Chest and Tricep Split Workout Routine

photo - Man with chest muscles performs the dip exercise, one of the exercises in the chest and tricep workout
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Chest and triceps is a popular pairing in a split workout routine. These two muscle groups naturally complement each other because they are both engaged in pushing movements. Combining them into a Chest and Tricep day allows for more recovery time between workouts, which is why split routines enable you to train with more volume.

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Training chest and triceps together

Split workout routines are the most popular way of training. A split routine allows you to achieve a higher training frequency in your routine. This is because they work specific muscle groups on designated days, allowing you to alternate between different parts of your body without overtraining.

Whether you train 3, 4, 5 or 6 days per week, you will need to decide which muscles to work on each day of your workout. Most people go for a push pull legs (PPL) split that sees you dedicate one day to push exercises, one to pulling exercises and another to leg day.

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In PPL, a push day targets your chest, shoulders and triceps. Pull day targets your back, biceps and rear delts. And leg day is for your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves, as well as your lower back.

Some people prefer to take shoulders out onto its own day, leaving a day dedicated to just chest and triceps. That means you have 4 days in your split, which is fine if you train 4 days per week. To train more often you can repeat the routine every 8 days rather than 7, and this will allow you to maintain a high training volume.

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illustration - planning a Chest and Triceps workout in a 4 day routine

Reasons for a dedicated chest and triceps day

If you are specifically looking to develop your chest and/or triceps, having a separate chest and tricep routine allows you to specifically target this area. If you have an imbalance between your chest and your back and biceps, it can be a simple way to get more control over your strength and muscle growth.

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It’s equally true if you want to dedicate time to developing your shoulders. Adopting this style of training necessarily means you’ll be training your shoulders separately.

Muscle groups

Pectoral muscles

The pectoral muscles, commonly known as “pecs”, are the muscles located in your chest area. They are made up of two parts:

  • Pectoralis major – This is the larger of the two muscles, and is the most visible muscle in your chest. It is fan-shaped and stretches from your collarbone and sternum to the humerus in your upper arms. It’s responsible for movements like pushing and pressing.
  • Pectoralis minor – This is the thin, flat muscle that’s located beneath your pectoralis major muscles. It stretches from your ribs to your scapula. It plays a key role in the movement and stabilization of your shoulder blades.
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diagram - Pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, the chest muscles

Triceps brachii

Your triceps are at the back of your arm, and play a particular role in pushing movements. The triceps have three heads, known as the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head.

  • Long Head – The long head of your triceps originates from your scapula. This head helps with extension at the elbow and also adduction and extension at the shoulder joint. It runs down the back of your arm to your ulna (the long forearm bone).
  • Lateral Head – The lateral head originates from your humerus. It is positioned on the outside of your upper arm and gives your tricep its unique ‘horseshoe’ shape and width. It inserts into the olecranon process of the ulna. The lateral head allows rapid and forceful arm extensions, and is key in any pushing or punching movement.
  • Medial Head – The medial head originates from your humerus to your ulna, and plays a key role in precision movements and stability.
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diagram - Triceps muscle, with the lateral, medial and long heads labelled. The ulna bone is also labelled.

The triceps are primarily responsible for the extension of the elbow joint, which allows the arm to straighten.

Planning your chest and tricep workout

The chest and tricep workout is designed to specifically target these two major muscle groups in your upper body. The workout routine is typically split into 5-7 exercises, with most of these exercises targeting your chest.

If you use 6 exercises, you’ll probably want 4 chest exercises (that may also hit your triceps as compound exercises), along with 2 isolation tricep exercises.

To plan your chest exercises:

  • Bench press or dumbbell press – It’s a good idea to start with this compound exercise that works your pectoral muscles, and also involves your triceps and shoulders.
  • Incline press – The incline press is also a must-have, since this targets your upper chest, helping you develop a well-rounded chest physique.
  • Other chest exercises – For the other chest exercises, consider exercises that isolate further your chest muscles. Cable crossovers, dumbbell flyes or dips are good options.
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For your tricep exercises, we recommend choosing two tricep isolation exercises. Have a look at tricep pushdowns or the many variations of tricep extensions.

All the exercises in Gym Geek’s Chest and Tricep Workout are performed with 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Take 60-90 seconds rest periods.

Weekly schedule

You can incorporate a chest and tricep workout into a split routine. If you train 4 days per week, you can choose when to take your rest days. For example, a routine may look like this:

  • Monday – Chest and Triceps
  • Tuesday – Back and Biceps
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – Legs
  • Friday – Shoulders
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Rest
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The Chest and Tricep Workout

Chest and Tricep Exercises

Dumbbell bench press

diagram - Flat bench dumbbell press

Why: The dumbbell bench press is a compound movement that is a staple in any chest and tricep workout routine. It works your chest, shoulder and triceps muscles. Dumbbells allow a greater range of motion and activate more of your stabilizing muscles. But you can use a barbell bench press if you prefer.

