Can You Do Chest and Back on the Same Day?


Can You Do Chest and Back on the Same Day?

Everyone knows the best way to get stronger is to lift weights multiple times a week. Unfortunately, there’s little consensus on the best way to structure that weightlifting. How heavy do you have to go to build a powerful chest and back? Should each muscle group get its own day, or can you combine them in one workout? What muscle groups are safe to work in the same session? The good news is that yes, you often can combine muscle groups in the same workout. It’s safe and effective.

Working out your chest and back on the same day is not only safe, but also effective. Chest and back are two major muscle groups that work in an agonist-antagonist pair. While one group is contracted, the other is relaxed. Doing chest and back on the same day lets you work out more often, promotes muscular balance, and improves endurance.

Combining muscle pairs like chest and back is a great way to optimize your gym time if done correctly. Read on to find out how to get the most from your next gym session!

Is It Good to Train Back and Chest Together?

Training your back and chest in the same session is a great idea. 

For some, getting to the gym regularly is an impossibility. We’re lucky to get there 3 to 4 times a week between work, family, friends, and other responsibilities. Working major muscle groups like back and chest in one workout is effective and efficient. It’s an excellent idea for those of us that need to make the most of every moment in the gym.

It’s also very effective when done correctly. This is because the back and chest are an agonist-antagonist muscle pair. In layman’s terms, this means that one muscle group relaxes as the other contracts. Most chest exercises rely on pushing, like the bench press, push-ups, and flyes. Back exercises, on the other hand, require pulling, like the deadlift, bent over row, and pull-up. One muscle group is tight while the other relaxes. Push and pull.

Benefits of Working Out Back and Chest Together

There are a number of benefits associated with working out back and chest in the same workout.

1) It’s time efficient

It’s hard to pencil in a daily gym date with yourself when you’re busy balancing everything. There’s work, friends, family, kids, hobbies– the list goes on. When time is a commodity, you need to squeeze every second of your gym visit for value.

Combining two major muscle groups into one workout helps you cultivate a powerful upper body with less total time spent. Since the two muscles work in an agonist-antagonist pair, it’s possible to superset them as well. You can easily move from a set of chest exercises directly into a set of back exercises with no rest. While one muscle set is engaged, the other rests up for the next round. It’s a match made in heaven.

2) You can work them out more often

Many people prefer splits that dedicate one day per muscle group. Back gets paired with biceps since they’re both pulling movements. Chest and triceps get combined because the exercises require pushing. Legs are all by their lonesome, and we throw shoulders in here and there. Cardio may or may not get its own day. It really depends on your personal goals.

Problem with this conventional approach is that we often wind up getting to the gym still feeling residual soreness. It’s hard to do pull-ups when your forearms are still tight from push-ups. It’s hard to get motivated to bench press when the bent over row smoked your lats the day before.

Combining back and chest lets you go hard on both and rest up the next day. Instead of bringing soreness into your next workout, you give 100% upfront for both muscle groups. The next day you get to do active recovery or enjoy a full-on rest day. This leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to go hard again much sooner, letting you hit back and chest more often.

3) It’s conducive to muscular balance

In a perfect world, we will give the same effort to our workouts every day. We will always give it our best and all of our muscles will grow equally as we train. However, that’s not what usually happens.

Other factors find a way to affect your performance. Maybe you’re still sore from the day before or you didn’t eat enough, and you’re distracted by hunger. These variables will affect your performance and energy levels. Even if you do an identically structured workout, your output will not be the same. And so, your muscles will grow at different rates.

You can prevent this muscular imbalance by working out your chest and back on the same day. Simply structure your sets and reps identically and give commensurate effort to both exercises. This minimizes variations to your workout performance and is conducive to muscular balance.

4) It improves endurance

Since chest and back are agonist-antagonist pair muscle groups, you can superset them more easily when compared to other muscle groups. This makes you more time-efficient in the gym by allowing you to get more done in less time.

