Providing your upper body with a workout twice a week is the perfect way to build size and strength, you don’t however want to life as heavy as your first day, these push-pull trisets will help you grow more.
It is ideal to train at least one day per week with total gut-busting intensity. However, even the most experienced lifters do have trouble making it through meaningful secondary days, especially for the upper body. You can’t go all out all the time and continue to make progress and stay healthy, if that were possible we would all be Ronnie Coleman by now.
Even if you were to train your upper body to complete fatigue on your primary upper-body days, you can still complete a very large amount of additional work in a pain-free manner during the week with trisets and giant sets. You can plug them into a full-body program, an upper/lower split or a more regional body-part split. You don’t need to hog five pieces of equipment and make enemies in the gym every time you train.
This kind of training provides the ying to your primary training day yang. This is probably the toughest secondary upper-body training day that I have come across. It will max out your heart rate and you will be sweating buckets, you will also be doing it whilst pushing decent weight and strategically smashing yourself in a controlled manner.
Welcome then, to the new way of training your upper-body twice a week.
Your Second Upper-Body Training Day
Factor this complete training day into your primary routine late in the week, after all of your primary training days have been completed. This routine is a great way to conclude your training week since a day of rest will really be necessary before you can hit any aspect of your upper body again with any decent intensity.
Before you start, make sure that you complete a decent upper-body warm-up, don’t just jump right into the fire. When in doubt, try a good warm-up giant set to ease up your shoulders. Activate all of the intrinsic muscles of the shoulder complex and get ready.
Triset Shoulder Warm-Up
- Band shoulder dislocate – 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Band face pull – 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Band pull-apart – 3 sets of 10 reps.
After the warm-up is completed, go through these three trisets in order, using two ramp-up sets on each movement to get you ready to perform.
There is no need to be a hero on these sets, just move the loads up over the course of the two warm-ups sets and land on your top-end weights for each movement by the time you get to the working sets. This ramp-up scheme adds a small, more pain-free volume to this training day, which is an added bonus.
If this day does not leave you drained, then you are not training the right loads or intensities. Get more aggressive with the loads, hit all the reps and keep the pace of the workout moving. This session can easily be done in less than 60 minutes and should have your heart rate maxed out under heavy loads at least three separate times, probably sending you to the nearest toilet.
Enjoy this but be prepared!
Ultimate Second Upper-Body Workout
- Hammer Strength single-arm high row – 4 sets of 10 reps, 15 secs rest.
- Hammer Strength banded flat chest press – 4 sets of 10 reps, rest 15 seconds.
- Dumbbell side lateral raise – 4 sets of 15 reps, 90 seconds rest.
- Single-arm dumbbell row – 3 Sets of 10 reps, 15 seconds rest.
- Slight decline dumbbell bench press – 3 Sets of 8 reps, 15 seconds rest.
- Prone-incline dumbbell rear-delt raise – 3 Sets of 20 reps, 120 seconds rest.
Why Use Machines?
There is no need to replace your major free-weight movements on the primary pushing day with machines but on the second day they definitely have their uses. Firstly, they are far less stressful on the joints, especially with these set and rep schemes.
The Hammer Strength machines for instance offer a few key advantages over dumbbells and barbells in this routine, especially for continuing to ‘warm-up’ the tissues being targeted in training after the general dynamic warm-up. Locking into a range and movement plane also allows you to place more emphasis on the muscles themselves instead of controlling the movement pattern.
By controlling the movement to a greater degree in a locked-in range, you can implement novel training tools like bands and loaded stretches to emphasize driving blood into the muscles, lubricating joints and increasing overall readiness for your body to perform.
Do not think that you are just limited to plate-loaded machines either though. Any machine will work including pin-loaded machines that are starting to take over the commercial gym industry. Just be sure you choose two machines located close to each other so you can jump on and off.
As a general rule, pick the same type of machines for each movement as these machines are grouped together a most of the time in the big boxes, below are a few notes on each exercise to get the most out of each movement.
Hammer Strength Single-Arm High Row
Always emphasize a full range of motion, getting a stretch at the top of each rep and making sure to flex your lats and scapular retractors hard in the contracted position of each rep.
As you will soon find out, doing them in single-arm fashion will challenge your back from moving the weights and that loaded stretched position. This expedites the pump effect that makes this variation perfect for first in our training day.
Hammer Strength Banded Flat Chest Press
To create a bit more tension in this movement, throw a light resistance band to each side of the machine. This creates a better contraction and makes up for some loss of tension that comes from a machine press.
Contract for half a second at the top of every rep and limit the range of motion at the bottom of this movement. Really work the top half because you want to get as much tension on your pecs as you can. Also note, the bottom half and semi-stretched position is notoriously brutal for the shoulders.
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Hit 15 full range of motion reps in a slow and deliberate tempo in the lateral raises. Your shoulders will already be on fire from the last two exercises and your heart rate will be getting up there as well. Concentrate on perfect execution on these shoulder movements as more experienced lifters do tend to get sloppy under serious muscular and metabolic fatigue.
After the last set, take a few minutes and let yourself recover a bit because the next triset is going to be hell. Here are a few notes to get the most from those movements.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
Load this up as heavy as you can whilst still maintaining good rhythm. Finish 10 full-range reps, emphasizing the stretch at the bottom and letting your shoulder-blade protract and rotate around your ribcage into a nice squeeze at the top of each rep. To place more focus on the lats and back, strap up for this movement.
Slight Decline Dumbbell Press
Using the same dumbbells as you used for rows, you can create a mild decline by using a single 45-pound plate under the foot of the bench or use one notch up on an adjustable flat bench. This movement isn’t fancy, just 8 perfect reps with a squeeze at the top of each rep.
This angle should feel great on your shoulders but as you move through the sets, your limiting factor will be neural fatigue from the rows and the growing metabolic fatigue from the successive training.
Prone Incline Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise
Use the same adjustable bench that you have been using for rows and presses, set it at a higher incline. lock your core and hips and move the dumbbells through a full range of motion for 20 reps, if you are struggling to get there, finish the set off with a few partials, this is going to get torturous.
I had my heart rate at around 175 bpm on the above set so monitor your recovery and work hard to bring that heart rate down between sets. If you have to extend the rest period a little bit because of fatigue then that is fine. Remember, the goal here is to go heavy and get out all the reps so modify it accordingly.
You Will See Stars
Here we go then, in less than an hour, you’ve got a convenient and effective secondary upper-body training day that will hit your muscles hard, have you breathing heavily and give you a pain-free way to keep moving forwards towards your muscle and strength gains.
This is one upper body workout that you will struggle to beat as a secondary measure to be the best you can be. Also take a look here for something that will get you ripped insanely quickly after your heavy weight training above.