In case you didn’t notice, this series is not really posted on any day of the week in particular, I just really love writing about strength training right now and I can’t wait to share a lot of the workouts I have been doing! I have covered my general arm workout in PART 1 and last week I talked about possibly my favourite workout in PART 2, glutes and calves, mostly because I am really proud of my ASSets. 😉 This week I am featuring a chest and back strength training workout. If you think “Hey, I’m a runner, I don’t even use those muscles?” Umm, you have never tried to run after a heavy chest day have you? What do you think helps keep you upright while you run? 😀
Part 3: Chest and Back
A huge caution for this workout: WATCH YOUR BACK! If you’ve ever shoveled a driveway on a typical Canadian winter day, you know back strain. As with any new-to-you exercise movement, start with body weight or light weight, and work up. Back movements in particular are extremely dangerous if done with incorrect form so take it easy and in most cases the goal is to use your legs and core to assist the back movement.
1. Bench Press. I was terrified of the bench press for a really long time but when I finally worked up the nerve to try it I found out what an incredible movement it is. I include this move at least 1-2 times a week on a chest or arms day. I typically do 3-4 sets of 8 and then add more weight and continue until I can no longer do 2 reps at a time, which usually works out to a total of 5-6 sets.
2. Single Leg Dumbbell Row. This one requires an unexpected amount of core work to complete it properly which makes it a great move for runners. Standing upright, tilt down towards the floor while simultaneously raising the leg opposite to the dumbbell. Complete one full row at the bottom and lift back up to standing. Complete 12 reps and switch sides, for 3 sets.
3. Cable chest fly. My brother actually showed me this one a few weeks ago and OH MAN is it a chest killer. I loved it and I felt so powerful doing it! If you are able to complete 15 reps with your set weight, increase the weight. Try for 4 sets of 10 reps. This one is great to super set with a back move.
4. Reverse fly. This one is a perfect super-set option for the cable chest fly. It works the anterior deltoids and can be done on a seated machine, or on an incline bench with dumbbells. My gym has the machine so I typically use that but I find the dumbbells just as effective! Try for 4 sets of 10 reps, just like the chest fly.
5. Push-up. Ugh, gross, I know, pushups are the worst BUT they are a totally effective chest movement. Using a wider hand placement than a triceps pushup you can really target the chest muscles. Modifications include knee pushups and wall pushups, using the same wide hand placement to make the chest work harder than the triceps.
6. Horizontal Seated Cable Row. Form is key for this one and by form, I mean great posture. While the resting position for this one is leaning forward, it does not include a hunched back or rolled shoulders. Maintain an upright posture throughout the entire movement, the back muscles are working hard for this one so give them a stabilized core to work with. Try for 3 sets of 12.
7. Incline Chest Press. Just like the bench press movement except on an incline bench. Most gyms will have a barbell situated over an inclined bench but this one can also be just as easily done with dumbbells which is what I typically use. I can’t press as much in the incline as I can on a flat bench for obvious reasons so try working with less than your bench weight. Aim for 3-4 sets of 10.
8. Back extensions. This little piece of equipment at the gym perplexed me so much for a while and I would try and watch what other people were doing on it to figure out what to do but many people use this thing sideways, upside down, all over the place! It’s a great move for working on your back muscles, making sure to one rise up to straight and not to hyperextend the back. A great addition to make this move more intense is adding weight, holding a plate or your chest or clutching a dumbbell to your chest as you rise. If I am using only body weight I try for 3-4 sets of 12, if I add a 15-25lb weight, I do 3-4 sets of 8.
9. Basic chest fly. Lying on a bench, grab a pair of dumbbells and complete basic chest flies by maintaining a slight bend in the elbow throughout the entire movement. This move can also be done on a seated chest fly machine as well! If you can’t complete the entire movement with perfect form, reduce the weight. If you can do more than 12 reps, increase the weight. I try for 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps. This move can also be done on the incline like the inclined chest press!
10. T-Bar Row. I thought this one was going to be way easier than it was but I can only put a 25lb plate on the T-bar row machine! It’s a tough one! The bench makes it easy to maintain form but keep focused the entire time. Try for 3 sets of 10.
11. Supermans. A great core workout but an awesome lower back move as well. Lying facedown on the floor, lift both arms and legs off the ground, pausing, and then return to the ground for one rep. Complete 16-20 reps. You can also try alternating lifting just arms or just legs, or one of each! Try for 3-4 sets!
12. Bent-over barbell row. Okay, if you made it this far watching your form perfectly this is no time to slack off. FORM FORM FORM. This one is a move to start light with in order to perfect the movement before lifting heavy. I probably look ridiculous with the light weights I use but I would rather use 80% of the weight I should and NOT get injured than hurt my back! I aim for 3-4 sets of 12 reps. A pause at the top of the movement will increase the intensity.
Disclaimer: While I am certified in exercise theory and group fitness, I am not a personal trainer, I just spend many hours in the gym and have learned a lot from other trainers about form and proper movement. Please consult a physician before beginning a new workout regime and discuss technique and form with a local trainer BEFORE you start lifting… oh, and have FUN with it!