When you think of organizing yourself a body part split, your chest and triceps seem to just…fit. They’re so inseparable that many of the most popular splits will inevitably have you train them together.
Why? The two muscle groups are highly synergistic. Your pecs move the barbell (or dumbbells, or cable, or whatever) when you perform all manner of pressing exercises, sure, but your triceps ride shotgun. You’d be hard-pressed to find a compound push exercise that doesn’t involve them both to some degree.
Whether this is your first foray into chest and triceps training or you’re looking for a new spin on a classic pairing, this workout is built for you. These are the best chest triceps workouts you can do for your unique experience level in the weight room.
Best Chest and Triceps Workouts
- The Best Chest and Triceps Workout for Beginners
- The Best Chest and Triceps Workout for Intermediates
- The Best Chest and Triceps Workout for Advanced Athletes
Training your chest and triceps as a beginner will increase your strength and muscle mass at the same time. Combining some multi-joint pressing exercises can really smoke both muscle groups while also building up some foundational pressing strength.
You can dig into the details at the end of your session with isolation exercises on machines or cables to fully fatigue your muscles as well.
Using an exercise like a machine press is a fantastic way to start working on long-term strength gains that will carry over to other types of equipment. It will allow you to build your base in a bit more of a controlled fashion while you learn to use your pressing muscles as well.
Cables provide lots of external stability and allow you to isolate your chest and triceps separately once you’re done with the big compound exercises.
- Machine Chest Press: 3 x 12
- Machine Dip: 2 x 12
- Machine Pec Flye: 2 x 12
- Cable Cross-Body Triceps Extension: 2 x 15
At the intermediate stage, you should start thinking about moving away from high-stability machines and toward more challenging options in the free-weight section of the gym.
Head to the dumbbell rack to start your session before returning to the equipment you’re familiar with. You’ll also want to integrate some coordination-based exercises into your training. On top of it all, after a year or two in the weight room, you should probably up your training volume by increasing the number of exercises you perform.
You’ll want to keep the most challenging exercises first in your workout routine. Prioritize free weight work or calisthenics before you accumulate too much fatigue, then work in some stable movements using machines or cables. This idea holds true for exercise order as it relates to the muscles you train; start with your chest, then isolate your triceps at the end.
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 x 10
- Bodyweight Dip: 2 x AMRAP
- Machine Pec Flye: 3 x 12-15
- Single-Arm Triceps Cable Pushdown: 2 x 10
- Single-Arm Overhead Cable Triceps Extension: 2 x 12-15
Note: An “AMRAP” set refers to performing as many repetitions as you can during a single set before hitting muscular failure.
Once you’ve established some significant strength and muscle gains, it’s time to throw yourself into the lion’s den of chest and triceps training. This means heavy barbell-based training to continue building strength in your chest and then choosing specific movements that take your pecs (and triceps) to the brink.
The barbell bench press will be the centerpiece of your training day. Subsequent movements littered throughout your workout will incorporate high-intensity training techniques. You’ll also use exercises that hit your upper chest, lower chest, and all three heads of your triceps individually. Leave no stone unturned and no muscle fiber untouched.
- Barbell Bench Press: 3 x 5
- Weighted Dips: 3 x 8
- Incline Cable Flye: 3 x 12
- Cable Cross-Body Triceps Extension: 3 x 12*
- Single-Arm Overhead Cable Triceps Extension: 2 x 12-15
Note: *Perform a drop set on your final set of cable cross-body triceps extensions. Once you hit 12 repetitions, drop the weight by 20 to 30 percent, and complete as many repetitions as you can.
Benefits of Chest and Triceps Workouts
A major benefit of chest and triceps workouts is that the two muscles are naturally synergistic. They work together to help you build muscle and strength, making them an ideal pairing for a body part split. But the benefits don’t end there.
Synergy Equals Efficiency
Many exercises that build your chest will also involve your triceps, from machines to your body weight and everything in between. This is absolutely fantastic for training efficiency, as your “main” exercises will effectively always guarantee that both muscle groups get a healthy dose of stimulation. This benefit carries over fantastically to almost any environment you might find yourself in. Pairing your chest and triceps makes for some super viable training sessions in the gym, at home, or on the run.
Builds Upper-Body Strength
Many of the key exercises you’ll find in a chest and triceps workout also happen to be great for gaining general strength. Exercises like the dumbbell bench press or dip demand a lot of your coordination, muscular engagement, and force output if you want to perform them successfully over a long period of time.
As such, a chest and triceps workout works wonders for helping to skyrocket your overall upper-body strength while building piles of muscle in the process.
They Fit Into Any Workout Split
It’s essential to apply some type of structure to your training if you want to make progress. Chest and triceps workouts fit nicely into any type of workout split or program, especially if you’re only using a once-per-week frequency.
