What Exercises Should I Use for a Chest and Biceps Workout?

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question-icon-newI really want to work on building up the muscle in my chest and biceps. What exercises do you recommend using for building overall mass and how about reps and sets for my workouts? Is it okay to train these two muscle groups on the same day or should they be split up into two separate workouts?

answer-icon-newOne of the most important things to remember when it comes to building muscle mass (whether it’s in the chest, biceps or otherwise) is that mass building takes place when you focus on larger muscle groups when strength training. Many times you’ll see guys in the gym doing pec flyes in an attempt to build mass in their chest, or concentration curls to try to build mass in their biceps, but these types of isolated exercises will fall short of accomplishing the goal of building large amounts of muscle. Make no mistake, you will improve muscle definition by doing isolated exercises, but the real mass building power comes from focusing on working larger muscle groups and doing multi-joint compound exercises as the foundation of your workouts.

A good example of working large muscle groups in order to add size to your chest would be exercises such as barbell bench presses and incline presses along with bodyweight exercises such as push-ups and dips. The reason for this is that the mechanics involved in these exercises involve the chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps. Bench presses are the king of all chest exercises and should be the cornerstone of your routine when you want to pack on mass to your pecs. The bench press directly target your chest muscles, shoulders and triceps.

Adding in bodyweight exercises like push-ups primarily work your anterior deltoids muscles (front shoulders), pectoral (chest) muscles, triceps, and believe it or not, your abdominal muscles as well. Dips are extremely effective in working your upper chest, shoulders and triceps.

build-chest-dumbbell-pressIf you notice, every single one of these exercises involve several large muscle groups; if you focus on working larger groups first, you will build overall mass first and then you will have a foundation upon which to focus on muscle isolating exercises for definition. Here are the best mass building chest exercises I recommend:

For building mass in your chest, start by doing 3-4 sets of bench presses, with 8-10 reps per set. You don’t have to start with an overwhelming amount of weight; it is more important to focus on proper form and technique to ensure that you’re getting the maximum amount of stimulation with each rep. Next, move onto incline bench press and do another 3-4 sets of these with a rep range of 8-10 per set.

After these two mass builders, move onto some bodyweight movements and do 3-4 sets of 15-20 push-ups. With push-ups, you will be using your own body weight for resistance which is actually a great counterpart to using the weighted bar with the bench press. Round out your workout with 2-3 sets of 10-15 dips and this will really put the icing on the cake for your chest workout. If your chest and triceps aren’t already fried by this time, they will be on fire when you finish the dips! You will notice that the dips will target those lower chest muscles that will help your chest obtain that “full” look.

As for adding size to your biceps, surprisingly enough, one of the best exercises for bicep building is actually pull-ups using an underhand narrow grip. Again, when you are using your own body weight for resistance, it will provide the biceps with plenty of stimulation. Doing underhand (palms facing toward you) pull-ups is a great way to start, but make sure that you don’t use too wide of a grip and keep your hands a little less than shoulder width apart to keep the focus on the biceps versus the back muscles. Make sure to take it slow and easy! Don’t strain your muscles with jerky and jarring movements. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 underhand pull-ups to warm up and get a killer pump in your biceps before moving onto the king of all biceps exercises, the barbell curl. Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps with barbell curls and then finish off your biceps workout with a few more sets of either incline dumbbell curls or preacher curls to really hit your guns and make them grow! Here are the best mass building biceps exercises I recommend:

As to whether or not you can work both muscle groups on the same day, that’s not a problem at all. Actually, these two muscles groups complement each other quite well. I recommend using a push-pull workout routine for your chest and biceps. Total sets will be broken down like this:

  • Chest: 8-10 total sets (8-10 reps per set)
  • Biceps: 4-6 total sets (8-10 reps per set)

Always make sure you rest at least 48 hours in between workouts for the same muscle group so that you can give your body enough time to fully recover and repair itself after an intense workout routine.

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