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8 Chest and Back Workouts for a Perfect Upper Body

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Last updated: September 30, 2022

There are countless chest and back workouts available for building the upper body; however, it’s always challenging to find one that suits your particular needs.

To help you find the right exercise, our team of fitness experts researched chest and back workouts that are scalable and, therefore, potentially suitable to people at different fitness stages, including beginners.

We have listed those that are not too complicated, require less use of equipment, and can be adjusted according to your needs.

Have a look at our recommendations.

Quick Summary

  • Chest and back exercises can help build your V-shape and improve strength.
  • To get the most out of the exercises, ensure you get access to a well-equipped gym.
  • Make sure to warm up before starting. You can perform other upper body exercises at home, like push-ups, pull-ups, dumbbell rows, etc.

Build a V Torso With These 8 Chest and Back Exercises

You can use different sets and repetitions for some time before finding out what works best for you.

For a start, you may do five sets for five repetitions.

Perform this exercise program for a V torso:

1. Bench Press

Performing bench press

The bench press is a staple chest workout.

This exercise utilizes the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and the Triceps Brachii muscle groups.

You can use a barbell or dumbbells for this workout.

Here is how to do it using a barbell:

  • Grab a barbell using overhand grip. Your holding positions should be slightly wider compared to the shoulder width.
  • Grip the bar over your chest and slowly lower it till it reaches your chest and take a rest/pause. Raise it back up to your starting position, and perform the same routine.

2. Lat Pulldown

Performing Lat Pulldown in gym

The lat pulldown is a cable exercise for the back that activates the lats muscles.

Ensure you sit properly on the pulldown seat with feet firmly rooted on the ground.

Steps:

  • Hold the resistance bar with an overhand grip. Other grips like the underhand grip might also work, but I advise using an overhand grip.
  • Brace the core and pull down the bar almost level with your chin. Pull down until a slight bend on your elbows, and they can’t move. Make sure to squeeze the shoulder blades together while maintaining a square shape.
  • Release the bar back and repeat the process.
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3. Incline Dumbbell Press

Performing an incline dumbbell press in the gym

The incline dumbbell press is another king among the exercises for the chest muscles.

This exercise utilizes dumbbells and a bench. Before you start, it is better, to begin with, light dumbbells before increasing their weights.

  • Lie on an incline bench and grab the dumbbells on each hand by your shoulder.
  • Push the weights in a straight line up your chest and rest with your arms straight. Slowly return before you start again.

4. Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Performing a close grip lat pulldown

Close grip lat pulldown requires you to hinge forward your arms and inside onto the chest.

The close grip pulldown works the upper back muscles and the lats.

Steps:

  • Sit on the bench and secure your feet well underneath the knee pads. Extend your arms and grab the close grip attachment. Ensure your palms face each other.
  • Slowly lower or pull down the attachment with your arms slightly bent and take a pause before releasing it back up. Brace your core and repeat. A stable core prevents injury during the workout [1].

“Back and chest exercise helps you regain your posture. Besides helping your posture, the workouts can help reduce pain and risk of injury, making you focus better and work more efficiently”

- Jordane Zammit Tabona, Founder of London Gym 360Athletic

5. Chest Dips

Performing chest dips

Chest dips target the pectoralis major muscle group.

They are a great exercise, even compared to the bench press.

You need two parallel bars for this exercise:

  • Hang between the two bars pushing your chest forward and tucking behind your feet.
  • Lower your body until you feel a stretch in your chest. Pause before returning to the starting position.

6. T-Bar Row

A woman Performing T Bar Row routine

The T-bar row lets you lift weights, and it’s a great back exercise that uniquely activates the middle back muscles.

This exercise also lets you use a neutral grip which is the most substantial way to pull from.

Steps:

  • Begin with one foot on each side of the bar, then step down into a split stance. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your feet flat on the ground and knees bent, then hinge forward. Ensure your back is slightly arched.
  • Hold the handle with both hands. With the arms straight, pull up the weight till your torso is parallel and 45 degrees to the floor.
  • Bend your arms and lift the handle onto your chest. Pull your elbows to lift the weights while keeping your wrists straight.

7. Chest Flies

Performing Chest Flies with dumbbells

Unlike other chest exercises that work different upper body muscles, chest flies activate only one muscle group.

There are different ways to perform a chest fly, but let's focus on inclined chest flies.

  • Lie back on a bench and maintain a 45-degree lying position. Grab your dumbbells with your palms facing each other.
  • Extend your hands wide, with both hands almost touching the floor.
  • Take a rest once you feel a stretch on your chest. Lastly, slowly return your hands to the starting position and repeat.

8. Dumbbell Pullover

Performing Dumbbell pullover while in lying in bench

A dumbbell pullover activates the lats. This exercise is good for strengthening the upper and mid-back muscles.

Steps:

  • Lie on a weight bench with your feet on the floor, slightly wider than the bench. Hold the dumbbell with both hands. Throughout this movement, support your back, neck, and head.
  • Extend your arms over your chest toward the ceiling. With your palms facing each other and elbows slightly bent.
  • Exhale and extend the weights back and over your head to reach a fully stretched position where the weights are behind—but not below—your head. Take about three to four seconds of rest before further repetitions.

Common Mistakes With Chest and Back Workout

Many things can go wrong when doing chest and back workouts.

However, I have highlighted some of the common mistakes you can avoid when performing these exercises:

  • Dumbbell chest fly. If you're not creating a wide enough arc, you might be just barely activating your chest at the top of the movement.
  • Neglecting your back. Many people put much effort into their chest and forget their back. It's not possible to make your chest look good if your shoulders are rounded, regardless of how big it is.
  • Neglecting Lower back muscles. Many back exercises activate the middle and upper body. Perform other exercises like deadlifts to bullet-proof your lower back.

FAQs

Can I Do Chest and Back Workouts Together?

Yes, you can do chest and back workouts together. Make sure you manage your training sets, reps, and weights, so you don't overload yourself.

How Often Should I Train My Back and Chest?

You should perform chest and back exercises at least twice a week. This gives the body time for recovery, and also, you can build on other muscle groups during the recovery.

Should You Train Back More than Chest?

Yes, you should train your back more than the chest, as that way, you will find it easier to activate the chest muscles and other muscle groups [2]. It might be best to follow a 2:1 ratio.

How Long Should I Wait between Chest and Back Workouts?

You should wait at least two days between checks and back workouts as your body requires 48 to 72 hours for complete recovery to achieve optimal strength [3].

Build Your Upper Body With Back and Chest Exercise

Whether you want to start building your V-torso or continue working your upper muscles, the above workouts are tried and tested tools to build and strengthen your upper body.

Just make sure you learn how to perform each exercise correctly. If you experience difficulty working on specific muscles, it is better to involve a trainer to offer further guidance.

I would also suggest you consider some high-quality supplements to increase the muscle mass quicker and easier and make your workout efforts that much more effective.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24427426/
  2. https://www.lifehack.org/400932/if-you-only-train-your-chest-muscle-youll-end-up-looking-worse
  3. https://acewebcontent.azureedge.net/SAP-Reports/Post-Exercise_Recovery_SAP_Reports.pdf
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