The chest and biceps are two of the most coveted muscle groups of any physique. Although they are typically separated into distinct days (either a bro split or push-pull-legs), they’re one of the most underrated pairings to program.
A shirt-splitting pump for both the chest and biceps can easily make your day and, surprisingly, isn’t as awkward of a pairing as you might think. While chest and biceps may be a rare combination, you’ll quickly find that training them together can be one of the most satisfying workouts of your week.
Here is the ultimate chest-and-biceps workout, sliced three different ways depending on your level of experience in the gym.
- Ultimate Beginner Chest-and-Biceps Workout
- Ultimate Intermediate Chest-and-Biceps Workout
- Ultimate Advanced Chest-and-Biceps Workout
Ultimate Beginner Chest-and-Biceps Workout
Your chest and biceps can be a great pairing for you regardless of your experience level. In your early days of training, you likely gravitated towards these two muscle groups more often than you might care to admit. With a bit of know-how, you can arrange a workout fully capable of making you look good, feel great, and improve your performance simultaneously.
The chest and biceps are typically separated into distinct days, but you can actually use certain exercises to help improve your performance on both muscle groups. A high cable biceps curl can help prime your shoulders for presses while catching a great biceps pump in the process.
Choosing exercises that help improve your mobility and stability is a great strategy here while you build some muscle to boot:
- High Cable Biceps Curl: 3 x 15
- Dumbbell Floor Press: 3 x 10
- Cable Crossover: 3 x 12
- Machine Preacher Curl: 3 x 10
Ultimate Intermediate Chest-and-Biceps Workout
As an intermediate, you should be looking to incorporate a bit more volume and intensity into your chest and biceps workouts. Not only that, but you’ll also have a bit more skill and coordination to take on some bigger bang-for-your-buck exercises. Machines, cables, and some intensifiers will go a long way here.
Now that you’ve got a bit of experience under your belt, you can reallocate some of the sets and repetitions from the high-cable biceps curl into some harder exercises. The machine preacher curl and an incline cable curl will be easier for you to get a ton of much-needed stimulation. The same can be said for your chest — select a cable press and some flyes before a nice burnout at the end.
- High-Cable Biceps Curl: 2 x 15
- Cable Chest Press: 3 x 12
- Machine Preacher Curl: 3 x 8
- Machine Pec Fly: 3 x 12
- Incline Cable Curls + Push-ups*: 3 x 15
*If you cannot perform 15 push-ups, you can alternatively perform an AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible) or use a bench or rail to perform incline push-ups.
Ultimate Advanced Chest-and-Biceps Workout
After several years in the gym (with many, many hard workouts under your belt), you should be ready to step into the more advanced arena. As an advanced lifter, you’ll be looking to take most sets as close as possible to failure while arranging your exercises to maximize your results.
Catch a light pump first, go heavier second, then pound some higher volume sets to failure to cap the day off.
Your exercise selection during an advanced workout should be organized to improve your performance on the heaviest or hardest exercises above all else. A high-cable biceps curl and cable crossover help to get a pump in the right spots.
This makes your heavier bench press and face-forward single-arm biceps curls easier to perform well by ensuring your shoulders and elbows are nice and warm. Finish by chasing a sick pump in both muscles and you’ll be growing in no time.
- High-Cable Biceps Curl: 2 x 12
- Cable Crossover: 2 x 12
- Barbell Bench Press: 3 x 8
- Single-Arm Cable Curl: 3 x 8
- Incline Cable Flye: 3 x 12
- Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl: 3 x 12
Anatomy of the Chest and Biceps
The chest and biceps make up a good degree of real estate on your torso. They can be broken down into the biceps brachii, brachialis, and pectoralis major. Here’s how your anatomy affects your training.
The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle that you can find on the front of your upper arm. They flex the elbow and contribute to a bit of shoulder flexion and wrist supination (turning the palm upwards).
Your biceps originate from two slightly different spots towards your shoulder and insert around the crease of your elbow. The vast majority of exercises that curl your arm will be effective at stimulating the biceps brachii, particularly if you allow your palms to point toward the ceiling.
The brachialis is another muscle of your upper arm that helps contribute to the overall look of the biceps, even though it lies underneath your biceps. The brachialis originates and inserts towards the bottom half of your upper arm bone and also heavily contributes to flexing your elbow.
It would be difficult to completely distinguish between exercises that target the biceps brachii and the brachialis given how synergistic they are on most movements, however, curling with a neutral wrist position may bias your brachialis a bit more.
The pectoralis major is the huge fan-shaped muscle of your chest. While it is one muscle group, it can be fairly easily separated into three distinct regions. Your upper chest (clavicular region) originates from the medial part of your collarbone. Your middle chest (sternal region) originates from the breastbone itself.
Finally, your lower chest (costal region) originates from the cartilage of several ribs. They all have a common insertion on your upper arm meaning that you can emphasize different regions by choosing a distinct arm path for your chest pressing or flyes.
Benefits of Chest and Biceps Training
While training your chest and biceps together may seem like a bit of an odd couple, doing so can actually provide some unique benefits. Proper biceps training can help warm you up for heavy pressing, the two muscle groups don’t interfere with each other, and you’ll end your workout with a nutty pump.
Many of the exercises you can choose for your chest and biceps day can actually be harnessed for multiple purposes. While the obvious would be purely muscle growth, a well-selected and executed biceps exercise can be a dynamic warm-up for your chest.
