Today’s chest and back workout was a good example of a workout that will allow you to develop a ripped muscular chest and a strong wide back.
It went as follows:
Bench press, barbell, 6x6-10
Inclined bench press, barbell, 6x8-12
Flyes, dumbbells, 4x8-12
Standing bent over barbell rows, 4x6-8
Pec press machine, 3x15
Comments on this workout
Composing a workout in this manner will promote both your raw strength and your muscle mass. There were heavy sets and pump sets being performed with only short periods of rest in between.
The picture was taken during the workout, while I performed cable crossovers as a warm up exercise. I don’t count those reps as a part of the workout, I used them to activate the pecs muscles and prepare for the upcoming bench presses.
The workout comprised mostly of old school bodybuilding exercises. With the exception of a few machine presses I was exclusively using free weights and calisthenics. This holds true for most of my workout sessions. Leg day is the exception, since I really favour leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls over squats.
The workout landed at 30 sets. This isn’t an especially high number for a high volume adherent like myself, but it isn’t a low figure either.
It took a while today to get my focus truly sharpened. During the first fifteen minutes my mind was wandering, even while I was lifting. This is one of the most usual reasons that people stagnate in the gym. I did however notice this myself and was able to push irrelevant thoughts to the back of my mind. I became more and more present – and suddenly I experienced the familiar wave of endorphins that signals that the workout has really taken off. I was rewarded with an immediate pump in both my chest and my lats.
In this picture, also taken during the workout, I’m making sure that I have good mind to muscle contact before performing the next set of bench press.
As you can see I did 20 sets of chest and only 10 of lats work. This was no coincidence. For the moment I prioritise chest, while just making sure to maintain the back. This underlines an important part of muscle building: prioritising is important. You get good at what you do. And once you are past the beginner’s phase of working out it becomes increasingly hard to develop the whole body at once. Periodisation can be a powerful tool. I’ll write much more about this in the future.
How to bench press for quality mass and a ripped look
I’ll end this post with a few words regarding the bench press and how to best utilise this exercise when you are in pursuit of a ripped chest. As you know I’m no fan of the big and smooth – I find muscle mass size important, sure, but never at the expense of quality. I prefer chest muscles to be toned, visible and hard looking. I don’t find it as impressive or appealing when they look round and bloated.
If you visit Penandbarbell.com regularly you’ll know that I don’t think there is any such thing as a king of exercises. In fact, I don’t deem any one exercise absolutely necessary in order for you to develop a muscular and aesthetically pleasing body. You don’t have to squat to get great legs. You don’t have to deadlift to get strong and muscular. And if you don’t like the bench press, then there is no need for you to employ that particular exercise, no matter what you’ve read or heard elsewhere. You can build an impressive and ripped chest through dips, push ups, cable crossovers, pec machines, etcetera. Personally though, I like to start my pec workouts with the bench press. It s the staple of my chest routine – and it always has been. The reason for this? It allows me to get a good pump. I don’t chase personal records or any particular number when it comes to the weight I’m handling. Instead I like to experiment with different kinds of high volume formulas. One week I might perform bench presses GVT style, 10x10. The week after that I’ll do 6x12, à la Serge Nubret. Most often I’ll do something similar to what I did today; performing 6 sets of 6 to 10 reps each. I almost never go lower than 5 reps when bench pressing. I’ve done bench presses almost every week for 20 years without ever getting injured. I’ve been able to do this because I favour the pump and the muscle contact rather than the big number. Don’t let the eternal macho discussion regarding the bench press max affect you. Remember your goals. If they are mainly visible – in other words, if you want a muscular and ripped chest - then there is no need to injure yourself doing max reps in the bench press.
Here I was in between sets of chins. The lats were starting to fill up, which is always a great feeling.
I never use a spotter, which is a great way to make sure that you stop the sets on the right side of injury. I always have one or two extra reps “in the tank” when I bench press. This has allowed me to build good size with, if I may say so myself, great quality. When I want to take the pecs muscles to absolute failure there are plenty of other exercises to choose from.
It has been shown through scientific research that the bench press is an exercise where the mind muscle connection plays a major part. You can improve your results by honing your ability to feel the pecs muscles during the lift. Remember: you’re not training your triceps and you’re not training your front deltoideus - you are training your pecs. Remember that during every set. Concentrate on quality – both when it comes to performance and when it comes to the results.
If you’ve never tried pairing the chest and back like this I recommend you give it a shot. I find it very rewarding to train these two muscle groups during the same workout.
All in all I’d rate this as a great workout. I’m already looking forward to the next pecs & back session!