Monday is the busiest day in the gym, and do you know why? Because Monday is International Chest Day, and who doesn’t love a great chest workout? Stick with me for the next few minutes and I’ll walk you through my six-step chest, triceps, and abs workout. If you’re looking to build size and strength in your upper body, then you’re in exactly the right place.
Also, here’s a tip from a pro: Don’t train your chest on a Monday or you’ll be constantly fighting for equipment. Literally any other day of the week is better!
Step 1: Barbell chest press
The barbell chest press, also known as the bench press, is the absolute king of building a big, strong chest.
To perform this movement, you’ll need to find a bench press station, or move a bench into a squat rack and lower the pins. Set yourself up on the bench with your shoulders and upper back tight, then make sure that your feet are firmly planted on the floor. A small arch in your lower back is fine, but your butt has to stay in contact with the bench. From there, you’ll unrack the weight, lower it down to your chest, and forcefully push the bar back to its starting position with your arms extended.
Here’s a picture of your starting position:
I recommend 4−6 sets of 6−8 reps. This gives you a great balance between strength and hypertrophy (size).
When selecting your weights, you want to go heavy enough that you get a challenge, but not so heavy that you can’t complete your sets. A good way to judge this is that you should always feel like you have an extra rep or two “in the tank” when you finish each set. Don’t be that guy who trains to failure on the bench and gets pinned underneath a barbell!
Top tip: If you ever want to test a new max or really push your limits, grab yourself a trusted gym buddy or coach who can stand behind the bench and assist you with the bar if you fail.
Step 2: Narrow grip barbell chest press
I love the narrow grip barbell chest press (also called the close grip bench) for so many reasons.
- It’s a great accessory movement for your regular bench.
- It’s an awesome way to build big, strong triceps.
- It’s really easy to perform.
Lots of people get this exercise wrong by taking their grip way too narrow. All you actually need to do for a narrow grip bench press is to move your grip about 1−2” inwards (on both sides) from where your regular bench press grip is − that’s it!
A lot of people also complain about wrist pain when performing this exercise, and that’s because they’re doing it wrong and only moving their hands while forgetting their arms and shoulders. Remember that you want your wrists and hands to be in line with your arms. So if you move your hands in, then you’re going to have to tuck your arms closer to your body in order to maintain that alignment.
Since you can’t go quite as heavy on a close grip bench, I recommend using a few more reps. Something like 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps should do the trick quite nicely.
Step 3: Dumbbell chest press
The dumbbell chest press is a great exercise to really overload the chest near the end of a workout. It’s also one of my favorites, as the dumbbells force you to work equally hard on both sides, which can help to prevent imbalances.
You perform this exercise exactly as you would perform a barbell chest press; you just have to work a little bit harder to stabilize and coordinate the two separate weights. Use a full range of motion and really try to think about squeezing your chest as you push the weights up on each rep.
You’ll be using much lighter weights and really trying to overload the muscle, so I recommend 3 sets of 15 reps to really get a “pump” in the muscle.
Step 4: Skull crushers
The last exercise in your workout is the skull crusher. This is a great exercise to really overload the triceps and get an amazing arm “pump.” If you’ve never heard of it before, don’t worry; there’s no crushing of any kind involved − it just sort of looks like that!
Take a light weight, lie down on a flat bench exactly like you did for every other exercise, and start with your arms extended and the weight above you. Your back and shoulders should be tight to prevent movement. From this position, you’re going to flex your elbows, bringing the bar down towards your head (or slightly behind it depending on your set-up). Stop before you hit yourself, then reverse the movement, extending at the elbow joint back to your starting position.
Step 5: The plank
This is one of the classic core exercises. A plank is known in the fitness world as an “anti-extension” exercise. This means that if you took that position and didn’t brace properly, your body would naturally want to fall into an “extended” position (hips sinking and back arching).
Planks help to develop core strength and improve your posture, which gives you a slimmer, more athletic appearance.
To perform the exercise, adopt the position shown here and try to hold for as long as possible. Your body should stay in a straight line, so record yourself to check the first few times.
Once you can do 3 sets of more than 60 seconds then it’s time to start adding weight to give yourself an extra challenge.
Step 6: Sit-ups
Everyone loves a good sit-up, and they’re great for building size and strength in your rectus abdominous (your six-pack!).
To perform this exercise, start by lying on your back. Keep your feet flat on the floor but raise your knees a bit, then tuck your feet underneath something for support. From this position, squeeze/crunch your abs to bring your body upwards into a flexed position. Once done, control yourself back down and repeat.
I recommend 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps. When these become too easy, you can start adding weight to give yourself more of a challenge.
Feeling pumped yet?
That’s it − my six-step chest, triceps, and abs workout. Keep pushing yourself, increase the weights over time, and challenge yourself to do a little bit more each week.
And remember, muscles might be trained in the gym, but they grow in the kitchen. Make sure to eat plenty of calories and protein if you want to maximize your muscle- and strength-building.
Which exercise is your favorite?