Functional movements, compound lifts and lower body work should form the backbone of your gym work if you value real-world benefits and long-lasting progress.
However, there’s no shame in wanting to look the part, too – and nothing inflates the confidence (and the upper body) quite like an old school chest and back workout.
This particular session consists of four superset pairings, with each one working your opposing chest and back muscle groups for a pump to be proud of.
You’re going to do 4 sets of each, with all reps in the 8-12 hypertrophy range. Keep rest to a minimum between superset exercises, and no more than 60 seconds between sets – staying strict with yourself will deliver a far greater level of conditioning and ensure you’re getting maximum benefit from the session.
1a. Wide-Grip Barbell Bench Press
Rest: Straight into 1b
- Lie on the bench with your feet on the floor directly underneath your knees.
- Hold the bar with an overhand grip more than shoulder-width apart.
- Lower the bar to your chest until your elbows are bent at 90° and the bar is almost touching the middle of chest or is just above your nipples.
- Drive your feet hard into the floor and push the bar strongly back to the start.
Rest: 60 secs, then repeat 1a
- Hold the bar with an underhand grip.
- Start from a dead hang with your arms fully extended.
- Pull yourself up by squeezing your lats together.
- Once your chin is higher than your hands, pause briefly and lower yourself back to the start.
2a. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
Rest: Straight into 2b
- Lie on a decline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with your elbows at 90°.
- Extend your arms to press the weights directly overhead.
- Lower the weights slowly to return to the start.
2b. Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
Rest: 60 secs, then repeat 2a
- With your core braced, back straight and shoulder blades retracted, hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip. Bend your knees slightly and lean forwards from the hips. This is the start position.
- Row the weights up to your lower sternum by retracting your shoulder blades and leading with your elbows.
- Return slowly to the start.
3a. Decline Swiss Ball Press-Up
Rest: Straight into 3b
- Get into a press-up position with your feet on a gym ball.
- Keeping your core braced and body straight, lower your chest towards the floor.
- Press back up to return to the start.
3b. Swiss Ball Back Extension
Rest: 60 secs, then repeat 3a
- Lie over a gym ball with your hands touching your temples.
- Use your lower back muscles to lift your torso off the ball.
- Lower back to the start.
4a. Clapping Press-Up
Rest: Straight into 4b
- Start in a press-up position with core braced and body straight from head to heel.
- Lower your chest to the floor then press back up powerfully so your hands leave the floor and you can clap them together.
- Land and immediately descend into the next rep.
4b. Sliding Towel Flye
Rest: 60 secs, then repeat 4a
- Start in a press-up position with each hand on a small towel.
- Slowly slide your arms out to the side to lower your chest towards the floor.
- Once your arms are as wide as is comfortable, reverse the movement back to the start.
Photography: Tom Miles