Complete This Chest And Back Workout At The Gym For A Serious Upper-Body Pump

Man performing bench press in gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Push/pull workout splits are a great way of structuring your time in the gym, but another smart way of approaching upper-body workouts is to do antagonistic supersets, a method that pairs exercises which work opposing muscle groups.

That’s the approach taken in this challenging chest and back workout, created by Will Duru, a personal trainer and level 4 strength and conditioning coach.

Duru explains that supersets are a great way to keep muscles under tension for longer. “They also damage more muscle fibres, which later helps to build muscle and increase strength,” he says. “Supersets also burn more calories.”

This gym-based workout is made up of three supersets and a single exercise. You’ll need a barbell, pull-up bar, bench, suspension trainer and a cable machine.

Follow the sets, reps and rest indicated. The reps in the supersets often decrease, so stay focused, and Duru has programmed short rest periods, so be prepared for your muscles to stay fired up.

1A Bench press 

Sets 6 Reps 15, 12, 8, 6, 6, 2 Rest 0sec

Lie on a flat bench underneath a barbell in a rack. Hold the barbell with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Driving your shoulder blades into the bench, lift the bar out of the rack, then slowly lower it to the base of your chest. Push your feet into the floor and your back into the bench as you press the barbell back up.

1B Pull-up

Sets 6 Reps 10, 8, 8, 6, 4, 4 Rest 30sec

Hold a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your palms facing forwards. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar. Think about driving the bar towards your chest. Lower under control. 

If a pull-up is too difficult, use a long looped resistance band and perform an assisted pull-up.

2A Dumbbell incline bench press

Sets 5 Reps 15, 12, 8, 6, 6 Rest 0sec

Sit on a bench set at an incline with your feet flat on the floor. Hold dumbbells by the top of your chest with your palms facing forwards. Engage your core and keep your back pressed into the bench as you press the dumbbells overhead. Lower under control. 

2B Bent-over row

Sets 5 Reps 20, 15, 8, 8, 8 Rest 30sec

Stand holding a barbell in front of your thighs with your hands just outside of your legs and your palms facing you. Push your hips back and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Stay in this position as you drive your elbows back, pulling the bar up to your rib cage. Pause, squeeze your shoulder blades, then lower the bar under control. 

3A Press-up

Sets 5 Reps 20, 20, 15, 15, 10 Rest 0sec

Get into a high plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then bend your elbows, keeping them close to your body, to slowly lower your torso to the floor. Push up powerfully to the start.

3B TRX row 

Sets 5 Reps 20, 20, 15, 15, 10 Rest 30sec

Stand holding the handles of the TRX (or other suspension trainer) and lean back so your body is in a straight line and your arms are extended. The closer your feet are to the anchor point the harder the exercise will be. Pull your body to the handles until your hands are by your chest. Pause, squeeze your shoulder blades, then slowly extend your arms to lower.

4 Cable flye

Sets 5 Reps 15 Rest 30sec

Attach D-handles to a cable machine’s high pulleys. Stand in the middle in a split stance with one foot in front of the other, holding the handles at shoulder height. Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, bring the handles in front of your chest. Pause, then return to the start under control.

Lucy Gornall

Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.