Strength & Conditioning

13 Best Chest And Tricep Workout Variations For Muscle Gains

chest and tricep workout

When it comes to building a well-rounded upper body and increasing overall strength, it’s essential to include exercises that target the chest and triceps.  

An effective chest and triceps workout will result in serious muscle growth so that you can develop a strong chest and triceps with good definition.  

The reason many people train these muscles together is that they are primary muscles activated during pressing and pushing exercises such as the bench press.  


Recommended Reading – 12 Best Tricep Exercises For Strength Gains


Often, a chest and triceps workout is referred to as a push day routine with all exercise involving pushing resistance away from the body.  

In this article, we will explore some of the best chest and triceps exercises, techniques, and tips for proper form and muscle activation.

Understanding the Chest & Triceps

The Triceps Muscles

The triceps muscles are a three-headed muscle group located to the back of your upper arm.  

Collectively, this muscle group is known as the triceps brachii.  It connects to your forearm and helps with extension of your elbow joint. 

This muscle also plays a crucial role in supporting both the chest and shoulders in all pushing movements.  

triceps muscle

The long head of the triceps is especially important when it comes to overall arm strength and size.  As it’s weaker, when compared to the biceps, isolation movements are a good way of increasing muscle mass and strength.  

To isolate the tricep muscles effectively, exercises such as triceps pushdowns and skull crushers can be incorporated into your routine.

Strong triceps will offer good carry over to compound exercises such as the bench press.   

The Chest Muscles

The chest muscles are responsible for movements that involve the shoulder joint, such as pushing and pressing.

The pectoralis major is divided into the sternal head (lower chest) and clavicular head (upper chest).  

To develop a well-rounded chest, it’s important to perform exercises that target both heads.

This would include compound exercises such as the barbell bench press, incline bench press, and chest press, all of which engage the chest muscles.

When activating the chest muscles during an exercise such as the incline press, you’ll also be working the triceps and shoulders at the same time.  This is because they act as supporting muscles to the chest area.  

Chest and Tricep workout Exercises

Whilst compound exercises are great for overall upper body strength and muscle hypertrophy, you’ll also want to incorporate some isolation exercises to target specific muscles and ensure a well-balanced strength routine. 

Below we recommend some of the best exercise to add into your strength training routine.  

Chest Exercises

Barbell Bench Press

Perform 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions

barbell bench press

A true test of upper body strength is usually discovered during the bench press.  

This is a classic exercise that is popular amongst powerlifters and forms one of the three big lifts, the other two being the squat and deadlift.

You’ll train your chest, triceps and shoulders during this exercise. Strong triceps are needed to lock out at the top of the movement.  

The bench press is considered a technical exercise with set up being crucial for proper form.  

When setting up on your rack or bench, ensure you can easily grab hold of your barbell and un-rack it.  You will use your lower body muscles to help you drive the weight up.  

When performing the movement, make sure that your elbows don’t flare out and try and follow the bar path.  

When the bar has reached your chest, don’t be tempted too ‘bounce’ it off and just use your triceps and chest to push the weight with maximum control.  

There are several good variations of the bench press that you could also consider:

​Incline barbell bench press

The upright position adopted allows for increased activation of the upper chest.

incline barbell bench press
​Close grip bench press

By bringing your hands closer together the weight load is shifted more on to your triceps.  

Push Ups

This is a good option if you don’t have access to any equipment or want to train at home. To place greater emphasis on the chest elevate your feet onto a couch or box to increase the weight

decline push ups
Dumbbell Bench Press

Using dumbbells instead of a bar will require more stabilization and a better range of motion.  

incline dumbbell bench press

Cable Chest Fly

Perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions

cable chest fly exercise

The cable chest fly exercise targets more of the lower chest muscles (the pectoralis minor and the serratus anterior) along with the delts.  

The benefit of using cables is that you can follow your own natural arm path making it biomechanically better.  This puts less stress on the joints making injury much less likely.  

You’ll want to set the cables high on the pulley machine to better target the lower chest muscles.  If it feels uncomfortable, make adjustments until the movement feels natural.  

Be sure to adopt a staggered stance and engage your core to give you plenty of stability.  

​You can vary the height of the cables which will impact the muscles worked.  

