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The ultimate chest and tricep workout for explosive growth

September 28, 2022

The ultimate chest and triceps workout for muscle growth

Chest and triceps, that old fashioned pairing that gets everyone excited to hit the gym at the start of the week.

There’s a reason athletes, bodybuilders, powerlifters and gym goers stick to this popular muscle pairing – it just works. As the triceps are heavily involved with many chest exercises, it makes sense to hit them both in the same day.

In today’s article we will be taking you though the best chest and triceps exercises to maximise muscle hypertrophy to guide you on your way from a 2d pigeon chest, to a 3d giant chest Mr.Schwarzenegger would be proud of.

Stay tuned and we’ll reveal the ultimate chest and triceps workout for explosive growth.

 

Why train chest and triceps together

You’re probably wondering why you should pair chest and triceps in the same workout. It’s a fair question. The answer is that whenever we are doing a chest exercise, we’ll also be activating the triceps.

No matter whether it’s bench press, incline press, chest dip, or chest flies, the triceps will be utilised as the secondary mover.

It therefore makes sense that after we’ve completed our chest exercises, we move onto our triceps exercises as they would have fatigued to some degree during the chest exercises, meaning we don’t need to do tonnes of sets to provide enough volume to stimulate muscle hypertrophy.

Note we said ‘We move onto triceps’. It’s important to finish our chest exercises before we move onto the triceps work. As triceps are the secondary mover in most chest exercises, if we work these first, then we’ll be limiting how much we can lift in the chest movements.

With compound exercises such as bench press and incline press playing a major role in muscle building, we want to prioritise these at the start of the workout, leaving the isolation exercises last.  

 

How to build muscle

When we’re looking to build muscle there are many variables that come into play. We’ll talk about the main two, as if you master these alone, you’re going to build muscle.

The first is diet. When building muscle, we need to be eating more calories than we burn daily thus putting the body in a calorie surplus. The body needs energy (food) to build muscle. If we’re not supplying the body with enough energy, then no matter how well we’ve mastered all other muscle building principles, we’re simply not going to build muscle.

How many calories for muscle growth

The second is training. We need to be working out in a way that promotes muscle hypertrophy. The way we do this is by applying a principle called progressive overload. Essentially what this is involves is increasing a training stimulus overtime so that our body must continually adapt to meet the demands of the stimulus.

If we didn’t apply progressive overload, this is an example of what would happen.

Week 1 we go in the gym and pick up some 14kg dumbbells for some chest press. We hit 3 sets of 8 reps which felt relatively difficult, and we had to grind out the last few reps.

Week 2 we go in the gym and again pick up some 14kg dumbbells for chest press. We again do 3 sets of 8 easily.

Week 3, again we pick up the same weights, do the same exercise for the same number of sets for the same amount of reps. This now feels even easier.

What has happened is this. The first week was difficult, the body recognised this, so it adapted to be able to meet the demands of the body. Adaptations include building stronger and bigger muscles.

Weeks 2 and 3 were easy, they didn’t stress the body and therefore the body was comfortable completing the exercise. The body has no reason to adapt and therefore stays the same.

If we don’t continually push the body and demand more from it, then the body see’s no reason why it needs to change.

We need to be increasing the training stimuli progressively each week to force continued adaptations in the form of muscle strength and hypertrophy.

 

Chest anatomy

The chest region is made up of three muscles:

1.      Pectoralis Major

The pectoralis major is the most superficial muscle in the chest region. It’s the biggest of the 3 muscles and comprises 2 heads. Both heads attached to the at the upper part of the arm, with the clavicular head originating from the medial clavicle and the sternal head originating from the anterior surface of the sternum.

 Pectoralis major anatomy

(Picture retrieved from Teach Me Anatomy)

 

2.      Pectoralis Minor

The pectoralis minor sits underneath the pectoralis major. It is a thin triangle shape muscle that attaches to the scapula (shoulder blade) and originates from the 3rd, 4th and 5th rib.

Pectoralis minor

 

3.      Serratus Anterior

The serratus anterior originates at the surface of the 1st to 8th rib at the side of the chest and attaches to the scapular medial border. Although not strictly a chess muscle, it’s grouped with the chest muscles as it attaches near the pectoralis on the ribs.

 

The best chest exercises for muscle building

A sensible approach when it comes to planning your chest workout would be to separate the chest into upper, middle, and lower regions. Exercises normally favour 1 particular region so we need to ensure we hit each region with adequate volume.

 Upper, middle, lower chest

(Picture retrieved from BIQ Band Training)

 

Incline based exercises for upper chest

Flat based exercises for middle chest

Decline based exercises for decline chest

 

Bench Press

bench press for chest growth

Starting with the epitome of chest exercises – the bench press. Known as one of the big 3 exercises, this powerful exercise recruits the majority of the chest fibres whilst also targeting the triceps delts and core.

Alternative exercises include:

  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Chest machine press
  • Press ups
  • Smith machine press

Due to the bench press being performed on a flat surface, we’ll be primarily targeting the middle chest whilst activating both the upper chest and lower chest to some degree.

