For more updates, please follow me on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Best of luck and props to anyone who strives to improve themselves in and out of the gym.