Chest and Back Superset Workout for Bodybuilding (7 Exercises)

Your chest and back are two of the most important muscle groups for an impressive upper body, both for performance and bodybuilding purposes. This article outlines a superset workout for chest and back, guaranteed to give you the pump of your life, trigger muscle growth, and save time.

You’ll also find the workout in the StrengthLog app, which you can download for free using the button for your device:

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Can You Train Chest and Back Together?

Absolutely. It’s a killer combination for several reasons.

  • Your chest and back muscles are antagonists. While one is working, the other gets to rest. You can maintain your strength without your performance tanking during the second half of the workout.
  • You train your entire upper body in a single training session. A chest and back workout targets your pecs and your back muscles, but your delts, biceps, and triceps are also heavily involved.

The only con is that both chest and back are large muscle groups that require a lot of effort to train. Combining them both in one workout is challenging, but you’re not in the gym to rest, right?

Last but not least, training chest and back together make for a great superset workout.

Read more:

>> How to Train Your Chest Muscles: Exercises & Workout

>> How to Train Your Back Muscles: Exercises & Workout

What Are Supersets?

A superset is “a pair of different exercise sets performed without rest.”1 Your alternate between two exercises, and rest once you’ve completed a set of each exercise.

There are several types of supersets, the two most common being antagonist supersets and agonist supersets.

Antagonist Supersets

An antagonist superset involves combining a set of an exercise for one muscle group with a set of an exercise for the opposing muscle group. For example, performing a set of biceps curls with a set of triceps extensions, only resting when both sets are completed, is a superset for your arms. Another example pertinent to this article would be performing a set of bench presses and jumping straight into a set of barbell rows.

Agonist Supersets

When you’re doing agonist supersets, you perform two exercises in a row, without resting, for the same muscle group. A classic example is doing a set of the bench press followed by a set of dumbbell flyes to really fry your pecs.

As this article is all about supersetting chest and back, you’ll be alternating between exercises for your pecs and exercises for your back.

Read more:

>> Are Supersets Good for Muscle Growth and Strength?

Supersetting Chest and Back: How Does It Work?

Chest exercises involve a lot of pushing. You push whatever it may be – a barbell or a set of dumbbells – away from your body. You push your own body away from the floor if you’re doing push-ups. Pushing exercises work the front of your body: your chest and your front deltoids, and your triceps.

Back exercises, on the other hand, involve a lot of pulling. When doing lat pulldowns or any kind of rowing movements like the barbell or dumbbell row, you pull the weight towards you. Not only do pulling exercises work your back, but they also involve your biceps and your rear deltoids.

With the chest and back superset workout, you alternate between pushing and pulling exercises without rest. Once you’ve completed a superset of one chest exercise and one back exercise, that’s when you take a couple of minutes of rest to recover.

Benefits of a Chest and Back Superset Workout

Combining your chest and back in the same workout and training them using supersets offers several benefits.

  • Your chest and your back are antagonist muscle groups. When you’re doing your bench presses, your back muscles are barely involved, meaning they are fresh and ready to get to work right away when you rack the bar. Also, alternating between muscle groups allows you to shorten your rest intervals, if needed, without compromising performance.
  • You save time. Lack of time is one of the primary reasons many people don’t exercise enough. If you train chest and back in the same training session the old-fashioned way, doing a set of an exercise, resting, doing another set of the same exercise, resting, and so on, a chest and back workout can last for hours. That’s fine, but only if you have the time. Supersets let you get an effective, high-intensity training session done in a shorter amount of time even if your busy schedule gets in the way.
  • Supersets allow you to get more work done in the same amount of time. Let’s say you have an hour to work out. By supersetting chest with back, you can cram more volume into that hour compared to standard sets. And training volume is one of the main drivers of muscle growth.
  • You train your entire upper body. Training your chest and back provides a good workout for your shoulders, biceps, and triceps as well. The chest and back superset workout is the ultimate upper body training session that doesn’t take hours to complete.
  • Maximum pump! Alternating chest and back exercises without resting gives you a satisfying pump in your entire upper body. That pump isn’t just for show, either. During the chest and back superset workout, a good pump acts as a cushion for the opposing muscle group, giving you strength and stability during the lifts.