 

Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline dumbbell press

Exercise number 2 if the incline dumbbell press. For this exercise we will position the bench at a 30-45 degree angle. This incline position means we will be targeting more of the upper portion of the chest (the clavicular head).

The use of dumbbells allow for a deeper stretch as unlike the barbell bench press, we’re not limited by the bar stopping at the chest.

Using dumbbells instead of a barbell also allows the wrists and elbows to move in a more natural way reducing the risk of injury.

Alternative exercises include:

  • Incline barbell press
  • Incline machine press
  • Incline smith machine press

 

Chest Dips

Everyone knows that dips are great for the triceps, but not everyone knows they’re a great chest builder.

The difference between the chest dip and the triceps dip is the angle we perform the movement. When we lean forward we put a large emphasis on the chest and when we keep the body perpendicular to the floor, we put more emphasis on the triceps.

Knowing this we can utilise this popular movement to effectively target the lower chest.

Alternative exercises include:

  • Bench Dips
  • Machine Chest Dips

 

Chest Fly

Chest fly machine

The chest fly allows you to fully stretch the chest and take the muscle through the full range of movement.

In contrast to the previous 3 exercise, this exercise is an isolation exercise where you can really focus on targeting the chest leaving you with a great pump.

Our favourite variation is cable flies. They allow for constant tension throughout the movement maximising mechanical stress placed upon the muscle throughout the strength curve. 

Alternative exercises include:

  • Dumbbell chest fly
  • Resistance band fly
  • Machine chest fly

 

Triceps anatomy

If you want to add size to your arms, you need to be training the triceps.

As the names suggest, the triceps are made up of 3 muscles whereas the biceps are made up of two muscles.

The triceps account for roughly 65% off your upper arm leaving 35% to the biceps. So if you want big arms, focus needs to be placed on the triceps.

The three triceps muscles are:

  1. The long head
  2. The lateral head
  3. The medial head

Triceps anatomy

(Image retrieved from Beach Body on Demand)

 

Lateral head exercises include:

  • Bench press
  • Incline press
  • Tricep push downs
  • Weighted dips
  • One arm cable extensions
  • Bench Dips

 

Long head exercises include:

  • Overhead triceps extension
  • Close grip bench press
  • Weighted dips
  • Skull crushers
  • Kickbacks
  • Cable rope extensions

 

Medial head exercises include:

  • Close crip bench press
  • Cable rope extensions
  • Triceps pushdowns

 

The best triceps exercises for muscle building

As with chest training, we need to ensure we’re including a variety of different exercises in our training to ensure we’re effectively targeting each of the 3 different heads.

 

Triceps Pushdown

Triceps pushdown

A popular exercise and for good reason too. The triceps pushdown effectively targets all 3 of the heads to some degree is a great exercise for adding mass to those arms.

The choice is yours when it comes to choosing the attachment for this exercise. You can use the rope which allows for a little flare at the bottom, you can use a straight bar or you can use a V shaped bar. The difference in triceps activation is minimal so choose the attachments you find most comfortable.

Alternative exercises include:

  • Straight bar push down
  • V bar push down

 

Skullcrushers

The Skullcrusher exercise involves lying on a bench, bringing the upper arm perpendicular to the body, keeping the elbows fixed in position you lower the weight just above your head, and back up again.

The elevated started position of the arms means that this exercise primarily targets the largest head of the triceps, the long head.

Alternative exercises include:

  • Overhead dumbbell triceps extension
  • Overhead cable triceps extension

 

Tricep Dips

Triceps dips

We’ve included chest dips in our favourite chest building exercises, now we’re including triceps dips in our favourite triceps exercises! The reason being is that as explained earlier, a slight form tweak can put either the emphasis on either the chest or the triceps.

Keeping the torso perpendicular to the floor keeps the emphasis on the triceps. Dips are a powerful muscle builder and can effectively target all 3 heads of the triceps.

We wouldn’t however put chest dips and triceps dips in the same workout too similar, and although the form tweak can shift the emphasis, we will recruit both the chest and triceps in each variation.

Alternative exercises include:

  • Bench Dips
  • Assisted triceps dip machine

 

Beginner chest and triceps workout

  1. Chest Machine Press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  2. Incline Machine Press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  3. Machine Chest Dips – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  4. Triceps Pushdown – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  5. Skull Crushers – 3 sets of 10-12 reps

 

Advanced chest and triceps workout

  1. Barbell Bench Press – 4 sets of 5-8 reps
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  3. Chest Dips – 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  4. Cable Flies – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  5. Triceps Pushdown – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  6. Skull Crushers – 3 sets of 10-12 reps

 

Final Thoughts

There we have it, the ultimate chest, and triceps workout for building muscle. So by the time chest Monday comes around, we know exactly what we need to be doing to get the most bang for our buck. The workouts described are suitable for both male and female, the muscle building principles remain the same.

Enjoy! And as always, if you have any questions drop them in the comments and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

  

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