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How to do: Lie flat on your back on a training bench. Grip the dumbbells with your hands and hold at shoulder-width apart. Lift the dumbbells up and hold it directly over your chest with your arms fully extended. Inhale and lower the dumbbells slowly until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Now, exhale and push the dumbbells back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows.

Read more: How to Do a Bench Press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Incline dumbbell press

Why: Similar to the flat bench press, this exercise primarily works your pectoralis major muscles in your chest. It does, however, put a greater emphasis on the upper portion of your pecs. This can help develop a well-rounded chest and improved shoulder strength. In addition, it also engages your front deltoids and triceps. The use of dumbbells also allows a great range of motion compared with a barbell press.

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How to do: Sit on an incline bench, holding the dumbbells at shoulder height. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Exhale and push the dumbbells up until your arms are almost fully extended above you. Pause at the top of a second, then slowly lower back to the starting position, inhaling as you lower.

Read more: How to Do Incline Dumbbell Press

Cable crossovers

Cable crossovers

Why: Cable crossovers primarily work your pectoral (chest) muscles and triceps. They also engage your deltoids (shoulders) and rhomboids (upper back) as secondary muscles. This is another great exercise to include in a chest and tricep workout because it targets both muscle groups at the same time. Because the cable provides a constant tension throughout the motion, in theory you can push a greater resistance than would be possible with free weights. This makes cable exercises effective in terms of hypertrophy.

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How to do: Adjust the pulleys on a cable system above your head. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the handles with an overhand grip. With a slight bend in your elbows, pull down across your body until your hands meet at your waist height. Keep your chest up and shoulders down throughout the movement. Finally, slowly return back to the starting position, engaging your chest muscles.

Read more: How to Do Cable Crossovers

Chest dips

diagram - Man performs machine-assisted chest dips

Why: Chest dips are a compound exercise that primarily works your pectoral (chest) muscles, your anterior (front) deltoids and your triceps muscles. Dips are typically included in the beginning of a chest and tricep workout, after other warm-up exercises but before tricep isolation exercises. This allows you to use your maximum strength to perform the exercise.

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How to do: Select the appropriate weight on the assisted dip machine and adjust the knee pad. Step up onto the machine, holding onto the dip bars. Then mount onto knee pad by lifting one knee at a time onto the pad. Gradually lower your body down until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Finally, push yourself back up without locking your elbows out. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Read more: How to Do Chest Dips

Lying dumbbell tricep extension (Skull Crushers)

Diagram showing the Skull Crushers exercise

Why: Lying triceps extensions, also known as Skull Crushers, are a simple but effective exercise that isolates your triceps muscles. In a chest and tricep workout, you should isolation exercises after the working the compound movements. This helps to fully fatigue your triceps, leading to more muscle size and strength gains.

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How to do: Position yourself on a weight bench, lying down, with your feet firmly on the ground. Holding a dumbbell with both hands, bend your elbows and lower the dumbbell behind your head. Keeping your upper arms stationary and pointing towards the ceiling, straighten your elbows and raise the weight back up using your triceps. Move until your arms are fully extended. Now, lower the weight back behind your head in a slow and controlled motion.

Read more: How to Do Lying Triceps Extensions (Skull Crushers)

Triceps rope pushdowns

Cable rope pushdown

Why: Tricep rope pushdowns isolate your triceps without significant engagement from other muscle groups. This is the second isolation exercise in the chest and tricep workout, focusing on your triceps and involving the movement of just one joint (your elbow). This makes it an excellent way to build strength and definition in your triceps.

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How to do: Attach a rope handle to a high pulley system. Stand upright, with a slight lean forwards. Grab the rope with your palms facing each other. Contract your triceps to push the rope down until your arms are extended. Keep your upper arms fixed in place throughout the movement. Slowly return to the starting position.

Read more: How to Do Tricep Rope Pushdowns

Tips

Always warm up

Before you start your chest and tricep workout, it’s essential that you warm up first. Warming up will increase your heart rate, gently stretch your muscles and increase the blood flow to them. It also helps prevent injuries because your muscles are prepared for the coming workout.

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Start with light cardio, for example a jog for about 5-10 minutes to get your heart rate up. Follow this by some dynamic stretching that focuses on your chest, shoulders and tricep muscles.

Maintain proper form

When performing your chest and tricep exercises, maintaining proper form can not only reduce the risk of injury, but it can also improve the effectiveness of the exercise. We recommend checking out the detailed guides for each of the exercises, and consult with a personal trainer if you are unsure about the movements.


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