Compound Chest and Back Workout

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Working your chest and back muscles on the same day means that you'll be doing some of the most challenging upper body exercises in the gym. The two muscle groups lend themselves surprisingly well to each other, with some exercises like the dumbbell pullover and pull-up working both chest and back muscles. Try this chest and back workout to pump up your muscles and get a stronger upper body.

Pair Number One

Start your chest and back workout with two simple yet challenging bodyweight movements: the push-up and the inverted row. Depending on how strong you are, these exercises might serve as a warm-up or intense workout. The inverted row is essentially the exact opposite motion of the push-up and can be performed on a TRX or squat rack with a barbell. If it's too difficult, you can do the inverted row from a standing position while leaning back.


Try to do at least four sets of 10 repetitions. If you can't, try doing the push-ups from your knees on a soft surface.

How To: Start at the top of a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders and feet a few inches apart. Lower yourself down while maintaining a straight line from your head to your ankles. Go down until your chest touches the ground, then press back up.

Inverted Row

Use a TRX or a barbell that is fixed on a squat rack for this exercise. The more you lean back the harder the exercise will be. Perform four sets of eight to ten repetitions.

How To: Lie on the ground on your back and grab the barbell or TRX handles. Your palms should be facing down towards your feet. Point your toes up towards the ceiling and keep your knees straight. Pull yourself up until your hands are in line with your chest. As you pull up, lean your head back and keep your hips high. Then, lower yourself back down.

Pair Number Two

This next superset is a combination of compound movements that work multiple muscle groups while focusing on aesthetics, according to New York-based Certified Exercise Physiologist Angel-Ariel Casas.

The first exercise is an incline dumbbell bench press, which focuses on the upper chest. Many people struggle to develop this area of the chest, says Casas. The pull-ups help develop the lats, which will make your torso seem larger at the top and slimmer at the waist, also known as a "v-taper."

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Develop the upper part of your pectoralis major, your chest muscle, with this exercise. Casas recommends four sets of twelve repetitions.

How To: Lie down on a bench that's inclined at around 45 degrees to the ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Lean back and pull the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Press the dumbbells up and together until they touch, then lower them back to your shoulders.


If pull-ups are too difficult, you can use the assisted pull-up machine if your gym has one. Perform four sets of as many repetitions as possible for this exercise.

How To: Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hang with your elbows straight and feet off of the ground. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, the go back down until your elbows are straight again.

Man in a gym performing pull-ups on a pull-up bar.

A chest and back workout will involve some of the most challenging upper body exercises.

Pair Number 3

For the final exercise pairing you'll do dumbbell pullovers and lawnmower rows. A dumbbell pullover will work a few muscles of the upper body including back, chest, and arm muscles. The lawnmower row is a heavier strength exercise that targets your back.

Dumbbell Pullover

This exercise works your chest and lat muscles, making it a great combination exercise for a chest and back workout. Do four sets of twelve repetitions.

How To: Lie on your back on a bench. Hold a dumbbell above your chest with your arms straight, gripping the weighted part of the dumbbell with both hands so that it is hanging vertically over your chest. Reach your arms over your head, keeping your elbows straight, until your arms are parallel with the bench. Then, pull the dumbbell back up to the starting position.

Lawnmower Row

You'll be able to use a little momentum from twisting your upper body in this exercise, so don't be afraid to increase the weight. Try four sets of eight repetitions.

How To: Place a dumbbell on the floor. Get into a lunge position with your right foot in front of the dumbbell and left foot behind. The dumbbell should be on your left side. Lean over and put your right elbow on your right thigh and pick up the dumbbell with your left hand. Pull the weight up to your shoulder, then lower it down to the ground.