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The Best Chest Tricep Workout For Beginners To Get Fast, Effective Gains!

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN - L1

When performing a chest tricep workout at a beginner skill level, exercise selection is crucial.

Lately I’ve been seeing way too many overly jacked dudes on social media sharing their chest & tricep workout without taking the average person into consideration.

Most of these influencers have been lifting weights consistency for years, are on performance enhancing drugs, and most have never trained someone in person in their life.  But for some reason they expect you to blast your chest and triceps with so much volume that you’ll be sore for days.

That’s not effective training.

At the beginning stages of your transformation, you don’t need the same amount of sets and exercises as an experienced bodybuilder.  

It seems like a no brainer, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing someone in shape and wanting to copy exactly what they are doing. 

Following a chest and tricep workout like the one below will give your body enough of stimulus to promote muscle growth and you’ll get stronger.  I’ll provide you with a video of the exercise, how many sets and reps to do, proper rest times, and answer some FAQ at the end of the article.

Chest Tricep Workout For Beginners

The Best Chest Tricep Workout For Beginners Exercises

Low Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

To start your workout, you are going to perform a big compound movement.

A compound movement is an exercise that will require recruitment from multiple muscles to be able to perform the movement.

Typically you want to start a workout with your bigger compound movements and save your single joint movements for the back end of your session.

Key Points:
  • The bench should be at the lowest notch above being flat.
  • Keep your elbows slightly tucked in so your elbows don’t flare.  If you constantly flair your elbows, your setting yourself up for shoulder issues in the future.
  • Control the weight down and slightly pause before you bring the weight back up.
Sets & Reps:

Perform 3 sets of 8 - 12 reps with a 2 minute break between each set.  You should pick a weight that makes it challenging to get into that 8 - 12 rep range.

If you pick a weight, finish 12 reps and you think you could have done 20, you need to increase the weight.  As you get stronger and more experienced in the gym, try these dumbbell chest press variations.

Stabilization Push-Ups

After you have finished 3 solid rounds of your chest press, you’ll move onto a push-up variation that I start most of my beginner clients on.

Anytime I build a chest and tricep beginner workout, I want to get you good at exercises that should be staples in your program for years to come.  The push-up is one of them.

Key Points:
  • Pause for a full second at the bottom AND at the top when you are at full lockout.  The pauses will make your chest have to work harder, but also prevents you from rushing through the reps.
  • If flat ground push-ups are too difficult you, set your hands on a bench or anything with an elevated surface.
  • When performing the push-up, your elbows should be slightly tucked (similar to the previous exercise).
Sets & Reps:

Since push-up strength can vary widely, especially for beginners, I’ll give you a wider range to hit.

Do 3 rounds of 6 - 15 reps with a 90 second break in between each round.

If you can’t do 6, you need to increase your angle and do the push-ups on an incline.

push-up form tip

Chest Fly Machine

To finish off your chest exercises, the next movement will be done on a machine.

No worries if you don’t have access to this machine, I’ll add the video of how to do these with dumbbells also.

Since your chest will be tired from your first two exercises, this is the perfect movement to finish it off with.

Key Points:
  • Set the machine seat at an angle where your wrists will be in line with your chest when you do the fly.
  • Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the whole motion.
  • Don’t rush through this exercise.  Feel the stretch and burn on each rep.
Sets & Reps:

Stay in a higher rep range as you do this movement.

Perform 3 rounds of 12 - 15 reps with a 90 second - 2 minute break in between each round.

On your last set, try to get a couple extra reps and push yourself until your form starts to break.

This is called technical failure and you should never push it past that point.

Dumbbell Skullcrushers

Your last two exercises of the day will be targeting your tricep muscles.

The first will be a classic skullcrusher movement.  Is this not the best name for any exercise in existence?!

If you prefer, you can also do this movement with a barbell if it feels better on your arms.

Key Points:
  • When you have the bar over your head at eye level, tilt the bar back so it’s slightly behind your head.  Making this slight adjustment with make your triceps have to work harder.
  • Always be cautious with this exercise and start with a light weight.  The last thing you want to do is realize it’s too heavy and it hits your forehead!
Sets & Reps:

Perform 3 rounds of 10 - 12 reps with a 90 seconds - 2 minute break in between each set.

Cable Rope Pushdowns

Work your way over to the cable machine to finish your workout.

If the rope attachment is available, use that, but any pushdown attachment will work here.

We’re switching our angle from a lying position with the skullcrushers into a standing position to hit the triceps at a new angle.

Key Points:
  • Notice how my elbows stay in the same position throughout the whole exercise.  I see too many people go heavy on this exercise and their elbows drift forward at they lower the weight back to the rack.
  • Really try and pull that rope apart at the bottom.  You’ll notice the difference in your triceps if you do!
Sets & Reps: 

Similar to our chest fly machine, we’re going to go higher reps here to finish.  

Perform 3 sets of 12 - 15 reps.  Rest 90 seconds - 2 minutes between rounds.

FAQ About Chest Tricep Workouts For Beginners

Can I Do Tricep And Chest Together?

Chest and tricep workouts pair well together because they are both considered push movements.  The chest in the prime mover in most push exercises and the tricep is considered the secondary muscle because it’s also being worked.

There is nothing wrong with doing both in the same workout since different movement patterns will work both muscles.

Should I Do Chest Or Triceps First?

Exercise order is usually top heavy with your bigger compound movements that are more chest focused, followed by your isolation exercises, which are movements that require only one joint, such as your tricep exercises.

The reason is that you don’t want to fatigue your triceps so much that your chest exercises suffer because of it.

Do you always have to follow this plan?  Definitely not.

I sometimes program a superset of isolation exercise before a big lift to pre fatigue muscles to make the main movement a little safer.  The reason is because with a bit of pre fatigue, my client’s will have to go lighter on their big lifts, which will reduce their chance of injury.   It’s also a great way to continue warming up the body instead of jumping right into a heavy lift.

How Many Tricep Exercises Should I Do On Chest Day?

Being a beginner and now understanding that your triceps are working during your chest movements, 1 - 3 direct exercise for your triceps will be more than enough.  As you get more experienced in the gym you can ramp up that up to 4 - 6 exercises in one workout or split that up into two days per week.

Chest And Tricep Workout For Beginners Recap

Performing these 5 exercises for 3 sets each will be an adequate amount of volume to help your muscles grow and for you to get stronger.

Make sure to track your sets, reps, and weight during your workout so when you perform this chest tricep workout again, you can focus on improving your numbers.

Did you like this workout?  Leave me a comment below about how it went!