Is it okay to train back after chest day?
Will it be overkill, not just for the primary muscles, but for the secondary muscles which are engaged on both these days?
This is one of the commonest doubts that will arise in your mind as you try to figure out the ‘perfect’ fitness program.
One that allows ample rest time for your muscles and yet, offers sufficient volume to stimulate muscle growth.
The Chest and the Back are two of the largest muscle groups in the upper body, which require a fair bit of volume to grow. But can you train these muscles in succession?
That’s what we are going to find out today. We have tried a whole bunch of workout programs which target different muscle groups in different sequential orders. PPL, Strongman, Full Body Programs, Bro Splits, been there, done that.
What’s more is that we have done some extensive research on indirect volume, which is the involvement of your secondary muscle groups.
For instance, in a PPL routine, any push day will heavily engage the triceps and the rhomboids. You could very well consider the engagement as half-sets for these groups.
Based on our expertise and our experiences, here’s our two cents about training back after chest day.
What Is Chest Day?
Chest Day is typically a day when you isolate your chest muscles and train no other body part.
It’s generally a part of one-body part-a-day workout programs. But if you take an anatomical view at muscle fiber recruitment, you’d discover that chest day also engages your arms, rhomboids, abdominal muscles and upper back.
Some exercises, like the vertical dip, involve most muscles of the back, including the latissimus dorsi.
That said, the involvement and the overlapping muscles will depend heavily on the exercises you perform on Chest day. For instance, the bench press will involve more of the upper back than the mid-back.
What Exercises Are Done on Chest Day?
But Chest day generally features multiple pressing moves with heavy load and volume. The idea is to target all 3 muscle heads in the chest, which are the Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor & the Serratus Anterior, for overall chest development.
Barbell presses, dumbbell presses (both flat and incline), push-ups, barbell face pulls, cable fly, & chest dips are some of the most effective options. You can of course, vary the grips, tempo and resistance to make it more challenging, or target specific fibers within these muscle heads.
But that’s for more experienced and seasoned bodybuilders. If you are a recreational lifter looking at aesthetics and hypertrophy, just focus on the bench press variations and the chest dip.
What Are the Benefits of Chest Day?
Strong pecs are the hallmark of a proportionate and symmetrical physique. Something that every lifter yearns for. But broad pecs offer more perks that go beyond flaunting it at the beach.
The pecs are a functional muscle that work in synergy with the back and the core, to power some of the most important movements that you make.
Slouching is a bane of the gizmo-addicted lifestyles we lead. If you spend a lot of time peering into that mobile phone (who doesn’t?), there’s a great possibility that your pectoral muscles have tightened.
After a while, the tightness will start to pull the shoulder muscles forward causing them to round, and you to slouch even more. In extreme cases, it can contribute towards Kyphosis, a condition with a permanent, unnatural spinal curvature.
The takeaway: training your chest muscles will improve your posture.
Every time you pick something off the floor, you recruit the pectoral muscles. Every time you push against something, you use the pectoral muscles. You use it when you breathe. In other words, it’s a muscle that you use the entire day, without even realizing it.
When you work on your chest, you will automatically improve your upper body strength, which translates into heavier loads during other upper body workouts. For instance, the Overhead Press, which is a fundamental exercise for your shoulders.
Or even the bent over row, which is a back exercise.
Is Chest Day Hard and Exhausting?
This depends on how hard and how heavy you lift on chest day. The Chest is a big muscle (sorry to repeat it like a broken record), which means that it can sustain heavier loads than other smaller muscles.
Ideally, your chest day should be as hard as your leg day.
But it won’t leave you as exhausted as leg day does, because most chest exercises are isolation moves, as opposed to compounds.
Does Chest Workouts Cause Back Pain?
Not unless your form is poor or your range of motion is limited due to tight muscles.
One of the biggest mistakes that rookie lifters do is to overarch their back while they position themselves for the flat bench press. This can cause back pain after chest day. This exaggerated position is generally adopted by pro bodybuilders. It works great for them, because their muscles, including the chest and erector spinae are conditioned for heavy loads.
That does not mean that yours are too. Maintain a neutral spine and feet flat on the ground if you have pain in the back after chest day.
Here are some of the other possible causes for back pain after chest day.
Rounded shoulders when you are pushing the weight. Your scapula should stay on the bench.
Your shoulder muscles are too tight or weak which limits thoracic extension
Your posture is poor
Should You Work Your Back the Day After Chest Day?
The Back and the Chest are closely connected and often work in synergy to facilitate key movements. That’s why it’s impossible to hit the chest without involving the upper back to some extent.
Also, developing your chest will allow you to build a strong upper back and vice-a-versa. But, the overlap in the secondary muscle involvement is only minimal. This means that you can work your back the day after you work out your chest, if that’s what your workout program recommends.
The other option will be to hit the lower body, so that any potential overlapping muscles get ample recovery time and will not be sore when you hit the back.
What Is the Best Workout After Chest Day?
The best workout after chest day is any body part except chest. You are free to choose one based on your program goals and your body conditioning goals. You can hit legs, do ab work, make it a cardio day, or hit back.