Many chest exercises are reliant on a stable shoulder, and an exercise such as a high-cable biceps curl can help you achieve just that since you have to stabilize your scapula to curl with force.
There’s Minimal Interference
Most of the time, you’ll see chest exercises paired with triceps exercises (and back with biceps). This is because they are synergistic; as your chest presses a weight, your triceps assist by extending your elbow.
With chest and biceps, however, each muscle group gets to stay fresh while the other is working. This allows for more load or higher intensity to be used for each exercise on your day, instead of accumulating too much biceps fatigue before you even start curling.
One of the most satisfying parts of growing muscle is the pump. While not a completely mandatory aspect of hypertrophy training — it’s hard to deny the motivational feeling you’ll get from a sweet end-of-day chest and biceps pump.
Both the chest and biceps have many exercises that provide a deep stretch and can be performed for a ton of repetitions. This perfect recipe for a monster pump can keep you coming back for more and see long-term results from consistency alone.
Chest and Biceps Training Tips
The chest and biceps are two of the most commonly-trained muscle groups for an eye-popping physique, and thankfully, there are some overlapping tips as well. Utilizing tempo, diverse repetition ranges, and long ranges of motion can be huge assets.
Tempo is a wonderful quality assurance tool. Intentionally pacing your repetitions prevents you from losing tension on your targeted muscle. It can also help significantly improve your technique and provide an easy progression tool. Starting with a 2-3 second eccentric tempo on your exercises is an easy way to keep your intensity high. Slowly remove one second at a time over the course of several weeks and you’ll have a progression pathway that practically writes itself.
As long as you’re able to keep yourself close to reaching muscular failure, adding in a tempo shouldn’t negatively affect your muscle gain. Maintain an eccentric tempo between 2-4 seconds, and your results should be just fine. (1)
Use All Rep Ranges
Both your chest and biceps benefit from a diverse array of repetitions ranges. You can use lower repetitions and heavier loads to help build some strength. Or, you can use a light load and higher repetitions on exercises that might be harder to stabilize or only involve one joint.
Altogether, chest and biceps workouts will expose you to an array of challenges throughout your session and thus deliver a wide range of benefits while also growing serious muscle. (2)
One caveat here, though, is to keep your end-of-set intensity high. While each repetition range may offer a secondary benefit (like improving endurance or boosting strength), research indicates that you should work reasonably close to failure no matter how many repetitions you perform if you want to grow muscle. (3)
Embrace Range of Motion
Range of motion, like tempo, can be a great tool for building muscle long-term. Exercises such as the bench press or barbell curl are easy to load up on, but you must avoid the temptation of cutting your range of motion short.
You can mix in some high-range-of-motion movements to complement the muscle-building potential of heavy presses and curls. Incorporate a variety of dumbbell or cable curls and various flyers as well.
Lean On Intensifiers
Both your chest and biceps are ripe for some high-quality stimulation through intensifiers. Drop sets, super sets, or other techniques can be piled onto the end of your set in order to maximize your gains. Once your program has seemingly hit a plateau, most exercises for either your chest, biceps, or both can be reinvigorated with any number of intensifiers.
How to Progress Your Chest and Biceps Workout
Progressing between your beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages can be tricky to navigate. A few methods to ease the transition through each phase can include adding volume, frequency, or intensity to each workout until you’re better able to make a full jump to the next stage.
Increasing training frequency can help you pack on some additional muscle (as long as you’re able to recover between sessions). Your muscles repair and grow for roughly 48 hours (or even longer, if you’ve been away from the gym for a while) after each workout. That leaves time for a second session later in the week. Research shows that training a muscle group twice per week is ideal for creating hypertrophy. (4)
Increasing training volume has long been associated with progressive muscle gain. If you’re struggling to see progress, slowly integrating another set per exercise (and monitoring how well you’re able to continue to recover) is a viable strategy for pushing your gains forward. (5)
Although more volume may help, you also might want to tag-team this strategy by breaking your week up into a split. Keep in mind that the more volume you perform, the longer the workouts will become on average. If you’re performing 25 or 30 sets in a single session, you might be overdoing things.
Boosting your intensity, if possible, is the most straightforward method for breaking through plateaus. If your sessions seem to be stagnating, slowly decreasing the number of repetitions on a given set and increasing the load might get things going again.
Using a periodized programming strategy may also help you continue to grow while also getting stronger in the process. You can then use your newfound strength to perform even better in the weight room.
The Ultimate Feel-Good Session
Training your chest and biceps together might seem a bit out of left field, but it really makes sense when you break down the rationale. The two muscle groups benefit each other big time during warm-ups and are distinct enough that they won’t undercut each other’s performance. Your chest and biceps share similar strategies for growth and hitting them back-to-back should have you feeling like a superhero at the end of your workout.
- Azevedo, P. H. S. M., Oliveira, M. G. D., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2022). Effect of different eccentric tempos on hypertrophy and strength of the lower limbs. Biology of sport, 39(2), 443-449.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports (Basel, Switzerland), 9(2), 32.
- Lacio, M., Vieira, J. G., Trybulski, R., Campos, Y., Santana, D., Filho, J. E., Novaes, J., Vianna, J., & Wilk, M. (2021). Effects of Resistance Training Performed with Different Loads in Untrained and Trained Male Adult Individuals on Maximal Strength and Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(21), 11237.
- Damas, F., Phillips, S., Vechin, F. C., & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2015). A review of resistance training-induced changes in skeletal muscle protein synthesis and their contribution to hypertrophy. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 45(6), 801-807.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 51(1), 94-103.
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