A fantastic tricep and chest workout won’t just make your upper body stronger – it can also help to strengthen your core, improve heart health, burn calories and boost your metabolism.
Some people find the triceps a tricky area to work, and many of us are guilty of neglecting our chest – but once you’ve incorporated tricep and chest movements into your workout routine, you won’t want to stop. Building up the strength in your arms and chest can even make day-to-day tasks, such as carrying shopping, or lugging furniture, safer and easier.
Sold on the idea, but unsure where to start? This particular workout is targeted at gym goers and makes use of special equipment, but you can get a great chest workout at home too. If you’re ready to invest in a set of weights, check out our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells sets.
Choosing the right weights
Vanessa Gebhardt, a training specialist at Freeletics (opens in new tab), says that finding the right weight for you is one of the most important parts of strength training.
“Beginners should choose especially carefully as lifting too heavy can lead to injury,” she says. “I would also recommend trying the exercise without the weight first, to ensure you have a good grasp of proper form. Once you are comfortable with the exercise, choose a weight where you are able to complete 10 reps with medium difficulty.”
It should feel challenging, but not impossible. “If you find yourself feeling exhausted, shaking, or even straining, you are probably lifting too heavy and need to decrease your weight,” says Gebhardt. “Give yourself the time to work up to heavier weights as you feel more comfortable, and be sure to listen to what your body is telling you.”
Why should you do a triceps and chest workout?
The multiple benefits of strength-based workouts range from weight loss to better bone health and brain health. Focusing on one area of the body doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll only be improving the strength of that area – tricep and chest workouts, for example, will also work the core and improve stability for the rest of the body.
“Weighted arm workouts, especially with dumbbells or resistance bands, are incredible for developing strength and muscle in your forearms, triceps, and biceps,” says Gebhardt.
Dumbbells can be particularly useful when it comes to training muscle groups in isolation. “While you can perform many compound exercises with your dumbbells, they also really help with developing those muscle groups that tend to lag behind,” says Gebhardt. For example, doing overhead tricep dips with a dumbbell can really effectively target those pesky tricep muscles.
And, when it comes to adjustable vs fixed weight dumbbells, we think the former has the edge as they allow you to make the most of the progressive overload principle - enabling you to up the weight as you grow stronger so your progress doesn't plateau.
Triceps and chest workout
MOVE ONE: Push-ups
1. Start in a high plank, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your feet on the ground. Try to keep your head, shoulders, hips, and feet in a straight line.
2. Keeping your knees and hips off the ground, lower your body down until your chest touches the floor. Make sure your elbows stay tucked into the torso.
3. Release your hands from the floor, then push yourself back up. Repeat eight times for four sets.
MOVE TWO: Active hang
1. Start by gripping the bar and lift your feet off the ground so you are dangling.
2. Keep your arms straight and your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet aligned.
3. Pull your shoulder blades down and together. Hold for 30-45 seconds and repeat three times.
MOVE THREE: Band or dumbbell curls
1. Start standing upright with a band looped underfoot, or, if you’re using dumbbells, have them in line with your waist. Grip the band or dumbbells with your palms facing away, keep your elbows close to your body, and hold your core tight.
2. Raise the band or dumbbells to chest level.
5. Lower the band or dumbbells with control.
MOVE FOUR: Decline push-ups
1. Start in a press-up position but with your feet on a raised surface (such as a yoga block).
2. Keeping your head, shoulders, hips, and feet in line, lower your whole body down as far as you can.
3. Keeping your elbows tucked into your torso, carefully push back up. Repeat seven times for four sets.
MOVE FIVE: Band tricep extensions
1. Start standing upright, a resistance band looped under your back foot.
2. Grab the band with both hands and raise it behind your head.
3. Keep your core tight, your back straight and your elbows tucked in towards your head.
4. Push your hands upwards and straighten your arms overhead, then release and repeat seven times for four sets.
MOVE SIX: Face pulls
1. Start standing upright with the band looped around a pole at shoulder height.
2. Grab the band in the middle with both hands, keeping your core tight and back straight.
3. Pull the band towards your neck, keeping the elbows out, then release. Repeat seven times. Don’t have a resistance band? Try holding a single dumbbell over your head, with your arms straight, then bending your arms so it goes behind you.
Sarah is a freelance journalist who writes about fitness and wellbeing for the BBC, Woman&Home and Tech Radar. During lockdown she found her love of running outside again and now attempts to run around 50 miles a month. When it comes to other fitness, she loves a sweaty cardio session – although since she’s been working out from home she’s sure her downstairs neighbors aren’t too happy about it. She also loves to challenge herself - and has signed up to do hiking holidays, intense bootcamps and last year she went on her dream activity holiday: paddle boarding around deserted islands in Croatia. On her rest days, she loves to recover with a simple yoga flow session – the perfect antidote to her active fitness schedule.
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