Build Muscle in 20 Minutes: Superset Chest and Back

Time is of the essence, but missing a workout is not in the cards if you’re a serious lifter. Let’s say your training has been in top gear for weeks, and you are slowly making gains. And you’ve been relentless toward reaching those all too elusive goals intended to set you apart from the crowd. Then something unexpected comes up: a trip out of town, a weekend getaway, or a family reunion. Your time is limited, so what do you do? You can’t even conceive of missing a single workout, let alone two. Not only would that kill your momentum and set you back mentally; it would set you back physically as well. One solution is this “muscles in minutes” superset for chest and back.

This Workout: 20 Minutes or Less

If you have a training partner, use dumbbells or a Smith machine for chest movements to keep spotting to a minimum; remember, time is of the essence.


Exercise #1: Incline Bar Press

Take your grip outside of your shoulder width. Remember, it’s important to keep your body against the pad while maintaining a natural arch throughout this movement. Don’t let that bar touch your chest! It’s important to keep the weight controlled and maintain tension on your chest throughout the movement to best isolate the chest muscles.

Superset: Once you complete a set, immediately go to the lat pull-down station and follow with a set of close-grip pull-downs using the seated row bar.

Exercise #2: Close Grip Pull-Downs Using the Seated-Row Bar

Form makes all the difference between isolating the back or only working your arms and forearms. Treat your hands as hooks and try not to squeeze the bar too tightly. When in motion, concentrate on contracting your back muscles to bring the bar down to a full contraction. Drive them out!

Sets and Reps:

4 supersets, 8-12 repetitions done to max reps (failure)

1-minute rest between supersets

Once you complete your fourth set, you’ve got a one-minute rest. Use that time to set up for your next set of movements. Now to change gears …


Exercise #3: Bent-Over Bar Row With a Wide Grip

Begin by gripping the bar with the same hook-like grip as you used in the pull-down. Get into position; your back should be slightly above parallel from the floor. Pull the weight up just under your chest and squeeze. Let the muscles of your back dictate how close the bar comes to your chest. Return the bar to a slight stretch at the bottom and repeat to failure (when you can’t pull anymore, or when you feel your arms doing all the work).

Superset: Once finished, immediately superset with the decline dumbbell press. Keep the intensity on HIGH!

Exercise #4: Decline Dumbbell Press

Again, focus on your chest by maintaining your form. Don’t go so deep that you lose tension on the chest, but drive that weight with a vengeance toward a full contraction at the top. Squeeze and repeat.

Sets and Reps:

3 supersets (because you’re warmed up by now)

8-12 repetitions done to failure

1-minute rest between super sets

You’ve got one minute. Now prepare the weight for your next set and start on time.

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