Variations include the following:

Low-High Cable Fly

Setting the cable low and pushing resistance upwards will work the upper chest and front delts.  

low-high cable chest fly
High-Low Banded Fly

A good home workout option where all you need is some resistance bands.  

Tricep Exercises

Dumbbell Tricep Extension

Perform 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions

Tricep extensions, sometimes referred to as the skull crusher, is an exercise that will isolate the triceps.  When performed correctly, it can also help to strengthen the elbow and shoulder joints.  

skullcrusher

You can either perform the movement holding one dumbbell with both hands or a dumbbell in each hand.  

The benefit of holding a free weight in each hand is that it allows for a more natural path for your arms to follow.  

Avoid using a heavy weight with this exercise as form is crucial to keep tension on the triceps and to prevent injury to the joints.  The only joint that should move during the exercise is the elbow.  

If you found yourself shrugging the shoulders up then drop to a lighter weight.  

​Here are some variations of the skull crusher:

Unilateral Cross Body Tricep Extension

This is a good option if you find that the regular skull crusher is a bit hard on your elbow joints. 

Triceps Push Up

This requires a slightly different hand placement in order to place greater emphasis on the triceps.  

Tricep Pushdown

Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions

tricep pushdown using V attachment

You can perform a tricep pushdown using several different attachments from the straight bar through to the rope.

Using the rope attachment or a v bar will put less stress on the wrist joints.  

During this exercise you should avoid shrugging your shoulders and be sure that your elbows remain stationary throughout.  Perform the movement slowly and maintain control of the weight.  If your form is off, then drop to a lower weight.  

Variations of the cable triceps pushdown include the following:

Dumbbell Kickback

If you don’t have access to a cable machine this is a good option, you can also replace the dumbbell for a resistance band

tricep kickback
Reverse Grip Pushdown

For this one you would hold the attachment with an underhand grip which allows for better activation of the long head of the triceps.  

Reverse Grip Pushdown

Dip Exercise

Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions

weighed-dips

Performing a well executed bodyweight dip is one of the most challenging exercises.  

If you find it difficult to perform a full dip, then you could consider using an assisted dip machine if you have access to one.  

Alternatively, you could perform a stationary hold so that you become used to holding your bodyweight. 

The more upright you keep your body during dips, the more you’ll activate your triceps and shoulders.  By leaning forwards, you can work more of the chest muscles.  

Here are some variations to consider:

Floor Based Dips

This is a good option if you’re new to the exercise and want to get a feel for the movement, you can use a small aerobic step up platform or stool to give you an increased range of movement.

floor dips
Diamond Push Ups

By placing your hands close together during the push up you will put more emphasis onto your triceps.  

diamond-push-up
Negative Dips

These involve working the triceps but just on the lowering phase of the dip movement this can be done freeweight or using an assisted dip machine  

assisted dip machine

Proper Form and Technique

Maintaining good form during chest and tricep exercises is important to maximize muscle activation but also to minimise the chance of any injuries to muscles and joints.

This is especially true of compound exercises where more than one joint is utilized throughout the movement.  

Ensure good posture, engage your core, and keep your shoulder blades retracted throughout the movements.

Always execute movements with a slow and controlled form for maximum contraction of the working muscles and use a full range of motion without compromising your form.

Progressive Overload and Variation

To continue challenging your muscles and promoting muscle growth, it’s important to progressively increase the intensity of your workouts.

This can be achieved by increasing the weight load, using lower weights with higher repetitions, or altering the angle of your exercises. 

Changing the angle of exercises, such as incline presses or flys, will help to target different areas of your chest and triceps, leading to a well-rounded and balanced physique.  

By switching up between heavy weight for low reps and lower weight for higher reps, you can ensure that your body is working towards increasing both strength and increased muscle.  

Conclusion

A strong chest and well-developed triceps are essential for overall upper body strength and aesthetics.

By incorporating a variety of exercises that are both compound and isolation you can be sure that you effectively target these muscles.  

Remember to focus on proper form, maintain good posture, and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to promote muscle hypertrophy and ensure a well-balanced strength routine. 

Before starting a new exercise regimen, it’s a good idea to speak with a certified personal trainer or fitness professional to design a workout plan tailored to your specific needs and goals and factor in any pre-existing injuries. 

With dedication and consistency, you can build a strong chest and powerful triceps

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