barbell rows back exercise for mass

by Jason Stallworth

January 9, 2018

The typical bodybuilding workouts have us dedicating each workout to one major muscle group. You may throw in some smaller muscles, like shoulders with triceps or chest with biceps.

But have you ever thought about training chest and back together?

In this post, you’ll learn why this works better for mass and strength gains, exactly how to execute this concept, and I’m also going to give you several chest and back workouts. 

Chest and Back on the Same Day: Why it Works

Think about it. When you’re training chest, you’re pushing. Bench press, incline press, dumbbell press; it’s all pushing, or pressing exercises. 

Now, what happens when you train back? You’re doing the exact opposite. Barbell rows, seated rows, dumbbell rows, and lat pulldowns are all pulling exercises. 

This is exactly why training chest and back together work so well. You’re training the agonist and antagonist muscles together. That contract of pushing and pulling can make you stronger, and it can also enhance your level of conditioning. 

I know, I know…you’re probably thinking:

“Dude, if I train chest, I won’t have any energy or strength left to train back!”

I thought the same thing at first too. And this is where you’re gonna have to just trust me and try it! But before you do that, let me explain the flow of the workout and the sequence of the back and chest exercises.

Agonist, Antagonist…Push, Pull

empty bench press with water bottle and gym towel
Deadlifts

Don’t think of training chest and back together as doing a chest workout followed by a back workout. That’s not really how the workout flows. 

Rather, think of alternating these exercises. For example, if you were to perform a set of bench press, your next exercise would be a set of barbell rows. Here’s what a simple bodybuilding split training chest and back together would look like…

  • Set 1 – Bench Press: 8 reps
  • Set 1 – Barbell Rows: 8 reps
  • Set 2 – Incline Bench Press: 10 reps
  • Set 2 – Lat Pulldowns: 10 reps
  • Set 3 – Dumbbell Press: 12 reps
  • Set 3 – Seated Rows: 12 reps

In theory, this is similar to doing supersets. The difference with supersets is that you don’t rest between those exercises. You perform a set, then rush over to the next exercise to immediately do the follow-up set.

You’re not going to do supersets with these workouts, at least not in that sense. You’ll instead be taking your normal rest time between sets, although I do recommend shortening those up just a little (no more than 45-second rest between sets). 

If you’d like to learn more about training agonist and antagonist muscles together for strength gains, I have an entire workout program in this post: Lean and Strong Workout Program Using Agonist And Antagonist Supersets

Chest and Back Workouts

Now let’s get into the meat and potatoes and see this in action. I’m going to give you 3 workouts where you’re training chest and back together. 

Here are a few things to know about these workouts before getting started:

  • As best as possible, make sure the 2 contrasting exercises are close together in the gym
  • Rest about 45 seconds between sets (don’t rush it between sets)
  • These workouts will be tough if you’re not used to this training style, so mentally prepare yourself
  • Make sure you have adequate energy to do these workouts; take a pre-workout like 4 GAUGE PRE WORKOUT

Workout 1: Mass and Strength

deadlifts 405

The first chest and back workout below is based on mass and strength building. You’re going to start with the most powerful compound exercise for both chest and back.

After that, you’re going to continue training heavy with more compound exercises, though you’ll bump up the reps a little. This will help you get enough volume to make your chest and back muscles grow. 

You may have a tendency to wanna start with deadlifts instead of bench press. But I encourage you to try it the way it’s written, first. I’ve personally tested this and I think you’ll be amazed at how strong you are on deadlifts after a set of bench press. 

Exercise Sets x Reps
Bench Press 5 x 3-6
Deadlifts 5 x 3-6
Incline Bench Press 4 x 6
Weight Pull-ups 4 x 6
Dumbbell Press 4 x 8
Barbell Rows 4 x 8

Workout 2: Bodybuilding Muscle

bench press 315 chest exercises

This next workout caters to bodybuilding and those looking for that bodybuilder shape. It’s similar to the above workout or mass and strength, but with a few variations.

You’re going to start heavy and will greatly increase the reps towards the end of your chest and back training. The idea is to build muscle mass but also pump more blood into the muscle and get that pump in the gym. 

Another difference here is you’ll start with a back exercise first. You can experiment to see what you like best. For some reason, I find that doing rows first helps my bench press go up. 

Oh, and one more note…make it your goal to row as much as you can bench!

Exercise Sets x Reps
Barbell Rows 5 x 6-8
Bench Press 5 x 6-8
Dumbbell Rows 4 x 8-10
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 x 8-10
Lat Pulldown 4 x 12
Dumbbell Flyes 4 x 12

Workout 3: Getting Ripped

lat pulldowns for back

The last workout is all about getting ripped, shredded, and seeing those striations. You’ll still be starting with compound exercises.

I’m a huge believer in keeping your compound exercises in your program at all times. That’s your foundation and should never stray from that, at least not for too long. 

Another key to making this ‘getting ripped’ chest and back workout more effective in reducing the rest between sets to 30 seconds or less.

So you definitely want to make sure the exercises are close together in your gym. If they’re not, then you can change around the order of the exercises to where it makes more sense for you. 

Lastly, you’ll notice this workout has more overall volume than the other 2 chest and back workouts. This is to increase the effort of getting ripped and burning more calories during weight training. 

Exercise Sets x Reps
Incline Bench Press 4 x 8
Reverse Grip Barbell Rows 4 x 8
Dumbbell Press 3 x 10
Wide Grip Seated Rows 3 x 10
Cable Crossovers 3 x 12
Close Grip Lat Pulldowns 3 x 12
Incline Dumbbell Flyes 3 x 15
Cable Pullovers 3 x 15

Personal Note

It can be difficult to wrap your head around something new. Hey, I get it. I had such a hard time accepting the idea of training chest and back together.

My fear was two-fold:

  1. I would naturally train one harder than the other
  2. I wouldn’t get enough volume for either chest or back

Like you, I had been used to having a chest day and having a back day. Training those 2 major upper-body muscles just didn’t make sense to me at the time. 

But I’m glad I gave it a chance, and that I was willing to shift my way of thinking to try something new (at least it was new for me). 

I’ve made more muscle gains since I’ve been training this way. Although I do change up my workout routines a few times a year, training chest and back on the same day is something I’ll stick to the majority of the time. 

Double Pump on Chest and Back Day

About half-way through your chest and back workout, you’re going to feel super pumped. That’s because you’re literally getting a double pump.

The other cool thing is you’re going to look big from all angles when you leave the gym. It’s time to grow!

Train with Passion,

Jason

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