The Beginner, the Intermediate, and the Advanced

You can follow the chest and back superset workout regardless of your training experience. The difference is how many sets you’ll be doing. As a beginner, you haven’t yet built up your tolerance to a high training volume, and you’ll benefit from a lower number of sets. If you’re a veteran in the gym, on the other hand, you require more sets to continue to grow and improve.

  • Beginners will do a total of six supersets, followed by a finishing exercise for both the chest and back.
  • Intermediate lifters will perform ten supersets, plus the same finisher.
  • Advanced lifters will perform 15 supersets, plus the finishing exercise.

How To Tell If You’re a Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced Lifter

A classic way of defining training experience is to look at how fast you’re gaining strength.

The chest and back superset workout isn’t primarily meant for powerlifters, though, meaning strength gains might not be the best indicator of progress and experience.

  • Beginner: you’ve been working out for a month or more and learned how to perform the different exercises. You’re past the absolute beginner stage and know how to activate the correct muscles when you lift. If you haven’t set your foot in a gym yet, superset training shouldn’t be on your list of immediate things to do.
  • Intermediate: you’ve been training for six months or longer, making consistent gains in strength and muscle mass. You might already be familiar with supersets, having implemented them in your own workouts.
  • Advanced: you’re a serious lifter or bodybuilder who can handle a high training volume. You have extensive experience in advanced intensity-boosting methods like supersets.

Now, let’s hit the gym for a high-intensity chest and back superset workout!

Warming Up

Don’t skip your warm-up and jump straight into your first set even if you’re doing supersets to save time. Your chest and back are big, strong muscle groups that can handle a lot of weight, so you’ll want to be prepared before loading up the bar.

A proper warm-up, including some mobility work, improves your flexibility and increases the blood flow to your muscles. Your brain can focus better on the task at hand, and your body gets warm and ready to perform.

While not strictly necessary, five to ten minutes of low- to moderate-intensity cardio raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping. You’ll be working your entire upper body in the chest and back superset workout, so doing some kind of cardio that involves more than your lower body could be a worthwhile idea. Good options include the cross-trainer, the rowing machine, or some rope jumping. You’re going for a warm-up here, not cardiovascular training, so don’t overdo the intensity.

Consider doing some mobility work for your shoulders before starting. Your shoulder joint is involved in every exercise, and some shoulder-specific dynamic warm-up movements prep it for action.

  • Arm circles, going from small circles to a full range of motion.
  • Shoulder rolls, both forward and backward.
  • Overhead pressing movements without any external load.

After that, perform a couple of ramp-up sets of the first exercises for your chest and back. Use progressively heavier weights until you feel warm and ready for the workout. It’s easy to gloss over your warm-up or even skip it entirely, but those minutes are well worth it in the long run.

Chest and Back Superset Workout

In this workout, you’ll use free weights in the form of barbells and dumbbells, a lat pulldown machine, and the cable crossover machine. You’ll perform between six and 15 reps per exercise to hit every muscle fiber and get a great pump.

  1. Bench Press and Barbell Row
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press and Lat Pulldown
  3. Standing Cable Chest Fly and Cable Seated Row
  4. Finisher: Dumbbell Pullover

Nothing fancy, only tried-and-true staple muscle-building exercises, used by all successful bodybuilders over the decades.

You can see the exact set and rep configuration in the StrengthLog workout app, which you can download for free using the buttons below:

Research suggests that longer rest intervals are better for stimulating muscle hypertrophy.2 If you’re tight on time, supersets are great for cutting down on the time you spend resting between sets without compromising your muscle growth. 

While you’re working your chest, your back muscles aren’t doing much work, and you can rest 60–90 seconds between supersets and still give each muscle two to three minutes to recover properly. If you want to rest longer between supersets, feel free to do so. One terrific thing with superset training is that it allows you the freedom to tailor your workout to your own needs and schedule.

Superset One: Bench Press + Barbell Row

Starting your workout with heavy barbell work is a good idea. A comprehensive review concluded that you’re able to do more reps and increase your training volume when you place an exercise at the beginning of a training session.3 High intensity and high training volume is a winning combination for a big chest and back, which is why you’re kicking off the chest and back superset workout with bench presses and barbell rows.

  • Beginners: perform two supersets.
  • Intermediates: perform four supersets.
  • Advanced: perform five supersets.

