The best chest and back workout for a lean, strong and defined upper body
Want an upper body to be proud of? Of course you do. So use my best chest and back workout to shift stubborn belly and back fat while adding lean and defined muscles to transform your torso and finally build the better body you want, says New Body Plan fitness director Joe Warner
How to do the best chest and back workout
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The workout below is a six-move session split into two straight sets (moves 1 and 2) followed by one superset (moves 3A and 3B), then one final superset (moves 4A and 4B). Do the straight sets, then moves 3A and 3B, only resting at the end of each B set, then finish with moves 4A and 4B, again only resting at the end of each B set.
The best chest and back workout
1 Machine chest press
Sets 5 Reps 8 Rest 90sec
Set the seat at a height so that the handles are level with your chest. Sit down and plant your feet on the floor and push your back into the back rest. Grip the handles with an overhand grip and take a big breath in. Press the weights away, exhaling strongly as your do, until your arms are straight.
Slowly reverse the movement back to the start position with the weight under complete control. That’s one rep. Do 8 reps, rest 90 seconds, and repeat for a total of five sets.
Check out our complete guide to the machine chest press – and how you can use it to build a bigger chest!
2 Lat pulldown
Sets 5 Reps 8 Rest 90sec
Set the seat at a height so that you thighs are secured under the pads and grip the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Keeping your chin and chest up, and your back straight with abs braced, pull the bar down by bending your elbows until it’s just below chin height (you don’t need to go any lower than that).
Pause briefly, fully contracting your powerful back and biceps muscles, then slowly reverse the movement back to the start, controlling the weight all the way. That’s one rep. Do 8 reps, rest 90 seconds, and repeat for a total of five sets.
Use our complete guide to the cable lat pulldown machine to build a bigger, broader and more defined back!
3A Incline dumbbell bench press
Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 0sec
Set a bench to an incline then lie back with your back pressed against the padding and your feet planted on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip level with your chest.
Keeping your chin up and chest up and your whole body tight, press the weights up directly over your chest until your arms are straight. Slowly lower the movement back to the start, managing the weights on the way down with complete control. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, then go straight into move 3B.
3B Chest-supported dumbbell row
Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 90sec
Lie chest first on the incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral (palms-facing grip), and straight arms. Keeping your chest flush against the bench and your elbows tight to your sides, row the weights up to either side of the bench.
Pause and squeeze your upper back and biceps muscles in this top position, then slowly reverse the movement back down to the start, controlling the weights as you go, until your arms are again fully straight. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, rest 90 seconds, then go back to move 3A and repeat the superset a total of four times.
Try these best dumbbell back exercises to build the stronger, broader and leaner back you want!
4A Cable crossover
Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 0sec
Stand tall in the middle of a cable machine holding in each hand a D-handle attachment secured to the high pulley on each weight stack. Your arms should be up and out to the sides, with a slight bend in your elbows, and you should feel a slight stretch across your chest in this starting position.
Stand with a split stance with one foot forward, for better balance, and keep your chin and chest up with your abs engaged. Maintaining that slight bend in your elbows, bring your hands out and round in a smooth arc until they meet – then pass – in front of your body (around belly button height).
Hold this bottom position and focus on squeezing your chest muscles, then slowly reverse the movement back to the start, controlling the weight all the way. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, switching which hand goes in front of the other with each rep, then go straight into move 4B.
Use our complete guide to the cable crossover to build a bigger and broader chest!
4B Cable straight-arm pulldown
Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 90sec
Stand tall in front of one side of the cable machine holding in both hands with an overhand grip a straight-bar attachment secured to the high pulley. Take steps backwards until your arms are straight and your feel a good stretch in your lats.
Lean forward from your hips and, keeping your chin and chest up and abs tight, pull the hand down in a smooth arc until it hits the front of your thighs. Pause briefly in this bottom position then reverse the movement back to the start, keeping your arms straight throughout. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, rest 90 seconds, then repeat the superset for a total of three sets to complete the best chest and back workout!
Use our complete guide to the cable straight-arm pulldown to sculpt a broad and defined upper back!
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