Every once in a while you have to veer off the beaten path and perform tasks that rarely make their way into your regular routine. It’s not unheard of to double up on muscle groups within one training session such as shoulders and traps, chest and triceps or back and biceps. Those pairings have no doubt become the standard for many of your programs. And it makes sense; follow up a large body part with a smaller body part that is responsible for the same types of movement-push or pull. But what if we were to change it up altogether and pair a pushing muscle group with a pulling muscle group? What would happen then? Pure and utter muscle mayhem is what would happen which is why I challenge you to complete this thoracic thrashing otherwise known as the chest and back workout.
*Note: all sets and reps are to be performed using the guidelines prescribed by the Max-OT training program which you can find and download on this website.
Flat Bench Press Followed by Pull-Ups
I’ve always been a proponent of starting off a training session with a big compound movement. I feel that it’s great for working out all the kinks as well as setting the standard for what’s coming in the workout. The first grouping I would begin this chest and back workout with is the flat bench/pull up. The key strategy for both of these exercises is going to be tempo. You should exaggerate the negative for each repetition and then follow that up with an explosive concentric phase. I’m not going to assign any type of second count for either phase here just really focus on controlling and feeling the weight/body weight on the negative and push or pull as hard as you can on the way back up. Give yourself roughly a minute between each exercise here to ensure you have enough in the tank to go as heavy as you can (hang weight off your belt for the pull-ups if you have to). Remember, we’re not supersetting, just grouping exercises. Keep a wide grip for your bench presses and also a wide grip for your pull ups.
Incline Dumbbell Press Followed by Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows
The next pair of exercises is chosen for their relative ease in going from one to the other. With the bench set to roughly a 45-degree angle, kick up a pair of dumbbells and keep a palm forward grip throughout the duration of the set. Focus on really stretching out the pecs at the bottom of the rep by tilting or lifting up your rib cage to maximize your range of motion. Get a hard contraction at the top with a nice squeeze and then repeat. Again, give yourself about a minute or more to rest and then set yourself up so that you are face down with the bottom of your pecs resting on the very top of the bench, you have a dumbbell in each hand and then simultaneously row each dumbbell up by driving your elbows up as hard as you can squeezing your shoulder blades together before allowing them to descend for a nice stretch at the bottom. Emphasize the stretch and squeeze for both exercises here.
Incline Dumbbell Flys Followed by Close Grip Seated Cable Rows
These two exercises have been paired together for the simple reason that both can be utilized to focus on the muscles of the midline of our body. For the incline dumbbell flys, you should get a nice stretch at the bottom of the negative and then really exaggerate and overemphasize the squeeze for the duration of the concentric phase. Lots of people only really focus on feeling the stretch and getting the dumbbells back up to the top to do it all over again. I suggest you work on flexing the pecs from the minute you ascend out of the bottom of the rep all the way to where your hands almost touch at the top and then squeeze again. This will go a long way in carving out the deep crevices and striations of your inner pecs. Once again, take a minute or more and then make your way over to the seated cable row and if not already attached, hook up a close grip v-handle or something similar to that. The reason for using this attachment is so that we can do the same thing as what we were trying to accomplish with the flys and work on building thickness of the back all the way along the spine. To perform this seated row, I would like to see you sitting up nice and straight with a bit of a forward lean to your positioning. Then from here, start pulling your hands in towards your abdominals while imagining that you’re going to finish the concentric phase of the rep by touching your elbows together behind your back. Once there, lift your chest up just a bit to further enhance the contraction. Crunch and squeeze out the back muscles here playing around with how high or how low you keep your hands as you pull.
Dumbbell Pullovers Followed by Rack Pulls
The final pairing I would put together to finish of this thoracic thrashing is a dumbbell pullover with a rack pull. I put these two exercises together for one important reason; overall size. The dumbbell pullover will help expand the rib cage and thus increase the volume of your thoracic cavity by building up the intercostal muscles in the rib cage and rack pulls just build up size everywhere. You’ll want to go as heavy as you possibly can for both of these exercises to get the most benefit out of them. Use a cross bench position for your pull overs and keep a slight tilt forward of your wrists (I find this helps exaggerate the stretch) and use a knee-high or slightly higher pin placement in the rack when doing your rack pulls to keep most of the stress on your upper body/back.
By combining two of the biggest and most powerful upper body muscle groups together in one workout and by following a Max-OT protocol in doing so, I can’t foresee anything but gains for you in the near future. There’s no question about it that this workout is extremely taxing and ridiculously demanding. Just make sure before engaging is this workout that you’re fueled and ready to go. My go to fuel is DGC, Beta-X and BCAA 4500. This keeps me fueled for the entire workout.
The bottom line here is this; if you want results, you have to be willing to work for them, and the chest/back thoracic thrashing that you’ve just read about is a surefire way to those results!