Bench Press

The king of upper body exercises keeps its crown to this day. The barbell bench press is both one of the finest chest exercises and one of the best overall exercises for building upper body strength and mass. It works your entire chest, but you also effectively train your front deltoids and triceps.

You’ll be doing some pyramid training in the bench press. You start with a lighter weight and a higher number of reps, increasing the weight and doing fewer and fewer reps each set. You can follow the weight progression in your StrengthLog app.

Bench Press Exercise

Muscles Worked in the Bench Press

Bench press muscles worked

How to Bench Press with Proper Form

  1. Lie on the bench, pull your shoulder blades together and down, and slightly arch your back.
  2. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Inhale, hold your breath, and unrack the bar.
  4. Lower the bar with control, until it touches your chest somewhere close to your sternum.
  5. Push the bar up to the starting position while exhaling.
  6. Take another breath while in the top position, and repeat for reps.

Alternative exercise:

Barbell Row

If the bench press is the king of exercises for the front of your body, the barbell row rules your back. Barbell rows train your entire back and hit your biceps and rear deltoids, too.

There are many ways to perform the barbell row, all valid options. We’re going the traditional route for the chest and back superset workout. Use an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width, bend at the hips to just above a 90-degree angle, and lean forward until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. Standing with your upper body at a 45-degree angle would allow you to use much heavier weight but also transfer much of the work to your upper back and trapezius instead of working your entire back.

Barbell Row

Muscles Worked in Barbell Rows

Muscles worked in barbell row exercise

How to Do Barbell Rows

  1. Grip the bar with an overhand grip, and lean forward with the bar hanging from straight arms.
  2. Inhale and pull the bar towards you.
  3. Pull the bar as high as you can, so that it touches your abs or chest if possible.
  4. With control, lower the bar back to the starting position.

Superset Two: Incline Dumbbell Press + Lat Pulldown

This superset is a great way to target two areas crucial for an impressive physique: your upper chest and your lats.

  • Beginners: perform two supersets.
  • Intermediates: perform three supersets.
  • Advanced: perform five supersets.

Incline Dumbbell Press

An incline bench instead of a flat bench transfers more of the work to the upper part of your pecs. Using a pair of dumbbells instead of a barbell for the incline press allows for a greater range of motion. You also get a better stretch at the bottom of the movement.

Use an adjustable bench and raise the backrest to 30 degrees for maximal activation of your upper pecs.4 Going higher only forces your delts to take over, and the regular bench press takes care of your lower pecs.

Incline Dumbbell Press exercise technique chest

Muscles Worked in Incline Dumbbell Press

Muscles worked in incline dumbbell press

How to Incline Dumbbell Press

  • Sit on a bench, and lift a pair of dumbbells up to the starting position.
  • Press the dumbbells up to straight arms, while exhaling.
  • Inhale at the top, or while lowering the dumbbells with control back to your shoulders.
  • Repeat for reps.

Alternate exercise:

Lat Pulldown

If there is one back exercise almost all bodybuilders, regardless of experience, perform, it’s the lat pulldown. Done right, it effectively targets your lats and helps build a broader, more detailed back.

Use a medium-wide grip, palms facing forward, and perform the movement with a full range of motion: a good stretch at the top and a full contraction at the bottom.

Good form is essential in the lat pulldown. Don’t use body momentum and don’t lean too far back while doing lat pulldowns. You might be able to handle more weight that way, but you’re only reducing the amount of work done by your lats.

Lat pulldown pronated grip back

Muscles Worked in Lat Pulldowns

Muscles worked in lat pulldown with pronated grip

How to Do Lat Pulldowns

  • Grip the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you), slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Sit down with your thighs under the leg support, keep your chest up, and look up at the bar.
  • Inhale and pull the bar towards you.
  • Pull the bar down until it is below your chin or touches your upper chest.
  • Exhale and slowly return the bar until your arms are fully extended.

Alternative exercise:

Superset Three: Standing Cable Chest Fly and Cable Close Grip Seated Row

It’s time for the final round of supersets in the chest and back superset routine. You’ll use a lighter weight for more reps here, going for the ultimate front-to-back pump.

  • Beginners: perform two supersets.
  • Intermediates: perform three supersets.
  • Advanced: perform five supersets.