As long as you are not actively performing exercises that stress the pectorals, you are good to go.
Can I Do Back and Biceps After Chest Day?
Absolutely! Bicep involvement is minimal in chest exercises. It’s more triceps-heavy. This means that you can club biceps with back after chest day without risking overworking your muscles.
However, ensure that you hit the bigger muscle group first, which in this case is the back. You can always throw in a few sets of bicep exercises at the end.
Is It Good to Do Chest and Back on The Same Day?
Generally, it’s not recommended to club two big muscle groups like the chest and the back on the same day.
Both these muscles require a fair bit of load to stimulate new growth. This means that by the time you complete the exercises for one muscle, there’s a great possibility that you will be too fatigued to perform the second set of exercise with the same intensity.
However, pro bodybuilders as well as fitness coaches do pair both these muscle groups in one workout. So, it’s not unheard of. But it’s not ideal if you are a recreational lifter.
How Many Days of Rest Should Be Between Chest and Back?
Since both these muscle groups are mutually exclusive with very little overlapping secondary muscle involvement, you can work them out in succession.
But if you want to rule out the slightest possibility of overworking either of these, you can space them out by 24-48 hours.
24-hours is the bare minimum amount of rest that’s required for any muscle to recover from a strenuous workout. 48-hours will more than suffice for full recovery. That does not mean that the muscle will not be sore though.
Pros and Cons of Working Back After Chest Day
Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of working back after chest day.
Many fitness programs schedule the chest and back in succession, because it allows you to finish the bigger body parts at the start of the week. You then have ample time to focus on the smaller muscle groups.
Both of these are mutually exclusive muscles with limited overlapping muscle involvement. So the chances of you overworking them are remote.
While the chest involves push exercises, the back involves pulling. These are opposite ways to contract the muscles. In other words, it’s balanced.
If you have poor form, or tight muscles, you might experience pain in your back or shoulders, after exercising these muscles in succession.
Both of these are big muscle groups and there’s a distinct possibility that you might be fatigued on the day after training either one of them. This will result in a dip in intensity, taking away from the latter workout.
Doing Back After Chest Day – Is It Worth It?
In my opinion, doing back after chest day is fine. But that’s for experienced lifters who can handle a fair bit of muscle stress, without buckling down or ending up with an injury. I have been training for 11-years consistently.
Here are some common workout programs where these muscle groups are trained in succession or on the same day.
- Full body splits such as Strongman Lifts
- PPL Splits where Push is followed by Pull or vice a versa
- Two body part splits where you train each body part twice a week
If you are a beginner lifter though, you will be much better off spacing these workouts by 24-48 hours at least.
Is There a Best Muscle Group to Work on After Chest Day? if So, What Is It?
Like we mentioned earlier, any muscle group except for the chest and triceps, can be worked on, after chest day. There are options galore. Here are a few.
Legs are a much better choice than back for the day after chest day. Switching to the lower body allows your upper body a much needed break. You automatically space out the next upper body workout, regardless of whether it’s back or shoulders by 48-hours at least.
That’s more than adequate rest.
While you will recruit the front deltoids when you hit the chest, it’s a secondary muscle that’s engaged to a lesser extent, especially if your form is perfect.
This means that you can schedule a shoulder workout after chest day. It’s not the ideal choice mind you. But it works.
If you have no other options, then the back is a good enough choice for the reasons we explained above.
Cardio, like legs will allow your muscles to heal and repair, while you work on your aerobic fitness. Ensure that you don’t go overboard with the burpees though.
All things said and done, it all boils down to how well your body responds to exercise and stimulation. This means that what works for me, might not work for you. For this reason, I always recommend that you switch things around a bit and experiment with different combinations.
In all probability, you might be able to hit chest and back on the same day. Or on successive days. But there’s only one way to find out.
FAQ about Doing Back After Chest Day
Here are some common doubts that people usually have about training different body parts on successive days.
Q. Is It Ok to Train Back Before Chest Day?
A. Absolutely! The rules are pretty much the same. You try to knock off the large muscle groups at the start of the week. So, legs, chest, back, or Back, Chest, Legs, or, Chest, Back, Legs, anything works.
Q. What to Train After Chest Day?
A. Our top recommendation would be legs, followed by back, shoulders and cardio. In this exact order. But there are many strength training enthusiasts that do these in many different orders.
Q. Is It Ok to Do Shoulders the Day After Chest?
A. It’s not the ideal choice since both of these muscle groups involve push exercises. Besides, you will be engaging your rhomboids when you perform most chest exercises. But, it’s not out of the world either. This is quite a widely used sequence of body parts in many workout programs.
Q. Can I Train Triceps After Chest Day?
A. Not recommended. Any chest exercise is heavily dependent on the triceps. Be it the bench press or the push up, you cannot eliminate the triceps out of the equation. So training triceps after the chest day is a recipe for overworking the triceps, which is a small muscle group.
Q. Can I Do Arms After Chest Day?
A. As long as it’s limited to bicep training, it’s fine. But if your arms workout program involves the triceps, we’d give it a miss on the day after chest day. Explore some of the other options mentioned in this blog post.
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