Somebody recently said to me “I hate back day almost as much as I hate legs day!” I had to think about it for a minute, but I can remember feeling the same way years ago before I was a trainer. The more I thought about conversations I have had with guys, the more I realized that most guys love chest and arm days, maybe even shoulder days, but hate leg day and do back workouts grudgingly.

Hating leg day is a whole other column, so let’s just look at the importance of a good push / pull workout and why it’s important to focus on the back as well. I know I feel much more inspired when I have a reason to do something that resonates more strongly than “because I am supposed to.”

People tend to think of different areas of their bodies separately when actually the entire body functions as a unit or a machine working in concert; any muscular imbalance can through off your whole body. When you are only focusing on the peacock muscles that stretch out your t-shirt when you look in the mirror (i.e. chest, biceps, abs) the posterior chain is ignored, which will lead to imbalances and long term trouble down the road.

Everybody is super pumped for chest day, but if you don’t work your back equally your chest will end up pulling your shoulders forward creating bad posture. This imbalance starts to round the upper back forward leading to pressure on the lower back as your upper body is now pulling forward instead of standing upright. Before you know it, you are suffering from lower back pain and losing time in the gym.

Dr. Matt Cobb

“The majority of reasons clients take breaks or ‘sabbaticals’ from working out is to heal their injuries,” says Dr. Matt Cobb, the Beverly Hills chiropractor.

Dr. Cobb gave me a concise explanation for how muscular imbalances can prevent gains. YES! I said prevent gains!

“When your chest is over worked and your back is underdeveloped, it causes internal rotations of your shoulders, which in return sinks in your chest bone (sternum),” Dr. Cobb says. “If you have an altered start position while doing your chest exercises, it decreases the efficacy of the pectoral muscles. putting strain on other supporting muscles to complete the action, which further complicates the firing pattern of the chest.”

The importance of a healthy back is not only to keep your skeletal system looking healthy and upright.

Dr. Cobb says it also prevents injuries you might have not thought about such as tennis elbow, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff syndrome, neck pain, weak pelvic floor and so on.

This is easily avoided with a strong push/pull workout that not only balances the amount of work on the chest (also the shoulders and triceps) and the back (also the biceps and shoulders), but also takes into consideration moves specifically chosen to improve posture while gaining mass.

And then there is a vanity point. Dr. Cobb notes that “standing up straight will make your chest look bigger, another great reason to work out your back.”

SUPERSET

PULL-UPS / PUSH UPS
12 to 15 wide grip pull ups plus 30 regular pushups

NARROW GRIP CABLE ROWS
4 sets X 10 reps

BENCH PRESS
4 sets X 10 reps

SUPERSET

INCLINE DUMB BELL CHEST PRESS
4 sets X 12 reps

SINGLE ARM DUMB BELL ROW
4 sets X 12 reps

SUPERSET

(If you can. In some gyms this won’t work so do shorter rests and don’t increase weight)

DECLINE CHEST PRESS
4 sets X 15 reps

FACE PULL WITH ROPE
4 sets X 15 reps

LOWER BACK EXTENSION
4 sets X 20 if using body weight, 10 to 12 rep range if using a weight.

This workout is designed specifically to work your chest and your back in a back-to-back order. if you have been ignoring your back for some time, you can pull this workout apart and do all of the back exercises first (just forget about super setting for now) and then do the chest exercises.

We naturally have more energy and strength for the exercises at the beginning of our workout, so this will give more emphasis to strengthening the back while it catches up to your chest, restoring balance.

Monte Cox

About The Author:

Monte Cox is a NASM certified personal trainer with three advanced certifications working with private clients and small groups in West Hollywood and Los Angeles. He specializes in adapting advanced training techniques specific to each individual clients needs and assists with personalized eating plans to achieve goals. He can be seen weekly hosting the only gay focused sports TV show, "Weho Sports Show," on Time Warner/ Spectrum. For inquiries or more information please visit www.montecoxbody.com

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