Standing Cable Chest Fly

Using a cable machine keeps constant tension on your pecs during this exercise. Select a weight that allows you to perform the flyes with good form and a full range of motion.

Feel the stretch at the top of the movement and try to contract your chest muscles as hard as you can as you bring the handles together.

Standing Cable Chest Fly exercise technique

Muscles Worked in Standing Cable Chest Flyes

Muscles worked in standing cable chest fly

How to Do Standing Cable Chest Flyes

  • Fasten a pair of handles in the top position of a cable cross. Grip the handles, step forward, and lean slightly forward.
  • With just a slight bend in the arms, push the handles forward until they meet in front of your body.
  • With control, let the handles go back to the starting position.

Cable Close Grip Seated Row

It’s time to row again, as you get to the third exercise for your back. The seated cable row is an excellent staple back exercise in any bodybuilding routine and helps build back thickness and width. Unlike other rowing exercises, it doesn’t add much stress to your lower back and doesn’t require hamstring flexibility, letting you focus on your upper back and nothing else.

Use a close-grip handle and pull it to your upper abdomen by driving your elbows back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and contract your lats before extending your arms and leaning forward again. Stretch your lats out without letting your shoulders slump forward before repeating the movement.

Cable Close Grip Seated Row exercise back

Muscles Worked in Cable Close Grip Seated Rows

Muscles worked in seated cable row with close grip

How to Do Cable Close Grip Seated Rows

  • Grip a narrow handle, and assume the starting position.
  • Inhale and pull the handle towards your abdomen, while leaning back slightly.
  • Exhale and slowly return to the starting position by extending your arms and leaning forward.

Alternative exercise:

Seated Machine Row

Finishing Exercise: Dumbbell Pullover

There you go! A complete chest and back superset routine. You should be pumped to the limit and almost ready to hang it up for the day. Working chest and back together, especially in a superset fashion, is hard work. However, hard work is what builds a great physique.

Before you can head off to the shower, though, you will finish the workout off with the dumbbell pullover. It’s an old-school exercise used by golden age bodybuilders to expand the rib cage and build a bigger chest and back. It might have fallen out of fashion a bit, but it’s a great finisher to a chest and back superset workout.

The dumbbell pullover hits both your chest and your lats, plus the fan-shaped serratus anterior muscles on the side of your ribs.5 In addition, it’s a fantastic exercise to stretch many of your upper body muscles out at the end of a workout.

From the starting position holding the dumbbell above your chest, lower it as far as you can without overstretching or putting your shoulder joint in a vulnerable position. The mind-muscle connection is essential in this exercise. Pull the dumbbell up with your lats and by contracting your pecs. It’s all about making the right muscles do the work, not simply moving the weight. Prioritize form over load. 

Dumbbell Pullover exercise technique chest back

Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Pullovers

Muscles worked by dumbbell pullover

How to Do Dumbbell Pullovers

  • Lie down on a bench and lift a dumbbell up to almost straight arms above you.
  • Lower the dumbbell down behind your head, while keeping your arms almost completely straight, just with a slight bend in the elbows.
  • Reverse the motion and return the dumbbell to the starting position.

Track the Bicep and Tricep Superset Workout in the StrengthLog App

Stick a fork in yourself, you’re done! Pat yourself on the back for completing the chest and back superset workout. You’re on track to building a great chest and a massive back.

Your muscles grow bigger and stronger in response to the demands you place on them. Once they’ve adapted to lifting a certain weight for a certain number of reps, they will not grow anymore. The key to fast and consistent gains in strength and muscle is to increase the weight you use in your training or to do more reps.

A workout log is ideal for this purpose, and this workout is available in our app StrengthLog. The app is 100% free to download and use as a workout tracker and general strength training app where all the basic functionality is free – forever. The app also has a bunch of free programs and workouts. However, our more advanced programs and workouts (such as this one) are for premium users only.

Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.

Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:

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  1. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(24), 4897. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods.
  2. Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Sep;17(8):983-993. The effects of short versus long inter-set rest intervals in resistance training on measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review.
  3. Sports Medicine Volume 42, Pages 251–265 (2012). Exercise Order in Resistance Training.
  4. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(19), 7339. Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.
  5. J Appl Biomech. 2011 Nov;27(4):380-4. Effects of the pullover exercise on the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi muscles as evaluated by EMG.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach and bodybuilding specialist with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.