Why do the P90X Chest and Back workout?
Like Key and Peele, peanut butter and chocolate, rap stars and giant egos, chest and back are made for one another.
Consider: your chest muscles — the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor — are pushing muscles. You use them to shove things away from you, like stubborn basement doors and snow-bound Toyota Camrys.
Meanwhile, your back muscles — notably the latissimus dorsi and the trapezius of the upper- and mid-back — do the opposite. They’re pulling muscles, which help you carry groceries and win tug of war contests.
In trainer speak, that makes your chest and back muscles antagonists, explains Stephanie Saunders, executive director, fitness, for Beachbody. Contract your pecs, she says, and your lats lengthen; contract your lats, your pecs lengthen. “Working them together, in a single intense format, means they stay balanced and efficient.”
What Is the P90X Chest and Back Workout?
Both moves are functional and effective — the push-up, a do-anywhere staple for your chest and shoulders; the pull-up, a perennially challenging move for your back and biceps. In the P90X workout program, you’ll run through several unusual variations of both moves — each emphasizing a different portion of your chest and back musculature, each scalable for novices and advanced lifters alike.
Benefits of the P90X Chest and Back Workout
The P90X Chest and Back workout balances each pushing movement with a pulling movement. That helps you avoid the common mistake of overworking muscles you can see in the mirror (the pecs) while underworking those you can’t (the lats). This back-to-front balance also helps prevent “lifter slouch,” the telltale shoulder slump you see among gym-goers who spend their whole workout bench pressing.
In P90X’s Chest and Back workout, you’ll perform sets for your back and chest alternately. That way, one muscle group works while the other rests. “The muscle group at rest is ready to go when you switch over to it,” explains Saunders. Therefore, no additional rest time is needed.
That not only streamlines your workout, it also gives your heart and lungs a serious challenge. As a result, you’ll burn a ton of calories, even without touching your legs. So it’s an upper body workout that really feels like a workout.
P90X Chest and Back Exercises
• Place your hands on the floor, or on a stable elevated surface, and assume a pushup position — hands and feet slightly wider than shoulder width, balls of your feet on the floor, arms locked out, and body straight from head to heels.
• Keeping your body straight, your core engaged and your head in a neutral position, simultaneously bend your arms and retract your shoulder blades until your chest lightly touches the floor — or as far as possible without losing good form.
• Reverse the movement, pushing yourself back up to the starting position.
Bar: Perform the move using parallettes — handheld parallel bars that allow you to lower your chest below your hands, thereby increasing the range of motion.
Military: Perform the move with your hands shoulder-width apart and your elbows close to your sides. That will give your triceps more of the load.
Wide fly: Perform the move with your hands at maximum width, placing more of the stress on your chest muscles.
Decline: Perform the move with your feet elevated on a chair or box. That will target the upper fibers of the chest.
Diamond: Perform the move with your hands close, thumbs and forefingers forming a “diamond” shape beneath your chest, and your legs spread wide. This shifts some of the focus onto your triceps.
Dive bomber: Start the move in a downward-facing dog position — hands and feet on the floor, hips high, legs straight, body straight from your hands to your tailbone. As you bend your arms, swoop your upper body forward, as if sliding your head and shoulders underneath a fence. Reverse the move, pushing yourself back to down-dog position.
Wide front pull-up
• Grab a pull-up bar using an overhand grip with your hands about four inches wider than your shoulders on either side, and hang with your legs straightened at a slight angle in front of you.
• Pull your ribs to your elbows, bringing your chin above the bar.
• Pause briefly, and lower yourself to the starting position.
Reverse grip: Perform the move using an underhand, shoulder-width grip, which more greatly emphasizes your biceps.
Close grip overhand: Perform the move with an overhand grip, hands close enough that your thumbs can touch, which more greatly emphasizes your pecs.
• Step your right foot wide to the right into a deep side lunge, and, resting your right elbow on your right knee, grab a dumbbell with your left hand.
• Keeping your back flat and your left leg straight, row the dumbbell toward your ribs.
• Pause, and lower the dumbbell until your elbow is straight.
• Perform all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat.
• Grab a pair of dumbbells, and assume a staggered stance — one foot forward, one back. Hinge forward at your hips until your back is close to parallel with the floor, with the weights hanging directly below your shoulders, palms facing in. This is the starting position.
• Keeping your back flat and core engaged, row the weights toward your ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades at the top of the move.
• Pause, and lower the weights to the starting position. Alternate foot positions with each set.
• Sit on a bench holding a pair of dumbbells, and hinge forward until your chest is over your knees, bringing the weights just outside your feet, palms in.
• Keeping your back flat, raise your elbows out to the sides as far as possible, and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the move.
• Lower the weights to return to the starting position.