But there’s another perk to tackling training this way. By transitioning from one exercise to another with little or no rest, you improve your endurance. You gradually become more accustomed to longer bursts of effort without the need for rest or recovery.

This will improve your performance during endurance-based activities like marathons, triathlons, technical hikes, and some CrossFit WODs.

Chest and Back Workout

How you structure your chest and back workout will depend on your goals. If you’re trying to build muscle mass and show up at the beach looking like a hulking beast, any exercise order will do. Studies show you’ll still reap the same benefits in building mass no matter when you do what.

If your goal is to build strength, the exercise order does matter. Heavy lifts performed early in the workout provide the most strength gains. Therefore, your highest priority for strength gains should go first. 

If you want a better deadlift, deadlift first. Or, if your bench leaves something to be desired, bench first. If you want to improve both equally, rotate what goes first. You may rotate every other workout or do 2 or 4 week blocks where one keeps the lead every time before switching. It all depends on your personal goals.

Here is an example of a set that focuses on chest strength building over back:

  • Barbell bench press
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Barbell incline press
  • Barbell bent over row
  • Standing cable flyes
  • Push-ups

Perform each exercise in 4 sets of 8 reps, except the push-ups. The push-ups should be 3 sets of max reps until failure. Rest as needed.

Here’s an example of a set that focuses on back strength building over chest:

  • Deadlift
  • Incline dumbbell press
  • Barbell bent over row
  • Incline dumbbell flyes
  • Pull-ups

Perform each exercise in 4 sets of 8 reps. Rest as needed between sets. How often you lead with back before chest and vice versa will depend on your goals. We recommend 2 to 4 week blocks where one muscle group always goes first before switching. This allows your body the best chance to make strength gains before shifting your focus.

Can You Do Chest and Biceps on the Same Day?

You can absolutely do chest and biceps on the same day. While it’s common to combine chest and triceps because both involve pushing movements, chest and biceps makes more sense.

Many bicep exercises involve pulling. A bicep curl is essentially just pulling a dumbbell to your shoulder. A chin-up is pulling your chin over a bar while squeezing the bicep. Since chest exercises will mostly employ pushing, you’ll be able to superset more effectively combining chest and biceps in one workout.

Try something like this on your next chest-bicep split day at the gym:

  • Bench press– 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Barbell bicep curl– 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Standing cable flyes– 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell hammer curls– 4 sets of 8 reps
  • SUPERSET!
    • Incline dumbbell press– 4 sets of 8 reps
    • Incline dumbbell bicep curl– 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Push-ups– 3 sets of reps until failure

Rest between exercises and sets as needed. For the supersets, no rest until both exercises are completed. You may rest between sets here, but you must go straight from the presses into the curls. No shortcuts to success!

Can I Do Chest and Shoulders on the Same Day?

Shoulders a conundrum. You may very well dedicate a whole day just for overhead presses and front raises. Many people do. However, it may seem light in terms of workload.

For this reason, it’s smart to pair shoulders with other muscle groups to get the most oomph from your workout. Shoulders and back are not a bad combo. Shoulders and chest are a great combo too.

You absolutely can couple chest and shoulders in the same workout on the same day. Both muscle groups primarily involve pushing motions. For this reason, you may tire more quickly and wake up with some muscle soreness. Just remember– no pain, no gain!

Try this on your next shoulder-chest training day:

  • Barbell bench press– 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Incline dumbbell bench press– 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Dips– 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Overhead strict press– 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Seated Arnold press– 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Lateral dumbbell raises– 4 sets of 10 reps

Because this session will have you pushing, pushing, and pushing some more, rest as needed. We don’t recommend supersets here. You could if you’re pressed on time and you’re looking for a challenge. Just remember– it’s not worth rushing through if you wind up losing good form.

Form over reps. Always.

Can I Do Back and Legs on the Same Day?

Back and legs on the same day is an excellent idea. Most back exercises target the upper body, whereas leg workouts only employ the upper body for stability. Combining these two muscle groups will alternate between upper and lower body targeting and help one group rest while the other works. Another match made in heaven.

