Your chest and triceps may be vastly different, but they do have one thing in common: working them leads to serious gains.
“Doing exercises that challenge both can help you build functional upper body strength and improve posture,” explains Alex Ellis, mobility coach and Host of The Body Nerd ShowPodcast.
Interested in learning how to pair these muscles and supersize your results? Keep reading to see what the fitness experts had to say about the chest and tricep workout.
For a chiseled chest and triceps that stand out, Sergio Pedemonte, a certified personal trainer and CEO of Your House Fitness, recommends this workout that focuses on compound movements.
These are exercises that target several muscle groups at the same time.
Complete 3 - 5 sets, 8 - 20 repetitions, with a 30-second to 1-minute break.
Complete 3 sets, 12-15 repetitions, with a 30-second rest time.
When equipment is a factor, you can use one of the most popular bodyweight exercises around: push-ups. Stick with the standard version or change things up a bit for more of a challenge.
“You can move your hands closer or further apart or put your hands on an elevated surface, like a bench,” Ellis says. “For a triceps burner, the Oil Rigger Push-Ups (on hands and knees, keep one leg elevated back, with elbows staying close to your body) is a great challenge.”
Absolutely. “Your triceps are working when you perform bench presses or push-ups, so it makes total sense to pair the two together,” says Caley Crawford, NASM CPT, Director of Education for Row House.
Doing so is even good for your health. “If you do chest and then do triceps a different day, you risk overtraining the triceps,” explains World Champion powerlifter and wellness expert, Robert Herbst.**
But remember: The order of muscles you workdoes matter. “You always want to work compound movement first (chest group) and then move into smaller groups like triceps,” says Pedemonte.
Joey Thurman, CPT, NASM, CES, agrees: “I like doing triceps after all of the chest movements as the triceps help with extension/pushing exercises so wearing the triceps out and then doing chest isn’t as conducive if building your chest is a priority.”
If you’re looking for a quick workout, he recommends a superset of chest press and triceps back to back. “You can also do chest flys at the end of your workout with triceps as the fly requires less triceps involvement."
In the case of “is it better to do chest and triceps or chest and back?” opposites do attract (opposing muscle groups, that is).
“Definitely better to do chest and tricep together over chest and back,” says Stephanie Rofkahr, NASM CPT. “You engage some of the same muscles if you work the back and chest together.”
That’s not all. Crawford says that pairing opposing muscle groups is a great way to find balance in your body and your muscle actions. It also allows you to work more effectively between sets.
But since everyone is different, your chest and triceps workout may look different. It all depends on your personal goals and program.
Pedemonte, for instance, explains to Lively that he would do chest and triceps if he was doing a three-day split training. “Monday would be a lower-body day, Tuesday would focus on chest and triceps, and then Wednesday would be back and biceps.”
But for a chest and back day, he would use this two-day split training: “Day 1 would focus on the chest and back, and then Day 2 would concentrate on the lower-body and core training.”
Herbst, on the other hand, considers push-and-pull movements when determining which muscle groups to pair. This is why he prefers combining the back and biceps together. “Since most chest work involves pushing with the triceps and most back work involves pulling, which uses the biceps,” he says.
Regardless of which pairing you choose, you can still count on some serious gains.
This all depends on how sore your triceps are.
If they’re really hurting, Ellis recommendsgiving yourself a day of rest to allow the muscles and fascia to fully repair and recover. “You can’t totally turn off any one muscle - so if the triceps are sore, your movement may not be as coordinated as it would be otherwise and you run the risk of possible injury,” she explains.
Even if you wanted to work out, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.That’s because Pedemonte says that you wouldn’t be able to lift very heavy with sore triceps. “If you were performing a barbell bench press and going 75%-95% of your max, the triceps will not allow you to achieve the movement's full range of motion.”
According to Herbst, the only loophole that would work would be to do exercises that workaround the triceps. In this case, you’re looking at “doing movements that do not involve the triceps per se such as flies and pullovers.”
Vital note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.