Pairing these two muscle groups together won’t impact your performance on leg, back, arm, or shoulder day, either. This lets you focus hard on developing your physique without having to accommodate high amounts of muscle soreness.
Who Should Perform Chest and Triceps Workouts
The chest-and-triceps pairing is beautiful in its simplicity, and the simplicity is what makes these workouts so effective in the first place. Beginners, bodybuilders, and powerlifters alike can use chest and triceps workouts to great effect.
If you’re a beginner, using a chest and triceps workout can be a great tool for building early strength and muscle. The two muscles are highly synergistic, meaning that many of your chest exercises will actually stimulate your triceps as well — think of all manner of bench presses, the push-up, or the dip.
When you’re a beginner, your body is a sponge ready to adapt and grow at a rapid pace. Hitting your chest and triceps together in the same session can help you develop a great baseline of strength and muscle without having to perform a lot of different exercises in a single workout.
If you’re in the market for more muscle, you’re a prime candidate for a good chest and triceps workout. The synergy of the two muscle groups lends itself well toward creating maximum hypertrophy.
By the time you arrive at your capstone chest exercises or your triceps extensions, those muscles should already be partially fatigued. Once all the hard work is done in the weight room, it’s back to basics: Eat, sleep, and repeat next week.
Surprisingly, powerlifters can also gel with a good chest and triceps workout, especially if they make the barbell bench press the centerpiece of the workout. You can tweak and tailor your session to more closely align with your performance-related goals.
For example, as a powerlifter, you might hit a few hard-and-heavy sets of flat bench pressing before adding in an accessory exercise like the weighted dip. Bolster your lockout strength with triceps extensions or a few sets of push-ups to failure and you’ve got one heck of an off-season workout.
How to Progress Chest and Triceps Workouts
You can progress your chest and triceps workouts in a number of different ways, but you can’t get around the necessity of hard work. The best way to chase — and catch — progressive overload is to adjust your volume, intensity, frequency, or work with high-intensity training techniques. All roads lead to gains.
Volume — as in, how much work you do in the gym — is a strong driver of muscle growth. If you’re in the earlier stages of your chest and triceps training, slowly adding sets or repetitions for a few weeks can help boost your progress.
While research has noted that doing more “work” over time does lead to more muscle growth, this relationship does have its limits. (1) Logistically there is only so much you can add to any given workout before you simply run out of time or gas. Most data suggest capping your weekly volume around 20 difficult sets.
Intensity is another great tool to help generate progressive overload. While it’s not necessarily practical to have a 1-repetition maximum (1RM) for every single exercise in a chest and triceps workout, you can certainly track your strength on most barbell presses.
It’s generally recommended to train for hypertrophy between approximately 60 and 80 percent of your max. If you want to emphasize muscular strength, you can push a bit higher. (2) Broad loading ranges can help build some muscle, but you shouldn’t take things too easy in the weight room if you want to maximize your potential. (3)
Frequency is a two-for-one: You can apply more “doses” of training to your chest and triceps on a regular basis, but you can also use higher training frequencies to break up your training volume into manageable chunks.
Say you’re already performing 20 sets of chest and triceps training in one long workout. Where do you go from there? You probably don’t want to spend three hours in the weight room. Instead, you can move to a twice-per-week exercise frequency, starting with 10 sets twice per week, then gradually moving up to 11 or 12 if you find you can recover from it.
In resistance training, intensifiers are specific techniques you can use to alter how you’d perform a standard set of a given exercise. These bodybuilding intensity techniques are often reserved for intermediate or advanced gymgoers, as they’re highly taxing and often require a competent spotter.
However, they can be extremely potent if used properly. Add in the occasional drop set, cluster set, do a few forced reps, or perform rest-pause training to your chest and triceps workouts to bolster the stimulus you receive.
The best way to guarantee long-term progression with your chest and triceps workouts is to integrate some type of training periodization. Periodization is, simply put, any form of organizational structure applied to your workouts in service of a specific goal.
There’s a wide array of research that demonstrates the efficacy of periodized training, specifically with regard to gaining muscular strength. (4) You may be able to wing it in the weight room as a beginner, but eventually you should make an effort to structure your training with linear, block, or daily undulating periodization (DUP) to ensure things remain productive.
Chest and Tris, Presses, Dips, and Flyes
Chest and triceps go together like chicken and rice. These two muscle groups are more than the sum of their parts and can enhance both your workouts themselves and the results you glean from them. No matter what you train for, there’s a reliable chest and triceps workout for you. Use these three workouts to set yourself up for long-term success in the gym.
- 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.
- Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 31(12), 3508–3523.
- Williams, T. D., Tolusso, D. V., Fedewa, M. V., & Esco, M. R. (2017). Comparison of Periodized and Non-Periodized Resistance Training on Maximal Strength: A Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 47(10), 2083–2100.
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