Pay close attention to your lower back when working out your back and legs on the same day. Compromising a flat back and good form during exercises like the back squat could have disastrous consequences. Listen to your body and make adjustments if you start to feel your form deteriorating.

Try this for your next back-leg day split:

  • Back squat– 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Deadlift– 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Walking lunges– 4 sets of 12
  • Calf raises– 4 sets of 12
  • Pull-ups– 5 sets of 10
  • Dumbbell rows– 4 sets of 12
  • SUPERSET!
    • Leg press– 4 sets of 12
    • Jump squat– 4 sets of 12

Combined with a hearty intake of high-quality protein, and you’re looking at a bona fide bulk builder right here. Rest as needed, except for the superset, and keep an eye on your form. We also recommend not going for a PR on that deadlift if you plan to do this whole workout. Schedule less volume on days when you try to set new records. Your body will thank you.

Best Muscle Group Combinations to Workout

With some imagination and adequate rest in between, you could feasibly combine just about any muscle group in a single workout. The main idea is never to completely overdo things in terms of volume. You don’t want to underdo it either though.

In order to get the volume just right, try occasionally combining large muscle groups but regularly combining large and smaller muscle groups. 

The following combinations should be used occasionally:

  • Chest and back
  • Shoulders and chest
  • Back and Shoulders
  • Shoulders and legs
  • Legs and chest
  • Legs and back

These combinations may be used more regularly:

  • Chest and triceps
  • Chest and biceps
  • Back and triceps
  • Back and biceps
  • Legs and triceps
  • Legs and biceps
  • Shoulders and triceps
  • Shoulders and biceps
  • Triceps and biceps

Be mindful of your programming. Try not to involve the same muscle groups two days in a row. Instead, factor in rest days or move to different muscle groups. For instance, if you target chest and triceps on Day 1, do legs on Day 2 or back and biceps.

Even when rotating muscle groups, it’s still prudent to take at least 1 actual rest day every week, if not 2. You don’t realize gains in the gym. You get them from recovering from the work you do in the gym.

Best Back Exercises

There are many great back exercises that will give you great gains in the gym. Here are 5 killer exercises to work into your next gym session.

1) Deadlifts

The deadlift is one of the biggest, baddest strength building tools for your lower back. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell on the floor. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees to grab the bar. Keep a flat back throughout the entirety of this movement and the weight on your heels. Now push up from your heels, pulling with your legs and arms, and stand up straight slowly. Remember–flat back and weight on your heels!

Your grip is important as well. An overhand grip is common, but many bodybuilders use an alternating grip. This means one hand with an overhand grip and one doing an underhand grip. Many feel this grip gives better control of the bar, especially at heavier weights. Try out both to see what feels best for you.

2) Bent Over Rows

The bent over row is another classic staple of a great back workout. Grab a barbell and place it on the floor. Now get into a similar position to the deadlift standing over the bar while keeping a straight back. Pick it up. This is your starting position– bar in hand, hinged at your hips, flat back, weight in heels.

Pull the bar to your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the rep. You will feel this in your arms and your upper back big time. Complete all reps before placing the barbell back down.

Of course, dumbbells can be subbed for a barbell if it’s to your tastes. There are benefits to each.

3) Pull-ups

Pull-ups are not only a great arm-builder, but a back blaster as well. The mechanics of a pull-up are simple. Just grab the bar and pull your chin over it. That’s it.

Be sure to keep a wide grip on the bar. The wider you go the more you target your back during the movement. In addition, try not to pull yourself over the bar and then drop-down limp. Holding tension during both the ascent and descent will give you the most impact from each rep.

Also make sure to get back to the bottom of the rep each time. A lot of overeager gym folks feel cool just cranking out high reps by staying close to the top of the bar. That’s only shortchanging yourself and hurting your results.

4) Lat Pulldowns

A lot of people think of lat pulldowns as the pull-up alternative. True, it engages your body similarly to the pull-up, but both are useful in their own right.

