Unilateral Chest and Back Workout at home

Unilateral Dumbbell Workout at Home for Chest & Back

One way to make your chest and back workouts at home more effective is to train them together, in the same workout.

And if you want to take your workout to the next level of intensity, I’m going to show you how to use unilateral sets for both chest and back exercises.

The good news is that you can do this even if all you have is a light pair of dumbbells.

In this post, you’ll get 2 different workouts you can do. Both have you training chest and back together.

And I’ll also go deeper into ways to make your workouts more effective with the unilateral method (wait until you do this; you’ll be super-pumped!). In fact, you’re going to make those light dumbbells feel heavy.

I’m writing this during the time when we’re all under quarantine and most gyms around the world are closed.

This post is not intended to knock lifting heavy weight. Rather, it’s intended for those times when you can’t make it to the gym or your gym is closed for whatever reason.

Many do not have heavier weights at home, and buying weights can be expensive. So this workout shows you how to use what you have to get an intense workout (or you can buy a pair of lighter dumbbells, which aren’t so expensive).

How to do Unilateral Sets

*If you’re already familiar with unilateral training, you can skip this part and scroll down to the next section.

So, what is unilateral training?

Robbie Fioritto from the Elite Performance Sports Gym gives a simple explanation below…

Unilateral training is a style of training in which you are only working one limb at a time.

Easy examples to think about are the traditional barbell bench press (using both arms to press the weight) and the barbell back squat (using both legs to squat the weight). 

UNILATERAL TRAINING – WHAT IT IS AND SHOULD YOU BE DOING IT? by Bobby Fioritto M.S., https://www.elitesportsperformancegym.com/unilateral-training

Now, we’re going to make this more intense by keeping constant tension on the muscle of non-working limb. And I’ll explain that further below.

Your goal here is to increase time under tension for your muscles. That leads to more muscle growth.

Unilateral Exercises for Chest and Back

There are 2 key exercises you’ll be using the unilateral method for.

  1. Dumbbell press (the exercise we just went over as an example)
  2. Dumbbell bent-over rows

How to do Unilateral Dumbbell Press

  • Press both dumbbells up
  • Bring one arm down while keeping the other arm up
  • Once you press the one dumbbell back up, bring the opposite arm down, reversing the pattern
  • Once both arms have done their job, you can count that as 1 unilateral rep

How to do Unilateral Dumbbell Bent-over Rows

  • Pull both dumbbells towards your lower torso and hold them there
  • Bring one arm down while keeping the other arm up
  • Once you pull the one dumbbell back up, bring the opposite arm down, reversing the pattern
  • Same as above, that’s 1 total rep

This video below, which is actually the first workout in this post, shows you how to perform unilateral sets for both dumbbell bent-over rows and dumbbell press:

**I mentioned the pre-workout supplement I’m taking in this video. At the time of writing this, I had been taking this for more than 2 weeks. I never had to increase the dose beyond 3/4s a scoop and it delivered that same energy, mental focus, and pump every single workout!


Chest and Back Workouts (2)

As I mentioned in the beginning, I’m going to give you 2 workouts you can do at home for training your chest and back together. You’ll need a bench and a pair of dumbbells for both.

And remember, light dumbbells are okay because I’m going to show you how to make these workouts super intense.

1) Unilateral-Only Chest and Back Workout

In theory, this first workout is extremely simple. But don’t let that fool you because it’s going to be tough!

You’re only doing 2 exercises here. And it’s all unilateral-based. However, you will be extending these sets by adding other techniques to the end of each set.

Here are some notes about the workout:

  • You’ll be alternating chest and back exercises (instead of 3-4 sets of chest followed by 3-4 sets of back, you’ll do a chest exercise followed by a back exercise, then repeat)
  • Rest about 1 minute between each set
  • Once you do the unilateral part of your set, you’ll pump out regular reps, and you’ll follow that up with a few controlled reps; this is one giant, extended set

Here’s the workout…

Part I

Dumbbell Bent-Over RowsReps
Unilateral reps10-15
Regular reps10-15
Controlled reps5-10

This equals one ‘huge’ set! So you’ll essentially be doing around 30 or more reps.

Now, you’ll rest for 1 minute and do the same for the next exercise, which is dumbbell press…

Part II

Dumbbell PressReps
Unilateral reps10-15
Regular reps10-15
Controlled reps5-10

Again, you’re hitting around 30 or more reps here. Rest for about 1 minute and go back to your bent-over rows.

You can repeat this cycle as many times as you want. In the video, I recommended doing 3-5 rounds of these exercises.

2) Chest and Back Workout with some Unilateral Sets

Now, I’m going to give you a chest and back workout where you use unilateral sets with other non-unilateral exercises. This is more in line with a standard bodybuilding style workout.

Here are some notes about the workout:

  • You’ll still be alternating your chest and back exercises, but you’ll do multiple sets for each exercise before going to the next exercises (ex: 3-4 sets of the same exercise for back, then 3-4 sets of the same for chest)
  • Rest about 45 seconds between each set
  • You’re going to end your workout with unilateral sets; this allows you to focus on other exercises, but end your workout with the greatest of intensity
ExerciseSets x Reps
Back: Dumbbell Rows (single-arm)3 x 15-20
Chest: Incline Dumbbell Press3 x 15-20
Back: Dumbbell Pullovers3 x 15-20
Chest: Dumbbell Flyes3 x 15-20
Back: UNILATERAL Bent-over Rows10-15 (each arm)
Chest: UNILATERAL Dumbbell Press10-15 (each arm)

Note about reps:

Your rep ranges may be higher or lower depending on the amount of weight you use. For those with limited access to weights when all you have are a pair of light dumbbells, I challenge you to pump out as many reps as possible, like 30, 40, and even 50.

In addition, if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of training chest and back together, you can read about that and get another chest and back workout in my post here: Chest and Back Circuit Workout at Home with Dumbbells

I’ll also show you more methods to increase your workout intensity using lighter dumbbells in this post: How to Build Muscle at Home with Light Dumbbells

Chest and Back with Dumbbells

There’s no doubt that pushing and pulling heavy loads on a barbell will indeed build muscle. But the problem is you may not always have access to a gym or heavier weights.

And you now realize that with this whole situation of being under quarantine. Or what if your gym suddenly closes and there are no other options?

**There are ways to build your own home gym. You can read more about that here: Get the Blueprints to Building Your Own Home Gym, Cheap

Training with a light pair of dumbbells is better than not training at all. So make the most of what you have, or have access to at the time. And use these techniques, like unilateral sets, to make your workouts more intense, and more effective.

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,


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