To complete, simply sit at the lat pulldown machine and set it so that you’re held in place. This will be important when the weights get heavy. Now set the weight of the machine, grab the bar in a wide grip, and pull it down to your chest. Squeeze your back at the bottom of the rep, then return to the starting position.

Just like with pull-ups, don’t skimp on your range of motion. Start at the top, bring it to your chest, and bring it all the way back each time. Control the movement from start to finish as well. Never let the bar go and let the plates crash down on each other.

5) Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is one part back builder and one part cardio. The repeated hinge and swing motion gets your heart racing, helping you build great cardio while also working your back.

Hold a kettlebell in your hands, feet shoulder-width apart, and hinge your hips back to lean forward. Now explode forward from your hips and fling that kettlebell out in front of you. The kettlebell should reach approximately eye level. Allow gravity to bring the kettlebell back down and bring your hips back again. Rinse, lather, repeat.

The goal here is to move the kettlebell by exploding at the hips. You’ll do little more than hurt your forearms if you try to pull the kettlebell up with your arms instead. When done correctly, the hips do most of the work, and your back is engaged. Be sure to keep it flat. If your form begins to suffer and your back starts rounding out, stop immediately.

Best Chest Exercises

There are a variety of exercises you can use to build a big, strong chest. Here are 5 excellent exercises for your next session.

1) Bench Presses

The cornerstone of every gym bros workout is the bench press. Some folks bench, bench, and only bench. It’s the only number they keep on hand to share to anyone who cares to listen. Nonetheless, it is one of your best tools for building a big and strong chest.

Lay on the bench with the weight racked above you. Reach up to remove it from the rack and position it directly above your chest. Bring it down slowly until it touches your chest before pushing it back up to the top of the rep.

As with all exercises, don’t skimp on the range of motion. Control the descent and explode upwards all the way to the top. Your arms should be almost fully extended at the top of the rep and be sure to keep strong elbows too.

2) Incline/Decline Bench Presses

Your pectorals comprise most of your chest, so hitting it at different angles is key. In order to do that, complete the bench press at an incline or decline to sculpt it from different sides. An incline bench press will target the upper chest, whereas the decline hits below.

Rotate which variation you use each time for best results. It’s not unheard of to complete each lift in a single workout as well.

3) Push-ups

Push-ups are the quintessential bodyweight movement for building strong arms, a solid core, and a great chest. Simply place your feet together and arms on the floor, approximately shoulder-width apart. Slowly bring your body to the floor and push back up. Rinse, lather, repeat.

A variation that really targets the chest is the diamond push-up. Move your hands together creating a diamond shape with your fingers. Now complete the push-up as detailed above, but really squeeze your chest at the top of the movement.

Be sure to keep your elbows locked in during any push-up movement. Flared elbows are a sign of poor form. Keep them close.

4) Flyes

Flyes help you get a wider chest. They can be performed flat on a bench, at an incline, seated, or standing using a cable machine. Simply grab a handle or dumbbell in each hand with your arms outstretched to the sides. Bend your elbows slightly and hold them strong. Now bring your hands together, squeezing your chest in the middle of the movement. Return to the starting position slowly.

Flyes may feel awkward at first, but they’re excellent at helping build a strong, wide chest.

5) Chest Dips

Dips are one of the best movements you can add to any workout. You’ll primarily target your chest, triceps, and shoulders in this one.

Grab the handles and hold yourself in the air. We recommend crossing your ankles in the back, so your feet don’t accidentally touch the ground. Now lean your chest forward and slowly bring your body down until your elbows are at 90-degrees. Push yourself back up, rinse, lather, repeat.

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Christopher Covello

Christopher’s personal fitness and nutrition journey began in 2009 when he was working as a short order cook and came to recognize that his habits were unhealthy and unsustainable. He educated himself on mindful eating and balanced nutrition and has prioritized healthy living ever since. Today, Christopher writes in the fitness and nutrition niche, and is often found running, hiking, rock climbing, Spartan Racing, training at his CrossFit box, or practicing yoga.

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